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Russell Tribunal on War Crimes in Kashmir 2021

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Russell Tribunal on

War Crimes in Kashmir 2021

Decolonization, settler-colonialism, crimes against humanity, genocide and nuclear threats emerging from the disputed territory of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) were marked at the inaugural Russell Tribunal in Sarajevo which was held on December 17-19, 2021. Organized by Kashmir Civitas, a Canadian NGO, in collaboration with World Kashmir Awareness Forum, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation (Nottingham, UK), the Permanent People’s Tribunal of Bologna, Italy, Nahla (Center for Education and Research), the Center for Advanced Study in Sarajevo, International University of Sarajevo (IUS) and Aljazeera Balkans, the event was the first of many tribunals being planned for the coming years.

The tribunal aimed to put forward the facts on the brutalities of Indian forces in Kashmir. It also replicated the significance and impact of the Russell Tribunal on Vietnam that gained worldwide press coverage, brought together key global personalities, academics and celebrities to highlight the ongoing genocide and political oppression of the people in IIOJK.

The specific focus of the tribunal was on four thematic areas:
1. Genocide; including a discussion on the Jammu Genocide in which an estimated 230,000 – 500,000 people were killed.
2. Decolonization; Kashmir is not a secessionist/separatist movement, but a de-colonial movement
3. Settler-colonialism; like land-grabs, coercive patriotism, etc.
4. Crimes against Humanity; mass graves, rape as a weapon of war, and the ever-present threat of nuclear war in this contested region.

A panel of judges listened to the proceedings.

The tribunal heard the evidence of genocide in Jammu in 1947 and 1948 during which time the Indian government and Dogra regime claimed to be directly responsible.

The basic facts of the Kashmir case presented in front of the tribunal were that Kashmir is a disputed territory, a fact established by 18 United Nations resolutions. It cannot be claimed legitimately by any country or claimed as an integral part until the time that the people of Kashmir have been granted the right to freely, and without fear, express their opinion in the referendum that they were promised and that the UN continues to urge.

The Tribunal also included a discussion on Srebrenica and on Jammu and Kashmir, where an estimated 230,000-500,000 people are reported to have been killed.

The event also marked the testimonies of multiple witnesses who narrated their accounts of ordeal faced by themselves or their fellow citizens.

Dr Mubeen Shah, a prominent businessman in IIOJK, who also served as President of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce, spoke as a witness. He informed the tribunal that India was on a major propaganda offensive to convince the world that its brutal occupation and repression in Kashmir were part of the epic battle against Muslim terrorism. He told the Tribunal that since 1990, more than 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed, 150,000 civilians arrested, and 8,500 custodial killings, 12,000 disappearances have taken place, besides 110,000 structures destroyed, 11,170 rape cases, hundreds of thousands injured with at least 7,000 with pellet injuries.

Highlighting the Indian occupation of resources, he mentioned power generation from water resources which is under their central government company, i.e. NHPC Limited. The company had an asset base of 97 billion dollars with a yearly income of 710 million dollars. One-third of its generating capacity exists in Kashmir and had rightly got the name of “East India Company” in local parlance.

In its conclusion, based on the statements, oral testimonies and reports, the Tribunal found serious indications of constant restrictions on freedoms and gross human rights violations, including mass crimes, mass rapes and other crimes against humanity. The tribunal unanimously agreed that the events need to be carefully recognized and studied. The accusations are grave and warrant deeper investigation.

It called upon the international institutions in a strongly worded statement, “This is only the beginning of a long process. Given the seriousness and gravity of these incriminations, it is important that international institutions and human rights tribunals urgently open cases and examine these allegations and prosecute those responsible for violations.”

The tribunal offered an open invitation to the world public to visit Kashmir and report on the state of freedoms and human rights.

The tribunal also called upon UN to properly oversee the decolonization process in Kashmir. “Just as the United Nations intervened and found that Britain had not properly completed the decolonization process in Chagos Archipelago in the 1960s, it could offer a similar intervention vis-à-vis Kashmir”.

The writer is an Advocate High Court.

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