India lashes out at U.N. rights agency for critical comments on Parvez arrest, Hyderpora e...

India lashes out at U.N. rights agency for critical comments on Parvez arrest, Hyderpora encounter

Accuses it of ‘bias’ for referring banned terror organisations in J&K as “armed groups”.

The Centre on Thursday took strong exception to the U.N. Human Rights agency’s criticism of the arrest of Kashmiri activist Khurram Parvez, accusing the Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) of “bias” for referring to banned terror organisations in Jammu and Kashmir as “armed groups”.

“[The OHCHR statement] betrays a complete lack of understanding on the part of the OHCHR of the security challenges faced by India from cross-border terrorism and its impact on the most fundamental human right — ‘the Right to Life’ of our citizens including in Jammu and Kashmir,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, who called the U.N. agency’s concerns about the arrest of Parvez and civilian killings during the Hyderpora encounter on November 15 “baseless and unfounded allegations”.

“Referring to proscribed terrorist organisations as ‘armed groups’ demonstrates a clear bias on the part of OHCHR,” the MEA said.

On Wednesday, OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville accused the Government and security forces in Jammu and Kashmir of a “wider crackdown on civil society actors” and also said the U.N. Human Rights office was “increasingly alarmed” over the rise in civilian killings including religious minorities by “armed groups in Indian-administered Kashmir” and by security forces in the course of counter-terrorism operations.

Mr. Colville called for prompt investigation and allowing families to “mourn their loved ones and seek justice”, in a reference to the Hyderpora incident, where bodies of civilians killed were buried by the security forces, and later exhumed when families protested.

“The use of sweeping counter-terrorism measures risks leading to further human rights violations and deepening discontent,” he said.

In its counter to the comments, the MEA defended Mr. Parvez’s arrest and the Hyderpora action as legal. “Authorities in India act against violations of law and not against legitimate exercise of rights… We urge the OHCHR to develop a better understanding of the negative impact of terrorism on human rights,” the MEA said.

Mr. Parvez, who founded the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a human rights NGO that focuses on “enforced disappearances”, was arrested on November 22 under the provisions of the UAPA in Srinagar by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). U.N. Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor had also criticised the arrest at the time saying he is “not a terrorist, he’s a Human Rights Defender”.

The MEA statement is the latest in a series of allegations and counter-statements traded with the OHCHR over the last few years, especially since the publication in June 2018 of the agency’s “first-ever report” on the human rights situation in Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control, which called for an independent inquiry into human rights violations cited in the report.

At the time, the Modi government had issued a statement directly accusing then U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of “individual prejudices” and called the report presented by the OHCHR as “fallacious, tendentious and motivated”. Subsequent updates on the reports had met with equally strong responses from New Delhi, who had held Mr. Zeid Hussein, a member of the Jordanian royalty, responsible for targeting India.

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