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Amnesty International shuts India operations, complains Centre froze its bank accounts

Human rights body Amnesty International has halted its operations in India laid off half of its staff after its accounts were frozen earlier this mont

Amnesty International shuts India operations, complains Centre froze its bank accounts

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  29 Sep 2020 9:04 AM GMT

New Delhi: Human rights body Amnesty International has halted its operations in India laid off half of its staff after its accounts were frozen earlier this month as part of what it called a "witch-hunt" by the government.

Issuing a statement, Amnesty said that the complete freezing of Amnesty International India's bank accounts by the government of India, which it came to know on 10 September, brings all the work being done by the organization to a grinding halt."

Amnesty International said that it had been compelled to let go of staff in India and pause all its ongoing campaign and research work in the country.

The government, on the other hand, claimed that the NGO has been receiving foreign funds illegally and that it never registered under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.

It needs mention here Amnesty is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate over alleged irregularities in receiving foreign funds.

Top government officials have claimed that the rights watchdog "got money into India through the FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) route," which is not allowed in the case of non-profits.

Amnesty India did get the government's permission to receive around ₹ 1.69 crore from Amnesty UK in 2011-12, that permission has been withdrawn.

In 2018, the Enforcement Directorate froze their accounts, after which Amnesty approached the court and won a reprieve. But their accounts were later sealed.

Last year, the CBI also registered a case based on a complaint that Amnesty International UK allegedly transferred ₹ 10 crore to Amnesty India entities as FDI without the ministry's approval.

The organization says that "this is the latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organizations by the government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations." It further said that it had complied with all Indian and international laws.

It needs mention here that Amnesty, in recent reports, had raised questions on alleged rights violations during the February Delhi riots and in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370. The rights watchdog has lnked all government action to its reports critical of the government.

Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India, alleges that 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 is a result of our unequivocal calls for transparency in the government," he claimed, adding "For a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent."

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