SRINAGAR, India — Authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir released a prominent human rights activist from prison Nov. 30 after a court in the disputed region ruled that his detention under a controversial security law was illegal.
Police freed Khurram Parvez after the court ordered his release five days earlier.
Indian authorities charged Parvez in September under the Public Safety Act, which allows detentions for up to two years without trial.
The court said Parvez had been imprisoned arbitrarily and that authorities had abused their power by ordering his detention.
Parvez said on his Facebook page that the 76 days of detention were a difficult time for him and his family.
"I won't let this difficulty make me bitter, instead my resolve for peace and justice has got strengthened," he said.
International human rights groups, academics, the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and several U.N. special rapporteurs had campaigned for his release.
Parvez is the program coordinator and spokesman of a Kashmiri rights group, the Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society. It expressed "overwhelming gratitude to the local and international solidarity campaign for his release that was crucial in securing his freedom."
"The struggle for the release of Khurram Parvez is a part of the larger struggle against unlawful detentions, state impunity and the use of repressive laws such as PSA," the group said in a statement. It said it "reiterates its commitment to the struggle for truth, justice and the rights of all people" in the region.
Shortly before Parvez's arrest, immigration officials at New Delhi's international airport had barred him from boarding a plane to Geneva without offering any official explanation, although he had a valid visa and a letter of invitation to participate in a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Police arrested him after he returned home to Kashmir's main city of Srinagar, saying it was to prevent him from "causing a breach of peace." A local court then ordered his release, but police rearrested him at the prison gate and charged him under the Public Safety Act.
Parvez, 39, and his rights group were the first to publicize thousands of unmarked graves in remote parts of Kashmir and to demand that the Indian government investigate them to determine who the dead were and how they were killed.
His organization also has written scathing reports about brutality by some of the hundreds of thousands of Indian troops in the region and highlighted the widespread powers granted to them, which led to a culture of impunity and rights abuses.
Parvez also heads a Philippine-based rights group, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances.
His imprisonment came during the largest protests against Indian rule in Kashmir in recent years, sparked by the July 8 killing of a popular rebel commander by Indian soldiers.
India-West Staff Reporter adds from Washington, D.C.:
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights welcomed the release of Parvez. “I am so pleased that Khurram has been released from his illegal detention,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “This is a great victory for the people of Kashmir, but justice has not yet been done. As the court’s order makes clear, there was no basis for detaining Khurram, the police and the lower courts did not follow the appropriate procedures, and the cumulative result was an illegal detention that lasted over two months. This is completely unacceptable, and yet is all too common in this region.”
David McKean, Asia Program Officer for RFK Partners for Human Rights, said in a statement: “Khurram’s release is a very welcomed development, but the systemic issues that led to his detention remain,” adding: “The Public Safety Act has no place in a society that respects the rule of law or abides by its international human rights law obligations. As Mr. Parvez’s lengthy detention illustrates, the law can be easily abused to detain people who are carrying out legitimate human rights work. It should be repealed immediately.”
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights was founded in 1968 by Robert Kennedy's family and friends as a living memorial to carry forward his vision of a more just and peaceful world. RFK Partners for Human Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ litigation, advocacy, and capacity-building arm, builds multi-year partnerships with defenders and other human rights activists to advance social justice goals around the world.