Amnesty International urges G20 to address Kashmir human rights violations

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Indian paramilitary troopers stand guard on eve of India’s Independence Day in Srinagar, on 14 August 2023 (AFP)

Open letter calls on governments to urge India to end persecution and targeting of Kashmiri human rights defenders, journalists, dissenters, and political prisonersAmnesty International and five other rights organisations signed an open letter calling for an end to human rights violations in Kashmir and the release of jailed human rights defenders and political prisoners ahead of the G20 summit scheduled next month in New Delhi, India.

The letter, published on 23 August and addressed to representatives of G20 member countries, guest countries and invited international organisations, brought forth concerns regarding human rights violations occurring in Indian-administered Kashmir (IAK). 

“As your leaders prepare to attend the G20 Summit in September 2023, we urge your government to raise these issues directly and forthrightly with the government of India in accordance with your obligations under international law and call on India to adhere to its international legal obligations,” the letter states.

The letter says that since 2019 – when India revoked Article 370A and Article 35A, stripping Jammu and Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status – the government has “continued its repressive policies including restricting freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association and failed to investigate and prosecute alleged violations committed by its military, paramilitary, police and other forces”.

Since 1947, both India and Pakistan have asserted their rights to the contested territory, with each nation administering portions of it.

The letter was signed by Amnesty International; the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances; the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development; CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation; Front Line Defenders; and the Kashmir Law & Justice Project.

In November 2021, prominent human rights defender Khurram Parvez was arbitrarily detained by India’s National Investigation Agency. Parvez, the director of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for “funding terrorism under the garb of protection of human rights”.

In March 2023, the National Investigation Agency summoned noted Kashmiri journalist Irfan Mehra, who had worked with JKCCS, and arrested him for his association with the non-profit organisation. 

“The Bharatiya Janata Party uses extreme law and policy to further forms of coloniality in Kashmir to establish a Hindu nationalist state,” Angana Chatterji, a scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, told Middle East Eye.

“Impunity and authoritarian laws are used to repress civilians, disallow bail, silence civil society dissent and social movements, punish expressions of grief, rage and mourning, and harm human rights work and media reportage,” Chatterji said.

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In their open letter, the organisations call on governments to urge the Indian government to immediately and unconditionally release Parvez, and Mehraj, as well as to drop all charges against them and end “the ongoing persecution and targeting of Kashmiri human rights defenders, journalists, dissenters, and political prisoners”.

They also called on them to allow civil society to freely operate in IAK and cease their “longstanding obstruction of international civil society and inter-governmental organisations”. 

In March, Mary Lowler, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, lamented about the shrinking landscape of civil society in the Kashmir valley and called for the immediate release and the closing of the investigations against Parvez and Mehraj in a statement. 

“The arrest and detention of persons for exercising their human rights are arbitrary. There must be accountability and remedy where such abusive actions are taken.”

“Time and time again, the government has been called upon to address the fundamental issues with the country’s anti-terrorism framework and its misuse to smear and silence human rights defenders,” Lawlor said.

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Disclaimer: Amnesty International urges G20 to address Kashmir human rights violations - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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