Amnesty India has alleged that a deliberate attempt has been made by the government to tarnish the reputation of the human rights organisation by leaking a dossier, supposedly made by the Enforcement Directorate, to the media without giving it access to any such information.
Amnesty India called for an immediate end to this smear campaign and an independent inquiry into the selective leaks of information that are fuelling this campaign.
“In the three weeks since we were raided by the Enforcement Directorate, no formal charges have been filed against us. So, it is really shocking to see media coverage of what is alleged to be documented from the investigation. If the authorities believe that Amnesty India has committed an offence, they must prove it in a court of law. However, the Enforcement Directorate seems to be leaking selective information and conducting a media trial,” Amnesty India’s Chief Executive Director Aakar Patel said.
“It is alarming to see authorities resort to such low measures to discredit the work of an organisation committed to upholding human rights. The latest action of leaking documents related to an ongoing investigation into a media house to tarnish Amnesty India’s reputation is deplorable. Such actions highlight a pattern of demonising and criminalising human rights defenders and organisations. The government seems afraid and viscerally opposed to anyone who is critical of its actions or policies,” Patel added.
On November 14, a prominent news channel ran a two hour-long special show on the ED’s raids on the Amnesty India. The anchors claimed to have accessed the entire dossier of investigations done by the investigating agency. They also allegedly showed visuals of the documents, including the investigation report, testimonies and bank documents that are a part of the investigations.
Amnesty India alleges that they have still not been given access to the dossier and have repeatedly been denied access to such information by the agency.
At one point, the anchor read from what is alleged to be a copy of the statement given by Patel, the chief executive officer of Amnesty International India Private Limited and the Managing Trustee of Indians for Amnesty International Trust, to the ED.
According to Amnesty India, the ED officials have allegedly refused to provide a copy of said statement to Patel, when it was requested during the search and again on October 31 in the Enforcement Directorate’s office. They refused on the grounds that the copy is confidential and can only be shared after the charges are framed.
“Isn’t this a gross violation of natural justice where the person accused of a crime is not given full details? We have always respected the rule of law and have extended our full cooperation to the agency’s investigations. However, it seems like the government thinks it can abuse its power and run smear campaigns to fulfil its agenda of silencing anyone who questions power. The authorities should initiate an independent probe and bring to justice those who are responsible for this leak,” Patel stated.
On October 25, 2018, Amnesty India endured a 10-hour-long raid as a group of officers from the ED, a financial investigation agency under the ministry of finance, entered the premises and locked the gates behind them. Some of the staff were ordered to not leave, shut their laptops and not use their mobile phones. Most of the documents asked for during the search were available in the public domain or were already filed with the relevant government authorities.
Following the raid, the accounts of Amnesty India were frozen, while the ministry of home affairs initiated investigations into the funds received by Amnesty India.