Bachelet specifically described the use of the FCRA as ‘worrisome’ which bans foreign financial assistance for ‘any activity that is adverse to the public interest’.
Geneva/New Delhi| United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday expressed concern over the ‘arrest of human rights activists and sanctions imposed on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in relation to foreign funding’. Bachelet appealed to the Government of India to ‘protect the rights of human rights defenders and NGOs’ and ‘their ability to do important work on behalf of their organizations’. India has reacted sharply to this and said that violations of the law on the pretext of human rights cannot be forgiven and the UN unit was expecting a more informed opinion on the matter.
‘Increased incidence of suppression of voice’
Michelle had said in a statement, “India has a strong civil society, which has been a leader in supporting human rights in the country and the world, but I am concerned that the vaguely defined laws can be used to suppress the voices of human rights advocates. Bachelet specifically described the use of the ‘Foreign Contribution Regulation Act’ (FCRA) as ‘worrisome’ which bans foreign financial assistance for ‘any activity that is adverse to the public interest’.
‘Violation of law not forgiven’
In response to this, Foreign Ministry spokesman Anurag Shrivastava has said that violation of the law on the pretext of human rights cannot be forgiven. He also said that India is a country with a democratic system based on rule of law and an independent judiciary. Srivastava said, “Legislation is clearly a sovereign prerogative. However, violations of the law on the pretext of human rights cannot be forgiven. There was hope for a more informed opinion from the UN unit.”
Concern expressed over FCRA
Earlier, Bachelet said that the FCRA law justifies’ highly intervening steps, ranging from official raids on NGO offices and sealing bank accounts to suspending or cancelling NGO registrations, including civil society organizations linked to UN human rights bodies.
Bachelet said, “I am concerned that such measures based on vaguely defined public interest may lead to misuse of this law and they are actually used to stop NGOs reporting and advocating for human rights or This is being done to punish those whom the officials consider to be of a critical nature.”
CAA pressures human rights activists
She said that in particular there has been increasing pressure on human rights activists in recent months against the revised citizenship law due to involvement in demonstrations across the country earlier this year. “More than 1,500 people were allegedly arrested in connection with the demonstrations and many were charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act,” Bachelet said. This is a law which has been widely condemned for not conforming to international human rights standards. She said that many people, including Catholic priest Stan Swamy (83), were charged under this law.