UN Defender Demands End to Crackdown on Kashmiri Activists



UN Human Rights Defenders Demand an End to the Crackdown on Kashmiri Activists. India must immediately halt its crackdown on Kashmiri activists, Mary Lawlor, the independent UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defender, said on Friday, calling for greater accountability where abusive actions are taken and demanded an end to the crackdown on Kashmiri Activists. Lawlor took up the mandate of Special Rapport on the situation of human rights defenders on 1 May 2020, following the Human Rights Council decision 43/115.

Days after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) formally detained imprisoned Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) program coordinator Khurram Parvez in connection with its NGO, Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, made this statement and as a human rights defender she demands an end to the crackdown on Kashmiri Activists.

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Khurram Parvez’s second arrest after being jailed for a year

Khurram Parvez, who had been jailed since November 2021 on terrorism-related charges, was arrested in a second case on March 22, 2023, following two days of questioning by the National Investigation Agency, India’s top counterterrorism agency. With his role in the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, he is charged with financing terrorism in accordance with the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). UAPA is a “draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a law that allows the government to designate someone as a “terrorist” and keep them in pretrial detention for years without needing to produce incriminating evidence” says Hafsa Kanjwal in the Washington Post.

“Indian authorities appear to be intensifying the long-standing repression of Kashmiri civil society,” said Mary Lawlor. “The State must respect its human rights obligations and be held accountable where it violates them,” she added.

In 2021, Khurram Parvez was charged with “conspiracy” and “supporting terrorism.”. After conducting raids at his residence and workplace in Indian-administrated Kashmir, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) detained him. Yet, his detention sparked outrage and criticism around the world as well as immediate calls for his release. On social media, activists and others have described the arrest as an effort to “suppress and punish human rights campaigners.” Mr. Parvez has long been a prominent opponent of the BJP-led administration that currently holds power and was also arrested in 2016 for two and a half months.

Mr. Parvez is also the chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), an international rights organization that looks into forced disappearances in Kashmir and elsewhere in Asia.

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Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS)

Mr.Parvez’s Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) has released a number of critical studies on the power abuses and disregard for human rights carried out by Indian security forces in the Kashmir Valley. Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) was founded in 2000.

“We are an amalgam of various non-funded, non-profit, campaign, research and advocacy organizations based in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. JKCCS through its constituents seeks to speak truth to power whether through reports, programmes, systematic documentation, litigation or other engagements in Jammu and Kashmir and outside. JKCCS believes that a vibrant civil society and institution building is essential for any society, particularly Jammu and Kashmir. JKCCS maintains that the people of Jammu and Kashmir enjoy all the internationally guaranteed civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights including the right to self-determination.”.

This is an excerpt from the wordpress website of JKCCS, an “already vulnerable civil society” which is now further being attacked and crushed on all fronts.

“The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) carries out essential work monitoring human rights. Their research and analysis of human rights violations are of huge value, including to international organizations seeking to ensure accountability and non-repetition of abuses,” Lawlor said.

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Recent Arrest of Other Activists

Irfan Mehraj, a journalist and human rights advocate who previously belonged to the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKCCS), was taken into custody in the same case before the second arrest of jailed Khurram Parvez on March 20, 2023. Mehraj was then transported to New Delhi post his arrest in the same case under the draconian UAPA. Other human rights defenders are verbal about how the authorities are using compulsion and intimidation against former JKCCS associates and volunteers.

Mehraj, a resident of Mehjoor Nagar in Srinagar, was ordered to appear at the Church Lane office of the central anti-terror agency on Monday evening, March 20, despite being away on business, according to his father, Mehraj-ud-Din Bhat.

“He was on a story when the investigators called him on his mobile phone. They told him to come over to their office [for questioning] for five minutes. Later, we got to know that he had been arrested and was going to be shifted to Delhi on Tuesday. My son and brother have gone there seeking legal assistance,” Bhat, who is a Kashmir arts trader, told The Wire.

“My son is innocent. His work speaks for him loudly. I have full faith that truth will prevail and he will get justice,” Bhat added.

“The arrest and detention of persons for exercising their human rights are arbitrary. There must be accountability and remedy where such abusive actions are taken.” Lawlor said. “Time and time again, the Government has been called upon to address the fundamental issues with the country’s anti-terrorism framework and its misuse to smear and silence human rights defenders,” she added. As a human rights defender she demands an end to the crackdown on Kashmiri Activists.

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