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UN experts slam India for targeting rights groups’ exposing abuses in Kashmir, Delhi pogroms

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UNITED NATIONS, Dec 22: Three United Nations human rights experts have called on India to “immediately” stop its intimidation and a series of reprisals against Amnesty International (AI) in response to the organization’s work in exposing human rights violations in India, especially in occupied Kashmir and during the February anti-Muslim riots in Delhi.

London-based Amnesty International, a human rights organization, halted operations in India in September after its bank accounts were frozen and its executives interrogated by Indian financial authorities, in what AI called was a two-year campaign of harassment.

In a second joint letter sent to India from Geneva, the UN experts recounted the systematic harassment being inflicted by the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pointing out the “illegal freezing” of the bank accounts under the the Foreign Contribution Regulation (FCRA) law, which is incompatible with international human rights standards.

The respective retributive actions “are a strong indication that the Indian Government has tried to intimidate, muzzle and punish the Non-governmental Organization (NGO) for its reporting on and advocacy against human rights violations in the country”.

The State-sanctioned smear campaign against Amnesty, evident from media leakage of a dossier on AI by Indian investigative agencies, was a deliberate attempt to tarnish the reputation, the experts said, and called for unfreeze the organization’s bank accounts.

The joint letter was sent by the experts, also known as UN Special Procedures or Rapporteurs, to India on 21 October 2020, and made public on Monday after India did not respond to it within the given deadline of 60 days.

India has adopted a policy of ignoring UN rights experts’ letters in what diplomats called was a ” deliberate defiance of its human rights obligations.”

In October, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have already publicly voiced her serious dismay over the tightening of space for human rights organizations in India and appealed to New Delhi to safeguard the rights of human rights defenders, and their ability to carry out their crucial work.

The signatories of the letter include prominent experts such as Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression; Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on peaceful assembly and of association; and Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders

With a new president secured for 2021, all eyes are on the incoming Biden-Harris administration and its hand on domestic and international politics. For Kashmir, the outcome could literally be a matter of life or death. After seven decades of occupation and brutal military conflict, the region — one of the most dangerous in the world — remains a significant source of geopolitical tension, with nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan disputing each other’s control. Too often, the citizens of Kashmir are forgotten. A Biden presidency could very well change that.

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