United Nations, global rights groups concerned over Khurram Parvez’s arrest

United Nations, global rights watchdogs, and human rights defenders said they were disturbed by the reports of the arrest of Kashmir’s one of the most prominent activists Khurram Parvez by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA).

“I am hearing disturbing reports that Khurram Parvez was arrested today in Kashmir and is at risk of being charged by authorities in India with terrorism-related crimes. He’s not a terrorist, he’s a Human Rights Defender,” Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, tweeted.

NIA on Monday arrested Khurram Parvez in Srinagar in connection with a case filed under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), including terror funding.

Parvez is the coordinator of the civil-society group Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society and the Chairman of the Board of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD).

The arrest comes after the NIA raid at Parvez’s residence and the JKCSS office in Srinagar. The Jammu and Kashmir Police and paramilitary personnel also joined the raid. While Parvez was initially detained for questioning, the NIA formally arrested him in the evening on Monday.

World Organisation Again Torture (OMCT), said it was “deeply concerned” by Parvez’s arrest, “We are deeply concerned about the high risk of torture while in custody. We call for his immediate release,” OMCT said in a tweet.

OMCT is the world’s largest coalition of non-governmental organisations fighting against arbitrary detention, torture, summary and extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, and other forms of violence.

David Kaye, a former United Nations Special Rapporteur, said Parvez’s arrest under terrorism charges was “yet another extraordinary abuse in Kashmir.”

“I imagine that condemning the arrest of human rights defenders is on the to-do list of the upcoming summit for democracy,” he added.

“The UAPA is being repeatedly misused to punish human rights activists or others that protest abuses. Authorities should end repressive policies in Kashmir, and hold to account those responsible for rights violations instead of targeting rights defenders,” tweeted Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

Rafto Foundation has appealed to Indian authorities to release Parvez from detention without delay.

Khurram Parvez, “is among the most convincingly and carefully articulated defenders of human rights in Kashmir,” the global rights watchdog said in a statement.

The Rafto Prize for human rights 2017 was awarded to Parveena Ahangar as Chairperson of APDP, and Parvez Imroz as President of JKCCS where Khurram Parvez works.

“The work of Khurram Parvez and JKCCS to document human rights violations in Kashmir under very difficult circumstances has received high praise from international legal experts. JKCCS and Khurram Parvez have consistently espoused non-violence and acted impeccably as human rights defenders to earn the highest reputation both within Kashmir and from international institutions,” read the statement.

Jostein Hole Kobbeltvedt, executive director of Rafto Foundation, said: “The allegations made in the Arrest Memo of the NIA and in articles in the press appear wholly implausible to us. We have worked closely with Khurram Parvez and JKCCS for four years, discussing all aspects of their situation. Their denouncement of political violence has been vehement and absolute, whenever the subject of other actors perpetrating such acts came up. All their work has been directed towards raising awareness about human rights violations by peaceful and democratic means.”

“The person cared for rights of every single individual, regardless of faith, ethnicity, colour, caste, gender and socio-economic status. A man with a heart of pure gold. Kind. Empathetic. When members of minority would be in pain he was the first one to come forward to help. Ah!,” while demanding Parvez’s release, author and journalist in the Valley, Gowhar Geelani tweeted.

On 28 October and 29 October last year, NIA conducted searches at several locations in Jammu and Kashmir including Parvez’s house and JKCCS office in connection with a case related to the funding of “secessionist and separatist activities.”

Khurram Parvez has long been a vocal critic of the rights violations in the Valley and was arrested for two and a half months in 2016. Two days before his arrest in 2016, the Indian immigration authorities had refused to let Parvez board a flight to Geneva, where he was scheduled to address the United Nations Human Rights Council about India’s human-rights record.

After 75 days of imprisonment, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had quashed his detention as “illegal.”