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I am deeply concerned about reports I have received from trusted human rights experts that the Indian government has revoked Article 370 of the constitution, which would mean that vast swathes of Kashmir would lose autonomy. This decision is in violation of UN resolution 47.

I have also received reports of the Indian army’s use of banned cluster-bombs in this area of disputed Kashmir, which initially resulted in the deaths of two civilians with eleven others being wounded. This use of force and illegal weaponry violates the Geneva Convention. It has only served to heighten tensions and increase fighting in key areas of the region and fuel a conflict that could lead to retaliation through civil unrest, or further violence, and in the worst case scenario, a nuclear response.

The Indian authorities shut down schools and imposed a blanket media and communications blackout in the region, with the suspension of all telecommunications on Kashmir and Jammu. This violation of media freedom prevents citizens and the wider diaspora from receiving impartial information, and comes within a context of widespread human rights violations against Kashmiris. For example, I have spoken up many times in the past about the use of pellet guns which are frequently used against young people, and the unacceptable violence against women which are both used as ways to intimidate and silence the wider population. The current developments in New Delhi will exacerbate the tensions and lead to a climate in which human rights are considered an inconvenience in a power struggle between India and Pakistan.

I strongly condemn India’s illegal and unconstitutional revocation of Article 370 to annexe Kashmir. I call on the European Union and Member States to work with the Indian and Pakistani governments as well as the people of Kashmir and Jammu, including the diaspora community, to ensure that the conflict does not escalate.

The EU is a friend to the people of both India and Pakistan and we have a duty to ensure states in the region respect their international human rights obligations. These new developments are extremely worrying and demonstrate the dangers of unilateralism which is a worrying trend, particularly amongst right wing nationalistic governments.

The only way to achieve lasting peace is to build foundations for better living together based on the human rights and dignity of every individual.

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Julie has been engaging with the issue of human rights in Kashmir since 2014. Her work has focused mainly on women, young people and children. She visited Azad Kashmir in January 2017, and has spoken frequently at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva at panels organised by the International Muslim Women’s Union and WUNRN (Women’s UN Report Network). She has also engaged with the issue from an anti-nuclear perspective.

Since the Brexit referendum took place in June 2016, Julie has been increasingly worried about the effect the UK’s departure from the European Union will have on European advocacy for Kashmir, as British MEPs are the strongest voices in the European Parliament calling for democracy,  peace and human rights in the region.

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