Geneva-UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet voiced her dismay Tuesday at the arrest of activists in India and restrictions to the work of non-governmental organisations. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights appealed to New Delhi to safeguard the rights of human rights defenders and NGOs.

regretted what she called the application of vaguely worded laws that constrain NGOs’ activities and restrict foreign funding.

Bachelet took aim at the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which prohibits the  receipt of foreign funds “for any activities prejudicial to the public interest”. “The FCRA has been invoked over the years to justify an array of highly intrusive measures,” she said, including “official raids on NGO offices and freezing of bank accounts”. “I am concerned that such actions based on the grounds of vaguely defined ‘public interest’ leave this law open to abuse, and that it is indeed actually being used to deter or punish NGOs for human rights reporting and advocacy that the authorities perceive as critical in nature.”