Appeal for immediate release of Kashmiri Human Rights Defender Khurram Parvez

Human Rights Defender Khurram Parvez was arrested Monday 22 November. The Rafto Foundation appeals to Indian authorities to respect Mr. Parvez habeas corpus rights and release him from detention without delay.

The Rafto Foundation, 22 November 2021
Photo: twitter

Mr. Khurram Parvez, Program Coordinator of Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and Chairman of the Board of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) is among the most convincingly and carefully articulated defenders of human rights in Kashmir.

Must be released from detention now

Monday 22 November 2021 he was arrested, accused of violating provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, suggesting association with terrorists or terrorist organizations. The Rafto Foundation finds these allegations to lack any credibility whatsoever. We appeal to Indian authorities to respect Mr. Parvez habeas corpus rights and release him from detention without delay.

According to the information we have received, the raid lasted throughout the day since early morning. The raid included a violation of Mr. Parvez’ privacy, his freedom of movement, and the confiscation of electronic devices and books belonging to him. Mr. Parvez’ close colleague Chairperson of JKCCS Mr. Parvez Imroz was held at the offices of JKCCS, while also the archives and electronic devices of the organizations were searched.

This is the second time in a little over a year that JKCCS has been subjected to a raid of their offices and Mr. Parvez to invasion of his home by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Mr. Parvez has also been subject to unlawful persecution by Indian authorities in Kashmir earlier, most significantly his 76-day detention in the autumn of 2016, presumably to prevent his attendance at meeting at the United Nations in Geneva.

JKCCS Awarded the Rafto Prize for human rights in 2017

The Rafto Prize for human rights 2017 was awarded to Parveena Ahangar as Chairperson of APDP, and Parvez Imroz as President of JKCCS. The work of Khurram 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.

“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,” states Director of the Rafto Foundation Jostein Hole Kobbeltvedt.

Peaceful and democratic means only

“The allegations made in the Arrest Memo of the NIA and in articles in the press appear wholly implausible to us. We have worked closely with Khurram 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. All their work has been directed towards raising awareness about human rights violations by peaceful and democratic means.”

This aggressive invasion into and constriction of the space of human rights defenders and their organizations unfortunately fits a pattern of behavior by the Indian government. Arrest without presentations of credible evidence of crimes is a violations of Mr. Parvez human rights.

After the UN OHCHR reports on human rights in Kashmir of 14 June 2018 and 8 July 2019, the unilateral change of the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir by the Indian government on 5 August 2019, and the controversies relating to the Citizenship Amendment Act of 11 December 2019, the attention of the international community to human rights violations in India has intensified significantly.

India refuses to act
Unfortunately, India has refused to engage in any sincere discussion of allegations about human rights violations reported by civil society or by international organizations such as the Office of the High Commissioner or the Special procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Scores of Indian civil society organizations addressing human rights questions of one kind or another have been subjected to constraints on their funding, harassment in the media or by government, and what appears to be frivolous legal prosecution. The most recent and very ominous effect of this behavior is the sad, but very understandable, decision of Amnesty International to close their offices in India.

Our appeal to the UN:

The Rafto Foundation appeals to the United Nations, and to all states committed to the protection of human rights, to express their unequivocal condemnation of the persecution of human rights defenders in India and warn in the clearest possible terms against pursuing prosecution of human rights defenders on national security grounds, which poses a grave threat both to rule of law and democracy in India, and to the efforts of the international community to uphold these values


Iver Ørstavik

Senior Advisor
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