Global rights bodies call for release of Khurram Parvez

Islamabad, November 23 (KMS): Global rights bodies and activists on Tuesday reacted sharply to the arrest of Srinagar-based human rights activist Khurram Parvez by India’s notorious National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday.

According to Kashmir Media Service, the Rafto Foundation, a body working for the global promotion of human rights, in a statement, appealed to India to “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.

“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,” the statement added.

Mr. Parvez was arrested on Monday following raids on his house and office in Srinagar. He has been held in a case registered on November 6 under the IPC and the UAPA, pertaining to criminal conspiracy and illegal money transfer for terror activities.

“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.

“We have seen human rights defenders arrested on counterterror charges earlier and it is really unfortunate that Indian authorities continue to abuse a law, designed with draconian powers to protect the public from harm, to instead target those that speak for fundamental rights like an end to torture and extrajudicial killings,” she told Al Jazeera.

Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said Parvez’s arrest is “a really troubling development”.

“We have seen human rights defenders arrested on counterterror charges earlier and it is really unfortunate that Indian authorities continue to abuse a law, designed with draconian powers to protect the public from harm, to instead target those that speak for fundamental rights like an end to torture and extrajudicial killings,” she told Al Jazeera.

Yogendra Yadav, an Indian political activist, said, “The arrest of Parvez should be a matter of shame. A life-long human rights defender is now being accused of terrorism and will be in jail without trial. In 2016, after being jailed for more than two months, the court called his detention ‘illegal’. Will the State never learn.”

Islamabad-based Legal Forum for Kashmir (LFOVK) while denouncing the slapping of UAPA on Khurram Parvez by the Indian authorities termed it an attempt to silence human rights defenders and dissidents in IIOJK under the guise of national security.

“Our organization condemns the arbitrary use of anti-terrorism law against Mr. Parvez and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

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