'Smear campaign against Amnesty, Greenpeace'

'Smear campaign against Amnesty, Greenpeace'

Special Rapporteurs David Kaye

A letter by three United National Special Rapporteurs to the Indian government has expressed serious concerns at the "smear campaign" and actions taken against Amnesty International India and Greenpeace, saying the ability to access foreign funding is an integral part of the right to freedom of association.

The letter, which was made public two months after it was sent to the government, will now be part of the report to be discussed in UN Human Rights Council as India has not responded to the charges levelled against it.

The seven-page letter was written by Special Rapporteurs David Kaye (promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression), Clement Nyaletsossi Voule (rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association) and Michel Forst (situation of human rights defenders) on December 20 last year and had said that they would make public the letter after two months with or without the government's response.

In the letter, the Special Rapporteurs had referred to the raids and searches conducted at the offices of Amnesty International India and Greenpeace India as well as the blocking of foreign funding to these NGOs. It noted that the government action has led to the "massive cut down of Greenpeace operations" in India.

"...concern is expressed at the alleged smear campaign against Amnesty International India, in what seems to be an attempt to tarnish the organization’s reputation in the absence of formal charges. The ostensible leak of a dossier on Amnesty India allegedly by the Enforcement Directorate based on its ongoing investigations indicates a potentially deliberate attempt by the government to tarnish Amnesty India’s reputation," they said.

The letter also said that "such a smear campaign follows a similar attempt to discredit" Greenpeace India since 2014, when the government accused it of "anti-national activities" and seized its foreign funding while referring to the Delhi High Court judgement that ordered the release of funds as the seizure was "arbitrary and unconstitutional".

"We reaffirm our position that the ability to access foreign funding is an integral part of the right to freedom of association, and reiterate our concerns at the highly detrimental impact of the FCRA, which has been increasingly used to obstruct Indian civil society’s access to international funding," they said.

The letter also said the application of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) and Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) to human rights and environmental organisations creates a "stigmatizing and chilling effect" on that type of legitimate work.