50 HR groups appeal for unconditional release of Khurram Parvez, Irfan Meraj

NEW DELHI: As many as 50 human rights organisations have called for the prompt and unconditional release of Kashmiri human rights defenders, Khurram Parvez and Irfan Meraj. In a joint statement issued recently, they demanded that all charges against the two human rights activists be dropped.

Also appealing for an end to all kind of harassment against human rights defenders and civil society organisations, they called upon the Indian government to amend the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) to bring it in conformity with international human rights laws and standards, end the criminalisation of human rights defenders and journalists; and ensure accountability for human rights violations committed by security forces in Kashmir.

Khurram Parvez, Co-ordinator of Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies, was arrested two years ago and Irfan Mehraj, a human rights activists and journalist, was detained in March 2023. Both are presently detained in the Rohini jail in Tihar, Delhi.

Khurram Pervez was arrested on November 22, 2021 by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), India’s counter-terrorism agency, on various charges including “waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India,” “punishment for conspiracy to wage war against the Government of India,” “raising funds for terror activities,” “punishment for conspiracy,” and other provisions of the UAPA and the Indian Penal Code. He was arrested after raids and seizures conducted at his office and home by the NIA on November 21, 2021.

This year, in March 2023, another case was registered against Khurram was arrested again in another case related to “terror financing”. Independent journalist Irfan Mehraj, who was formerly associated with JKCCS, was also arrested in the same case. The NIA filed a chargesheet against Khurram and Irfan in this case on September 15, 2023.

The joint statement issued by human rights groups deplored Khurram’s prolonged detention and described the charges against him as “politically motivated” under “UAPA that violates international human rights standards”. It said that the “persecution of Khurram and Irfan is an emblematic part of their ongoing, systematic criminalization of civil society, and the defense of human rights” in Kashmir.

Significantly, Khurram is the Coordinator of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and presently the Deputy Secretary-General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). He has, for years, documented human rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir, including enforced disappearances and unlawful killings. He was awarded the 2022 Martin Ennals Award for his tireless human rights work.

The statement said, “The UAPA, has been increasingly abused by Indian authorities to bring politically motivated charges against human rights defenders. UN experts in May 2020 expressed their concerns about various provisions of the UAPA and its non-conformity with international human rights laws and standards. The experts noted that provisions in the UAPA such as the powers to detain a person for up to 180 days “without providing any evidence” were particularly problematic and highlighted Section 43 D (5) of the UAPA, which makes it “highly unlikely” for a person arrested under this law to be released on bail.”

It adds, “On 31 October 2023, UN experts again raised concerns about the UAPA, stating that the pre-trial detention period of 180 days, which can subsequently be increased, is beyond reasonable and called for a review of the UAPA in line with international human rights standards and with recommendations made by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).”

The statement further adds, “The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) in its opinion published in June 2023, said that Khurram’s detention was “arbitrary” and called on the Indian authorities to immediately release him.”

The joint statement expressed concern that “reprisals and judicial harassment against Khurram are occurring within a larger context of systematic, longstanding, grave human rights violations by Indian authorities” and “impunity for those violations”.

“Since the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution in August 2019, Indian authorities have forcibly closed the already highly restricted civic space in the region. Journalists continue to face targeted harassment including arreststravel bans, and passport suspensions for their reporting. Access to information is severely restricted through arbitrary internet shutdowns,” the statement added.

Essentially demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Khurram Parvez and Irfan Meraj, the statement also called upon the Indian government to immediately comply with their international legal obligations, by allowing civil society to freely operate. The statement also called upon the Indian authorities to “cease their longstanding obstruction of international civil society and inter-governmental organisations, including the UN Special Rapporteurs and other human rights mechanisms”. The statement also demanded unfettered access to Kashmir and Kashmiri detainees.

The following organisations are the signatories to the joint statement:


Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN)

Armanshahr Foundation / OPEN ASIA, Afghanistan

Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Association marocaine des droits humains (AMDH), Morocco

Awaz Foundation Pakistan: Centre for Development Services (AWAZCDS), Pakistan

Banglar Manabadhikar Surakshya Mancha(MASUM), India

Bytes for All, Pakistan

Capital Punishment Justice Project (CPJP)

Center for Prisoners’ Rights, Japan

Centro de Políticas Públicas y Derechos Humanos (Perú EQUIDAD), Peru

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Civil Society And Human Rights Network, Afghanistan

Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, Mexico

Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), Northern Ireland

Dakila – Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism, Philippines

Defence of Human Rights, Pakistan

FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Front Line Defenders (FLD)

Globe International Center, Mongolia

Human Rights Alert, India

Human Rights Association (Insan Haklari Dernegi IHD), Turkiye

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Pakistan

Human Rights Online Philippines (HRonlinePH), Philippines

Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC), Nepal

IMPARSIAL (The Indonesian Human Rights Monitor), Indonesia

Justiça Global, Brazil

Karapatan, Philippines

Kashmir Law and Justice Project

Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR), Kazakhstan

KontraS, Indonesia

League for Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI), Iran

Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH), France

Madaripur Legal Aid Association (MLAA), Bangladesh

Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), Maldives

National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), Pakistan

Odhikar, Bangladesh

Organisation National pour les droit de l’Homme, Senegal

Pusat KOMAS, Malaysia

Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), Bangladesh

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), Malaysia

Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)

Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Philippines

The Awakening, Pakistan

Think Centre, Singapore

Tunisian Association of Women Democrats (ATFD), Tunisia

Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), Vietnam

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

YLBHI (Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation), Indonesia



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