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Government of India misusing foreign contribution law to harass, intimidate NGOs, activists: Amnesty

By Our Representative
In its just-released annual report, Amnesty International has sharply criticized the Government of India for arbitrarily arresting and detaining “human rights defenders, journalists and protesters”, pointing out how authorities have been using the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) to restrict organizations from receiving foreign funding and harass NGOs and activists.
Giving examples, Amnesty, which is one of the world's most influential human rights organizations, notes “a series of actions against Greenpeace India, including preventing one of its campaigners from travelling to the UK in January, ordering the organization’s bank accounts to be frozen in April and cancelling its FCRA registration in September.”
Not just this, Amnesty, in its report for the year 2015-16, says, “The Ministry of Home Affairs cancelled the FCRA registration of thousands of NGOs for violating provisions of the law. In April, the Ministry ordered that it would have to approve foreign funds from certain identified donor organizations.”
Amnesy notes, “In July, the Central Bureau of Investigation registered a case against human rights activists Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand for allegedly violating provisions of the FCRA. In September, authorities suspended the registration of an NGO run by the activists to receive foreign funding.”
Especially referring to sedition laws being used by Indian authorities, Amnesty notes, “Laws which did not meet international standards on freedom of expression were used to persecute human rights defenders and others.”
It points out how, in August, the Maharashtra state government went to far as to “issue a circular on how India’s sedition law must be applied, suggesting that criticism of a government representative would amount to sedition.”
Pointing towards other laws being imposed similarly in India, Amnesty says, “Authorities also continued to use ‘anti-terror” laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other state- specific laws which do not meet international human rights standards.”
“In April”, it states, “The state government of Gujarat passed an anti-terror bill containing several provisions which violated international standards. Similar laws remained in force in Maharashtra and Karnataka states.”
Even as such laws are being used, Amnesty says, “A Central Bureau of Investigation Court discharged several police officials suspected of involvement in an extrajudicial execution in Gujarat in 2005.”
This, it says, happened despite the fact that in June, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions “noted in a follow-up report on India that guidelines by courts and the National Human Rights Commission often ‘remained on paper with little or no implementation on the ground’.”
Referring to the continued use of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, Amnesty says, "Impunity for violations by security forces in India persisted, and legislation granting virtual immunity from prosecution for the armed forces remained in force in Jammu and Kashmir and parts of northeastern India."
Then, Amnesty says, "In December, Parliament passed amendments to juvenile justice laws which allowed children aged 16 to 18 to be treated as adults in cases of serious crimes, in violation of India’s international legal obligations."
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