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Stop harassment, release Kashmir rights defender Khurram Parvez: Global NGO

By Our Representative 

Ahead of his hearing on January 21, 2022, CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance with more than 10,000 members worldwide, has called upon the Government of India to “immediately and unconditionally” release human rights defender Khurram Parvez. “The judicial harassment he is facing highlights the repressive environment for activists and critics in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir”, it said in a statement.
Khurram Parvez is Programme Coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and the Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearance (AFAD). He was detained o November 22, 2021. He is facing multiple charges under several laws, which CIVICUS believes have been trumped up by the authorities because of his activism.
These include the India Penal Code Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging, attempting to wage, abetting waging of war against the government), and 121A (punishment for conspiracy to wage war against the government of India). He has also been charged under the draconian counter-terrorism law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 (UAPA), Section 17 (raising funds for a terrorist act), 18 (conspiracy), 18B (recruiting of any person or persons for a terrorist act), 38 (offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation) and 40 (raising funds for a terrorist organisation).
His arrest took place together with a raid on his house and the JKCCS office in Srinagar, following a First Information Report (FIR) lodged by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on November 6, 2021. Parvez's mobile phone, laptop and several books were seized. His hearing was scheduled to begin on December 23, 2021 but was adjourned to January 21,02022, prolonging his judicial custody. He initially spent 12 days under the custody of the NIA before being transferred to Delhi's Tihar jail.
"We are appalled by the arbitrary detention and intimidation against human rights defenders Khurram Parvez under broad and vague anti-terror legislation, which have been systematically used to detain activists for prolonged periods. The abuse of such laws have put human rights defenders in India at great risk and has created a climate of fear," said Cornelius Hanung, Asia Advocacy and Campaigns Officer of CIVICUS.
The statement alleged, “Khurram Parvez has faced systematic harassment to advocate against human rights violations in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir. In September 2016, the Indian authorities arrested him a day after he was barred from travelling to Switzerland to attend the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. He was charged under the draconian Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows detention without charge for up to two years. He was released after 76 days in detention.”
“In October 2020, nine simultaneous raids were conducted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on the houses and offices of several human rights defenders, non-governmental organisations and newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir -- including the house of Khurram Parvez”, it added.
"Human rights defenders and their work should be protected, not threatened. We urge the government of India to halt its intimidation of activists in Jammu and Kashmir and commit to building an enabling environment for human rights defenders to exercise civic freedom, in accordance with India's human rights obligations," Cornelius Hanung said.

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