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12 Rights Bodies Demand Release of Kashmiri Activist Khurram Parvez

Anees Zargar |
In a joint statement, the groups, including Amnesty International, alleged that the charges were a reprisal for Parvez’s peaceful human rights work.
Khurram Parvez

Khurram Parvez. Image Courtesy: Twitter

Srinagar: Twelve human rights organisations called for the immediate release of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, who was arrested last year on November 22 on what the groups termed were charges of “politically motivated terrorism”, on Monday.

The rights bodies—including Amnesty International,

Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists—issued a joint statement calling for Parvez’s immediate and unconditional release and demanding that all charges against him, which are a “reprisal” for his “peaceful human rights work”, be dropped. 

Parvez, who was the coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and the chairperson of AFAD, was renowned for his human rights advocacy, documentation and investigations for more than 20 years.

Human rights defenders should be protected, not persecuted. The Indian authorities must stop criminalising the work of human rights defenders and end all attempts to silence and intimidate human rights defenders and other critical voices of the government,” the statement reads.   

The rights groups also urged the Indian government to “prioritise ending impunity for the human rights violations that human rights defenders have bravely documented and exposed, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, and ensure human rights defenders can work in a safe and enabling environment without fear of reprisals”.

Terming Parvez’s detention “arbitrary”, the groups alleged that it is part of a “longstanding” list of human rights violations committed by Indian authorities against human rights defenders, civil society organisations, journalists and activists in J&K.  “Rather than working towards accountability for these violations, authorities have targeted and arrested those who have exposed and sought justice for such violations,” they added.

Indian authorities, the rights groups further alleged, have also “clamped down on media freedom” and “shut down the Internet to quash peaceful protests and restrict access to information”. 

This 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 Jammu and Kashmir’s special autonomous status in August 2019,” the statement reads. 

The recipient of the 2006 Reebok Human Rights Award, Parvez was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) following raids at his Srinagar home and office. The NIA also seized his electronic gadgets, including a laptop and a mobile phone, and a few books. 

Parvez was booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) under several charges, including “criminal conspiracy, waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the government of India, punishment for conspiracy to wage war against the government of India, raising funds for terror activities, punishment for conspiracy, recruiting any person or persons for commission of a terrorist act, offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation, and offence of raising funds for terrorist organisations”.

Parvez, who lost one leg and a colleague in an IED blast in 2004, was earlier jailed in 2016 for 76 days under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act. 

The other organisations that signed the statement included International Federation for Human Rights, International Service for Human Rights, Minority Rights Group International, Stichting The London Story and World Organisation Against Torture.

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