Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez must be immediately released from administrative detention unless he is charged with recognizable criminal offences.
The 39-year-old, who is the coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society Organisation (JKCCS), a prominent human rights organization, was arrested from his Srinagar residence and detained by the state police on Thursday evening, a day after he was prevented from traveling to the ongoing UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“Preventing a well-known activist from traveling abroad for human rights advocacy, and then locking him up on spurious grounds, is a shameful attempt to suppress a peaceful dissenting voice from Kashmir,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director at Amnesty International India.
“Preventing a well-known activist from traveling abroad for human rights advocacy, and then locking him up on spurious grounds, is a shameful attempt to suppress a peaceful dissenting voice from Kashmir.”
Aakar Patel, Executive Director at Amnesty International India
“The JKCCS has been consistently working on several human rights issues including mass graves, torture and extrajudicial executions. Khurram Parvez has a right to raise these important human rights concerns abroad, but his attempt to exercise this right is now being painted as an imminent crime.”
Khurram Parvez’s lawyers told Amnesty International India that the police had said he would be placed in ‘preventive detention’ for five days under Sections 107 and 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, but had not provided any other reasons. These provisions authorize administrative detention in cases of imminent ‘breach of peace’ or disturbance of ‘public tranquillity’. The detention can be extended indefinitely.
“Khurram Parvez has a right to raise these important human rights concerns abroad, but his attempt to exercise this right is now being painted as an imminent crime.”
The Supreme Court has described administrative detention legislation as ‘lawless laws’.
On 14 September, Khurram Parvez was stopped at the Delhi airport and prevented from travelling to Geneva, despite having a valid visa and necessary documents. He said that he was not given any official written explanation for why he was not allowed to travel, but was verbally informed that it was on the instruction of India’s Intelligence Bureau.
The spokesperson of the Jammu and Kashmir police said that he did not have any information about the arrest. The Director-General of Police, Jammu and Kashmir, did not respond to text messages and telephone calls.
The day before his arrest, Khurram Parvez told Amnesty International India, “They are aware that I have been collecting information at the grassroots as a part of the documentation work that JKCSS has been doing on the present situation in Kashmir.”
Administrative detention laws allow for people to be detained without charge or trial. Under international law, administrative detention is only permitted in exceptional circumstances and when subjected to stringent safeguards. In India, these laws have often been used to detain individuals on vague grounds, ignoring regular criminal justice safeguards.
Amnesty International India opposes all systems of administrative detention.
Indian courts have ruled that the right to travel abroad flows from the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. In March 2015, the Delhi High Court declared a travel ban against a Greenpeace India activist to be illegal, and observed: “The state may not accept the views of the civil right activists, but that by itself, cannot be a good enough reason to do away with dissent.”
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which India is a state party, states that “everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.” Restrictions to this right must be provided by law and be necessary and proportionate for specified aims under international human rights law.
The UN Human Rights Committee, which oversees the implementation of the ICCPR, has said that restricting the movement of journalists and others seeking to travel abroad, including to attend human-rights-related meetings, violates their freedom of expression.
Over 80 people have been killed and thousands injured in Jammu and Kashmir in recent months, following protests and violent clashes after the killing of a leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen armed group in July. Security forces have used arbitrary and excessive force in response to the protests. Hundreds of people have been blinded or otherwise injured by pellet-firing shotguns. Scores of people have been placed under administrative detention under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act.
On 13 September, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reiterated a request first made in July to Indian and Pakistani authorities for access to all parts of Kashmir in order to look into allegations of human rights violations. India’s Ministry of External Affairs has denied the request.