UN experts call for release of Kashmiri rights activist

Published December 23, 2021
A file photo of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society Programme Coordinator Khurram Parvez. — Photo via Twitter
A file photo of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society Programme Coordinator Khurram Parvez. — Photo via Twitter

WASHINGTON: Authorities in India must stop targeting prominent Kashmiri activist Khurram Parvez, a group of independent UN human rights experts said on Wednesday, while calling for his immediate release from detention.

Mr Parvez has documented serious human rights violations in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir, including enforced disappearances and unlawful killings and has faced reprisals reportedly for sharing information with the UN. The Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested him in November on charges related to conspiracy and terrorism.

The rights experts, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, issued the statement after reviewing available information about the case.

A UN news report also quoted the experts as urging Indian authorities to repeal the laws that target Kashmiri civilians and human rights activists.

“We are concerned that one month after Mr Parvez’s arrest, he is still deprived of liberty in what appears to be a new incident of retaliation for his legitimate activities as a human rights defender and because he has spoken out about violations,” the rights experts said.

“In view of this context of previous reprisals, we call on the Indian authorities to immediately release him and ensure his rights to liberty and security.”

The UN agency reported that Mr Parvez was detained at the Rohini Jail Complex in Delhi, which the experts described as among “the most overcrowded and unsanitary prisons in the country, posing immediate risk to his health and safety, in particular from Covid-19.

Mr Parvez was arrested on Nov 22 under Indian counter-terrorism legislation, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

Introduced in July 2019, the Act allows the authorities to designate any individual as a terrorist without the requirement of establishing membership or association with banned groups. The rights experts said the UAPA has resulted in a “worrisome rise” in the number of arrests in India, and especially in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the UN news agency reported.

“We regret that the government continues to use the UAPA as a means of coercion to restrict civil society, the media and human rights defenders (and their) fundamental freedoms,” the experts said.

“We therefore once again urge the government to bring this legislation in line with India’s international legal obligations under human rights law.”

Indian authorities produced Mr Parvez in a court in Delhi on Nov 30 and Dec 4 when it was decided to transfer him from NIA to judicial custody. The NIA Special Court is meeting on Thursday to decide on another extension of his detention for a further 90 days. If convicted, he could face up to 14 years in prison, or even the death penalty.

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2021

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