A Joint Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission and Nervazhi, India.
This is a joint statement of the Asian Human Rights Commission and Nervazhi, Kerala, India.
Nervazhi is one of the many organisations that the AHRC works with throughout Asia.
In question and answer form we are explaining the basic aspects of the relationship between the two organisations.
The AHRC, based in Hong Kong, and Nervazhi are two human rights organisaitons that have acted in cooperation over a long period of time. In a sense, both have developed a very close relationship due to many years of work leading to a sound understanding.
However, it needs to be clarified that the cooperation between the two organisaitons is of a absolutely gratuitous nature. Neither of the organsisations benefits in any way, financially or otherwise, from this cooperation.
Q1: What is the nature of the work relationship between AHRC and Nervazhi and what is the nature of Nervazhi?
A1: Nervazhi is a well-recognized and well-known organization based in Kerela, India, working, in particular, on issues relating to civil rights, among which they specialize in the elimination of torture as the entry point to understanding, critiquing and helping to reform the criminal justice system of Kerela in particular, and, by indirect means, helps such reform throughout India. They are linked to civil society organisations as well as state agencies and academic and other organisations. The organization frequently engages in public debates on the TV and they are a sought-after organization on police-related human rights work. Among their daily activities, they advise clients on a free-of-charge basis at their office, which is a place that victims often frequent. If victims request, help is given for them to make their initial complaints at the police stations. As an organization linked to the poorest, showing concern for the less-educated, who are prevented from asserting their rights, is one of the aims of this organization. This involves money, power and other related problems. Again, if the victims request it, the organization provides legal assistance, meaning the assistance of a lawyer or paralegal, to help in their pursuit. Often, in some serious cases, like extrajudicial killings at police stations and torture, lawyers provided by Nervazhi constantly appear in courts and make representations on behalf of the aggrieved parties. The organization also helps victims to pursue the benefits of Indian law relating to the Right to Information (RTI). This has been a very useful tool to get the necessary information to be used in cases and other negotiations. In short, the organization tries to help the victims in every possible area so that they can assert their rights. The organization engages in public advocacy and education work. In all these areas, the organization has established its name and has developed large numbers of supporters. AHRC supports their work, which is in line with the above objectives.
Q2: What is the organizational structure of Nervazhi?
A2: Nervazhi has the organizational structure provided by Indian law, in which all the office-holders are elected by the members for limited periods. The authority of the office-bearers is on the basis of their election. The head of the organization is the General Secretary, who, for several years, has been Mr. Naveenachandran, who is a well-respected activist who has had a long career as a civil society leader. He began as a grassroots leader and, over the years, has acquired the sophistication need to deal with all the attendant matter to leading a people’s organization seeking fundamental changes in the legal and political structure of Kerela and India. He is supported by a committee consisting of persons from a variety of backgrounds. The committee meets often and critically assesses their progress.
Q3: What is the link Mr. Bijo Francis has with Nervazhi?
A3: Mr. Bijo Francis has been a friend and an active participant in helping the development of Nervazhi’s work. He has worked with a few others, like Professor KG Sankara Pillai – one of the best known poets and intellectuals in Kerela, and also a social activist – who has seen the need for an organsiation like Nervazhi for a long time. Mr. Francis has the friendship and confidence of Nervazhi. Like all other AHRC staff members, he also helps the development of local organisations because it is at the very essence of AHRC’s work.
All such work is done gratuitously and no remuneration or any other payment is expected or received for such purposes. Whatever titles he may have held within the organization from time to time is merely to facilitate some work – for example, if he works as a legal advisor, that is for the purpose of making representations in court on behalf of the people Nervazhi is helping. Other than that, none of these titles carry any weight in terms of the organization and its work. The day-to-day running of the organization is under the leadership of Mr. Naveenachandran and his colleagues.
Q4: Does Mr. Bijo Francis have any right to use or dispose of funds on behalf of Nervazhi?
A4: He does not have any such capacity. Nor has he exercised any such capacity at any time. In financial matters, Nervazhi has total control of its own finances and they also accept complete responsibility for all monies they have received and utilized. No other party has that responsibility.
Q5: What are the financial safeguards installed in the organization?
A5: The organization observes Indian law and keeps accounts in strict compliance with high standards, and has their accounts audited annually. Audited accounts are available to the public. The organization welcomes any questions and has a completely open and accountable attitude.
Q6: How are funds transferred for NGOs?
A6: The normal rule is to transfer money through banks as this is the safest method of transfer and also the safe method of keeping documentary proof of transfers. However, there are certain circumstances where a bank transfer is not possible due to circumstances that are not under our control. For example, many countries have a special regulations for the transfer of money particularly relating to NGO work. In India, this is under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, and there are problems for human rights organisations to obtain licenses under that Act. Due to such regulations, some of the most neglected sections of society do not get their needs met despite there being people who want to help in such circumstances.
Q7: What safeguards do you adopt in order to ensure that the money is received by the organization and that the money is used for the purposes that it was intended for by the organization?
A7: The first step is to request a receipt for the money with all the details contained in the receipt, like the amount, date, purpose and the like. Secondly, to ensure that the receipt arrives at the AHRC immediately after the money is transferred. Thirdly, to require the maintenance of details of expenditure and, at intervals – when required – to submit the details of such expenditure together with the receipts relating to such expenditure. What is implied in this is that AHRC has a right to request receipts, send reminders when such receipts do not arrive on time and also to question any items of expenditure that need to be explained. The receiving organization is under obligation to make such explanations.
Q8: What happens when, in the case of very small sums, the particular group that will use them is not yet a formally registered or recognized organization but, who, in the view of AHRC, are engaged in some urgent and necessary work that needs some support?
A8: Under these circumstances, which are very rare – for example, if a group of family members of disappeared persons want to make some application to court regarding their loved ones but they are not yet a recognized entity – what AHRC does is to go through the medium of a recognized organization and carries out the transaction through their intervention. Under such circumstances, the recognized organization helps as a go-between to ensure that the formalities are observed and that the money is spent for the purpose for which it is sent. In choosing such third organisations to help, we do so only with organisations with whom we have established a good link in the past.