Connect with us

News

UN Human Rights Chief slams India for stifling NGOs’ voices

Published

on

BY S VENKAT NARAYAN
Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, October 20:

United Nations Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday expressed regret at the tightening of space for human rights NGOs in India by applying vaguely worded laws that constrain their activities and restrict foreign funding.

Bachelet asked the Indian government to safeguard the rights of human rights defenders and NGOs, and their ability to carry on with their work on behalf of the groups they represent.

“India has long had a strong civil society, which has been at the forefront of ground-breaking 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.”

In a statement, Bachelet specifically cited as “worrying” the use of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which a number of UN human rights bodies have expressed concern about, because it is “vaguely worded and overbroad in its objective”.

The act prohibits the receipt of foreign funds “for any activities prejudicial to the public interest”. The act, which was adopted in 2010 and amended last month, has had a “detrimental impact on the right to freedom of association and expression of human rights NGOs, and as a result on their ability to serve as effective advocates to protect and promote human rights in India”, the statement said.

There was no immediate response from Indian officials to Bachelet’s comments.

The statement said it was expected that the new amendments to FCRA will create “even more administrative and practical hurdles for such advocacy-based NGOs”. The statement noted that Amnesty International was compelled to close its offices in India after its bank accounts were frozen over alleged violation of 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 organisations that have engaged with UN human rights bodies,” Bachelet said.

“I am concerned that such actions based on the grounds of vaguely defined ‘public interest’ leave this law open to abuse, and that it is indeed actually being used to deter or punish NGOs for human rights reporting and advocacy that the authorities perceive as critical in nature. Constructive criticism is the lifeblood of democracy. Even if the authorities find it uncomfortable, it should never be criminalised or outlawed in this way,” she added.

The statement noted that activists and human rights defenders had come under mounting pressure in India in recent months, particularly over mass protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act across the country earlier this year.

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

Charges have been filed under this law against individuals in connection with demonstrations dating back to 2018, including the 83-year-old Catholic priest Stan Swamy, whom the statement described as a long-standing activist engaged in defending the rights of marginalised groups.

“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,” Bachelet 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 Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for simply exercising basic human rights that India is obligated to protect.”



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest News

President orders probe into notification issued by Department of Immigration and Emigration

Published

on

By

It has been reported that President Wickremesinghe ordered an investigation into the notification issued by the Department of Immigration and Emigration requesting all  Russian and Ukrainian tourists to leave the country within 14 days.

According to the President’s Media Division (PMD), the relevant notification was issued without prior approval from the Cabinet of Ministers.

The decision had reportedly been taken as certain foreign tourists are running illegal businesses in the country.

Continue Reading

News

Contentious Chinese research vessel docks in Maldives

Published

on

Xiang Yang Hong 03 has previously visited Indian Ocean on several other occasions

A contentious Chinese research ship reached the Maldives on Thursday in the latest sign of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation towards Beijing and away from its traditional benefactor India.

Local residents said they had spotted China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the Thilafushi industrial port near the capital Male.The 100-metre-long (328-foot) vessel was at an anchorage near Male on Thursday evening, according to the website Marinetraffic.

The Maldives’ pro-Beijing government said earlier the vessel was docking for a port call to rotate crew and take on supplies, on the condition that it would not conduct “research” while in its territorial waters.

Media reports in India had suggested that the vessel was conducting surveillance for Beijing.

India is suspicious of China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.Relations between Male and New Delhi have chilled since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu won elections last year.

Muizzu has asked India to withdraw 89 security personnel based in the Maldives to operate reconnaissance aircraft by March 15.But the president has also insisted he does not want to upend ties with New Delhi by replacing Indian troops with Chinese forces.

Sri Lanka refused entry to Xiang Yang Hong 3 after two other port calls from Chinese vessels since 2022 raised objections from India.That included the ship Yuan Wang 5, which specializes in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship. (AFP)

Continue Reading

News

MP Harsha in Australia as “Special visitor”

Published

on

Harsha de Silva

Opposition MP and Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) Harsha de Silva is currently in Australia as a special visitor.

Taking to ‘X’, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP said he had embarked on a nine-day visit on an invitation extended by the Government of Australia.

“My engagements with policymakers, academics, scientists and investment managers began in Melbourne and will continue in Adelaide and then public officials and politicians in Canberra,” he added.

Continue Reading

Trending