U.S., E.U. should not condone Amnesty International’s actions: Government

U.S., E.U. should not condone Amnesty International’s actions: Government

Move noted “at the highest levels” of the American government, says State Department

Responding sharply to the U.S. and the European governments for expressing their concerns about the investigations into the Amnesty International, the government said foreign governments must not condone NGOs that break Indian laws.

“The NGOs are expected to adhere to all our laws, including with respect to foreign funding, just as they would in other countries like the U.S. and the European Union. We also expect that other governments would not condone the contravention of Indian laws by any entity,” said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava on Thursday.

Over the past few days, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the United Kingdom Foreign Office and the European Union have issued statements expressing concern over the government’s decision to freeze the Amnesty’s funds that led the international human rights agency to close its India office on September 29. Both the U.K. and the E.U. said they have raised concerns through bilateral diplomatic channels as well.

“The U.K.’s Minister for South Asia [Tariq Ahmed] and our Acting High Commissioner in New Delhi met Indian government representatives after Amnesty International India’s accounts were frozen, to emphasise the importance of organisations like this being able to continue their important work,” said a British High Commission spokesperson, adding that “the U.K. is seeking further information on recent decisions affecting Amnesty and believes the freedom of civil society organisations to operate underpins any functioning democracy”.

The U.S. State Department also issued a statement saying the moves on Amnesty International had been noted “at the highest levels” of the U.S. government as well as by members of the U.S. Congress, adding that the U.S. is “concerned about obstacles to the work of civil society, whether in India or anywhere else in the world”. The E.U. had issued a similar statement on Tuesday.

In a detailed note earlier this week, the Ministry of Home Affairs had explained that its actions to freeze the funds of the Amnesty International India’s office related to several investigations carried out by different agencies including the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI over the past decade. The government said having failed to receive registration under the Foreign Contributions Regulatory Act (FCRA) meant for Non-Governmental Organisations, the Amnesty had taken the “commercial route” and accepted funds through Foreign Direct Investment, which is a contravention of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

Comment | A government that chooses its critics

However, the Amnesty International has repeatedly denied the charge claiming its actions were “entirely legitimate”. “This decision was not motivated by any question of law as the Indian authorities now claim. It is not about Amnesty India’s sources of funding, which are entirely legitimate and involved no lawbreaking. This is punishment for standing up for humanity’s core values in the world’s largest democracy,” wrote a Senior Director of Amnesty International in the U.K. newspaper The Guardian on Thursday.

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