The United Nations Human Rights Office has condemned India’s decision to arrest Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez and the recent killings of innocent Kashmiris in the valley.
A statement from the office of UNHRO said, “We are deeply concerned at the arrest of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez under Indian counter-terrorism legislation, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).”
The UN Human Rights Office said that Parvez was known as a ‘tireless advocate for families of the disappeared’ and has been targeted before for his human rights work.
The statement said, “The UAPA empowers the authorities to designate individuals and organizations as terrorists based on imprecise criteria, contains a vague and overly broad definition of ‘terrorist act’, allows people to be held in lengthy pre-trial detention and makes securing bail very difficult. It raises serious concerns relating to the right of presumption of innocence along with other due process and fair trial rights. The Act is also increasingly being used to stifle the work of human rights defenders, journalists and other critics in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India.”
The UN Human Rights Office called on the Indian authorities to ‘fully safeguard his right to freedom of expression, association and personal liberty and to take the precautionary step of releasing him.’
“We reiterate our calls for the UAPA to be amended to bring it into line with international human rights law and standards, and urge the authorities, pending the law’s amendment, to refrain from using this or other laws unduly restricting freedom of expression in cases involving civil society, media, and human rights defenders,” it said.
The UN body also said that it was alarmed by the rise in killings of civilians including ‘members of religious minorities, by armed groups in Indian-administered Kashmir this year.’
It added, “At the same time, civilians have been killed by security forces in the course of counter-terrorism operations, and their bodies on occasion disposed in secret. One of these incidents happened on 15 November when four people were killed in a reported gunfight in Srinagar’s Hyderpora area, including two civilians.”
The Indian ministry of external affairs said that the UN body was biased against India. The MEA said in its response, “National security legislations, like UAPA were enacted by the Parliament to protect the sovereignty of India & ensure the security of its citizens. Authorities in India act against violations of law & not against legitimate exercise of rights.”
Several innocent Kashmiris were brutally gunned down by the Indian security forces in the recent past. The video of an Indian daughter mourning her father’s murder had recently gone viral. The girl had alleged how security forces shamelessly laughed when she questioned them for killing her father, a businessman.