A top UN expert on Friday asked India to immediately end the crackdown on Kashmiri human rights defenders and urged New Delhi to release and close all investigations initiated against them.
Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders made this comment days after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) formally arrested jailed Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society programme coordinator Khurram Parvez in connection with its NGO terror funding case.
Press release: India must immediately end its crackdown against Kashmiri human rights defenders. I call for the release of Kashmiri HRDs Khurram Parvez & Irfan Mehraj & the closing of the cases against them.— Mary Lawlor UN Special Rapporteur HRDs (@MaryLawlorhrds) March 24, 2023
My statement: https://t.co/pDszj2d5M5
The NIA said the case relates to the terror funding of proscribed terrorist organisations, such as LeT and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, by certain NGOs, trusts and societies based in the Valley.
“Indian authorities appear to be intensifying the long-standing repression of Kashmiri civil society,” Lawlor said. “The State must respect its human rights obligations and be held accountable where it violates them," she said in a statement.
Parvez has been in prison since his arrest by the NIA in November 2021 for anti-national activities, including collecting information on vital installations and deployment and movement of security forces, procuring secret official documents and passing the same to his LeT handlers for monetary consideration. He was charge-sheeted along with six others on May 13 last year.
India has previously said that authorities in the country act against violations of law strictly in accordance with established judicial processes. The UN expert said prior to Parvez’s arrest, a former associate of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies, human rights activist and journalist Irfan Mehraj, was also arrested in the same case on March 20 from Srinagar and transferred to New Delhi.
“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 immense value to international organisations seeking to ensure accountability and non-repetition of abuses,” Lawlor explained.
The statement issued in Geneva said UN experts have repeatedly highlighted “grave concerns” regarding the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which allows the designation of any individual as a "terrorist," bypassing the requirement to establish membership or association with banned outfits.
The expert also called for the release and the closing of investigations against Kashmiri human rights defenders. “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 added.