Indian authorities have detained a Kashmiri human rights activist after stopping him from traveling to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Human Rights Watch and the ICJ said today.
Khurram Parvez was arrested in his home on 15 September 2016, a day after being prevented from leaving the country with a group of rights activists who were traveling to Geneva to raise concerns about the security force crackdown in Jammu and Kashmir.
Human Rights Watch and the ICJ call on authorities to immediately release Parvez and allow him to attend the Human Rights Council session.
“Indian authorities seem to have missed the irony of blocking a rights activist on his way to the UN Human Rights Council,” said Sam Zarifi, Asia Director at the International Commission of Jurists.
“Monitoring and engage
ment by civil society is necessary to prevent human rights violations and ensure accountability. The Government should immediately release Khurram Parvez and begin working with him and other activists to address the difficult issues facing Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.
Parvez, 39 years of age, is chair of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and program coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).
He has documented cases of enforced disappearances and investigated unmarked graves in Kashmir.
According to his lawyer, Parvez has been detained by Kashmir police under “preventive detention” provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, including section 151 (arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offense).
The Government’s actions against Parvez violate his right to freedom of movement.
Under international human rights law, any restrictions on freedom of movement for security reasons must have a clear legal basis, be limited to what is necessary and be proportionate to the threat.
This is further supported by article 5 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which states that “[f]or the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, at the national and international levels… to communicate with nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations.”
“Instead of trying to silence human rights activists, India should be addressing the serious human rights problems in Jammu and Kashmir and holding perpetrators of abuses to account,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director at Human Rights Watch.
“Preventing open discussion of these issues, whether in India or in Geneva, sends a message to Kashmiris that the government has no interest in addressing their concerns,” she added.
Violent protests broke out in Jammu and Kashmir state after the killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahedin militant Burhan Wani in an armed encounter on 8 July.
Since then, the authorities have placed large parts of the state under curfew restrictions to try to stop protesters who hurl stones at security forces and attack police posts.
Security forces have used unnecessary lethal force to contain the violence, which has resulted in the death of 80 protesters and 2 police officers, and thousands injured.
Some protesters, including children, lost their vision from pellets fired from riot-control guns.
While police have a duty to protect lives and property, under the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, they should use non-violent means as far as possible, only use force when unavoidable and in a proportionate manner, and use lethal force only when absolutely necessary to save lives, Human Rights Watch and International Commission of Jurists said.
The authorities have also attempted to censor news and restrict access to information.
The Government shut down local newspapers for three days, blocked mobile internet services temporarily, and ordered local cable operators to block the transmission of five news channels on television.
India has failed to address longstanding grievances in Jammu and Kashmir.
Numerous expert committees in India have recommended steps to address past human rights violations, including a repeal of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, but the Indian Government has ignored these recommendations.
Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia-Pacific Regional Director, (Bangkok); t:+66(0) 807819002; e: firstname.lastname@example.org