Human Rights No Excuse for Defying Law of Land: MHA Slams Amnesty

MHA also said that the stand taken and the statements made by Amnesty International are unfortunate and exaggerated.

3 min read
The Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday, 28 September, said that “human rights cannot be an excuse for defying the law of the land.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday, 28 September, responded to Amnesty International India’s announcement that it is halting its operations in the country "due to reprisal from the government of India", saying that “human rights cannot be an excuse for defying the law of the land.”

“The stand taken and the statements made by Amnesty International are unfortunate, exaggerated and far from the truth,” the statement further went on to say.

In a statement released earlier on Tuesday, Amnesty International India said: “The complete freezing of Amnesty International India’s bank accounts by the Government of India, which it came to know on 10 September 2020, brings all the work being done by the organisation to a grinding halt. The organisation has been compelled to let go of staff in India and pause all its ongoing campaign and research work.”

Calling the freezing of their accounts, the “latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organisations by the Government of India,” Amnesty said the charges levelled against it are unfounded and motivated.

However, the Centre said, in its response, that, "Amnesty is free to continue humanitarian work in India, as is being done by many other organisations. However, India, by settled law, does not allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations. This law applies equally to all and it shall apply to Amnesty International as well.”

According to the MHA, Amnesty had received foreign funding illegally, a “mala fide rerouting of money” which was in “contravention of extant legal provisions.”

The MHA further added that Amnesty International had received permission under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) only once and that too 20 years ago. Since then, it had been denied FCRA approval by successive governments since by law it is not eligible to get such an approval, MHA said.

“All the glossy statements about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power are nothing but a ploy to divert attention from their activities which were in clear contravention of laid down Indian laws,” the Centre stated.

The statement also said that “Amnesty’s failure to comply with local regulations does not entitle them to make comments on the democratic and plural character of India.”

On Thursday, 1 October, the Ministry of External Affairs also spoke about the issue, saying that NGOs are expected to adhere to all India’s laws, just as they would in other countries including the US and the EU.

“We expect other governments will not condone contravention of Indian laws by any entity,” the MEA said.

What Had Amnesty India Said?

Amnesty International India had said that it stands in full compliance with all applicable Indian and international laws. For human rights work in India, it said it operates through a distinct model of raising funds domestically.

“More than four million Indians have supported Amnesty International India’s work in the last eight years and around 100,000 Indians have made financial contributions. These contributions evidently cannot have any relation with the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010,” the statement read.

The statement further said that the government portraying this lawful fundraising model as money-laundering is evidence that the “overbroad legal framework is maliciously activated when human rights activists and groups challenge the government’s grave inactions and excesses.”

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