Civil society in Nepal voiced their grave concerns regarding the forced closure of Amnesty International in India. Below is the statement signed by nearly 200 civil society members.
The shocking recent news of the closure of the Amnesty International India (Amnesty India) due to the Indian government’s sudden freezing of the organization’s all bank accounts is a cause of grave concern to those of us working for human rights, justice and rule of law in the region.
This is a blatant attack on an organization that has played a vital role in protecting human rights in the country by documenting the cases of human rights violations and exposing the state’s failure. This has included, in some cases, the very involvement of state agencies in committing atrocities against individuals, particularly those belonging to minority communities throughout India.
For the past two years, Amnesty International India has been constantly targeted by Indian authorities and accused of ‘wrongdoings’ without any credible evidence. At the time of writing, no formal charges have been filed against the organization.
It’s clear that the latest attack on Amnesty is a direct result of its human rights work in India, where it has regularly raised alarms about the state’s failure to hold authorities accountable for their actions. Most recently, Amnesty India released two important reports: an update on the situation of human rights in Jammu & Kashmir following a year since the suspension of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, and an investigative brief exposing the complicity of Delhi police in the February riots in the capital which claimed the lives of at least 53 people, mostly from the Muslim-minority community.
We stand with the staff and members of Amnesty India and all other human rights defenders who have been facing an intense crackdown on their vital work under the current administration. It is troubling to see a country that prides itself on being the largest democracy brazenly adopt such an authoritarian approach to silence critics and muzzle freedom of speech and expression.
Amnesty India’s forced shutdown is not an isolated incident and follows a trend of increased repression against activists, journalists, and any civil society member with a critical voice against the government. This is a worrying sign of a shrinking space for civil society and freedom of expression, the cornerstone of any democracy.
We call on the Indian government to urgently address this issue and to allow human rights organizations, activists and human rights defenders to operate freely and without fear. As a country that sits on the UN Human Rights Council, India needs to show that it respects human rights and is deserving of its seat.