India has used FATF recommendations to target entire civil society: Amnesty International

By abusing these laws, the authorities in India have failed to comply with both FATF standards and international human rights law: Aakar Patel, Amnesty International India

September 28, 2023 03:33 am | Updated 03:33 am IST - New Delhi

The publication of the new briefing by Amnesty International comes ahead of India’s fourth round of the mutual evaluation process of the FATF in November 2023. File

The publication of the new briefing by Amnesty International comes ahead of India’s fourth round of the mutual evaluation process of the FATF in November 2023. File | Photo Credit: Reuters

Indian authorities are exploiting the recommendations of a global terrorism financing and money laundering watchdog to target civil society groups and activists and deliberately hinder their work, the Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

In its new briefing titled ‘Weaponizing counter-terrorism: India’s exploitation of terrorism financing assessments to target civil society’, Amnesty International says that the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global body responsible for tackling terrorism financing and money laundering, have been abused by Indian authorities to bring in draconian laws in a coordinated campaign to stifle the non-profit sector.

The FATF, of which India has been a member since 2010, is an intergovernmental body with 37 member states mandated to tackle global money laundering and terrorist financing. It advances its work through a set of recommendations — comprised of 40 internationally endorsed global standards — to guide national authorities’ implementation of “legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the financial system”.

The publication of the new briefing by Amnesty International comes ahead of India’s fourth round of the mutual evaluation process of the FATF in November 2023.

“Under the guise of combatting terrorism, the Indian government has leveraged the Financial Action Task Force’s recommendations to tighten its arsenal of financial and counter-terrorism laws which are routinely misused to target and silence critics. The FATF must hold the Indian authorities accountable for the persistent weaponisation of its recommendations,” Aakar Patel, chair of the board at Amnesty International India, said.

These laws are in turn used to bring terrorism-related charges and, amongst other things, prevent organisations and activists from accessing essential funds, according to the human rights watchdog. “By abusing these laws, the authorities in India have failed to comply with both FATF standards and international human rights law,” he said.

In India, non-governmental organisations require registration under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) to receive foreign funds. In 2010, amendments were made to the Act to improve India’s ‘non-compliant’ status (with the FATF). Since then, however, and specifically in the last 10 years, more than 20,600 NGOs have had their licences cancelled with nearly 6,000 of these cancellations occurring since the beginning of 2022, the briefing said.

Eleven out of 16 NGOs surveyed by Amnesty International, which work on issues relating to minorities, marginalised groups, and climate change, confirmed the arbitrary renunciation of their foreign contribution licences through suspensions, cancellations, and non-renewals. Most of the groups Amnesty International spoke to said they have had to reduce their staff by 50% to 80%, drastically affecting the scope of their work.

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