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India using vaguely defined laws to stifle voices of activists, says UN human rights chief

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet Bachelet urges Modi government to review the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act and to release people charged under UAPA.

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New Delhi: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, Tuesday asked the Narendra Modi government to safeguard the rights of activists and NGOs operating in the country.

In her statement, Bachelet expressed regret “at the tightening of space for human rights NGOs in particular, including by the application of vaguely worded laws” that constrain their activities and restrict foreign funding.

“India has long had a strong civil society, which has been at the forefront of groundbreaking human rights advocacy within the country and globally,” she said. “But I am concerned that vaguely defined laws are increasingly being used to stifle these voices.”

Bachelet’s statement also mentioned the newly-amended Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in India and the recent arrest of 83-year-old Jesuit priest Stan Swamy in the connection with the Bhima Koregaon case.

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‘Amnesty International was compelled to close its India offices’

Bachelet said the FCRA, which was amended last month, has had a “detrimental impact” on the right to freedom of association and expression of human rights NGOs in the country. The amendments, she further said, have hampered NGOs’ ability to protect and promote human rights in India, and created more administrative and practical hurdles for them.

The human rights chief also mentioned how the Amnesty International was “compelled to close its offices in India after its bank accounts were frozen over alleged violation of the FCRA”.

“The FCRA has been invoked over the years to justify an array of highly intrusive measures, ranging from official raids on NGO offices and freezing of bank accounts, to suspension or cancellation of registration, including of civil society organizations that have engaged with UN human rights bodies,” said Bachelet.

Under the new amendments to the FCRA, no agency or individual can receive foreign funding unless they seek clearance from the Government of India or apply for an FCRA license. The new amendment also prohibits public servants from receiving any foreign contribution. It also proposes a reduced use of foreign funds, from 50 per cent to 20 per cent, for NGOs to meet their administrative costs.

The amendments also stipulate that foreign contributions cannot be transferred to any other organisation or person unless they are also registered to accept foreign contributions. The FCRA is meant to regulate foreign donations and ensure that they do not impact the internal security of India.

‘UAPA has been widely criticised’

In her statement, Bachelet also spoke about the “mounting pressure” on activists and human rights defenders in the aftermath of the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

“More than 1,500 people have reportedly been arrested in relation to the protests, with many charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) — a law which has also been widely criticised for its lack of conformity with international human rights standards,” she noted.

Mentioning how Swamy has been slapped with the UAPA and kept in detention “despite his poor health”, Bachelet said, “I urge the government to ensure that no one else is detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly — and to do its utmost, in law and policy, to protect India’s robust civil society.”

She further said, “I also urge the authorities to carefully review the FCRA for its compliance with international human rights standards and to release people charged under the UAPA for simply exercising basic human rights that India is obligated to protect.”

She asserted that the UN Human Rights Office will continue to engage with the Modi government on issues related to promotion and protection of human rights.

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  1. 3.1 million registered NGOs some who participate in politics are not NGO anymore it become a political groups bcuz Rss and mulsim boards also teaches , provide meals but no one consider them as an NGO bcuz influence in politics.
    And Amnesty trying this in every part in the world , many countries banned them

  2. Listen to this Lady if she can come and guarantee no anti-national activities. The laws in India should be studied before advising. Allowing people to function in India on moneys send sent from outside, to determent of the Indian interests is human rights violation of common Indian and not the other way round.
    If foreign funded NGOs are politically not not neutral they need to be shut down. Nobody is violating the human rights of the people working for NGOs.
    Humans have human rights not NGOs.

  3. The leftist, bleeding heart rot goes very very deep, even at the UN.

    Before dishing out this sanctimonious advice, has anyone stopped to think about the serious crimes committed by Stan?

  4. India has been always a soft target for UNHRC and foreign NGOs. They exploit the democratic setup to create trouble in India. China and Pakistan, the worst violators of Human Rights, are one of the most influential voices at UNHRC. It has become a joke now.

  5. What is your credibility when you can have China and Pakistan in your board which have worst record of Hyman rights

  6. International Institutions should follow the “Law of the Land” and not act like Lordships imported from abroad into India. Stop lecturing and follow the laws laid down by India and respect Indian people and politicians who represent them first. Organizational like Amnesty practice “Divide and Rule” in India in collusion with anti-national forces operating in India. Can you do the same thing in US, UK, Germany or France or other western democracies. You treated India like a Banana republic where Amnesty could do anything with impunity and corrupt bureaucrats and oppositions politicians will cover these organizations. Gone are the days when people took this firangi organizations seriously because they come in with Agenda and Lordship mentality to keep Indians subservient to their interests. These organizations are upset that Modi government is strictly enforcing this laws and it is the enforcement that bothers them now as they cannot have their free ride at the cost of Indian democracy and her people.

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