UN experts urge India to immediately release Kashmiri rights defender Khurram Parvez

UN experts urge India to immediately release Kashmiri rights defender Khurram Parvez

GENEVA, Dec 22 (APP): UN human rights experts Wednesday called on Indian authorities to stop targeting Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez and to release him immediately.

“We are concerned that one month after Mr. Parvez’s arrest, he is still deprived of liberty in what appears to be a new incident of retaliation for his legitimate activities as a human rights defender and because he has spoken out about violations,” the independent experts said.

“In view of this context of previous reprisals, we call on the Indian authorities to immediately release him and ensure his rights to liberty and security,” they added.

Parvez has worked extensively to document serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearances and unlawful killings, in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir

In his search for accountability, Parvez has been victim of a number of incidents of reprisals reportedly for sharing this information with the United Nations, as documented in various reports of the Secretary-General and communications from UN special procedures mandate holders, it was pointed out.

Parvez, who was arrested on 22 November 2021 on charges related to conspiracy and terrorism under Indian counter-terrorism legislation — the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) — is presently detained at the Rohini Jail Complex, one of the three most overcrowded and unsanitary prisons in the country, where there is a clear and immediate risk to his health and safety, in particular from COVID-19, the UN said.

The amendment introduced in July 2019 to the UAPA, allows any individual to be designated as a “terrorist”, bypassing the requirement to establish membership or association with banned groups. This expansion of State agencies’ discretionary powers under the anti-terror law has resulted in a worrisome rise in the number of arrests across India – and especially in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

“We regret that the Government continues to use the UAPA as a means of coercion to restrict civil society’s, the media’s and human rights defenders’ fundamental freedoms in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir as well as in the rest of the country. We therefore once again urge the Government to bring this legislation in line with India’s international legal obligations under human rights law,” the experts said.

Parvez was brought before court in Delhi on 30 November and 4 December 2021, when it was decided he should be transferred from National Investigation Agency (NIA) custody to judicial custody. On 23 December 2021, the NIA Special Court may decide on another extension of his detention for a further 90 days. If convicted, Parvez could face up to 14 years of imprisonment or even the death penalty.

The experts are: Luciano Hazan (Chair-Rapporteur), Aua Baldé (Vice-Chair), Tae-Ung Baik, Gabriella Citroni, Henrikas Mickevicus, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while counter-terrorism; and Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.