The Amnesty International (AI) and other human rights organizations have urged the representatives of G20 member countries, guest countries and international rights organizations to help end human rights violations in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir and release rights defenders and political detainees
The AI, AFAD, FORUM-ASIA, CIVICUS, Front Line Defenders and Kashmir Law & Justice Project (KLJP) in a joint open letter, posted on AI’s website, have brought the attention of the G20 member countries, guest countries and international rights organizations towards serious human rights violations, including the unlawful detention and persecution of human rights defenders and journalists, by Indian troops in Jammu and Kashmir.
It said, “As your leaders prepare to attend the G20 Summit in September 2023, we urge your government to raise these issues directly and forthrightly with the government of India in accordance with your obligations under international law and call on India to adhere to its international legal obligations.”
The letter said four years after revoking important constitutional rights and protections for Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian government has continued its repressive policies, including restricting freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association and failed to investigate and prosecute violations committed by its military, paramilitary, police and other forces. The authorities, it added, have also intensified their crackdown on independent media and civil society groups including through the frequent use of the abusive counterterrorism and state security laws, including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act.
In November 2021, the letter said, India’s infamous National Investigation Agency (NIA) arbitrarily detained and illegally imprisoned prominent human rights defender Khurram Parvez, invoking powers under the UAPA as a reprisal for his human rights work in occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Khurram is the Program Coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), the Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD). He is also the Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and in February 2023, he was awarded the prestigious Martin Ennals Award, an annual prize which recognises human rights defenders.
In addition to its persecution targeting Khurram, the NIA is also targeting JKCCS, and anyone associated with the organisation. In March 2023, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, expressed her concern over the targeting of JKCCS and stated that the organisation “carries out essential work monitoring human rights.”
On 20 March 2023, it said, the NIA arrested journalist and human rights defender Irfan Meraj in connection with the JKCCS case. The NIA has publicly stated that one of the grounds for Irfan’s arrest was his close association with Khurram Parvez and JKCCS who were ‘funding terror activities in the valley and propagating secessionist agenda in the Valley under the garb of protection of human rights.’ Both human rights defenders remain illegally imprisoned in the maximum-security Rohini Jail in New Delhi.