Amnesty International India on Friday said the Enforcement Directorate has frozen its bank accounts and that it has become “the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society”.
The searches were conducted under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, and the agency is looking at a possible and alleged violation of the law linked to an earlier investigation into the organisation’s foreign funding.
“Government authorities are increasingly treating human rights organisations like criminal enterprises,” said Amnesty India Executive Director Aakar Patel in a statement. “As an organisation committed to the rule of law, our operations in India have always conformed with our national regulations. The principles of transparency and accountability are at the heart of our work.”
The statement said the Enforcement Directorate’s questioning focussed on the relationship between Amnesty International India Private Ltd and Amnesty International India Foundation. The Enforcement Directorate has alleged that Amnesty India bypassed the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to float a commercial entity – Amnesty International India Private Ltd.
The statement said most of the documents asked for during the search were available in the public domain or were already filed with the relevant authorities. It said details of the organisation’s current structure, which was also the focus of the questioning, has been available on its website since 2014.
Ahead of the searches, authorities leaked a cache of the organisation’s internal documents marked “secret”, which appear to cast Amnesty India’s operations “as a dark web of intrigue”, the statement said.
Patel said the organisation’s work in India is to “uphold and fight for universal human rights”. “We could not agree more with the Prime Minister when he says that periods of repression, like during the Emergency, have left a stain on India’s history,” Patel said. “Sadly, those dark days are now casting a shadow over India again. Instead of protecting human rights, as it vowed to do, the government is now targeting the people who fight for them.”
Earlier this month, the Enforcement Directorate searched the premises of environmental non-profit Greenpeace India in Bengaluru for allegedly violating foreign exchange rules and froze 12 accounts of the organisation and the accounts of its linked entity, Direct Dialogue Initiatives India Pvt Ltd.