By Karen Rodman
Today (December 9), the Biden administration opened the virtual Summit for Democracy, with India and Israel on the invitee list. Meanwhile civil society in Indian occupied Kashmir and Israeli occupied Palestine are ending yet another year of denial of basic democratic norms of freedom of expression and rule of law.
A webinar, Human Rights as Terror: Authoritarianism as Democracy is being organized in conjunction with the launching of the US-led December 9-10 “Summit for Democracy.”
Held on Human Rights Day, December 10, the webinar will provide a critical examination of state crackdowns on civil society in Kashmir and Palestine, and the role of the international community in defending against authoritarianism and promoting respect for human rights in those regions.
On November 22, 2021, Khurram Parvez, a leading global human rights defender was arrested at his residence in Srinagar in Indian occupied Kashmir. Mr. Parvez is being held in custody in Delhi. Unwarranted detention in facilities outside Kashmir is a common action utilized by Government of India agencies in such situations and is in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Khurram Parvez and the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) are internationally recognized as model defenders of human rights. As a champion for civil liberties in Kashmir, Parvez has documented the impact of state torture, extrajudicial killings, and other widespread abuses. He has worked closely on regional and international campaigns on landmine removal as well as involuntary and enforced disappearances in the region.
The New York Times reported on November 23, “Khurram Parvez’s detention has deepened concerns that the Modi administration is abusing the law to squelch dissent.”
Parvez’s arrest comes within India’s recent crackdown targeting activists, journalists, and political leaders seen as critical of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s government. Over the past few weeks, journalists have been increasingly concerned about harassment and threats of arrest in the context of a longer gradual process of dismantling freedom of the press.
The arrest of Khurram Parvez is being widely reported in international media and strongly condemned by the international human rights community.
The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders Mary Lawlor tweeted her concern about this development on November 22, stating “He’s not a terrorist, he’s a Human Rights Defender.”
In Canada, the Bloc Quebecois indicated during the recent federal election that India, by its non-compliance with UN resolutions, deserves to be called to order by the Canadian government and held accountable for its non-compliance with UN resolutions, and that they will not hesitate to submit a motion to the House of Commons to make the Modi government back down and backtrack on all its violations related to Kashmir.
In Palestine, six leading human rights organizations have been designated by Israel as “terrorists”. The UN Special Rapporteurs condemned Israel’s designation of Palestinian human rights defenders as terrorist organizations stating, “the misuse of counter-terrorism measures in this way by the government of Israel undermines the security of all.”
The designations violate the freedoms of opinion, expression, and association, amounting to prohibited acts of apartheid under Article 7(2)(h) of the Rome Statute.
High signatories of the Fourth Geneva Convention are obliged under Article 1 of Convention to ensure that violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention do not occur under any circumstance, and yet imperial powers meet to discuss how they can bring democracy to the rest of the world.
Consider this irony during the webinar presented by Al-Haq, Kashmir Law and Justice Project, Kashmir Scholars Consultative and Action Network, Stand With Kashmir and Just Peace Advocates
Speakers will include: Carolyn Nash, Asia Advocacy Director, Amnesty International USA, Jonathan Kuttab, Co-Founder, Al-Haq, and Iver Ørstavik, Senior Advisor, Rafto Foundation for Human Rights.
Register for the webinar here and consider how civil society can hold the international community accountable to support fundamental human rights, justice and accountability for the people Kashmir and Palestine, and hold our government in Canada to honour its obligation to ensure Israel and India comply with international law.
(Karen Rodman is Director, Just Peace Advocates, a Canadian Human Rights Organization)