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India must stop harassing activists, say advocacy groups amid FATF review

The Indian government misused rules that prevent terrorist financing to stifle freedom of expression, alleged Amnesty International, Charity & Security Network (C&SN), and Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The renowned human rights bodies also called for Financial Action Task Force (FATF) scrutiny of the Indian government’s alleged misuse of counter-terror financing laws against activists and non-profit organisations for meeting political ends. 

This call comes from international advocacy groups, including Amnesty International, as the FATF began its fourth review of India’s compliance on November 6. 

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These organisations claim that Indian authorities have repurposed laws such as the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) to suppress dissent, a move that contradicts both FATF protocols and international human rights standards. 

Amnesty International India accused the government of targeting civil society under the guise of combating terrorism by levelling false charges of foreign funding and terrorism against critics. 

“FATF standards, particularly the revised Recommendation 8, mandate that non-profit organisations only be scrutinised when a detailed risk-based analysis justifies such action. India, having joined FATF in 2010, must align its domestic laws with these international recommendations,” C&SN said in the report published recently. FATF must prevent their recommendations from being exploited for political ends, it said. 

The Indian government, however, has increasingly employed the FCRA, UAPA, and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to control the work of non-profit entities and human rights activists. The FCRA has been stringent, with over 20,600 non-profit organisations losing their licenses in the past decade. 

The UAPA, on the other hand, has been used to detain activists and students, with a mere 2.2 per cent of cases resulting in convictions from 2016 to 2019.

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