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Amnesty halts work in India amid ‘reprisal’ from govt

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By ONLINE DESK
29th-Sep-2020       
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Amnesty International has halted its operations in India, alleging that its accounts were frozen earlier this month as part of a crackdown by the government and it had to let go of most of its staff.

The Indian government says the global rights watchdog never registered under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, which is required for any foreign funding, NDTV reports.
In a statement on Tuesday, Julie Verhaar, acting secretary general of Amnesty International, said: “Sadly, this enormously important work standing up for victims has been met with the heavy-handed tactics that Indian civil society has become increasingly familiar with – part of the government’s drive to silence critical voices and stoke a climate of fear.”
The complete freezing of Amnesty India's bank accounts by the government of India, which it came to know on Sept 10, brings all the work being done by the organisation 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 organisations 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, raising questions on rights violations during the February Delhi riots and after the end of the special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
“This is an egregious and shameful act by the Indian Government, which forces us to cease the crucial human rights work of Amnesty International India for now,” said Verhaar.
“However, this does not mark the end of our firm commitment to, and engagement in, the struggle for human rights in India. We will be working resolutely to determine how Amnesty International can continue to play our part within the human rights movement in India for years to come.”
“The staff of Amnesty India have shown great dignity in the face of a concerted and vicious smear campaign of spurious allegations, raids by various investigative agencies, malicious media leaks, and intimidation without an iota of credible evidence of wrongdoing. No laws have been broken.”
According to the home ministry, the organisation "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, an investigative agency of the Indian government, froze Amnesty’s accounts, after which the rights organisation approached the court and won some reprieve. But their accounts were sealed. Last year, the CBI also registered a case against them. According to the complaint, Amnesty International UK allegedly remitted ₹10 crore to Amnesty India entities as FDI without the ministry's approval.
"Another ₹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 says.

Source: bdnews24.com

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