Amnesty denies reports of shutting down office, says will continue to work for justice

Bengaluru, Aug 18 : Under-fire over charges of sedition, the Amnesty International India on Thursday denied reports of shutting down their office and asserted that the charge of sedition against them was completely wrong, adding that they would continue to work for justice.

Speaking to ANI here, executive director of Amnesty India International Aakar Patel said that the charge of sedition against them in the FIR by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) is totally wrong, adding that the information in the complaint has factual errors.

"We believe that the charge of sedition was applied in the FIR is totally wrong. There are many views including from people in civil society, in the government who believe that what we are saying is right.

It was unfortunate for us that an issue that is serious and on which we had spent so many years, was then submerged by one aspect of this, which is the slogan shouting," Patel said.

Stating that as a Constitutional democracy, it was incumbent upon them to deliver justice to the citizens, Patel added that since the issue has been brought to the fore, he hopes that the focus not comes to the 'justice' part of the issue.

Talking about the controversial event organised at the United Theological College in Bengaluru which drew the ire of ABVP and BJP Yuva Morcha, the Amnesty official emphasised that the event was within the limits of the law, adding that whatever possible in terms of ensuring that it was done the right way, was done.

On reports of the Amnesty office having closed down, Patel stated that the staff was working from the office, however, earlier in the day they had advised their staff to work from home after threats of dharnas and protests loomed.

Clarifying on the issue in which the Amnesty International is seeking justice for from the Centre, Patel said that the event was actually about a report they had published last year after many years of research in Kashmir as well.

"The issue was basically this, that since 1989, several FIRs have been filed by the JK Police. Later, these have been investigated and chargesheets have been filed against individuals in the Army. The state government of JK has sent these files to the Centre so that the Centre can lift certain sections of AFSPA, so that the families who are survivors and victims of this can receive justice," Patel said.

"In not even one of these instances what our research has found, has the Centre approved of the lifting of section seven and the prosecution of these individuals.

Our demand was that the Centre responds to the state government and the victims and gives them justice.

That was the focus of the event. And I would urge those people who are listening to me right now, through ANI, to take a look at our report and see if the centre can be made to respond to these charges," he added.

The police on Monday filed cases, including one of sedition, against the organisers of a programme that sought to project the human suffering of the Kashmir conflict.

The police on Saturday charged Amnesty International India under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which defines sedition as brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government of India.

Unnamed representatives of the non-government organisation were also booked under Sections 142,143, 147, 149 (unlawful assembly and rioting) and Section 153 A (promoting enmity between groups).

Reacting to the FIR filed by ABVP, Amnesty International India in a statement said the allegations mentioned in the complaint are without substance, adding it is an attempt to prevent the families of victims of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir from having their stories heard.

Earlier, senior advocate Prashant Bhushan's NGO Common Cause moved the Supreme Court challenging the "misuse and misapplication" of sedition laws in the country.

The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Bhushan says that the sedition law is rampantly abused to instil fear, causing persecution of students, journalists, intellectuals engaging in social activism.

The PIL also says that sedition laws are used as a tool to scuttle dissent and actions which do not involve violence or tendency to create public disorder do not constitute the offence of sedition.

Source: ANI