Tyranny’s Friends at Amnesty International

Here’s a story anyone who has been watching the moral disintegration of Amnesty International has been expecting. The Sunday Times reports

A SENIOR official at Amnesty International has accused the charity of putting the human rights of Al-Qaeda terror suspects above those of their victims. Gita Sahgal, head of the gender unit at Amnesty’s international secretariat, believes that collaborating with Moazzam Begg, a former British inmate at Guantanamo Bay, “fundamentally damages” the organisation’s reputation.
In an email sent to Amnesty’s top bosses, she suggests the charity has mistakenly allied itself with Begg and his “jihadi” group, Cageprisoners, out of fear of being branded racist and Islamophobic.
Sahgal describes Begg as “Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban”. He has championed the rights of jailed Al-Qaeda members and hate preachers, including Anwar al-Awlaki, the alleged spiritual mentor of the Christmas Day Detroit plane bomber.
Sahgal, who has researched religious fundamentalism for 20 years, has decided to go public because she feels Amnesty has ignored her warnings for the past two years about the involvement of Begg in the charity’s Counter Terror With Justice campaign.
“I believe the campaign fundamentally damages Amnesty International’s integrity and, more importantly, constitutes a threat to human rights,” Sahgal wrote in an email to the organisation’s leaders on January 30. “To be appearing on platforms with Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban, whom we treat as a human rights defender, is a gross error of judgment.”

As Martin Bright says, ‘It is difficult to make a stand on these issues and keep one’s friends on the left and in the human rights community, so I take my hat off to Gita. I have often discussed with her how best to raise these issues and she has been deeply frustrated by the way the British liberal intelligentsia gives house-room to right-wing Islamists.’

Read the whole thing

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6 thoughts on “Tyranny’s Friends at Amnesty International

  1. Amnesty International and Cageprisoners

    Statement by Gita Sahgal

    7 February 2010

    This morning the Sunday Times published an article about Amnesty International’s association with groups that support the Taliban and promote Islamic Right ideas. In that article, I was quoted as raising concerns about Amnesty’s very high profile associations with Guantanamo-detainee Moazzam Begg. I felt that Amnesty International was risking its reputation by associating itself with Begg, who heads an organization, Cageprisoners, that actively promotes Islamic Right ideas and individuals.

    Within a few hours of the article being published, Amnesty had suspended me from my job.

    A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when a great organisation must ask: if it lies to itself, can it demand the truth of others? For in defending the torture standard, one of the strongest and most embedded in international human rights law, Amnesty International has sanitized the history and politics of the ex-Guantanamo detainee, Moazzam Begg and completely failed to recognize the nature of his organisation Cageprisoners.

    The tragedy here is that the necessary defence of the torture standard has been inexcusably allied to the political legitimization of individuals and organisations belonging to the Islamic Right.

    I have always opposed the illegal detention and torture of Muslim men at Guantanamo Bay and during the so-called War on Terror. I have been horrified and appalled by the treatment of people like Moazzam Begg and I have personally told him so. I have vocally opposed attempts by governments to justify ‘torture lite’.

    The issue is not about Moazzam Begg’s freedom of opinion, nor about his right to propound his views: he already exercises these rights fully as he should. The issue is a fundamental one about the importance of the human rights movement maintaining an objective distance from groups and ideas that are committed to systematic discrimination and fundamentally undermine the universality of human rights. I have raised this issue because of my firm belief in human rights for all.

    I sent two memos to my management asking a series of questions about what considerations were given to the nature of the relationship with Moazzam Begg and his organisation, Cageprisoners. I have received no answer to my questions. There has been a history of warnings within Amnesty that it is inadvisable to partner with Begg. Amnesty has created the impression that Begg is not only a victim of human rights violations but a defender of human rights. Many of my highly respected colleagues, each well-regarded in their area of expertise has said so. Each has been set aside.

    As a result of my speaking to the Sunday Times, Amnesty International has announced that it has launched an internal inquiry. This is the moment to press for public answers, and to demonstrate that there is already a public demand including from Amnesty International members, to restore the integrity of the organisation and remind it of its fundamental principles.

    I have been a human rights campaigner for over three decades, defending the rights of women and ethnic minorities, defending religious freedom and the rights of victims of torture, and campaigning against illegal detention and state repression. I have raised the issue of the association of Amnesty International with groups such as Begg’s consistently within the organisation. I have now been suspended for trying to do my job and staying faithful to Amnesty’s mission to protect and defend human rights universally and impartially.

  2. It’s little comfort to her of course, but Dr. Gill’s treatment emphasises as nothing else could, the rightness of her view.

    She has exposed the extremist pollution which has now spread to the once fiercely independent heart of the organisation.

    It’s deeply saddening, but perhaps others within
    Amnesty International will now have the courage to speak out.

  3. Of coure the left has been here before – in the days of the “no enemies to the left” policy. That led to some pretty disgusting links with Soviet style organisations that overlooked some dreadful human rights abuses in the Eastern bloc.

    But what is the slogan now – “no enemies to the -” well what exactly? – “The area where dwell religious mad men and extremists even if the throw acid in the eyes of muslim girls who simply want an education?” – presumably

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