The Union government has strongly rebutted the claims made by human rights NGO Amnesty International. Notably, the NGO on Tuesday halted its India operations after its bank accounts were seized by the Enforcement Directorate and alleged that the government is indulging in a “witch hunt”. Amnesty International also equated the freezing of its bank accounts with that of “freezing dissent”.
The government, in a statement, said the NGO cannot be excused in the name of human rights to defy the law of the land. It also said the glossy statements about humanitarian work were an attempt by Amnesty International to divert attention from their illegal financial transactions.
The Centre termed the stand and statements of Amnesty International as “unfortunate, exaggerated and far from the truth”.
MHA issues statement clarifying govt’s stand
The Ministry of Home Affairs issued a statement on the issue clarifying its stand on the issue. The statement reads: “Amnesty International had received permission under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) only once and that too twenty years ago (19.12.2000). Since then Amnesty International, despite its repeated applications, has been denied FCRA approval by successive governments since as per law it is not eligible to get such an approval.”
“However, in order to circumvent the FCRA regulations, Amnesty UK remitted large amounts of money to four entities registered in India, by classifying it as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). A significant amount of foreign money was also remitted to Amnesty (India) without MHA’s approval under FCRA. This mala fide rerouting of money was in contravention of extant legal provisions.”
“Owing to these illegal practices of Amnesty, the previous government had also rejected the repeated applications of Amnesty to receive funds from overseas. This had led Amnesty to suspend its India operations once during that period as well. This bipartisan and purely legal approach towards Amnesty, under different governments, makes it clear that the entire fault lies in the dubious processes adopted by Amnesty to secure funds for its operations.”
“All the glossy statements about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power are nothing but a ploy to divert attention from their activities which were in clear contravention of laid down Indian laws. Such statements are also an attempt to extraneously influence the course of investigations by multiple agencies into the irregularities and illegalities carried out over the last few years.”
Amnesty International free to continue its humanitarian work: Centre
The MHA in its statement further said that Amnesty International can continue its humanitarian work as is being done by many other organisations. However, India, by settled law, does not allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations. This law applies equally to all and it shall apply to Amnesty International as well, the ministry said.
It also said that India has a rich and pluralistic democratic culture with a free press, independent judiciary and tradition of vibrant domestic debate. The people of India have placed unprecedented trust in the current government and Amnesty’s failure to comply with local regulations does not entitle them to make comments on the democratic and plural character of India.
Govt freezing dissent, says Amnesty International
The NGO issued a media statement explaining its decision to close India operations. It 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 has alleged that its “lawful fundraising model” was being portrayed as money-laundering because it has challenged the “government’s grave inactions and excesses”.
Amnesty International India’s executive director Avinash Kumar said: “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,” Avinash Kumar said.
The statement also claimed that Amnesty India stands in full compliance with all applicable Indian and international laws.
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