India and Pakistan have been deplored by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for growing intolerance and hate against minorities and human rights violations.
India was especially criticised by the Commissioner for its measures to deport Rohingyas at a time of such violence against them in their country.
Some 40,000 Rohingyas have settled in India, and 16,000 of them have received refugee documentation.
Giving updates on human rights issues in 40 countries the Human Rights Council during it’s 36th Session, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also expressed deep concerns on a broader rise of intolerance towards religious and other minorities in India.
“The current wave of violent, and often lethal, mob attacks against people under the pretext of protecting the lives of cows is alarming. People who speak out for fundamental human rights are also threatened”, he said.
“The Minister of State for Home Affairs has reportedly said that because India is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention the country can dispense with international law on the matter, together with basic human compassion.”
“However, by virtue of customary law, its ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the obligations of due process and the universal principle of non-refoulement, India cannot carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violations.
He mentioned the name of Gauri Lankesh, a journalist who tirelessly addressed the corrosive effect of sectarianism and hatred, was assassinated last week.
“I have been heartened by the subsequent marches calling for protection of the right to freedom of expression, and by demonstrations in 12 cities to protest the lynchings.”
He told the session that Human rights defenders who work for the rights of India’s most vulnerable groups – including those threatened with displacement by infrastructure projects such as the Sardar Sarovar Dam in the Narmada river valley – should be considered allies in building on India’s achievements to create a stronger and more inclusive society. Instead, many are subject to harassment and even criminal proceedings, or denied protection by the State.
In Pakistan, the authorities often encourage intolerance for minorities or minority views, with sometimes deadly consequences. Many journalists and human rights defenders face daily threats of violence. Even allegations of blasphemy, or suggestions that blasphemy laws require revision to comply with the right to freedom of thought and religion can lead to vigilante violence.
In addition, the Government has used vague and excessive legislation on the digital space, and regulations regarding NGO activities, to limit critical voices and shrink the democratic space. Violence against women remains extremely widespread, including forced marriage, acid attacks and forced and child marriage.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressed deep regrets on the reluctance of both India and Pakistan to engage with his Office on the human rights concerns he has raised in recent months.
“This includes their failure to grant access to Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control to verify the worrying developments that continue to be reported there. In the absence of such access, my Office is undertaking remote monitoring of the human rights situation in Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control, with a view to making the findings public in the near future.”