A group of United Nations experts on Wednesday called on the India to immediately release prominent Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez, who was arrested last month.
In a statement released from Geneva on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the group of experts said: “Mr. Parvez is a well-known and outspoken human rights defender who has had a longstanding and positive engagement with the UN human rights mechanisms. 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.”
The group of experts comprise the UN Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst; the Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Sètondji Adjovi; the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye.
Parvez, who is the coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCSS), was prevented in Delhi from travelling to Geneva to attend the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council in September and then arrested by police in Srinagar. He was later slapped with the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) and is now lodged in the Kot Bhalwal prison in Jammu.
The statement further added: “We are concerned at the use of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act against Mr. Parvez, which permits administrative detention without judicial intervention for up to two years.”
“We have received allegations of this law often being arbitrarily applied to target human rights defenders,” they added, noting with alarm the lack of clarity as to why the Indian authorities have deemed it necessary to address this case outside the country’s ordinary laws.
“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 stressed. “We are seriously concerned that the arrest of Mr. 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.”