India offers the world no justification and upholds arbitray detention of Rafto Laureate Khurram Parvez 60 days after UN approach.
In a letter recently made public, the UN Special Procedures asked for justification of the arrest and ongoing detention of Program coordinator Khurram Parvez of Rafto Laureate 2017, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society JKCCS. In the strongly worded request sent to the Government of India on 1 December 2021 they also repeated deep concerns about India’s use of counter-terrorism laws to restrict freedom of expression and the legitimate work of human rights defenders.
Khurram Parvez has worked diligently for more than a decade to document involuntary disappearances and other human rights violations in Kashmir, and is widely recognized by Kashmiri experts as one of the most important spokespersons for the human rights of Kashmiris in international society.
The letter from UN Special Procedures details the obligations of the Government of India to uphold various human rights including guaranteeing the right to security and liberty of the person, right to a fair trial, right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of association. The letter reflects the general suspicion that the vague allegations against Khurram Parvez are motivated by the desire to silence him and other human rights defenders in India, and especially to punish them for bringing to light human rights violations in Kashmir and contributing to UN proceedings. Khurram Parvez was arrested under the widely criticized Unlawful Activities Prevention Act UAPA, an abusive counter-terrorism law, increasingly used to silence voices in India but particularly in Kashmir, which deprives the accused of any effective defense against false accusations. The application of this law to detain a highly respected and non-violent activist such as Khurram Parvez has had a strong chilling effect on those working for human rights even beyond the borders of Kashmir. Anyone with colleagues or family in Kashmir now fear the consequences of raising their voices to bear witness and protest human rights violations.
“More than 60 days after the letter was sent, we have not been presented with answers to the questions asked by the UN Special Procedures including justification for the searches, seizures and investigations that preceded the arrest and detention. We must therefore conclude that Khurram Parvez is held in arbitrary detention, contrary to human rights law as well as Indian law. Khurram Parvez must be released immediately, and unconditionally, states Jostein Hole Kobbeltvedt, Executive Director at the Rafto Foundation.