Jammu & Kashmir

Kashmir’s HR defender Khurram Parvez’s arrest evokes widespread criticism, condemned internationally

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Photo: Facebook/Khurram Parvez

Srinagar: After the news of the arrest of prominent Kashmir-based Human Rights Defender, Khurram Parvez spread globally, various internationally recognised rights bodies and activists, criticized his arrest and demanded his immediate release.

On Monday at around 8 in the morning, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India raided Khurrum’s residence in Sonwar area of Srinagar and simultaneously his office at Amira Kadal.

“Early morning NIA with police raided our house and took our mobile phones and laptops. The search lasted for up to 1:30 in the noon. They searched every nook and corner of our house and took some books from the study, Khurrum’s laptop and mobile phone and also my two mobile phones,” said Sameena, Khuram’s wife.

She said that they told Khurrum to accompany them for questioning but later in the evening the family was told that he has been arrested.

“They handed over his arrest memo in the evening and told us to get his clothes and blankets,” Sameena recalled.

The arrest memo, a copy of which is lying with Free Press Kashmir says he was arrested in the case, FIR RC-30/2021/NIA/DLI filed on November 6, under IPC Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging, attempting to wage, abetting waging of war against the government), and 121A (conspiracy to commit offences punishable by Section 121); and Sections 17 (raising funds for the terrorist act), 18 (conspiracy), 18B (recruiting of any person or persons for the terrorist act) and 40 (raising funds for a terrorist organisation) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

After his formal arrest, social media was sparked with criticism from across the world including, The Rafto Foundation, The United Nations Special Rapporteur, Amnesty International and The World Organization Against Torture, based in Geneva.

“I’m hearing disturbing reports that Khurram Parvez was arrested today [Monday] 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, said in a tweet.

Amnesty International, referring to Parvez’s arrest, said that the Indian authorities have misused the “anti-terror law”.

Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organization focused on human rights. The organization has more than seven million members and supporters around the world.

“The arrest of Kashmiri activist Khurram Parvez is yet another example of how anti-terror laws are being misused to criminalize human rights work & stifle dissent in India. Instead of targeting HRDs, authorities should focus on bringing accountability for human rights violations,” the organisation tweeted.

The Rafto Foundation, a body working for the global promotion of human rights released a statement which demanded, “immediately release Mr. Parvez,” who was working as programme coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and Chairman of the Board of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD).

“We observe with regret that the Indian government intimidates citizens working to secure the values and norms enshrined both in the Constitution of India and in international treaties ratified by the government itself. We appeal to Indian authorities to respect Mr. Parvez’s habeas corpus rights and release him from detention without delay,” Jostein Hole Kobbeltvedt, Director of the Rafto Foundation, said in a statement.

In 2017, the JKCCS was awarded the Rafto Prize for Human Rights.

The statement reveals, “The work of 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.”

Khurrum is also the chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (Afad), an international rights organisation that looks into the forced disappearances in Kashmir and elsewhere in Asia.

“The allegations made in the arrest memo of the NIA appear wholly implausible to us. We have worked closely with 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,” the Rafto statement said.

The World Organization Against Torture, based in Geneva, also expressed its deep concern. “We are deeply concerned about the high risk of torture while in custody. We call for his immediate release,” the organisation said.

Khurrum has criticized various moves of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Jammu and Kashmir including revocation of Article 370 on August 05, 2019.

His organisation, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) which is working on human rights violations in Kashmir has produced and published various scathing reports on human rights violations and exploitation, Kashmiris have been experiencing for years.

In 2016, Indian authorities had arrested Parvez a day after he was barred from travelling to Switzerland to attend the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and had charged him under the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows detention without charge for up to two years.

He was released after 76 days in prison after increased pressure from international rights groups.

 

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