Conflicts & War

India urged to free Kashmiri rights activist from ‘arbitrary detention’

Srinagar, Nov 22 (EFE).- At least a dozen rights organizations have urged India to immediately set free a prominent Kashmir rights defender who completed a year in arbitrary detention on Tuesday.

Khurram Parvez was arrested on Nov.22, 2021, on “politically motivated terrorism…charges,” they said in a joint statement, calling for his “immediate and unconditional release.

Amnesty International, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, and Minority Rights Group International are among the groups that have called for his immediate freedom.

Parvez, the coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and chairperson of the AFAD, has been a champion of human rights advocacy, documentation, and investigations including in the Kashmir region, for over 20 years.

India’s counterterrorism body, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), raided his home and office last year, seizing his and his family members’ laptops, mobile phones, and books.

He was then called in for questioning and arrested.

The NIA charged him under India’s abusive counterterrorism law, which makes release on bail difficult.

The authorities accused him of “criminal conspiracy,” “waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the government of India,” and “raising funds for terror activities.

The NIA accused Parvez of “running a network of over ground workers of the (Pakistan-based militant organisation) Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for furthering activities of the LeT and to commit terrorist attacks in India.”

His detention has since then been extended at least five times by the court under the law that allows for the extension of the detention period for up to 180 days if the investigating agency is unable to complete the probe within 90 days.

Experts with the United Nations have raised concerns about various provisions in India’s anti-terror laws that they say “are inconsistent with international human rights law and standards.”

The joint statement by the rights organizations alleged that the Indian authorities have repeatedly targeted Parvez for his human rights work “to silence him and intimidate others.”

Over the years, the NIA and other law enforcement agencies have accused him of “carrying out secessionist and separatist activities” in the disputed region.

The government barred him from traveling to Switzerland in 2016 to attend the UN Human Rights Council session and then jailed him for 76 days.

“Parvez has now been in detention for one year. His arbitrary detention is part of a long-standing list of human rights violations committed by Indian authorities against human rights defenders, civil society organisations, journalists, and activists in Kashmir,” the rights groups said.

“Rather than working towards accountability for these violations, authorities have targeted and arrested those who have exposed and sought justice for such violations.”

The rights groups accused the Indian authorities of clamping down on media freedom “to quash peaceful protests and restrict access to information.”

“(It) has caused a chilling effect, further shrinking civic space in a region that is already facing an increasing clampdown on dissent since the Indian parliament revoked Kashmir’s special autonomous status in August 2019.”

They urged the Indian government to prioritize ending impunity for the human rights violations that defenders have documented and exposed, especially in Kashmir.

They asked the government to ensure human rights defenders work in a safe and enabling environment without fear of reprisals. EFE

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