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UN experts, right groups call on India to release prominent Kashmir rights activist

Khurram Parvez has been detained since November 22 after India's intelligence officials raided his home and office

UN human rights experts and activists from around the world have called on India to immediately release Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez.

“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,” said the UN experts in a statement on December 22.

Parvez, 42, is program coordinator for rights group Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society and chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances. He received the Reebok Human Rights Award in 2006.

“Mr. Parvez has worked extensively to document serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearances and unlawful killings, in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir,” said the UN experts.

The Philippines’ human rights group Karapatan said it “stands in solidarity” with the call to free Parvez “as we strongly denounce his arrest and the Indian government’s worsening crackdown on dissent.”

Parvez has been detained since November 22, 2021, after officials of India’s National Investigation Agency raided his home and office, seized several electronic devices and documents, and arrested him on allegations of funding terrorism, being a member of a terrorist organization, criminal conspiracy, among others, under India’s counterterrorism law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

Parvez has documented cases of enforced disappearances and other human rights violations committed by Indian State security forces, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir.

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Parvez was part of the research group that published a report in December 2009 on the investigation of thousands of unmarked graves in Kashmir.

For his work, Parvez has been repeatedly targeted and harassed by the Indian government.

On September 14, 2016, immigration officials blocked Parvez from travelling to Geneva, Switzerland to attend the United Nations Human Rights Council session.

Two days later, he was arrested without warrant in his home and arbitrarily detained under the India’s Public Safety Act until he was released in November that year, after the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir declared his detention illegal.

Parvez’ arrest and detention last month has alarmed the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, especially the increasing use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act “to stifle the work of human rights defenders, journalists and other critics in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India.”

At least 2,300 people have been arrested under the UAPA –– a vaguely worded law that effectively allows people to be held without trial indefinitely –– in the Indian-controlled territory since 2019 when New Delhi canceled the region’s partial autonomy and annexed it.

Almost half of them are still in prison, and convictions under the law are very rare.

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