The tribunal highlighted the grave issues of genocide, settler-colonialism, crimes against humanity and nuclear threat emerging in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir
Kashmir Civitas, a Canadian registered NGO, partnered with the 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, arranged the maiden Russell Tribunal on Kashmir in Sarajevo, Bosnia from December 17 to 19, 2021.
Tribunal’s singular aim was to put forward the facts on Kashmir. The tribunal highlighted the grave issues of genocide, settler-colonialism, crimes against humanity and nuclear threat emerging in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The seriousness of these crimes was termed as the basic motivational factor for tribunal to bring facts to the attention of the world, since it posed a direct threat to global peace.
The tribunal brought together key global personalities, academics and celebrities to highlight the ongoing genocide, massive violations of human rights, crimes against humanity, and political oppression of the people in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Russell Tribunal on War Crimes in Kashmir 2021 aimed to replicate the significance and impact of the Russell Tribunal on Vietnam that gained worldwide press coverage and had a clear and discernible impact on transforming the narrative on Vietnam. For above specified reason, and to pay homage to the courage of Professor Bertrand Russell, the tribunal used that model to expose the crimes of India in IIOJK. Likewise, the Russell Tribunal on Kashmir aimed to reaffirm the primacy of international law as the basis for solving the Kashmir conflict. Moreover, it also aimed to raise awareness of the responsibility of the international community to prevent ongoing crimes against humanity and the potential for genocide to occur.
A panel of judges listened to the proceedings and, thereafter, finalized a report that will be distributed to UN agencies, EU parliament and other world bodies and governments. As per Secretary-General Kashmir Civitas, notables and illustrious global personalities were present to listen to the proceedings, participate and act as citizen judges. The Russell Tribunal was also attended by the Bosnian community with over 70 foreign delegates. This foundational international event, the first of many tribunals being planned over the coming years, aimed to set the stage for exposing the seriousness of the Kashmir conflict. The specific focus of tribunal was on four thematic areas: genocide including a discussion on the Jammu Genocide in which an estimated 230,000–500,000 people had been killed, de-colonization as Kashmir is not a secessionist nor separatist movement, crimes against humanity and rape as a weapon of war, and the ever-present threat of nuclear war in this contested region. The judges at the Tribunal in their initial statement said, “We the judges are present here today to submit our initial statement regarding the proceedings of the inaugural Russell Tribunal on Kashmir. A final, more thoroughgoing statement will be issued subsequently.”
They further stated, “Based on the evidence presented by area experts, the Kashmir issue should arguably be seen within a broader global context of settler colonialism, genocide, and crimes against humanity”.
The statement added that serious accusations of genocide, crimes against humanity, rape as a weapon of war, unlawful arrests and mass blinding had been made. The basic facts of the Kashmir case presented in front of tribunal propounded that Kashmir was disputed territory, a fact established by 18 United Nations resolutions. It could not 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. s
The indigenous freedom struggle in Kashmir is not a secessionist movement. Furthermore, detailed facts were presented during the proceedings and the tribunal acknowledged that evidence was convincing that the people of Kashmir have been involved in a long fight of freedom from foreign rulers. Kashmir is among the most heavily militarized areas on the planet, with upwards of 700,000 to 900,000 Indian soldiers, paramilitary forces, and private security forces. Significant evidence of atrocities was presented in the first report ever issued by the United Nations on human rights in Kashmir.
The report was released on June 14, 2018 by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.Similarly, sufficient evidence of crimes was also contained in the second report issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued on July 8, 2019 under UN human rights head Michelle Bachelet. The report was titled, “Update on the Situation of Human Rights in Indian-Administered Kashmir and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir from May 2018 to April 2019”. The tribunal heard evidence of genocide, in Jammu in 1947 and 1948, during which time the Indian government and Dogra regime claimed to be directly responsible. The tribunal unanimously agreed that the events need to be carefully recognized and studied.
The accusations are grave and warrant deeper investigation. Tribunal stated that, “We have heard evidence from two genocide alerts given by Genocide Watch, an NGO led by Professor Gregory Stanton”. The final concluding statement made by tribunal highlighted, “In conclusion, based on the statements, oral testimonies and reports we heard on December 17 and 18, we find serious indications of constant restrictions on freedoms and gross human rights violations, including mass crimes, mass rapes and other crimes against humanity. From the allegations we have heard, these crimes seem to meet the definition of genocide”.
The tribunal called upon the international institutions in a strong 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 reports we have heard suggest that the government of India, the Indian Army and the Indian Intelligence Service are responsible. This requires further investigation”. The tribunal offered an open invitation to the world public to visit Kashmir and report on the state of freedoms and human rights. We are continuing to closely monitor the situation in hopes of holding criminals to account.
The tribunal also called upon UN, “We also call upon the United Nations 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”. “This is the United Nations’ responsibility as such, we call upon the United Nations General Assembly to request an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice to characterize the Kashmir situation as an uncompleted decolonization process and to recognize the legal force of the Security Council’s resolution calling for a plebiscite of the people of Kashmir in order that they may determine their future.”
The tribunal, with a focus on IIOJK, the epicenter of resistance included leading global, political, academic and literary figures and aspired to further clarify the reality of the situation, internationalize the crisis in Kashmir and compel the world to act. Undoubtedly, the seriousness of this tribunal is in the transparent, democratic and rigorous scientific methods it will use to put forward its case against the Indian state. Such transparency is essential to ensure that the process and outcome remain unblemished, which can thereby substantiate the aspirations of the people of the IIOJK.
The initiative can be termed as the beginning of arduous and judicious process to uncover truth, but the live testimonies and the reports and evidence presented during the proceedings of Russell Tribunal, have raised serious concerns about crimes which appear to have been carried out on a massive scale.
The writer is a civil servant by profession, a writer by choice and a motivational speaker by passion!