Amnesty dubs ED ‘raid’ assault on civil society

Amnesty dubs ED ‘raid’ assault on civil society
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Bengaluru: Amnesty International India on Friday dubbed the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) ‘raid’ on its head office here on Thursday an assault on civil society in the country and said New Delhi was treating rights bodies like “criminal enterprises”.

“Amnesty India is the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country,” said Amnesty India Director Aakar Patel in a statement on its website.

Accusing the government of treating human rights organisations like criminal enterprises, Patel alleged that ED had frozen Amnesty’s bank accounts earlier this month.

“The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month, effectively stopping our work,” claimed Patel without specifying on which date and the reasons for such action.

The ED searched Amnesty’s head office in the city’s eastern suburb in connection with foreign remittances allegedly in violation of the FDI guidelines.

“Amnesty had received Rs 36-crore foreign funds till date from overseas in violation of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) guidelines,” said the ED in a statement on Thursday night.

Amnesty said on its website that a group of officers from the ED entered its premises at 1.30 p.m. on Thursday and locked the gates behind them.

“They ordered the staff to remain in office, shut their laptops and not use their mobile phones,” said Patel.

Clarifying that Amnesty was committed to the rule of law and its operations in the country, Patel said the principles of transparency and accountability were at the heart of its work.

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

Saying the ED’s questioning was the relationship between its two entities — Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd (AIIPL) and Amnesty International India Foundation (AIIF), Patel said details of the organisation’ structure were available on its website since 2014.

“Ahead of the raids, the Indian authorities leaked a cache of their internal documents marked ‘secret’ that appear to cast our operations as a dark web of intrigue,” added Patel.

The ED said that of the Rs 36 crore Amnesty received from abroad through commercial route, Rs 10 crore was placed in Fixed Deposit (FD) as a long-term loan and the balance was deposited in two bank accounts of AIIPL as ‘consultancy services’.