I’ve now got a clearer picture of what is going on with the Amnesty / Moazzam Begg saga.
And it’s easy to see why this is a campaign to Amnesty and its work. On 14th Feb the journalist who kicked this all off – Richard Kerbaj – published another article titled: Second Amnesty chief attacks Islamist links.
But actually that wasn’t quite correct because Amnesty’s Asia director Sam Zarifi says the article “mischaracterizes” his views.
I do not oppose our current initiative working with Moazzam Begg in the recent European tour seeking to convince European states to receive more of the GuantÃ¡namo detainees who cannot be repatriated because of the risk of further human rights abuses.
As I told my programme staff in the internal email leaked to your paper, my concern has been that AIâ€™s campaigning has not been sufficiently clear that when we defend somebodyâ€™s right to be free from torture or unlawful detention, we do not necessarily embrace their views totally. [emphasis mine]
So will the Sunday Times and the blogs that quoted Zarifi initially issue a retraction? Fat chance. This is a straightforward campaign to malign Amnesty, and I’ll explain why.
Firstly. Gita Sahgal was not suspended for voicing her concerns in Amnesty’s internal debates – it was for going to the press. And it now looks like that there were lots of debates held internally at Amnesty to discuss Moazzam Begg so the organisation did not suppress any debate or ignore it.
Secondly Let’s also be clear about the situation here. I spoke to an Amnesty spokesperson last night who confirmed that Amnesty has no relationship with CagePrisoners at all.
As part of their ongoing campaign against closing Guantanamo, various Amnesty national sections (Ireland, Germany etc) have hosted talks with Moazzam Begg speaking merely to keep the issue alive. The events were organised in conjunction with Reprieve and the US Center for Constitutional Rights. In other words – there isn’t a lot for them to distance themselves from.
Third To reiterate, the events with Begg were purely around the issue of Gunatanamo Bay. They have no impact any other research. And given that most of Amnesty is split up into fairly autonomous national sections – that would be very difficult to achieve anyway.
A spokesperson told me: “We have campaigned hard and strong on those issues [around women's rights, especially when dealing with the Taliban] and nothing is compromised – he’s not been convicted of anything himself.”
Fourth Amnesty has also highlighted its recent research on the Taliban:
Most of our statements on [International Humanitarian Law] address both sides to the conflict, while explicitly recognizing that the Taleban are responsible for about 2/3 of all civilian casualties and that the Taleban, unlike NATO troops, pursue a systematic policy of targeting civilians (see, most recently on 2 December 2009, , in which we said: â€œAmnesty International said that it recognises that anti-government groups, including the Taleban, are responsible for the majority of civilian casualties and injuries. The organization said that this does not diminish the responsibility to offer support to those injured by Afghan and NATO/US forces and to bring those suspected of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law to justice.â€
Does that sound like an organisation influenced by Moazzam Begg to tone down its criticism of the Taliban? No it doesn’t. So the idea that Amnesty is run by white liberals too scared to criticise Islamist terrorists is frankly a pile of steaming horseshit.
Let me repeat that. Nick Cohen’s column in the Observer was a pile of horseshit.
Lastly Amnesty is right to say that as the highest profile British ex-Guantanamo detainee, they have a right to use him to continue highlighting the issue. I agree. Since coming back from Guantanamo he has said nothing (that I’ve seen) that he is lobbying for the Taliban to be recognise as a force for good.
If all he’s doing is highlighting human rights abuses and he’s ditched his previous radicalism, like many others, then I have no problem with that. If anyone wants to claim he is advocating terrorism then let’s see the evidence. Something that may sound like a call to arms if twisted around adequately and under the assumption he’s a liar is not good enough.
I think the statement by Sam Zarifi, who many were quick to jump on, says it all really.
[hat tip Earwicga]
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Filed in: Current affairs,Islamists,Media,Middle East