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INDIA: ARBITRARY DETENTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER KHURRAM PARVEZ

The International League Against Arbitrary Detention urges the Government of India to take all the necessary actions to implement the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Opinion No. 8/2023 concerning Khurram Parvez (India) starting for the Government of India to immediately and unconditionally release M. Parvez and to accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations in accordance with international law.


Read the full WGAD Opinion concerning Khurram Parvez (India) : Opinion No. 8/2023


CRIMINALIZATION IN INDIA OF LEGITIMATE ACTIVITIES BY HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS


Mr. Parvez is a longstanding human rights defender who has been advocating for human rights in the Kashmir Valley region, both at a domestic and international level, reportedly since 1996. He is a coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons; Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances; and distinguished scholar with the Political Conflict, Gender and People’s Rights Initiative at the Center for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley.


The Working Group expressed its concerns about the chilling effects of his arrest and prolonged detention on civil society, human rights defenders and journalists in India who are exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, opinion and association in conducting their work. Indeed, Mr. Parvez has been continuously detained since 22 November 2022, with multiple transfers between various places of detention, including to a maximum security prison. He is charged, inter alia, with non-bailable offences under sections 120 A and 121 of the Indian Penal Code. The Working Group recalled that non-bailable offences are in effect mandatory pretrial detention and confirmed that, in the present case, articles 120A and 121 of the Indian Penal Code, are in violation of a State’s obligations under international human rights law since pretrial detention must be the exception and not the rule, ordered for as short a time as possible and based on an individualized determination that it is reasonable and necessary. Hence, the Working Group cooncluded that the Government failed to establish a legal basis for Mr. Parvez’s detention. His detention is thus arbitrary under category I.


Moreover, the Working Group found that Mr. Parvez’s deprivation of liberty results solely from the exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association, which are protected under articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 19 and 22 of the Covenant. The criminalization of legitimate activities by human rights defenders and human rights organizations in India, including the documentation of human rights violations committed by State actors, the reporting of such violations through the media and United Nations human rights mechanisms and the participation in advocacy activities in international forums, is a violation of India international obligations and renders Mr. Parvez’s detention arbitrary, falling under category II.


MULTIPLE BLATANT VIOLATIONS OF THE RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL DESPITE FACING CAPITAL PUNISHMENT


The Working Group found that Mr. Parvez’s right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against him under article 14 (3) (a) of the Covenant has been violated, and that the delay in bringing Mr. Parvez to trial is unacceptably long, in violation of articles 9 (3) and 14 (3) (c) of the Covenant. Moreover,  the Working Group noted that the failure to provide Mr. Parvez with a lawyer from the outset of his detention, and adequate access to a lawyer, thereafter, seriously impaired his ability to challenge his detention and mount an effective defence and that these violations of due process and fair trial rights are all the more egregious considering that Mr. Parvez is facing serious terrorism charges and could potentially be sentenced to death.


Noting all the above, the Working Group concluded that the violations of Mr. Parvez’s right to a fair trial are of such gravity as to give his detention an arbitrary character under category III.


A DISCRIMINAROTY PATTERN OF PERSECUTIONS AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN INDIA


The Working Group noted a pattern of intimidation against M. Parvez, characterized by arrest, detention, harassment, raids and seizure of material, starting with his arrest and detention in 2016 for 76 days, two days after he was prevented from attending the thirty-third regular session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Moreover, the Working Group noted that reprisals against M. Parvez and the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society for cooperating with OHCHR have been noted in three report of the Secretary-General on allegations of reprisals (2020, 2021 and 2022).


Last but not least, the Working Group recalled in relation to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in India, that United Nations experts have expressed concern about the use of counter-terrorism legislation as a way to conflate human rights and civil society activities with terrorist activities, noting that, in some instances, national security and counter-terrorism legislation and other measures, such as laws regulating civil society organizations have been misused to target human rights defenders or have hindered their work and endangered their safety in a manner contrary to human rights law.


In the case of M. Parvez, the Working Group concluded that he was deprived of his liberty on discriminatory grounds, owing to his status as a human rights defender and on the basis of his political or other opinion. His deprivation of liberty violated articles 2 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2 (1) and 26 of the Covenant, and was arbitrary under category V.


CONCLUSIONS OF THE UN WORKING GROUP AGAINST ARBITRARY DETENTION


In light of the foregoing, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considered that the detention of Khurram Parvez was arbitrary and fell under categories  I, II, III and V because the deprivation of liberty of M. Parvez was in contravention of articles 2, 7, 9, 11, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 2, 9, 14, 15, 19, 22 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention recommended that the Government of India take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of M. Parvez without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms, starting with his immediate release and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations.


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