Watchdog Group Says Human Rights Protections Are Key to Resolving Kashmir Conflict

In a new report, "Everyone Lives in Fear. Patterns of Impunity in Jammu and Kashmir," Human Rights Watch argues that state-sanctioned abuses and continued impunity from prosecution have fanned the flames of violence in Kashmir. The report documents serious abuses by Indian army and paramilitary forces in Jammu and Kashmir (which number some 500,000, plus 79,000 police). Human rights violations include extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, arbitrary and illegal detention, and torture. Kashmiris have also been subjected to many abuses by armed militant groups that continue to receive support from the Pakistani army and intelligence services. Human rights protections and accountability are key ingredients of any efforts to resolve the long-running conflict. The report concludes that many Kashmiris consider human rights violations as the single biggest obstacle to a restoration of normality. Human Rights Watch says that for a number of reasons, there may now be an unprecedented opportunity for reaching a settlement of the Kashmir conflict. For the first time, the United States has good relations with both states, instead of being seen as the exclusive ally of one or the other. In Jammu and Kashmir, a coalition government that came into office in 2002 has made human rights a key aspect of its governance. The attitudes of both the Indian and Pakistani governments have changed, and India has begun talks with Kashmiri rebel leaders.