The Indian government authorities are exploiting the recommendations of a global terrorism financing and money laundering watchdog (Financial Action Task Force, FATF) to target civil society groups and activists and deliberately hinder their work, Amnesty International said in its new briefing released to media. “Weaponizing counter-terrorism: India’s exploitation of terrorism financing assessments to target civil society” revealed how the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-a global body responsible for tackling terrorism financing and money laundering-had been abused by the Indian authorities to bring in draconian laws in a coordinated campaign to stifle the non-profit sector. These laws are in turn used to bring terrorism-related charges and, amongst other things, to prevent organizations and activists from accessing essential funds. “Under the guise of combatting terrorism, the Indian government has leveraged the Financial Action Task Force’s recommendations to tighten its arsenal of financial and counter-terrorism laws which are routinely misused to target and silence critics. The FATF must hold the Indian authorities accountable for the persistent weaponization of its recommendations,” said Aakar Patel, chair of the board at Amnesty International India. “By abusing these laws, the authorities in India have failed to comply with both FATF standards and international human rights law.” Non-governmental organizations in India require a “foreign contribution licence” to access foreign funds as established by the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). The introduction of this bill in 2006 coincided with India becoming an observer state of the FATF. Later in 2010, amendments were made to the act to improve India’s ‘non-compliant’ status. Since then, however, and specifically in the last ten years, more than 20,600 NGOs have had their licences cancelled with nearly 6,000 of these cancellations occurring since the beginning of 2022. In a survey by Amnesty International, 11 out of 16 NGOs (working on issues relating to minorities, marginalized groups and climate change) confirmed the arbitrary renunciation of their foreign contribution licences through suspensions, cancellations, and non-renewals. The organizations said that the authorities provided only vague reasons, including accusing them of “bringing disrepute to public institutions”, “working against public or national interest” or alluding to their human rights work. Most of the groups Amnesty International spoke to said they have had to reduce their staff by 50 to 80 percent, drastically affecting the scope of their work. “Almost all our programmes have been shut down … [We are] surviving just to fight the legal cases that have been filed against us,” one activist said. The 2020 and earlier amendments to the FCRA, however, do not conform with FATF’s Recommendation 8, which requires that laws and regulations target only those Non-Profit Organizations that a country has identified –through a careful, targeted “risk-based” analysis– as vulnerable to terrorism financing abuse. None of the NGOs Amnesty International spoke with were contacted for a “risk-assessment” by the Indian government, despite FATF having specifically highlighted the lack of outreach in its 2010 and 2013 Mutual Evaluation Reports.