A group of experts from the United Nations have calle upon New Delhi to immediately release human rights activist Khurram Parvez, who was booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) by Jammu-Kashmir government last month.
Khurram was arrested on September 16, from his Srinagar residence, a day after he was stopped at Delhi airport and prevented from traveling to Geneva to attend the 33rd session of UN Human Rights Council.
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“Parvez is a well-known and outspoken human rights defender who has had a longstanding and positive engagement with the UN human rights mechanisms,” the group of experts said. “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 experts include Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Setondji Adjovi, the Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
The expert group said that they already “expressed their concerns” to New Delhi but don’t have clear details on the charges under which Khurram has been arrested. “The UN experts conveyed their concerns to the Government of India, but the official information received so far does not provide clear details on the exact nature of the charges against (Khurram) Parvez, which seem to rely mainly on vague accusations of alleged ‘anti-India’ activities, aimed at disrupting the public order,” they said. “We are concerned at the use of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act against (Khurram) Parvez, which permits administrative detention without judicial intervention for up to two years.”
The group has expressed its concern over the slapping of PSA against Khurram saying the Act has been used to target human rights activists.
“We have received allegations of this law often being arbitrarily applied to target human rights defenders,” they said. “In a democratic society, the open criticism of Government is a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression of every person. We are seriously concerned that the arrest of (Khurram) 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. (There is) lack of clarity as to why the Indian authorities have deemed it necessary to address this case outside the country’s ordinary laws”.