(November 30, 2016 | Washington, D.C.) Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights welcomed the release today of Khurram Parvez, a prominent Kashmiri human rights activist who had been arbitrarily and illegally detained since September 16, 2016. In an order issued November 25, 2016 by Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, the Court quashed the detention order, finding the detention of Mr. Parvez “illegal” and ordering his immediate release. Due to a clerical error in the release order, the police refused to release Mr. Parvez for another five days until the court issued a corrected order.

“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.”   

Mr. Parvez is the Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), and is the Program Coordinator for the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a coalition of organizations that monitor and investigate human right abuses in Jammu and Kashmir. 

In the order quashing Mr. Parvez’s detention under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, Justice Attar found that “the detention of the [Mr. Parvez] is not only illegal but the Detaining Authority has abused its powers in ordering his detention.” The order goes on to criticize at length the failure of the police to provide any evidence warranting Mr. Parvez’s detention, either under the criminal code or under the Public Safety Act, the failure to provide him with the information and documents he and his legal team needed to effectively respond to the charges, and the failure of the judiciary to act as a necessary check against police abuse of power.

In addition, although the Public Safety Act was not challenged in this case, the Justice observed that “A society, which has catapulted itself to the highest position of democratic values and principles, may not accept a law like the [Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety] Act of 1978.”

“Khurram’s release is a very welcomed development, but the systemic issues that led to his detention remain,” said David McKean, Asia Program Officer for RFK Partners for Human Rights. “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.”