Amnesty holds protests outside Indian High Commission in London

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Urges U.K. govt. to take up crackdown on NGOs with Modi

Amnesty International UK has written to British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, urging the government to raise urgent concerns around human rights and the “politically motivated restrictions” placed on NGOs such as Amnesty India and Greenpeace India with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. They also held a protest outside the Indian High Commission in central London on Friday.

In the letter sent earlier this week, the British government is urged to seek assurances from Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the NGOs could ‘resume their operations unhindered by politically motivated restrictions” after both organisations’ India operations had had their accounts frozen while authorities “deliberately attempted to tarnish their reputation through government-affiliated media”. The letter also raises concerns around human rights matters in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

“We want to shed light on the politically motivated action against us that is a direct result of the work we have been carrying on exposing human rights abuses,” said Ellie Kennedy, a campaigner at Amnesty International UK, at the protest. “We are trying to leverage consulates and embassies to stop this crackdown on human rights organisations.”

“If you sit on a table with global leaders, human rights needs to be on that agenda and you have to live up to those values domestically too.”

She described the restrictions and crackdown, which has resulted in Amnesty India having to let go over half of its 194 staff temporarily, as the most severe it had experienced in its several decade-long operations in India. “Prime Minister Modi is often treated as a champion of democracy internationally. But now, one of the most legitimate and respectful human rights organisations is being asked violently and forcibly to stop its human rights work,” she said. Work particularly around the prevention of violence against women and minorities is being impacted as a result of the restrictions, she said.

Amnesty International UK has also written to the new Indian High Commissioner Ruchi Ghanashyam, with a list of demands including ensuring Amnesty India and Greenpeace India were able to carry out their human rights work unhindered through the removal of restrictions on their bank accounts, the end of “intimidation and harassment” of the organisations, and the end of “repressive legislation” to clampdown on activists.

The protest came after over 30 staff in Kathmandu were detained following a protest outside the Indian Embassy there on Thursday, and eventually released.

On October 25, the Enforcement Directorate froze all Amnesty India’s accounts — an action that the NGO is challenging through the courts. “Unfortunately, the government is showing no signs of letting up,” said Aakar Patel, the director of Amnesty India. “We are anticipating further attacks from different government agencies in the coming months.”

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