Sunday, 14 February 2010

More internal criticism for Amnesty

In The Sunday Times, Second Amnesty chief attacks Islamist links, via Human Rights For All.

On Harry’s Place, Can Somebody Find A Lawyer To Represent Gita Sahgal? This post quotes another article in today’s Sunday Times, The conscience stifled by Amnesty. An excerpt:
To say the past week has been a difficult one for Sahgal would be an understatement. She fears for her own and her family’s safety. She has — temporarily at least — lost her job and found it almost impossible to find anyone to represent her in any potential employment case. She rang round the human rights lawyers she knows, all of whom have declined to help citing a conflict of interest. “Although it is said that we must defend everybody no matter what they’ve done, it appears that if you’re a secular, atheist, Asian British woman, you don’t deserve a defence from our civil right firms,” she says wryly.
Earlier I linked to an interview with Gita Sahgal on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme from Thursday last. On Friday the programme interviewed Widney Brown, senior director for international law and policy at Amnesty International, for a response.

It’s notable that Amnesty’s leadership continues to employ a defence that avoids addressing the point of the criticism, which is not to say there is anything wrong with defending the human rights of terror suspects, but that there is a problem in giving an uncritical platform to people who continue to promote a brutally discriminatory form of politics, thus granting their views legitimacy in the eyes of many.

It should be possible for Amnesty International to defend individual rights without allowing the organisation to become a tool of extremist propaganda, but only if they recognise the trap and act to avoid it.

Meanwhile The Guardian leaves me comfortable in my prejudice against that paper by seemingly managing to get through an entire week without printing a word on the story. However its sister paper, The Observer, publishes a column today by Nick Cohen touching on the case.

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