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UN Experts Urge India to Release Kashmiri Human Rights Activist

Critics have accused Indian forces of heavy-handedness as they struggle to contain the long prevailing protests.

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India
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A group of United Nations expert on Wednesday urged that the Indian government must immediately release a prominent Kashmiri human rights activist who was arrested last month on charges of involvement in activities against the public order.

Khurram Parvez, 39, coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCSS) has campaigned against human rights violations committed by state forces in India’s volatile Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir since long.

In a statement issued by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), four Special Rapporteurs said Parvez's detention appeared to be an attempt by the government to stop his work.



Critics have accused Indian forces of heavy-handedness as they struggle to contain the long prevailing protests.
Khurram Parvez is the coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society and an active campaigner against human rights violation. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@KhurramParvez)

"Parvez is a well-known and outspoken human rights defender who has had a long-standing and positive engagement with the UN human rights mechanisms," said the UN experts on arbitrary detention, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and enforced disappearances.

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His continued detention following his arrest just a few days before his participation in the UN Human Rights Council, suggests a deliberate attempt to obstruct his legitimate human rights activism.
UN Experts

Government and police officials in Kashmir declined to comment on the statement by the UN Special Rapporteurs Michel Forst, Sètondji Adjovi, Maina Kiai and David Kaye.



Critics have accused Indian forces of heavy-handedness as they struggle to contain the long prevailing protests.
Kashmir has become a site of prolonged conflict since the assassination of militant leader Burhan Wani. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Khurram Parvez)

The JKCCS has published research into the role of Indian security forces in containing a separatist insurgency in India's Kashmir state that first flared a quarter of a century ago.

At least 78 civilians have been killed and thousands wounded in more than two months of clashes between protesters and security forces, sparked by the killing of a leading separatist militant in a joint army and police operation on 8 July.

The unrest is the worst in the Muslim-majority region for six years, and critics have accused Indian forces of heavy-handedness as they struggle to contain the protests.



Critics have accused Indian forces of heavy-handedness as they struggle to contain the long prevailing protests.
The ongoing clashes between protesters and State forces have claimed many lives in the Valley. (Photo: AP)

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since Independence in 1947. Both claim the territory in full but rule it in parts.

Parvez, who is also the chair of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), was stopped by authorities at New Delhi airport on 14 September, when he was on his way to Geneva to attend the UN Human Rights Council.

He was detained on 16 September, released four days later and then detained again the same day.

The experts said they were concerned that Parvez was still in preventive detention under the highly-controversial Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, which allows for people to held for up to two years without judicial intervention.

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Critics have accused Indian forces of heavy-handedness as they struggle to contain the long prevailing protests.
Tear gas shells fired by Indian policemen explode during a funeral procession in Srinagar. (Photo: AP)

India had so far provided no clear details on the exact nature of the charges against Parvez, and the government's rationale relied "mainly on vague accusations of alleged 'anti-India' activities" to disturb public order, said the statement.

“In a democratic society, the open criticism of Government is a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression of every person,” the experts said.

"We are seriously concerned that the arrest of Parvez may represent a direct retaliation for his legitimate activities as a human rights defender and the exercise of his fundamental freedoms, including freedoms of expression and association."

(Published in an arrangement with the Thomas Reuters Foundation, a charity registered in England and Wales.)

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