‘Attempt to silence him’: UN body demands immediate release of Khurram Parvez

Khurram Parvez. [File Photo]

Indian authorities should immediately release Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, a group of United Nations (UN) human rights experts said on Thursday.

Parvez has been detained since his arrest on 22 November 2021 under India’s draconian anti-terrorism legislation and is currently detained in Rohini Jail, Delhi.

“In an opinion adopted on 28 March 2023 and released on 5 June 2023, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) Parvez’s detention was arbitrary,” the body said.

It called on the Indian authorities to immediately release him and to provide him with an “enforceable right to compensation and other reparations.”

“The UN ruling on Khurram Parvez’s case authoritatively confirms that his detention is an act of reprisal for his human rights work, and an attempt to silence him and Kashmiri civil society as a whole. The Indian authorities must implement the UN’s recommendations and immediately release Khurram,” said Alice Mogwe, International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) President.

The WGAD is mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate alleged cases of arbitrary detention.

The WGAD considers individual complaints and adopts opinions on whether the detention of a particular individual is considered to be arbitrary, the statement said.

This WGAD opinion was issued in response to a complaint filed jointly by FIDH, CIVICUS, FORUM-ASIA and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) to the UN body on behalf of Parvez on 22 November 2022.

“The arbitrary and unjust detention of Khurram Parvez is not an isolated incident but the result of India’s relentless attacks on those who expose the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s discriminatory and abusive policies. India must reverse its politics of silencing dissent and guarantee the right to defend human rights in the country”, said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.

The WGAD expressed serious concern about “the chilling effects” of Parvez’s arrest and prolonged detention on civil society, human rights defenders and journalists in India, the statement mentioned.

The WGAD found that Parvez’s deprivation of liberty is in contravention of Articles 2, 7, 9, 11, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 2, 9, 14,15, 19, 22, and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The statement said WGAD determined that the authorities failed to establish a legal basis for Parvez’s detention (Category I); that his detention stemmed from his “legitimate exercise of freedom of opinion, expression and association” (Category II); that the “violations of Parvez’s right to a fair trial are of such gravity as to give his detention an arbitrary character” (Category III); and that he was deprived of his liberty on “discriminatory grounds, owing to his status as a human rights defender and on the basis of his political or other opinion” (Category V).

FIDH, CIVICUS, FORUM-ASIA and OMCT welcome the WGAD’s opinion and reiterate their calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Khurram Parvez and all other human rights defenders currently in prison in India, and for all charges to be dropped.

Khurram Parvez is the Program Coordinator of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), the Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), and FIDH Deputy Secretary-General. In February 2023, he was awarded the prestigious Martin Ennals Award, an annual prize which recognizes human rights defenders.

Parvez was arrested on November 22, 2021 by National Investigation Agency (NIA) officers following 14-hour raids on his house and the JKCCS office in Srinagar, during which his electronic devices and several documents were seized.

Parvez has since been prosecuted under multiple charges related to criminal conspiracy and terrorism, and his fundamental rights to due process and a fair trial have constantly been violated, the UN body statement said.

In addition to the charges against Parvez under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), another case was filed by the NIA against him and journalist Irfan Mehraj in October 2020, specifically targeting JKCCS and anyone associated with the organization.

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