Hyderpora incident | Other States

UN rights body expresses concern over Parvez’s arrest, civilian killings in J&K

United Nations Human Rights Office spokesperson Rupert Colville on Wednesday expressed concern over the arrest of Kashmir-based human rights defender Khurram Parvez and the recent killings in J&K, including members of the minorities and the “civilians” in the Hyderpora encounter.

“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),” Colville said, in a statement issued from Geneva.

Referring to the charges levelled against Parvez, who was arrested on November 22 under the UAPA in Srinagar, the statement said, “We are unaware of the factual basis of the charges. He is known as a tireless advocate for families of the disappeared and has been targeted before for his human rights work.”

It 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 statement said.

It 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 (Parvez)”.

“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 added.

The UN Human Rights Office also expressed alarm over “the rise in killings of civilians, including members of religious minorities, by armed groups” in Kashmir this year.

“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,” it said

There should be prompt, thorough, transparent, independent and effective investigations into all killings of civilians, and families should be allowed to mourn their loved ones and seek justice, it added.

“We call on the security forces and armed groups to exercise restraint, and to ensure that the rise in tensions in Jammu and Kashmir in recent weeks does not lead to further violence against the civilian population,” it said.

The UN said it “acknowledge the need to prevent violence, but we are concerned at signs of a wider crackdown on civil society actors in Jammu and Kashmir”. “The use of sweeping counter-terrorism measures risks leading to further human rights violations and deepening discontent,” the statement said.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 3:07:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/un-rights-body-expresses-concern-over-parvezs-arrest-civilian-killings-in-jk/article37798391.ece

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