UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Barlett, has called for the Indian government to protect the rights of human rights defenders and NGOs in India. She praised India for being at the forefront of the fight for human rights but cautioned that vaguely worded laws may put that in jeopardy.
Her Tuesday statement comes as a response to worrying uses of the Indian Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FRCA) which various UN bodies have been worried is overbroad and vague in its objectives. Additionally, it prohibits them from receiving foreign money for “for any activities prejudicial to the public interest.” This can and has had an impact on the right to freedom of association and expression and has prevented foreign NGOs from giving money to Indian causes.
“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 organizations that have engaged with UN human rights bodies,” Bachelet said. Most recently it led Amnesty international to close their Indian offices after they were raided and their bank account was frozen.
Barlett also called for the Indian government to allow peaceful protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act. More than 1,500 people have been arrested because of their protests to this act and many have been charged with violations of the FCRA.
Finally, Barlett called for India to review the arrests of human rights defenders who have been arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for exercising their basic human rights.