Antonio Guterres
Antonio GuterresWikimedia Commons

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has backed Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein's call for an international investigation into human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir saying that it represents the "voice of the UN".

Guterres also defended at a news conference on Thursday his own report on children in armed conflict that referred to situations in Jammu and Kashmir, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. He denied India's assertions that his report overstepped his mandate and that Zeid had no mandate and said that they were both covered by the "the general mandate of human rights instruments".

On Monday, India's Deputy Permanent Representative Tanmaya Lal told the Security Council that Zeid's "so-called report" was "reflecting the clear bias of an official who was acting without any mandate whatsoever and relied on unverified sources of information".

As for Guterres's report, Lal said: "We are disappointed that the report of the Secretary-General includes situations, which do not meet the definition of an armed conflict or of the threat to the maintenance of international peace and security."

Asked at his news conference if he supported Zeid's call for the independent international investigation, Guterres said: "As you can imagine, all the action of the Human Rights High Commissioner is an action that represents the voice of the UN in relation to that issue."

Answering a question about the reports running counter to India's long-standing assertion that Jammu and Kashmir is a part of India and any problem between neighbours was a bilateral issue among India and Pakistan, Guterres said there was a distinction between political matters and human rights.

He said: "One thing is the definition of mechanisms for a political solution of a situation in a country and the other thing is the general mandate of human rights instruments in relation to human rights everywhere.

Zeid, whose term gets over at the end of 2018, asked the Human Rights Council to set up a Commission of Inquiry into the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The Council has not taken up his suggestion though at its session that ended last week.

Rejecting Zeid's report, India's External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said it was "overtly prejudiced and seeks to build a false narrative". "We are deeply concerned that individual prejudices are being allowed to undermine the credibility of a UN institution," he said in a direct personal criticism of Zeid.