UN says Waheed Para faced govt action after speaking to its members

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Srinagar: The United Nations has again raised the issue of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Waheed Ur Rehman Para pointing out that he was arrested after “his engagement with members of the UN Security Council”. 

In the annual report presented to the UN Human Rights Council, it has been noted that “on 16 March 2021, special procedures mandate holders raised concern about allegations of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment of Mr. Waheed Ur Rehman Para and other civil society actors, and reprisals against Mr. Para by Indian intelligence following his engagement with members of the UN Security Council.” 

The report has documented allegations of reprisals and intimidation against some 240 civil society members, activists and journalists in the period May 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021 across dozens of countries, including India. 

The report further adds that on 30 July 2020, Para had engaged with UN Security Council members in a closed virtual meeting where “he raised issues related to the Government of India’s actions in Jammu and Kashmir, its treatment of Muslim minorities, and the recent border tensions with China.” 

“Following this engagement, Mr. Para reportedly received threats from National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials indicating that he was inviting trouble by engaging in such events,” it adds. 

According to information received, the report notes, that on 25 November 2020, Para was arrested by the NIA on alleged terrorism charges and held in their custody for one month at its headquarters in New Delhi. 

“While in NIA custody, Mr. Para was reportedly interrogated about the meeting with Security Council members and threatened to cease speaking against the Government.  He was held in a dark underground cell at sub-zero temperature, where he was allegedly deprived of sleep, seriously physically assaulted, including beaten with rods, stripped naked and hung upside down,” the report adds.  

On 11 January 2021, it further notes, Para was charged in “relation to financial support to terrorist groups and transferred to Srinagar under the custody of Counter-Intelligence in Kashmir. He reportedly appeared before court with a lawyer for a bail hearing, which was denied.  As of May 2021, he remains in remand.”

However, the report also adds that on 20 August 2021, the government responded to the UN, “vehemently denying the alleged arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and torture and ill-treatment against Mr. Para by the NIA”.  

“It stated that the Agency’s actions should be seen as part of the Government’s efforts to combat terrorism financing.  The matter is currently sub judice before the competent court and, in the meantime, Mr. Para has been provided medical assistance and was allowed to meet his counsel while in police custody,” the report adds.

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