International bodies denounce arrest of activist in Indian Kashmir

New Delhi, Nov 23 (EFE).- The United Nations and human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced Tuesday the detention in Indian Kashmir of prominent activist Khurram Parvez, accused of financing terrorist groups.

“The UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) is being repeatedly misused to punish human rights activists or others that protest abuses,” tweeted HRW South Asia head Meenakshi Ganguly, following the arrest of Parwez on Monday.

Ganguly called on the Indian Government, which directly controls the disputed region, to “end repressive policies” in Kashmir and to “hold to account those responsible for rights violations instead of targeting rights defenders.”

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Parvez, coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, on Monday after a raid on his home, the broadcaster NDTV reported.

The prominent human rights defender in Kashmir also heads the Philippines-based Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances.

The UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, came to Parvez’s defense following reports of his arrest.

“I’m hearing disturbing reports that Khurram Parvez was arrested today in Kashmir & 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,” said Lawlor on Twitter.

Former UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, also took to Twitter to denounce the “extraordinary abuse” in Indian Kashmir in the form of Parvez’s arrest.

The Norwegian Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, in a statement, criticized the “lack of any credibility” of the allegations of Parvez’s association with terrorist groups.

Rafto recalled that this was the second time in a year that the JKCCS and Parvez, who received in 2017 the human rights award given by this foundation, had to face raids by the NIA.

Parvez spent 76 days in pretrial detention in 2016 after being arrested under the controversial Public Safety Act, which allows arrests of up to two years without trial.

His arrest had come a day after the Indian authorities prevented him from traveling to Geneva to participate in a session of the UN Human Rights Council regarding mass protests in Kashmir following the death of a popular insurgent.

The Kashmir region is divided between India and Pakistan with the highly militarized Line of Control (LoC) serving as the de facto border.

The two countries have waged two wars and numerous minor conflicts over Kashmir – which they both claim in full – since their independence from British rule in 1947.

Tension between the two countries escalated three years ago after the Indian government unilaterally stripped the state of its semi-autonomous nature in August 2019 and brought it under its direct rule.

The Indian government also imposed harsh restrictions for months and a total blockade on communications in the region, while detaining hundreds of activists, politicians and other citizens. EFE


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