Govt treating rights groups like criminals, says Amnesty

“Government authorities are increasingly treating human rights organisations like criminal enterprises,” Amnesty International India executive director Aakar Patel said in a statement.

Written by Rahul Tripathi , Johnson T A | New Delhi/bengaluru | Published: October 27, 2018 2:26:16 am
Govt treating rights groups like criminals, says Amnesty The building which houses the Amnesty International office in Bengaluru. (AP Photo)

A day after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) carried out searches at two locations of Amnesty International India in connection with contravention of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), the human rights watchdog alleged that the Union government is treating human rights organisations like criminal enterprises.

“Government authorities are increasingly treating human rights organisations like criminal enterprises,” Amnesty International India executive director Aakar Patel said in a statement.

“As an organisation committed to the rule of law, our operations in India have always conformed with our national regulations. The principles of transparency and accountability are at the heart of our work,” Patel said.

Also read | ED searches Amnesty office in foreign funds probe

Responding to Amnesty’s allegations, ED officials said they are examining the documents seized during the raid and will come out with the details soon.

In a statement, the ED had earlier said, “After Amnesty International India Foundation Trust (AIIFT) was denied the permission/registration under FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) by the MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) they resorted to bypass FCRA by floating commercial entity in the name of Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd (AIIPL).”

According to the ED statement, the commercial entity of Amnesty International India allegedly “received foreign funds through (the) commercial route to the extent of Rs 36 crore till date”. Out of that, Rs 10 crore was allegedly received as long-term loan and placed in fixed deposits, while another entity – Indians for Amnesty International Trust – established an overdraft facility for Rs 14.25 crore with Rs 10 crore as collateral, the ED stated.

The remaining Rs 26 crore was received in two separate bank accounts of AIIPL as consultancy services, ED stated.

Patel said, “As an organisation committed to the rule of law, our operations in India have always conformed with our national regulations. The principles of transparency and accountability are at the heart of our work.”

The focus of ED’s questioning was the relationship between two entities, Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd and Amnesty International India Foundation, Amnesty stated.

Most documents asked for during the search were available in public domain or were already filed with relevant authorities, the rights organisation said. Details of Amnesty India’s current structure, which was the focus of much of the questioning, have been available on its website since 2014, the statement issued by Amnesty said.

But ahead of the raids, the Amnesty statement said, the Indian authorities leaked a cache of their internal documents marked “secret”, which appears to cast Amnesty India’s operations as a dark web of intrigue. “Our work in India, as elsewhere, is to uphold and fight for universal human rights. These are the same values that are enshrined in the Indian Constitution and flow from a long and rich Indian tradition of pluralism, tolerance and dissent,” Patel said.

Amnesty tweeted, “ED raid on Amnesty India shows a disturbing pattern of the government silencing organisations that question power and it is clear that the government wants to instill fear among Civil Society Organisations.”

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