This communication from the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders, the rights to assembly and association and the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism expresses serious concern at the arrest, detention and accusations brought against Irfan Mehraj and Khurram Parvez, which gravely conflates their legitimate human rights work with terrorism. The UN human rights experts "underline the legitimacy of their work" and note that their persecution is "designed to delegitimize their human rights work and obstruct monitoring of the humanrights situation in India-administered Jammu and Kashmir."
Topics: arrest and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders Irfan Mehraj and Khurram Parvez
Terms: March 2023 arbitrary detention of Irfan Mehraj, November 2021 arbitrary detention of Khurram Parvez, Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, abuse of counter-terror laws, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), abuse of terror funding laws, Financial Action Task Force (FATF)
We continue to express deep concern at what appears to be concerted judicial harassment of Mr. Parvez for his human rights work….
We take this opportunity to once again restate the concerns and recommendations addressed to your Excellency's Government in OL IND 7/2020, sent on 6 May 2020, in connection with the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019, and the current counter-terrorism legislation, the 1967 Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. We reiterate our regret that the Government has not provided a reply to this communication and that the Act continues to be used as a tool to silence human rights defenders….
We express our serious concern at the arrest, detention and accusations brought against Mr. Mehraj and Mr. Parvez,which would appear to gravely conflate their legitimate human rights work with terrorism. We underline the legitimacy of their work and of the activities of the JKCSS and express our fear that the arrest and detention of Mr. Mehraj, as well as the continued detention of Mr. Parvez since 2021 and his involvement in the second case at hand, are designed to delegitimize their human rights work and obstruct monitoring of the human rights situation in India-administered Jammu and Kashmir.
As we have repeatedly stressed in the past, counter-terrorism legislation should never be used to sanction human rights defenders. We express our abhorrence at the continued instrumentalization of national-security measures and discourse to undermine,obstruct and persecute those peacefully promoting, defending and seeking the advancement of human rights in the country, as well as to frustrate accountability for human rights violations. As we previously raised in OL IND7/2020, we are deeply concerned about the definition of ‘terrorist act’ in the UAPA, which substantially departs from the model definition offered by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism and provides broad powers to the executive, without oversight or control from the judiciary. We further remind your Excellency Government that the definition of terrorism and terrorism offences must be ‘genuinely’ terrorist in nature in accordance with the elements identified by the Security Council in its resolution 1566 (2004). Conflation of human rights work with terrorism is inconsistent with the obligations of State affirmed by the Security Council that counter-terrorism activities by States should not conflict with other international law obligations, particularly human rights, and with the agreed consensus of Member States contained in the Global Counter-Terrorism strategy opposing the misuse of counter-terrorism measures against civil society (A/RES/60/288).
We also note our deep concerns about allegation of “terror funding” and highlight that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has set forth international practices and guidelines aimed at preventing global moneylaundering and terrorist financing. The FATF recommendations, while non-binding, provide recognized international guidance for the countering of terrorism financing. Recommendation (1) states that “countries should apply a risk-based approach (RBA) to ensure that measures to prevent or mitigate moneylaundering and terrorist financing are commensurate with the risks identified”. Recommendation (8) provides guidance to States on the laws and regulations that should be adopted to oversee and protect NPOs that have been identified as being vulnerable to terrorist financing concerns. Such measures must be “focused and proportionate”; “a ‘one size fits all’ approach to address all NPOs is not appropriate.” FATF has reaffirmed that State compliance with Recommendation (8)and the other FATF Recommendations “should not contravene a country’s obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international human rights law to promote universal respect for, and observance of, fundamental human rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression, religion or belief and freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.” We are concerned that these arrests appear to contravene a “risk-based” approach to countering terrorism finance and appear to demonstrate a misuse of countering terrorism finance laws and practice to disproportionality target civil society.