Amnesty halts operations in India after government freezes its bank accounts

Published : September 29, 2020 17:05 IST

Amnesty International India’s head office in Bengaluru. A file picture Photo: Aijaz Rahi/AP

Amnesty International India has decided to halt its operations in the country from September 29. The move came after the Government of India froze all its bank accounts on September 10, which resulted in the human rights body not being able to pay its employees or continue with campaign- and research-related work. An official media release from Amnesty says: “This is latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organisations by the Government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations.”

“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 (ED), 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.

Amnesty has been the target of the present regime’s vilification campaign against global rights organisations. The pressure began in 2018, when the ED raided its offices and froze accounts over allegedly violation of foreign funding regulations. More recently, the organisation has been on the authorities’ radar after it spoke out on several international platforms against the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the injustices towards those charged for the 2020 Delhi riots. Amnesty has published documents on Article 370 and J&K as well as the Delhi riots, which it released internationally.

In a strongly worked statement, Avinash Kumar said:

“The attacks on Amnesty International India and other outspoken human rights organisations, activists and human rights defenders is only an extension of the various repressive policies and sustained assault by the government on those who speak truth to power.

“Treating human rights organisations like criminal enterprises and dissenting individuals as criminals without any credible evidence is a deliberate attempt by the Enforcement Directorate and Government of India to stoke a climate of fear and dismantle the critical voices in India. It reeks of fear and repression, ignores the human cost to this crackdown particularly during a pandemic and violates people’s basic rights to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, and association guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and international human rights law. Instead, as a global power and a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, India must fearlessly welcome calls for accountability and justice.”

As part of the Nobel Prize winning movement, Amnesty International India holds itself to the highest evidentiary standards. Our work in India, as elsewhere, is to uphold universal human rights and build a global movement of people who take injustice personally. These are the same values that are enshrined in the Constitution of India and flow from a long and rich Indian tradition of pluralism, tolerance and peaceful dissent.”

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