India's Misuse of Anti-Terrorism Measures: A Human Rights Perspective
East and South Asia Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
The Indian government, under the guise of combating terrorism, has come under scrutiny for its alleged exploitation of global counter-terrorism and anti-money laundering recommendations. Amnesty International has shed light on how India has weaponized the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to target civil society groups and activists (Amnesty International, 27 September 2023) (Independent, 27 September 2023). This unsettling revelation raises concerns about the human rights implications of such actions.
Over the years, India has leveraged FATF recommendations to tighten its financial and counter-terrorism laws, often misusing them to stifle critics and silence dissenting voices (Amnesty International, 27 September 2023). Under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), more than 20,600 NGOs have had their licences cancelled in the last decade, with nearly 6,000 of these cancellations occurring since the beginning of 2022 (Amnesty International, 27 September 2023) (Independent, 27 September 2023). The vague reasons provided by Indian authorities, such as "bringing disrepute to public institutions" or "working against public or national interest," have been used to justify these actions (Independent, 27 September 2023).
These actions by the Indian government raise significant human rights concerns. Firstly, they violate the right to freedom of association and freedom of expression (Amnesty International, 27 September 2023). NGOs working on issues related to minorities, marginalised groups, and climate change have faced arbitrary renunciations of their foreign contribution licences, severely limiting their ability to operate (Amnesty International, 27 September 2023) (Independent, 27 September 2023). The right to engage in legitimate human rights work has been curtailed, undermining the principles of democracy and civil society .
Secondly, the use of anti-terrorism laws, such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), has led to the detention of activists and individuals without trial on allegations of 'funding terrorism,' among other charges (Amnesty International, 27 September 2023) (Independent, 27 September 2023). Such actions contravene international human rights law and standards, as well as the guiding principles of the FATF (Independent, 27 September 2023). The right to a fair trial and protection from arbitrary detention is compromised in these cases .
Furthermore, the targeting of dissenting voices, including Muslim student activist Umar Khalid and Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez, highlights a discriminatory application of these laws (Independent, 27 September 2023). These actions have been perceived as politically motivated, stifling legitimate voices of opposition and further infringing on the right to political participation and freedom of expression .
In conclusion, India's exploitation of FATF recommendations to suppress civil society and curtail legitimate human rights work is a matter of grave concern. It not only violates international human rights standards but also undermines the principles of democracy and freedom of expression. Organizations urged the Indian government to reconsider these actions and ensure that the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly are effectively protected (Amnesty International, 27 September 2023) (Independent, 27 September 2023).
Amnesty International. (27 September 2023). India: Government weaponizing terrorism financing watchdog recommendations against civil society. Available at <https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/09/india-government-weaponizing-terrorism-financing-watchdog-recommendations-against-civil-society/>.
Independent. (27 September 2023). India ‘weaponising global anti-terror fund’ to crack down on civil society groups, Amnesty says. Available at https://www.independent.co.uk/asia/india/india-fatf-amnesty-terrorism-funding-latest-report-b2419340.html.