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UN Special Rapporteurs’ Communication to India

  • 09 Jul 2020
  • 5 min read

Why in News

Recently, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs (SRs) have made public their third communication forwarded to India since the 5th August, 2019 decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status (under Article 370).

  • Four UN SRs on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions; on minority issues; and on freedom of religion or belief — forwarded a joint communication to India.

Key Points

  • Third Communication:
    • It highlighted continued deterioration of human rights conditions in J&K following severe restrictions imposed after 5th August 2019.
    • The UN has urged the Indian government “to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation, if it has not done so already, into the allegations of arbitrary killings, torture and ill-treatment and to prosecute suspected perpetrators under Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and Articles 7 and 12 of the Committee Against Torture (CAT).
      • ICCPR (1976) compels countries that have ratified it to protect and preserve basic human rights such as the right to life and human dignity, equality before the law etc. India is a party to the Treaty and has issued a declaration.
      • CAT is the body of 10 independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1987) by its State parties. India is not a state party but signatory to the Convention.
  • Second Communication: It was forwarded on 27th February, 2020 on alleged mass crackdown, targeting those expressing dissent against the decision taken” by the Central government.
  • First Communication: It was forwarded to India by the UN on 16th August, 2019 on “restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly”.
  • India’s Response: According to the UN SRs, no response has been received from India to any of the communication forwarded.
  • Supreme Court’s Recent Judgement: It needs to be noted that the Supreme Court on 11th May 2020 had ordered the constitution of a Special Committee to determine the necessity of the continuation of limiting mobile internet to 2G speed in the Union territory of J&K.
    • However, it declined pleas for restoration of 4G internet services and held that peculiar circumstances in the Union Territory require delicate balancing of national security concerns and human rights.
    • The mobile internet has been restricted to low-speed 2G services since the government eases a communication blackout imposed in August 2019.

UN Special Rapporteur

  • The Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights (civil, cultural, economic, political, and social) from a thematic or country-specific perspective.
    • The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.
    • Universal Periodic Review happens under the aegis of the Human Rights Council.
    • Current membership of the Council includes India.
    • It meets at the UN Office at Geneva (Switzerland).
  • Special procedures are either an individual (called "Special Rapporteur" or "Independent Expert") or a working group composed of five members, one from each of the five United Nations regional groupings: Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and the Western group.
  • They are not United Nations staff members and do not receive financial remuneration.
    • The independent status of the Special Procedures mandate-holders is crucial for them to be able to fulfil their functions in all impartiality. A mandate-holder’s tenure in a given function, whether it is a thematic or country mandate, is limited to a maximum of six years.
  • Most Special Procedures receive information on specific allegations of human rights violations and send communications (urgent appeals and other letters) to States, and occasionally to non-State actors, asking for clarification and action.

Source: TH

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