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Re.: European Parliament Human Rights Subcommittee Hearing on Kashmir
Brussels, Wednesday, 16 July 2008

From: International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir

Khurram Parvez, Tribunal Liaison
+91-9419013553; +91-194-2482820
khurramparvez [at] yahoo [dot] com; kparvez [at] kashmirprocess [dot] org

On 16 July 2008, in a historic, first time hearing on Kashmir, the European Parliament (EP) Subcommittee on Human Rights (EPHR) convened a meeting in Brussels, Belgium.

The agenda was: 'Exchange of views on Kashmir, follow-up to EP resolution of 24 May 2007 and to reports from massacres in the region'.

The following persons were invited to address the EPHR in this order: Dr. Angana Chatterji, co-convener of the International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (Tribunal), who was present in person; Advocate Parvez Imroz, on behalf of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), addressed the gathering via weblink as he is denied a passport by India and cannot travel abroad; as well as Ms. Marjan Lucas, their international partner from IKV Pax Christi, who was present in person.

The Members of the European Parliament (MEP) present at the hearing were: MEP Phillip Bushill-Mathews, MEP R. Evans, MEP Neena Gill, MEP Gene Lambert, MEP Sara Ludford, MEP Liz Lynn, MEP Baroness Emma Nicholson, MEP Tannock.

At the hearing, Dr. Chatterji described the Tribunal's mandate, structure, and work and offered detailed testimony of the gravity of the human rights situation in Kashmir in the present. She described the Tribunal's investigation of nearly 800 mass graves in June 2008, and showed video clips of mass graves from Baramulla and Kupwara district. Dr. Chatterji described the continued mili tarization, and impunity with which military and paramilitary forces function in Kashmir, of the rule of exception and draconian laws, and the history of genocidal violence. She also spoke of the Tribunal's investigations into enforced disappearances, torture, and sexualized violence. She detailed the harassment and intimidation Advocate Imroz and she herself have faced in undertaking this work, as well as Tribunal Liaison Khurram Parvez, and of the attempted attack on Advocate Imroz on 30 June. She stressed the importance of continuing the Tribunal's work.

Advocate Imroz described the earlier work of APDP, and their investigation of the mass graves. He spoke in depth of the climate of fear and threat that human rights defenders experience on a regular basis in Kashmir, and of the severe breakdown of law and order in Kashmir. He spoke to the failure of judicial apparatus and human rights institutions in Kashmir. He described the attack on him of 30 June, and how Tribunal members are being humiliated and surveiled. He appealed to the international community to carefully track the human rights situation in Kashmir and the need for a mechanism that addresses these issues seriously.

Ms. Lucas spoke of the greater need for international alliance with human rights defenders in Kashmir, and stated the importance of the work of the International People's Tribunal. She appealed that there cannot be reconciliation without truth and justice. She underlined the importance of ongoing attention of the International Community in casu European Parliament to Kashmir's ground reality: the adoption of the Resolution in Strasbourgh on 10 July and the EPHR hearing of 16 July are essential first steps on a long road forward. She underlined the importance of the instalment of an impartial and independent investigation of the unmarked graves, which, she reiterated, needs a strong and visible international component.

The EPHR and MEPs listened with care and concern, and engaged the panel for almost 2.5 hours. European Commission (EC) representative, Mrs. Rensje Teerink, spoke as well and appreciated the evidence presented and stated her concern, and that of the EC Secretariat in New Delhi, over the situation, and attack and targeting. Her presence and active participation evidenced the seriousness with which EPHR is approaching this issue.

As per protocol, the Indian Embassy was invited to speak but did not participate. This, according to those familiar with diplomatic strategic dynamics in Europe, was viewed as a protest by the Indian authorities against this subject being accorded a prominent place on the European Parliament's agenda.

Mr. Geoffrey Harris, Head of Human Rights Unit of the European Parliament, and Mrs. Helene Flautre (Greens), chair of EPHR, maintained that the invited speakers should be independent, relevant, and credible. Thus Dr. Chatterji, Advocate Imroz, and Ms. Lucas were invited to speak and they consolidated their efforts to convince Members of the European Parliament of the gravity and urgency of the facts and figures presented by APDP on mass graves, and those currently put forward by the International People's Tribunal.

The International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir welcomes the European Parliament resolution of 10 July and also the 16 July hearing in European Parliament Human Rights Subcommittee.

Note: Last week, on 10 July, the EP adopted an urgent resolution on Kashmir on being alarmed, especially after a letter from Amnesty International on the issue, about the APDP report 'Facts Under Ground'. Today's session of the EPHR aimed to give opportunity to the MEPs to discuss the issue in greater detail and to hear relevant actors speak on the subject.

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