Srinagar: A month after prominent human rights defender Khurram Parvez was arrested in Kashmir, international rights bodies, including the United Nations, has called for his “immediate release”, terming his detention as a “retaliation” of authorities against the rights activist’s critical work.
“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,” a UN statement quoting independent experts said.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Parvez after they raided his home and office in Srinagar last November. He was shifted to Delhi, where he is currently in jail and accused of being allegedly involved in terror financing, criminal conspiracy, waging of war against the government and other sections of the controversial Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
This is Khuarram’s second arrest since 2016. Many right bodies and his colleagues have termed his detention and cases against him as means to silence critics in Kashmir. His arrest has increased concern amongst local human rights bodies, who say it is now difficult to continue such work.
“His arrest has forced us to stop our work, and we are under tremendous stress. Our work is to highlight human rights violations, and not just us but our families too are facing serious risk for doing our work,” an activist, who has formerly worked with Parvez, told NewsClick.
“His family recounts and relive the horror of his detention yet again. We await his unconditional release #FreeKhurramParvez,” Parvez’s wife Sameena Mir tweeted recently.
Following his arrest, Parvez was produced before a court in Delhi on November 30 and December 4. He was transferred from NIA custody to judicial custody. If convicted, Parvez could face up to 14 years of imprisonment or even the death penalty, the statement from UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders said.
“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,” a Geneva-based spokesperson said.
Other bodies like Rafto Foundation, a Norway-based non-profit organisation for promoting human rights, have also called for Parvez release. “Parvez’s human rights work has been important to question widespread impunity and lack of accountability in Jammu and Kashmir. His arrest censors critical voices and crucial documentation work. India must release him, immediately and unconditionally,” the body said.
The call for Parvez's release was widely publicised on social media platform Twitter with many netizens urging for the activist’s release.
“An extraordinary human rights activist who has relentlessly documented the violation of human rights in Kashmir Including mass graves – A heroic human - Pass it around,” actor John Cusack tweeted.
More than 28 British Parliamentarians have also written a joint letter to the Indian High Commissioner to the UK expressing their concerns over human rights violations and Parvez's arrest, which they termed an “illegal detention.”
The letter signed by the MP’s, including Debbie Abrahams MP, Chair of APPG for Kashmir, has also raised concerns about “fake-encounters” in Kashmir in which civilians were killed and passed-off militants. The statement pointed at the Amshipora encounter of last year and the recent Hyderpora encounter in which three civilians were killed.