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Meet the ‘experts’ behind the UNHRC statement supporting donation fraud accused WaPo columnist and accusing India of ‘harassing’ her

Amnesty International is a dubious organization that has indulged in anti-India activities for a long time. Despite the non-issuance of FCRA licenses for its Indian chapter, the organization kept receiving foreign funds in India.

On February 22, the Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations Irene Khan and Mary Lawlor alleged that “far-right Hindu nationalist groups” had intensified attacks and threats against the alleged journalist and money laundering accused Rana Ayyub.

They further alleged the attacks were in response to her “reporting on issues affecting minority Muslims in the country, her criticism of the Government for its handling of the pandemic and her comments on the recent ban on hijabs in schools and colleges in Karnataka.”

They said, “The lack of condemnation and proper investigation by the Government, coupled with the legal harassment it has itself inflicted on Ms Ayyub, has only served to falsely legitimise the attacks and attackers and further endangered her safety.”

While mentioning the ongoing investigation against her, they said, “As with many of the spurious and defamatory accusations made against Ms Ayyub in retaliation for her reporting, the experts said, the false allegations can be traced back to a far-right social media group.” The Special Rapporteurs further alleged the Indian government failed to address the “threats” to Ayyub and did not provide the required security.

The UN statement incited a sharp and strong reaction from India.

Who are Special Rapporteurs to Human Rights Council?

Irene Khan and May Lawlor are Special Rapporteurs and “Independent Experts” and part of Special Procedures of Human Rights Council. It is notable that these are independent experts and are not United Nations’ staff or receive any salary from the United Nations. The statements made by UN Special Procedures, though often shared by UN CHR, cannot be said to be the official statement of the United Nations.

It is further notable that India at United Nations has strongly objected to the allegations. In response to the allegations, India said, “Allegations of so-called judicial harassment are baseless & unwarranted. India upholds the rule of law but is equally clear that no one is above the law. We expect SRs to be objective & accurately informed. Advancing a misleading narrative only tarnishes @UNGeneva’s reputation.”

Rana Ayyub is facing investigation for allegedly siphoning off the money she had collected in the name of charity using a crowdfunding platform. She had reportedly collected donations from around the world in the name of Covid relief work and had kept the amounts in her personal bank accounts, in violation of the law.

Irene Khan, Amnesty International and China

One of the Special Rapporteurs who had released the above statement is Irene Khan. Notably, Khan, who hails from Bangladesh, has been a regular critic of India and has often tried to interfere in India’s internal matters using her position on International platforms. The Hawk Eye, the same Twitter user who did the first expose on Rana Ayyub, shared details of her anti-India interests.

According to the official profile of Irene Khan on UNCHR, she was Secretary-General of Amnesty International from 2001 to 2009. Interestingly, Khan had to leave the organization in 2009 after she was accused of receiving over USD 700,000 from the organization. Under her leadership, Amnesty faced criticism for supporting Moazzam Begg, the former Guantanamo detainee and its links to Islamist groups. 

Amnesty International is a dubious organization that has indulged in anti-India activities for a long time. Despite the non-issuance of FCRA licenses for its Indian chapter, the organization kept receiving foreign funds in India. After strict action from the Indian government in 2020, when ED froze its accounts, the organization closed its Indian chapter.

She was also director-general of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), as mentioned by another Twitter user Sagorika. Her profile on UN suggests she was part of IDLO from 2012 to 2019. China is a major contributor to IDLO and has been part of the collective since 1989. In 2017, IDLO and China had signed a memorandum on the “One Belt One Road” initiative.

Another aspect of Irene’s connection to China is that the dragon was behind her appointment at the UN. In 2020, a China-led panel had appointed her as the world monitor on free speech. UN Watch categorically mentioned in a report that Khan enjoys close ties with the Communist regime. In an op-ed on the appointment, Human Rights Activist and International Lawyer Hillel C Neuer raised objections.

Neuer said, “Only in the Orwellian world of the UNHRC would a totalitarian regime that systematically silences, jails and crushes dissenting voices, and which operates the notorious Great Firewall of China to block Internet content from its people, be allowed to lead the process in selecting the next UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression.” He also pointed out how Irene always praised China but never talked about Uyghur Muslims facing atrocities in China.

Mary Lawlor: Supporting Urban Naxals and making repeated false allegations against India

Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders at United Nations, is the co-author of the anti-India rant on the investigation against Rana Ayyub. Lawlor is also linked to Amnesty International. She was director of the Irish chapter of the organisation from 1988 to 2000.

Lawlor had repeatedly targeted India for arresting Bhima-Koregaon violence accused Stan Swamy, who died of old age-related illness in 2021. On his death, she had said his death would “forever remain a stain on India’s human rights record.”

She had been meddling in India’s internal matters and tried her best to paint a negative picture of India on the international platform in Swamy’s case. However, she conveniently ignored that the Indian security agencies had found evidence against Swamy and the court had found these allegations legitimate multiple times to refuse bail. There were allegations that Indian authorities did not provide medical assistance to Swamy, but contrary to the allegations, he was provided with the best possible medical care.

She also raised objection over the arrest of Kashmiri separatist activist Khurram Parvez who was arrested by the investigating agencies in a terror funding case. NIA had arrested Parvez in November 2021 on the charges of terror funding. He was booked under Sections 17 (raising funds for the terrorist act), 18 (conspiracy), 18B (recruiting of any person or persons for the terrorist act), 38 (offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation), and 40 (raising funds for a terrorist organisation) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

On February 22, a Delhi court sent him and two others to NIA custody February 25 for interrogation linked to the arrest of former IPS officer Arvind Digvijay Negi in connection to sending sensitive documents to terrorist organisation LeT.

It is notably both Special Rapporteurs had written to the government of India in November last year over investigation against Rana Ayyub and sought further details. In that letter as well, they had alleged the government of India was not providing security to Ayyub.

Allegations against Rana Ayyub

Rana Ayyub is facing an ED investigation for allegedly siphoning off the money she had collected for charity via crowdfunding platforms. On February 10, OpIndia had reported that ED seized Rs 1.77 crore in Ayyub’s and her family’s accounts under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The ED has, in its attachment order, said, “Rana Ayyub has cheated the general Public Donors in a pre-planned manner and with the intention to cheat the general public donors”.

A few days after the expose, Ayyub alleged in a statement that she was being framed for her “journalism” and she did not misuse the money. However, all her claims were debunked by a Twitter user Hawk Eye who was the first to share details of alleged charity fraud last year.

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OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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