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Posts Tagged ‘Amnesty International

Only 30,000?

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Is this really surprisingly?

“LONDON (Reuters) – The United States has released several thousand Iraqi prisoners into Iraqi custody despite documented evidence that Iraqi security forces have abused detainees, Amnesty International said Monday.

The handover of prisoners occurred following the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq last month.

“Iraq’s security forces have been responsible for systematically violating detainees’ rights and they have been permitted to do so with impunity,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Yet, the U.S. authorities, whose own record on detainees’ rights has been so poor, have now handed over thousands of people detained by U.S. forces to face this catalogue of illegality, violence and abuse, abdicating any responsibility for their human rights.”

The Amnesty report documents thousands of arbitrary detentions and beatings of detainees to obtain forced confessions.

It estimated 30,000 people were being held without trial in Iraq and 10,000 of those were recently transferred from U.S. custody.

Amnesty said it believed several detainees had died, possibly as a result of what it described as torture and other ill-treatment by interrogators and prison guards.”

Over at AI.

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13/09/2010 at 02:54

Imagine If….

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This piece, unintentionally, highlights the dual standards which exist in the West, when it comes to the welfare of Israelis:

“Imagine if the UN announced tomorrow that it was suspending all UNWRA activities and funding in the Gaza Strip until Gilad Shalit was released. Imagine if the EU refused to allow imports of strawberries and flowers from Gaza until the Red Cross was granted regular access to Gilad in accordance with his rights under international law. Imagine if Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch or B’Tselem did more than release the occasional tepid statement. Imagine if the BBC and the Guardian actually reported this story with the same zeal and intensity as they invested in the kidnapping of Alan Johnston.”


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Please read Flesh is Grass’s Amnesty International is compromised.

My previous coverage of Gita Sahgal and AI.

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12/04/2010 at 19:50

Gita Sahgal On CBC.

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CBC’s The Current had an interview with Gita Sahgal on the 18th Febuary 2010:

“Amnesty Controversy – Sahgal

We started this segment with a clip of Moazzam Begg. He’s the founder of a group called CagePrisoners and a former prisoner himself at the United States Military Prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Since his release from Guantanamo, Moazzam Begg has been a high profile defender of the rights of others who have been imprisoned or detained in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. Among other things, he has worked with Amnesty International, one of the most widely respected human rights groups in the world.

And that is when Gita Saghal decided she had to draw a line. She was the head of Amnesty International’s Gender Unit until she was suspended from her post last week, after she publicly denounced Amnesty’s decision to work with Moazzam Begg and CagePrisoners. She argued that Moazzam Begg promotes extremist views that are incompatible with the defence of universal human rights and that the Amnesty’s reputation is tarnished by its association with him. Gita Saghal was in London, England.

Amnesty Controversy – Secretary General

For Amnesty International’s view of the situation, we were joined by Claudio Cordone. He is the organization’s interim Secretary General and he was in London, England.”

The MP3 of the programme is here.

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20/02/2010 at 02:53

WLUML Statement in Support of Gita Sahgal

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WLUML has issued a statement:

“The Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) international solidarity network expresses its solidarity with Gita Sahgal, a longstanding ally of the network who is active in various organisations, collectives, and movements committed to upholding universal human rights. As a feminist, anti-racist activist, filmmaker and researcher, Sahgal has devoted her career to exposing systematic discrimination and rights violations by state and non-state actors in Britain, South Asia and internationally. Much of this work has included rigorous research into transnational fundamentalist movements, and their intersections with human rights, especially those of women. In addition, Gita Sahgal is the Head of the Gender Unit at Amnesty International (AI).

WLUML has learned that she has repeatedly, and to no avail, raised internal inquiries into Amnesty International’s association with the organisation Cageprisoners, headed by Moazzam Begg, around the Counter Terror with Justice Campaign. British citizen Moazzam Begg was abducted in 2002 by American and Pakistani intelligence officers in Pakistan, to where he had fled from Afghanistan with his family soon after the US-led ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ bombing of the country began in retaliation for the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Begg was held first in Bagram detention facility and Kandahar, then detained in Guantánamo until he was released by the United States in 2005. Begg has never been charged with any terrorist-related offence or put on trial. In a book about his experiences, Enemy Combatant, co-authored with Victoria Brittain, he states that in 2001 he believed “the Taliban were better than anything Afghanistan has had in the past 25 years” and he is one of the current advocates of dialogue with the Taliban. Cageprisoners campaigns “to raise awareness of the plight of the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and other detainees held as part of the War on Terror”. Amnesty International’s Counter Terror with Justice Campaign calls for an end to human rights abuses at Guantánamo and other locations, and for those detained there to be brought to justice, in fair trials that respect due process. Gita Sahgal’s concern about a lack of transparency in AI’s partnerships led to Sahgal’s decision to approach the Sunday Times newspaper media about this issue. This resulted in an article by Richard Kerbaj published on 7 February 2010, entitled “Amnesty International is ‘damaged’ by Taliban link: An official at the human rights charity deplores its work with a ‘jihadist’” in which Kerbaj reports Sahgal’s suggestions that the charity has mistakenly allied itself with Begg and his “jihadi” group. The same day, Sahgal was suspended from her position as Head of the Gender Unit.
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18/02/2010 at 02:46

Southall Black Sisters Respond.

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Southall Black Sisters responds to Amnesty International’s suspension of Gita Sahgal following her criticism of the organisation for its close association with Moazaam Begg:

“We are gravely concerned at the way in which Amnesty International has sought to address Gita Sahgal’s criticism of its close collaboration with the likes of Moazzam Begg. Clearly, it must be right for the Head of its Gender Unit to interrogate Amnesty International as to who it chooses to associate with without fear of being sacked?

We admire and respect the work of Amnesty International to get women’s human rights on the agenda and we support Amnesty International’s campaign to highlight the plight of those who have been tortured, detained without trial and denied due process. However we believe that Amnesty International’s stance is being rightly questioned by organisations like ours who struggle to ensure that the debate on the War on Terror and religious fundamentalism is not reduced to the logic of ‘either you are with us or you are against us’. We have sought to avoid such dead ends which fail to illuminate how and why human rights violations are perpetrated either by States such as the US, UK and Israel or by all religious fundamentalist movements that are on the rise around the world. As women’s organisations, we have fought against considerable odds, to ensure that women’s human rights and those of other marginalised groups and minorities around the world are universally accepted and addressed as such, especially in the face of violence and persecution by non-state actors, including all religious right wing forces who masquerade as anti-imperialist, development, human rights and anti-racist movements.

Failing to acknowledge concerns that Gita Sahgal and others have raised about those who sympathise with or have close connections with anti-democratic religious right forces in all religions including the Taliban, signals the view that Amnesty International is not concerned about the rights of women and sexual minorities or freedom of expression.

Amnesty International’s attempt to equate Gita Sahgal’s legitimate concerns with the demonisation of Guantanamo inmates as the ‘other’ by the neoconservatives and their allies in the West, in our view, amounts to a denial and abrogation of internal and external accountability. What we need is a proper debate, not a closing down of debate of these important issues.

When so called victims of the War on Terror advocate ‘engagement’ with combatants – perhaps necessary to achieve peace – why are they not challenged on the authoritarian social and political agenda that they support? We know from experience around the world, including post war Iraq that women’s rights are the first to be traded in such political settlements!

If human rights are universal and indivisible – a view which we believe we share with Amnesty International – then it becomes all the more incumbent upon us all to double check who we take on as our partners. If, like us, Amnesty International accepts that the question should not be about whether some are more deserving of human rights than others, then it needs to urgently review its collaboration with those who sympathise with all religious fundamentalist forces however difficult this may be. The time has come for all liberals working within the human rights arena to engage their critical faculties, not suspend or leave them behind for fear of being labelled Islamaphobic, anti-semitic or racist. There is another way of looking at human rights – one which does not trade women’s rights or those of other vulnerable minorities for either the right to security or for the right to manifest religious identity.

Women Against Fundamentalism and Southall Black Sisters”

[My emphasis].

Written by modernityblog

12/02/2010 at 03:31

Keeping Up With Gita Sahgal And Amnesty International.

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When an event like this occurs it is often difficult to keep track of whose covering it and what are they saying.

Gita Sahgal has been incredibly brave, putting her own job on the line, how many people, in reality, would do that? Too few. Amnesty International’s despicable treatment of her and the wider implications need highlighting.

Thankfully there is a web site which is keeping track of these events, the media coverage and comments.

Please do visit Human Rights For All.

Update 1: The Women Against Fundamentalism site is here.

Update 2: Variant magazine’s interview with Gita Sahgal in 2002 can be found here.

Update 3: Rahila Gupta has a good piece in the Guardian:

“Within hours of the article appearing she was suspended from her job by Amnesty for, as Gita says in her statement, “trying to do my job and staying faithful to Amnesty’s mission to protect and defend human rights universally and impartially”. And for some hours yesterday, negative posts on Amnesty’s website were being filtered out.

We welcome whistleblowers when they expose wrongdoing in government or the corporate sector. This is not, technically, a case of whistleblowing because none of these activities were hidden – it was a failure to join the dots on the part of Amnesty about which a senior member of staff went public on principle.

Why should the third sector be immune from internal critics? It is a significant player in Britain: more people work in this sector than in banking, it influences the direction of government policy and public opinion, and consequently it should be held accountable like any other organisation. These debates need to be had in public rather than behind closed doors. Amnesty’s attempt to shut down the debate by using the same tactics as their opponents is shameful.”

Update 4: I forget if I gave this out before, but a reminder doesn’t hurt, the Facebook group Amnesty International You Bloody Hypocrites Reinstate Gita Sahgal has, of 3 minutes ago, some 716 members.

Update 5: BBC World Service Radio : Newshour speaks to Gita Sahgal.

Update 6: Flesh is Grass has a good post with details of Ms. Sahgal on Radio 4.

Update 7: The Facebook group (see update 4) now has 823 members.

Written by modernityblog

09/02/2010 at 13:57

Gita Sahgal’s Full Statement.

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From the F Word:

“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.”

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08/02/2010 at 13:38

Amnesty International And Gita Sahgal.

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Amnesty International do terrific work, but you get the impression sometimes that internally they’re playing games, games with people’s lives.

The appalling treatment of Gita Sahgal is one such example, Flesh is Grass highlights the issue:

“Amnesty International is one of the most serious and rigorous human rights agencies we have. I’m rooting for Amnesty.

I am deeply nervous about the way Amnesty is going.

They have suspended the head of their international secretariat’s gender union Gita Sahgal, ostensibly because of this interview with The Times. Sahgal objects to Amnesty’s involvement with the apologist for terror, Moazzam Begg, in the charity’s Counter Terror With Justice campaign.”

The Spittoon has more:

“Sahgal, a senior official at Amnesty International, has accused AI of legitimising the jihadist Moazzam Begg and his organisation Cage Prisoners. This is a hugely significant intervention which, we hope, will finally point much-needed spotlight on Amnesty’s continued patronisation of this known jihadist group and the activities of its directors.

Sahgal’s accusations are based on a fundamental point of principle, which is this: It is correct for Amnesty hold human rights positions on fair trial, torture, diplomatic assurances and work against renditions and the closure of Guantanamo Bay. However, these positions should also require us to hold salafi-jihadi groups and other religious absolutists accountable. Human rights abuses of torture, for example, should not be used to justify, legitimise and finally partner with proponents of violent jihad such as Moazzam Begg.”

Update 1: I’m still trying to make head or tails, of who said what and who believes what. This is not my subject area, so I am not terribly familiar with the various combatants, but David Aaronovitch adds some, How Amnesty chose the wrong poster-boy.

Update 2: I think this may have been the original contentious article at the Times.

Update 3: Paul Stott seems to know more than most on this topic, Amnesty International Begins To Wise Up To Moazzam Begg.

Update 4:Thanks to Stroppy for following events and highlighting how those people at Islamophobia Watch are now attacking women with the epithet of “nutty” and “cranks”.

You can’t get much lower politically than that, but I am sure the proprietors of Islamophobia Watch will try.

I think the comments by one of my readers, Leni, comes to the nub of the issue:

The abysmal treatment of women is unquestionably of paramount importance – one that is too often subsumed into a more general political perspective – in simple terms one of ‘don’t rock the boat’. I am trying to separate the women’s issue from all others. Without the genuine liberation of women and until attitudes towards them are fully freed from outmoded and repressive thinking societies cannot themselves be free – children continue to suffer and girls are often denied education and individual autonomy from early childhood.

Challenging repressive ideologies which trap women in a subservient position is to challenge the whole society and the foundations on which it is built. External pressure will not succeed until the women within have the courage and the backing of enough men to guarantee that women will not suffer even more.

Western women , in the early days , were imprisoned and force fed when necessary – they were not in danger of being killed or whipped.

It is tragic that Ms, Saghal has been silenced – or that an attempt to silence her has been made – by an organisation which supports the liberation of women. We have a long way to go.” [My emphasis]

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07/02/2010 at 21:40