GENEVA — The U.N. human rights chief called Thursday for an independent international investigation into reports of rights violations in the disputed region of Kashmir, laying blame for civilian deaths and injuries on the actions of both India and Pakistan.
In its first report on the region, the office of Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, details "chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces." The report was written without visiting the region as both sides refused to grant unconditional access to the investigators.
The decades-old dispute "has robbed millions of their basic human rights," Zeid said. He called for the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council that begins a new session on Monday to create a "Commission of Inquiry" to investigate alleged abuses in the region.
India rejected the report , calling it a selective compilation of largely unverified information. It said it has protested to Zeid's office.
"We question the intent in bringing out such a report," said Raveesh Kumar, the External Affairs Ministry spokesman. "It is overtly prejudiced and seeks to build a false narrative."
Pakistan's foreign ministry welcomed the proposal by the U.N. human rights chief to establish a commission of inquiry into human rights violations.
"This proposal is consistent with Pakistan's several calls to this effect since 2016, even as India has continued to ignore legitimate demands for a probe into gross and systematic violations, including pellet guns, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrest and detentions as well as continued sexual violence as part of overall impunity enjoyed by Indian security forces," the ministry said in a statement.
The 49-page report adds to criticism of India's tactics in Kashmir, saying its security forces used "excessive force that led to unlawful killings" and caused many injuries. It cited a 20-month span starting in July 2016 in which 145 civilians were killed by security forces and a further 20 by armed groups, according to figures from civil society groups.
It decried the use of pellet-firing shotguns that are still being used against protesters.
Kumar said that although terrorism was the most egregious violation of human rights, "the authors have conveniently ignored the pattern of cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan and territories under its illegal control."
"The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan is in illegal and forcible occupation of a part of the Indian state through aggression," he said.
The report cites experts' belief that Pakistan's military continues to support the operations of armed groups across the Line of Control dividing the region. It says violations in Pakistan-administered Kashmir are of a more "structural" nature.
The Pakistani foreign ministry statement said the report was a reminder of the urgency of the settlement of the Kashmir dispute, both to protect human lives and promote peace.
It said references to human rights concerns in the Pakistani-controlled portion of Kashmir should "in no way be construed to create a false sense of equivalence with the gross and systematic human rights violations in Indian-occupied Kashmir."
It said the report "rightly called for a final political solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute through meaningful dialogue that includes the people of Kashmir."
India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over Kashmir, which both claim. They have fought two of their three wars since they won independence from British colonialists in 1947 over their competing claims to the region.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebel groups who demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. Pakistan denies the charge and says it only provides moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris fighting Indian rule.