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Govt treating human rights organisations like criminal enterprises: Amnesty

Govt treating human rights organisations like criminal enterprises: Amnesty

Bengaluru: Amnesty International India alleged Friday the Union government is treating human rights organisations like criminal enterprises in the wake of searches by the Enforcement Directorate at its premises.

The ED on Thursday conducted searches at two locations of the rights watchdog in connection with a foreign exchange contravention case.

"Government authorities are increasingly treating human rights organisations like criminal enterprises," Amnesty International India executive director Aakar Patel said in a statement here.

The searches were in connection with alleged violation of foreign direct investment norms that is linked to an earlier case of revocation of FCRA licence of the NGO by the Union Home Ministry in 2010.

"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," Patel said.

The focus of ED's questioning was the relationship between two entities Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd and Amnesty International India Foundation, it said.

Most of the documents asked for during the search were available in the public domain or were already filed with the relevant authorities, the watchdog said.

Details of Amnesty India's current structure, which was the focus of much of the questioning, have been available on its website since 2014, the statement said.

However, ahead of the raids, the Indian authorities leaked a cache of their internal documents marked "secret" that appear to cast Amnesty India's operations as a dark web of intrigue, the statement said.

"Our work in India, as elsewhere, is to uphold and fight for universal human rights. These are the same values that are enshrined in the Indian Constitution and flow from a long and rich Indian tradition of pluralism, tolerance and dissent," Patel said.

Amnesty India said its bank accounts had been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, effectively stopping its work and it is the latest target of the government's assault on civil society in the country.

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