Amnesty wind-up: NHRC notice to home ministry

Says it “is a reputed NGO raising its voice globally” in case of human rights violations

GN Bureau | September 30, 2020


#NHRC   #Amnesty International   #Human Rights   #Home Ministry   #Jammu and Kashmir   #Delhi Riots  


As the Amnesty International downs the shutters on its India operations, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognizance of the matter and sought the home secretary’s response on the allegations levelled by the global organisation.

Amnesty International in India has halted all the work in which it has been engaged in the country after the complete freezing of its India bank accounts. It has said it has been compelled to let go of staff in India and pause all its ongoing campaign and research work. “It is alleged that this is the latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organizations by the Govt. of India over unfounded and motivated allegations,” the NHRC said in a statement on Wednesday.

It referred to a news report giving more details. The report of October 22, 2019 noted that Amnesty International testified at the US Congressional hearing on human rights in South Asia, with specific focus on Jammu & Kashmir after the Indian Parliament on August 5 pushed through constitutional changes that divested Jammu & Kashmir of its special status and reorganized it into two Union Territories.

More recently, on August 28, the rights group released an investigative brief on the alleged complicity of Delhi Police in large-scale communal violence in the capital in February 2020. Amnesty International had claimed that 53 people had died in the riot while police rebutted the claim saying that the report was lopsided, biased and malicious.

Amnesty International has reportedly accused the government of suppressing the freedom of speech of some rights activists and demanded release of activists Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Sudha Bhardwaj, Surendra Gadling and others who were arrested in connection with the January 2018 caste clashes in Bhima-Koregaon near Pune in Maharashtra. The news report mentioned that this was the fifth time Amnesty International was closing down its office in India, the NHRC noted.

The union home ministry has reportedly maintained in its statement that the stand taken by Amnesty International is unfortunate, exaggerated and far from the truth. The organization has been accused of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) violations, and “interference in domestic police debates” despite being funded by foreign donations. The rights group has reportedly denied the financial violations charges and has stated that they have been in full compliance with all laws.

It is further mentioned in the news report that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has been investigating the rights group since October 2018 when they raided its office in Bengaluru and the accounts of the organization were frozen. In 2019 the Income Tax Department wrote to the office-bearers of the organization seeking their clarifications on the subject. It is also mentioned that in November 2019, CBI filed a case against Amnesty International alleging that it had received Rs. 36 crore in funding without the mandatory permission required under the FCRA.

The investigative agencies have also reportedly alleged that the fund-raising model of Amnesty International India was in violation of FCRA that amounted to money laundering. The organization has also been blamed for their activities which are in clear contravention of Indian laws. The organization has reportedly stated that their harassment by the government is a result of their 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 in Jammu & Kashmir.

“The Commission has carefully examined the contents of the news report. The Amnesty International is a reputed non-governmental organization raising its voice globally whenever there is an incident of violation of human rights of the people. The allegations levelled by the organization are serious in nature and have been strongly answered by the government agency,” the NHRC noted. “Any kind of difference of opinion may be a subject of investigation and decision by the competent court. The Commission finds it necessary to go through the matter, analyse the facts and reach a conclusion in the interest of human rights friendly environment in the country.”

The response from the home secretary is expected within six weeks, it added.

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