ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Tuesday welcomed the joint statement by six international human rights organizations, calling on India to immediately release all arbitrarily detained prisoners and restore full high speed internet access in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said the joint statement rightly underlines that measures to combat Covid-19 must respect human rights of every individual. Urgent release of political prisoners, human rights defenders and all those arrested in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir after 5 August 2019 is therefore imperative.

The Spokesperson said expressing concern on isolation of inmates from outside world due to communication blackout and ban on prison visits the statement underscores that allegations of torture against Kashmiri prisoners as part of a decades-long pattern of abuses have been repeatedly denounced by human rights and UN bodies. 

Earlier, Amnesty International India, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, International Commissions of Jurists, International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organisation Against Torture issued a joint statement calling for end to excesses and discrimination in held Kashmir.

The statement by the HR organisations said: “The fate of hundreds of arbitrarily detained Kashmiri prisoners hangs in the balance as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in India passes the 4,000 mark and many more are likely to remain undetected or unreported.”

It added: “Inmates and prison staff, who live in confined spaces and in close proximity with others, remain extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. While the rest of the country is instructed to respect social isolation and hygiene rules, basic measures like hand washing - let alone physical distancing - are just not possible for prisoners.”

Under international law, it said: “India has an obligation to ensure the physical and mental health and well- being of inmates. However, with an occupancy rate of over 117%, precarious hygienic conditions and inadequate health services, the overcrowded Indian prisons constitute the perfect environment for the spread of coronavirus.”

“Various state governments in India have now begun releasing detainees. However, there is a concern that hundreds of Kashmiri youth, journalists, political leaders, human right defenders and others arbitrarily arrested in the course of 2019, including following the repeal of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on 5 August 2019, will not be among those benefiting from the measure.

 

Article 370 provided special status to Jammu & Kashmir,” the joint statement said. It added, “Human rights groups and UN experts have repeatedly called for the release as a matter of priority of “those detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views.”

Last month, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs revealed that 7,357 persons had been arrested in Jammu and Kashmir since 5 August 2019. Some have been released but hundreds are still detained.