WASHINGTON: An Amnesty International official has alleged that the organisation was forced to lay off all staff and cease all human rights work after its bank accounts were frozen in India.
Joanne Lin, national director for Advocacy and Government Affairs at Amnesty International USA, made the allegations during a Congressional hearing on international human rights.
India's home ministry in October said the organisation's claims that it is being subjected to an "incessant witch-hunt" were unfortunate, exaggerated and far from the truth.
The ministry said that Amnesty International had received permission under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) only once and that too 20 years ago (on December 19, 2000).
Since then, it said, the organisation, despite its repeated applications, has been denied FCRA approval by successive governments since as per law it is not eligible for it.
The home ministry said Amnesty is free to continue humanitarian work in India, as is being done by many other organisations.
During the hearing, Lin told members of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Global Human Rights that in 2020, Amnesty India was forced to lay off all staff and cease all human rights work after its bank accounts were frozen.
This followed years of intimidation by the government, including raids of Amnesty India offices and interrogation of staff and board members, she alleged.
"The forced shuttering of Amnesty International in the world's largest democracy has sent a chilling message to civil society around the world," Lin claimed.
An influential Republican Congressman described it as a troubling development.
"That's a very, very troubling state of affairs, that the largest democracy tells the Amnesty International people you're out", said Ranking Member Congressman Christopher Smith, who wanted to know more details about the situation in India.
India has said it expects other governments not to condone contravention of the country's laws by any entity.
"NGOs (non-governmental organisations) are expected to adhere to all our laws including in respect of foreign funding just as they presumably would in other countries including the US and in the European Union," Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava said in October.