Leading NGO Amnesty International is lobbying with the US lawmakers to advocate for “protection of human rights defenders” in India among other countries, as also to seek “political pressure” on the American companies responsible for the Bhopal gas tragedy. It also wants the top leaders of the US and India to demonstrate “the importance of making the respect and protection of human rights an integral part of a just society”.
In its latest quarterly lobbying disclosure report filed with the US Senate last week, Amnesty International has listed “protection of human rights defenders” in India and several other countries among the “specific lobbying issues” for the quarter ended March 31. There are several other issues listed in the report, including the issues related to the Trump administration, on which it has lobbied with the Senate as well as various government departments in the US during this period.
While the lobbying report did not further explain the India-related lobbying issues, the global rights group told PTI, in reply to specific queries, that it raises human rights issues around the world at various levels of government to supplement its “research, campaigning and mobilisation to highlight various human rights issues and seek accountability”.
An analysis of previously disclosure reports filed by Amnesty shows that Amnesty has been lobbying on India-related issues in the past also, while in the year 2014 ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, one of the “specific issues” included that visit itself.
Under the US laws, all entities engaging in lobbying activities with the lawmakers and the government departments need to file a ‘lobbying disclosure report’ on a quarterly basis, listing out the lobby issues, the departments and offices approached and the costs involved.
Incidentally, Modi is expected to visit the US later this year.
Asked about the points of advocacy regarding this, Amnesty International India’s Executive Director Aakar Patel said the group has submitted “briefings to both governments on human rights concerns in each other’s countries” ahead of the bilateral meetings between the Indian prime minister and the US president since 2014.
“We intend to submit similar briefings in 2017 as well. Amnesty International believes that the leaders of the US and India — the oldest and largest democracies in the world — have a great responsibility to demonstrate the importance of making the respect and protection of human rights an integral part of a just society,” Patel said. With regard to India-related advocacy issues undertaken in the US, Amnesty said the primary focus has been the impunity for American companies for the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster.
“We have engaged the US government, including US Senate Committees, since 2014, consistently calling for the US government to apply political pressure to ensure that the US- based Dow Chemical Company and Union Carbide Corporation comply with Indian court orders, pay adequate compensation to the survivors and cover the costs of the clean-up of the Bhopal site. “We have worked with Indian authorities and US authorities to try to ensure that Dow Chemicals responds to the many official summons of the Bhopal court hearing this issue,” Patel said.
The rights group further said it also works with individual governments and the UN (United Nations) mechanisms to promote the work of human rights defenders at risk. “As HRDs come under sustained pressure and attacks across the world, Amnesty International considers their safety to be among the most important human rights issues at hand presently.
Some of the HRDs whose work we have highlighted in the US and elsewhere include Irom Sharmila and Santosh Yadav,” Patel said.
Explaining the advocacy issues ahead of Modi’s visit to the US in 2014, he said Amnesty had sent to the Prime Minister’s Office at that time an “advocacy brief”.
This “brief” constrained information on on US-related human rights issues including justice for the 1984 Bhopal disaster, impunity for US military forces in Afghanistan, attacks on civil liberties in Ferguson, unlawful killings in Pakistan through drone attacks, and NSA surveillance programmes.
“We also sent (the then) President Obama a briefing on human rights issues in India, including the Bhopal gas disaster, corporate accountability for US companies investing in India, violence against women, and justice for marginalised communities,” he added.
Amnesty further said it also made joint calls to the Indian prime minister and the US president in 2015 during the Obama’s state visit to India to ask them to “work together on delivering justice on Bhopal”.
“In 2016, ahead of PM Modi’s visit to the US, we submitted a briefing about the Bhopal issue, pointing out how it was deeply troubling that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) had in September 2015 questioned a legitimate request from a Bhopal court summoning Dow to explain why UCC had not appeared before the court,” Patel said. “The DOJ had, wrongly, questioned the basis for serving notice on Dow on the grounds that Dow acquired UCC 15 years after the disaster, and that UCC and Dow remained separate corporate entities,” he explained.