September 29, 2020

Amnesty International suspends it’s operations in India, alleges “witch hunt”

New Delhi/Sept 29: Amnesty International has halted its operations in India, alleging that its accounts were frozen earlier this month as part of a “witch-hunt” by the government over its adverse reports and that it had to let go of its staff.

The government, however, says the global rights watchdog has been receiving foreign funds illegally and it never registered under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.

In a press statement, Amnesty said “the complete freezing of Amnesty International India’s bank accounts by the government of India, which it came to know on 10 September, brings all the work being done by the organization to a grinding halt.” The organisation said it had been compelled to let go of staff in India and pause all its ongoing campaign and research work.

“This is the latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organizations by the government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations,” said Amnesty, claiming that it had complied with all Indian and international laws.

Amnesty linked all government action to its reports critical of the government; its recent reports raised questions on alleged rights violations during the February Delhi riots and in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370.

“The continuing crackdown on Amnesty International India over the last two years and the complete freezing of bank accounts is not accidental. The constant harassment by government agencies including the Enforcement Directorate is a result of our unequivocal calls for transparency in the government, more recently for accountability of the Delhi police and the government of India regarding the grave human rights violations in Delhi riots and Jammu and Kashmir. For a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent,” said Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India.

Top government officials say Amnesty is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate over alleged irregularities in receiving foreign funds.

According to the home ministry, the organization “got money into India through the FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) route,” which is not allowed in the case of non-profits.

In 2017, the Enforcement Directorate froze their accounts, after which Amnesty approached the court and won reprieve. But their accounts were sealed. Last year, the CBI also registered a case a based on a complaint that Amnesty International UK allegedly transferred Rs 10 crore to Amnesty India entities as FDI without the ministry’s approval.

“Another Rs 26 crore has been remitted to Amnesty (India) primarily from UK-based entities without the home ministry’s approval. All such receipts have subsequently been expended on Amnesty’s NGO activities in India in violation of the FCRA,” the complaint states.

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