This campaign to undermine Amnesty is shameful


by Sunny
16th February, 2010 at 10:06 am    

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 Guantánamo 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 AI’s campaigning has not been sufficiently clear that when we defend somebody’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: “Amnesty 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.”

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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  1. Why evidence is everything « Harpymarx

    [...] evidence is everything 16 02 2010 I think Sunny makes a lot of very good and pertinent points in his post about the Amnesty, Gita Sahgal and Moazzam Begg. I was troubled about this right from [...]


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  12. Benjamin Titze

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  13. ‘Times’ (UK) corrects its neocon attack on Human Rights Watch

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  1. Faisal — on 16th February, 2010 at 10:16 am  

    I think the statement by Sam Zarifi, who many were quick to jump on, says it all really.

    It does say it all, but not in the way you think it does. I’m glad you’ve printed what Sam Zarifi has said.

    And pinning your support of Begg on Zarifi’s statement says much more about your inner-confusion and desperation! :-)

    As for your points:

    1) Gita Sahgal sent internal memos expressing her concern about partnering with Begg which were rebuffed before. So that is why she finally went to the press.
    2) Your conversation with an “Amnesty” official contradicts their own statement on Begg in which they insist defiantly that they will continue to work “alongside” him.
    3) Partnering with Begg, who promotes jihadist views, most certainly does damage Amnesty’s work, which it is valuable to support

  2. MiriamBinder — on 16th February, 2010 at 10:18 am  

    In view of the allegations of and involvement in Human Rights abuses even of the so called upholders of these fundamental rights, Britain and the USA to name but two, the attempt to sideline AI is not surprising; sad, sick but not surprising …

  3. Morrigan — on 16th February, 2010 at 10:22 am  

    “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.”

    Then…

    “I spoke to an Amnesty spokesperson last night who confirmed that Amnesty has no relationship with CagePrisoners at all… In other words – there isn’t a lot for them to distance themselves from.”

    Something doesn’t stack up there. If there was nothing to worry about, why the vigorous internal debates?

  4. Phomesy — on 16th February, 2010 at 10:23 am  

    You’ve gone mad, Sunny. Totally troppo. Rather sad really.

  5. Faisal — on 16th February, 2010 at 10:27 am  

    Amnesty International’s work is invaluable and anyone who has lived in Bangladesh in particular knows first hand just how valuable that work has been; on programs such as violence against women, child labour etc.

    Which is why it is essential Amnesty extracate themselves from this mess as quickly as possible by disassociating themselves from the values and personal politics of a jihadist like Moazzam Begg – whom they have partnered with, toured and “worked alongside” with so closely. Begg is a jihadist who has no interest in upholding universal human rights such gender equality and right to religious freedom.

    So it essential for Amnesty to close ties with Amnesty to maintain their objectivity on universal human rights.

    Sunny, your defence of Amnesty undermines the principles that Amnesty was founded on.

  6. johd — on 16th February, 2010 at 10:31 am  

    everything you need to know about CagePrisoners is encapsulated in this video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wk3707UhmvA

    which you can also find on their facebook page

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2352177051&ref=search&sid=690290499.2522344718..1

    Now ask yourself, if this video – which laments the arrest and imprisonment of ppl like Abu Hamza and Richard Reid – instead presented a bunch of neo Nazi terrorists as victims who we should pray for, would Sunny be defending them? And before you say it, YES ppl like Abu Hamza are the same as Nazis, just swap racial with religious supremacy.

    this is absurd

  7. George — on 16th February, 2010 at 10:36 am  

    …and this pile of self righteous cadre’s of the Left ultimately falls on itself.

    This events merely recognise what has been happening with so many of these pressure groups. They have been systematically taken over by self interested groups…and its interesting how many of them are happy clappy with violent fundamentalist religion.

  8. Jon — on 16th February, 2010 at 10:39 am  

    The fact is, people like Nick Cohen, and corporate lawyers like David Toube at Harry’s Place, have always had their own agenda against human rights organisations generally – AI, Human Rights Watch etc. They gave the game away years ago when Amnesty International was singled out for criticism at the now defunct Euston Manifesto.

    Begg is persona non grata, on their blacklist, and using their tried and tested methods of smear by association, and throwing as much mud as will stick, they are out to get Amnesty. This part of a broader agenda. With their obvious pro-war positions (Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran if it comes to it), and scarcely hidden neo-conservative outlook, it is perfectly logical that the likes of Cohen, HP etc will be opposed to Amnesty, HRW. I am sure they would have go at Reprieve and Clive Stafford Smith too, the opportunity arising. It is all one grand game of smear by association.

    Cohen is a well heeled newspaper columnist, and I once asked him about his new found interest in international human rights issues. I asked him if, as such a lover of AI principles, he had been previously in AI or HRW campaigns. He did not answer. The answer is obvious – he has never had such an interest, has never worked with Amnesty or other such organisation on challenging campaigns. He has no history whatsoever in the human rights movement – and the same can be said of corporate boys like David Toube.

  9. saeed — on 16th February, 2010 at 10:42 am  

    So it essential for Amnesty to close ties with cp to maintain their objectivity on universal human rights.

    sunny has posted that AI objectivity isn’t affected by its associatiion with begg…

    if you can give some evidence as to the ‘affect’ AI’s association with CP is having I would love to see it…personal insults (rather than facts) is what decents like you deal in…

    Also you admit ‘objectivity’ or the perception of ‘objectivity’ is more important than campaiging for, and on behalf of, victims of Human rights abuses…

    perpetrators of human rights abuses can also become victims…AI brief is to defend all, regardless of peoples nationality, sexuality, race, creed or POLITICAL ORIENTATION…

  10. johd — on 16th February, 2010 at 10:45 am  

    jon,

    what a ridiculous comment. stop obfuscating the basic issues here – Begg supports religious neo-fascists, and is proud of it. why on earth should AI have anything to do with him now? He is no longer at Gitmo, they have done their part, now there is no need to continue supporting him. There have also been prisoners of conscience in Germany and Austria, usually revolting Nazis who deny the holocaust, would AI also take up their cause? Would anyone here take up their cause?

  11. FlyingRodent — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:04 am  

    Would anyone here take up their cause?

    Well, they campaigned on behalf of IRA prisoners and lots of people accused Amnesty of OMG teh ultimate librul betrayal back then too, apparently. I’d say history has proven kinder to AI than it has to the policies in place at the Maze, even though the IRA really were a horrible bunch.

  12. Faisal — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:11 am  

    Perhaps you should have changed the title of this to:

    “Why We Must Support Amnesty’s Partnership With Cageprisoners And The Human Right To Wage Jihad Only Because Nick Cohen Created a Facebook Group Which Opposed Gita Sahgal’s Suspension”

    It would be far appropriate not to mention truthful.

  13. MiriamBinder — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:12 am  

    @ johd # 10 – You really don’t get it do you.

  14. David T — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:16 am  

    I believe in freedom of expression and oppose Holocaust denial laws.

    However, I would oppose Amnesty touring around David Irving to talk about his experiences in prison.

    Hits on the Amnesty UK site for Begg: 1,610

    Hits on the Amnesty UK site for David Irving: None.

  15. Paul Moloney — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:23 am  

    “The fact is, people like Nick Cohen, and corporate lawyers like David Toube at Harry’s Place, have always had their own agenda against human rights organisations generally – AI, Human Rights Watch etc. They gave the game away years ago when Amnesty International was singled out for criticism at the now defunct Euston Manifesto. ”

    Ah, so the enemy of the enemy is my friend – the only principle the hard-left seem to have these days.

    “I’m in favour of defending gay rights, [...] but I am not prepared to have it as a shibboleth, [created by] people who . . . regard the state of Israel as somehow a viable presence.”
    – Lindsay German

    P.

  16. resistor — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:33 am  

    I think Faisal’s contributions have to be understood in the context of his blog’s right-wing pro-Israel pro-war pro-torture affiliations i.e. Harry’s Place,the Quilliam Foundation, Standpoint and especially the so-called Centre for Social Cohesion.

    http://neoconeurope.eu/The_Spittoon

    Will he disassociate himself from Douglas Murray’s neo-con organisation?

    After all, it was Murray who said, ‘It is late in the day, but Europe still has time to turn around the demographic time-bomb which will soon see a number of our largest cities fall to Muslim majorities. It has to. All immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop. In the case of a further genocide such as that in the Balkans, sanctuary would be given on a strictly temporary basis. This should also be enacted retrospectively… Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board: Europe must look like a less attractive proposition.’

  17. earwicga — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:35 am  

    Agreed.

  18. Faisal — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:43 am  

    my comments are now being sent to the Spam filter so what I have said in response to resistor is not displaying.

  19. Faisal — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:45 am  

    the Quilliam Foundation, eh?

    Last October, the director of the Quilliam Foundation, Ed Husain, stated that it was morally acceptable for the State to spy on Muslims as part of the Prevent initiative. It turned out that Prevent has nothing to do with applying Security (that would be another initiative called Pursue). Furthermore, Ed Husain did not specify extremists were the only ones applicable but rather “British Muslims” as a whole were acceptable subjects. For this inexplicable statement, Husain was severely reprimanded both in public and behind closed doors by senior government sponsors of Prevent. Husain was then forced to make a hurried retraction but Hundal supported Quilliam on the question of spying to the hilt. In fact, these were his words here.

    You will note that we criticised Sunny Hundal on the “Spying on Muslim Criminals is OK” issue, when Hundal supported Quilliam on that one.

  20. FlyingRodent — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:47 am  

    Well David, I remind you that David Irving was imprisoned by accountable public servants in the public eye, with the right to receive visitors, to good treatment and to appeal his sentence, if he could find good grounds to do so.

    The American international black prison network is a legal black hole into which an unknown number of persons guilty and innocent – we have no way of finding out who’s who – have vanished, beyond judicial oversight and, in some cases, beyond all hope of return.

    As has been regularly documented – thanks in no small part to groups like Amnesty – the network has been torturing prisoners for much of the decade with the explicit intention of driving them to a point of such exhaustion and despair that they will then sign false confessions and implicate others. These false confessions and dubious admissions have then been used by the prison’s operators and the US government to justify the retention of black prisons and the techniques therein.

    Nor will we ever hear what’s happened to these disappeared prisoners, since the jailers, torturers and murderers have been granted immunity from prosecution. It is, in short, a Kafkaesque nightmare of unaccountable state secrecy, arbitrary detention and violence of the type that organisations like Amnesty should be raising awareness of.

    So, to get back to your point (and I’m more than aware that the Begg/Irving comparison is your usual excuse to kick off on your I-Spy-IslamoNazeyes routine)…

    Begg isn’t Irving – Bagram isn’t Barlinnie. It’s a foolish and unserious comparison.

    And by the way, if your response to this is Well sure, the black prison network is bad, but then you are in no position to start lecturing Amnesty on what their original mission does and doesn’t require them to do.

  21. Effendi — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:51 am  

    “resistor” isn’t the hard-left anti-Muslim/pro-Islamist bigot of Islamistphobia-Watch, is he?

  22. David T — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:56 am  

    David Irving was imprisoned for lying about history.

    It is a different sort of human rights abuse than seeking to argue that suspected jihadists should not have their detention reviewed by a judge.

  23. MoreMediaNonsense — on 16th February, 2010 at 12:03 pm  

    Anyone who thinks there is no problem with HR groups giving too much time and credence to Islamists should read this on Gita Saghal’s site :

    http://www.human-rights-for-all.org/spip.php?article18

    “We, Algerians, survivors, family or friends of victims of fundamentalist violence and violations in Algeria,

    Informed of the stand publicly taken by a senior officer of an international human rights organization in a desperate attempt to demand answers to her questions regarding the relationship between her organization and a former Guantanamo prisoner, supporter of the Taliban’s societal project, going far beyond the defense of his basic human rights which, the senior officer condones and considers legitimate.

    Thank and praise this officer for keeping up with the ideal and mission of human rights and for daring to challenge the ideological confusion between defending the rights of fundamentalists and giving them the legitimacy and status of defenders of rights and offering them a political platform,

    Testify to the fact

    That, for the past two decades at the very least, we repeatedly drew the attention of major human rights organizations to this burning issue, questioned their policies and had major confrontations with them – in vain,

    That violations committed in our country by fundamentalists armed groups were grossly under reported (despite documentation and testimonies made available to mainstream human rights organizations) and their victims mostly left without defense, while State violations committed against fundamentalists were highlighted and the defense of their human rights taken up,

    That we repeatedly denounced this hierarchy among victims of human rights violations – in vain,”

    No doubt these people are also “neocon Zionists” or “associates of Nick Cohen” as far as Sunny is concerned, so should automatically be ignored.

  24. FlyingRodent — on 16th February, 2010 at 12:11 pm  

    @David T. It is a different sort of human rights abuse than seeking to argue that suspected jihadists should not have their detention reviewed by a judge.

    Do I detect a realisation that your argument doesn’t stand up to a second’s scrutiny?

    I’ll refer you to my previous comment and note that “suspected jihadists not having their detention reviewed” is probably the least criminal activity we’re talking about here; further, it’s been repeatedly demonstrated that the US prison network is not overly concerned whether it imprisons the guilty or the innocent – nor whether it simply beats the guilty and innocent to death with complete impunity then lies about it, for that matter.

    Of course, all of this is mere waffle if you recall that human rights are for everyone, and not just nice people – if your argument is that suspected jihadists should have no rights, then say so.

  25. Salil — on 16th February, 2010 at 12:12 pm  

    Sunny,

    You write that you have a clearer picture of what’s going on at Amnesty after your conversation with a spokesperson last night. I wish you could clarify what’s clearer, because I’d like to know more. Based on Sam Zarifi’s statement about the way the Sunday Times article was written, you have concluded that “it seems there were lots of debates held internally.” That’s your assumption, Sunny. It should be noted that Zarifi’s email has been written after Gita Sahgal’s suspension, not before. It would be good for the many who wish Amnesty well to know the kind of internal debate that had taken place within Amnesty before the decision was made to work with Cageprisoners.

    You’ve said that Amnesty’s sections are “fairly autonomous.” They may be in certain practices and contexts, but not so in general terms. Its campaigns are designed with meticulous detail, with instructions on how certain issues need to be highlighted and projected, so that the organisation speaks with one voice. It is not an uncoordinated exercise, and country sections are not supposed to speak out of turn.

    Finally, I don’t think anyone sane is questioning Amnesty’s research on Taliban, or Amnesty’s commitment to end torture and ending detentions against international standards. Indeed Amnesty does both, and anyone who cares for human rights would want Amnesty to continue to do both.

    Thanks.

  26. Efrafan Days — on 16th February, 2010 at 12:12 pm  

    >> You will note that we criticised Sunny Hundal on the “Spying on Muslim Criminals is OK” issue,

    I’m a bit lost, Faisal. I agreed with Effendi’s point, but surely spying on any sort of criminal is okay?

    Sunny, typically, takes a blogger’s view of this in which he sees it as a match between individuals… to object to Begg’s *as* *an* *individual* is to endorse his treatment at an ex jure institution; to object to AI’s formal partnering with Begg and CP is to object, sui generis, to AI.

    No it doesn’t and no it doesn’t (in that order).

  27. bananabrain — on 16th February, 2010 at 12:13 pm  

    it is possible that “resistor” may well be that bloke who works for that imbecile professor from strathclyde university. i’ve just had a look up there and they’re describing my support for the ray hanania peace plan (which was kindly cross-posted both here and at harry’s place) as typical of “right-wing zionists” drawing “parallels between the two situations to absolve Israel of its obligations under International law”.

    oh – and “The website seems to accept Israeli claims to all of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

    i mean, seriously? seriously? these nincompoops have not the least idea of our actual views – which is astonishing, considering they claim to have been reading them.

    sometimes i really despair of this country.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  28. bananabrain — on 16th February, 2010 at 12:30 pm  

    oh, by the way – i am not interested in undermining amnesty per se, i think they do important work, although i think they sometimes fail to give the israeli side of things due credit. nonetheless, i would be satisfied if they explained why they think “partnering” cageprisoners is still a good enough idea to sack gita sahgal over it, given that our good friend mr begg is and has very clearly, obviously been and continues to be a big beardy jihadi who supports not only jihadis who have been held without benefit of due process (which i disagree with) but even jihadis who have been condemned by due process in the uk courts. i also think i’d like to hear why they don’t partner with right-wing and neo-nazi groups in the interests of fairness. i mean, i don’t mind them having a preference, but at least they ought to be open about it. what they are doing at the moment, in the pungent phrase of josey wales, ignoring moazzam begg pissing down our backs and telling us it’s raining….and that we made it rain – and we’re not allowed an umbrella.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  29. cjcjc — on 16th February, 2010 at 12:34 pm  

    Hitchens nails it here:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2244802

  30. Efrafan Days — on 16th February, 2010 at 12:34 pm  

    Note also Sunny’s earlier posts… about why Sahgal and Begg, and why they’re *all* wrong.

    Only Sunny is right.

  31. Effendi — on 16th February, 2010 at 12:34 pm  

    it is possible that “resistor” may well be that bloke who works for that imbecile professor from strathclyde university

    Yes you’re probably right bb. From the anti-Muslim, anti-semitic and pro-Islamist site NeoconEurope.

  32. BenSix — on 16th February, 2010 at 12:54 pm  

    Faisal -

    Begg is a jihadist who has no interest in upholding universal human rights such gender equality and right to religious freedom.

    Come on – the fact that he has some unsavoury links (and, very possibly, unsavoury views) doesn’t mean that he embodies them. By what definition is he a “jihadist“?

    By the way, Hitchens doesn’t “nail it“. He implies that CagePrisoners are dodgy because they defend them rights of suspected terrorists, not because – as in the view of most here – they sympathise with their apparent views.

  33. cjcjc — on 16th February, 2010 at 12:57 pm  

    Not suspected terrorists – convicted terrorists.

    Dodgy enough for you?

  34. Morrigan — on 16th February, 2010 at 1:11 pm  

    Ben Six

    “By what definition is he a “jihadist“?”

    Erm, by the definition that he travelled to Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya to give financial ‘but not combat’ support to jihadis in those countries?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moazzam_Begg

  35. BenSix — on 16th February, 2010 at 1:15 pm  

    Oh, how charming; this is getting confrontational. Firstly, even convicted terrorists have rights, and there’s nothing wrong with defending them. Expressing sympathy with the acts that got ‘em banged up – that’s a different matter. Simply asserting their innocence – as I believe it’s alleged CP have done – that’d be foolish, and plausibly malicious, as well. Simply “defending” the convicted, however, isn’t enough to be, er – convicted.

  36. dave bones — on 16th February, 2010 at 1:24 pm  

    I agree. Sam Zarifi’s leaked email clarifies the problem Amnesty have had which has lead to all this trouble. I would imagine most here if they spoke to Mozzam or Adnan or anyone from Caged Prisoners organization would find them very British, very polite and very approachable. They might not, however, share their ideals for the future of humanity.

    I don’t believe anyone wants to damage the wider work of Amnesty by critisizing them on this issue, but what is missing in this debate, and what is missing in law since the terr-ism act is a distinction between defensive and offensive jihad, which makes it a bit too easy for people who really want to to connect the dots between Amnesty and Osama Bin Laden via Mozzam Begg. That is the perception problem Amnesty have.

  37. BenSix — on 16th February, 2010 at 1:33 pm  

    Erm, by the definition that he travelled to Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya to give financial ‘but not combat’ support to jihadis in those countries?

    Why, our government supported “Muslim combatants” in Bosnia! I’m perfectly willing to accept that Begg supported some damned unsavoury people – heck, I’d say the same for our government – but you’ve got to be clear on what you’re actually accusing him of. Besides, the fact that he supported it then wouldn’t necessarily mean that he supports it now.

  38. Effendi — on 16th February, 2010 at 1:35 pm  

    “By what definition is he a “jihadist“?”

    According to Anwar al-Awlaki, if you believe in the ultra-sectarian Salafi concept of al wala’ wa al-bara’, (loyalty to Muslims and enmity to non Muslims), as a point of fundamental principle, you would self-identify as a jihadist. You would agree to this:

    “If a Muslim kills each and every civilian disbeliever on the face of the earth he is still a Muslim and we cannot side with the disbelievers against him.”

    If like Anwar al-Alaki you support the Somalian militia, al-Shabab, a group which executed a 13 girl for not being a virgin at her betrothal because she had been gang-raped, you will support his endorsement:

    “Al-Shabab not only have succeeded in expanding the areas that fall under their rule but they have succeeded in implementing the sharia and giving us a living example of how we as Muslims should proceed to change our situation. The ballot has failed us but the bullet has not.”

    Begg agrees to all of these things by publishing them on the Cageprisoners website in which he promotes the views of Anwar al-Awlaki. CP also published Awlaki’s book on tafsir (exegesis) to promote the man as some kind of religious authority. This suggests that Begg is not only a jihadist, he self-identifies as one.

  39. BenSix — on 16th February, 2010 at 1:43 pm  

    Begg agrees to all of these things by publishing them on the Cageprisoners website in which he promotes the views of Anwar al-Awlaki.

    Sorry, where did Begg publish these opinions (let alone agree with them)?

    This suggests that Begg is not only a jihadist, he self-identifies as one.

    That’s a book review.

  40. halima — on 16th February, 2010 at 1:44 pm  

    “and what is missing in law since the terr-ism act is a distinction between defensive and offensive jihad, which makes it a bit too easy for people who really want to to connect the dots between Amnesty and Osama Bin Laden via Mozzam Begg.’

    I think this nails it, actually.

    People who want to join the dots will join the dots for their own reasons, and I doubt it’s out of concern for AI, Begg or human rights generally.

    I think Sahgal, Begg and Amnesty are all casualties of a broader smear against human rights generally – and the sad irony of it all, is that one is pitted against the other when in fact, there would’ve been a time and place when they’d all be on the same side.

    Who’s it all benefiting?

  41. AlyF — on 16th February, 2010 at 1:46 pm  

    I lean towards your position here Sunny, in that I’ve yet to be persuaded by anyone that Amnesty have done anything untoward in their relationship with Begg.

    However the best comment on this I’ve seen was from the chair of a local Amnesty group (in Leeds, I think) on one of the Cif threads, who talked about how damaging all of this is to the vast amount of work done by AI in all arenas all over the world, and how he utterly despaired of everyone involved in this squabble.

    As I see it, Sahgal had an internal argument with other senior AI staff, and she lost that argument. At that point, the correct thing to do was to either keep arguing until she won, resign on grounds of conscience, or swallow it and get on with her job.

    Instead she went to the press and tried to fight the battle in public. That is highly unprofessional and irresponsible and damage to AI was inevitable.

    Meanwhile Amnesty over-reacted in suspending her, and played it badly wrong in refusing to come out to give their side of the story (presumably fearing legal action from Sahgal). That made the situation worse.

    Personally I’d like to take Sahgal, take the AI senior staff, and just bang their heads together.

  42. cjcjc — on 16th February, 2010 at 1:48 pm  

    How precisely is Sahgal a casualty of a “broader smear against human rights generally”?

    And Begg is not (so far) any kind of casualty – until now at least he must have been laughing his head off at AI’s naivety.

  43. BenSix — on 16th February, 2010 at 1:50 pm  

    …until now at least he must have been laughing his head off at AI’s naivety.

    Laughing in celebration?

  44. Sunny — on 16th February, 2010 at 1:52 pm  

    Hold on – the idiots from Spittoon are accusing me of having unsavoury links? That’s fucking hilarious. Sorry but I don’t need preaching from bloggers who spend thimeir day making baseless accusations and smearing people. Not to say failing to understand basic English.

    Anyway, I expected the usual gaggle of trolls to show some outrage. Water off a duck’s back. More on this soon.

  45. Effendi — on 16th February, 2010 at 1:54 pm  

    BenSix, he will never say those things. He will simply continue being an apologist and a promoter of Anwar al-Awlaki.

    Here is Begg gushing forth a beautiful near-Mandela apologia of the cleric in question.

    http://www.cageprisoners.com/print.php?id=30886

    A cursory look at Awlaki’s pre-incarceration lectures would clearly show just why he became so popular. He was not a radical ‘preacher of hate’ by any stretch of the imagination. Whilst teaching Islamic principles in an erudite and articulate way – he neither shied away from talking about the Islamic concept of jihad (in military terms) nor from condemning the September 11 attacks and terrorism in general. Although the last thing Awlaki said to me was if I could get help him find a copy of a book by a convicted terrorist: Nelson Mandela (Long Walk to Freedom) I wonder if its terribly surprising if an Imam who once condemned the attacks on the World Trade Centre as unIslamic acts, after suffering abuse I know only too well US agents to be capable of, now allegedly lauds the Fort Hood shootings deeds of heroism? Of course, as usual, what’s missing in all the discussion about Awlaki is Awlaki. Other than a defunct blogsite and allegations by US and Yemeni officials that he’s behind it all there isn’t a great deal to go on. Nonetheless, Cageprisoners never has and never will support the ideology of killing innocent civilians, whether by suicide bombers or B52s, whether that’s authorised by Awlaki or by Obama. Neither will we be forced into determining a person’s guilt outside a recognised court of law. That is one of the reasons I joined Cageprisoners.

  46. Effendi — on 16th February, 2010 at 1:57 pm  

    “Hold on – the idiots from Spittoon are accusing me of having unsavoury links?”

    You’re actually only a blogger Sunny, a small insignificant commentator on this incident concerning Human Rights as a touchstone for set of very big ethical questions. Like the rest of us.

    This issue is bigger than you and your haircut.

  47. cjcjc — on 16th February, 2010 at 1:58 pm  

    Neither will we be forced into determining a person’s guilt outside a recognised court of law.

    He might as well have added: “or inside one, come to that”.

  48. BenSix — on 16th February, 2010 at 2:01 pm  

    Effendi -

    Yes – this doesn’t support your allegation that Begg “agrees [with] all of these things” or “self-identifies as [a Jihadist]“.

    This issue is bigger than you and your haircut.

    Just about anything’s bigger than Sunny’s haircut.

  49. Jon — on 16th February, 2010 at 2:10 pm  

    Paul Moloney,

    I am just pointing out what David Toube is: a corporate lawyer who has no history working for ANY human rights organisation. Similarly, Hitchens and Cohen are well paid to write columns for newspapers – but again have no history of active, sustained involvement in the human rights movememt.

    If these individuals had such a history, then logic will compel me to form the view that their interest in Amnesty today may be about human rights work – a genuine, proven interest.

    However, its clear they have other motives.

  50. Morrigan — on 16th February, 2010 at 2:12 pm  

    BenSix

    “Just about anything’s bigger than Sunny’s haircut”

    Except Sunny’s manhood.

  51. David T — on 16th February, 2010 at 2:15 pm  

    Have you worked at Amnesty Jon/Benji?

  52. Muslim — on 16th February, 2010 at 2:17 pm  

    Sunny

    Hold on – the idiots from Spittoon are accusing me of having unsavoury links? That’s fucking hilarious. Sorry but I don’t need preaching from bloggers who spend thimeir day making baseless accusations and smearing people. Not to say failing to understand basic English.

    Quite. Spitoon publishes articles linking to the loony anti-Muslim FrontPage magazine and Harrys Place. One of its editors Houriya Ahmed works for the Centre for Social Cohesion (sic) led by Douglas Murray the man who said these chilling words:

    “It is late in the day, but Europe still has time to turn around the demographic time-bomb which will soon see a number of our largest cities fall to Muslim majorities. It has to. All immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop…. Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board: Europe must look like a less attractive proposition.”

    How’s that for unsavoury links?

  53. Jon — on 16th February, 2010 at 2:17 pm  

    For example, if Harry’s Place was genuinely interested in universal human rights it would link to HRW, Amnesty, Reprieve, and numerous other organisations within the human rights movement. It does not, and furthermore, no one can suggest that it writes about human rights issues generally; only if they connect with the two ethno-religious groups that now form its all-consuming obsession: Muslims and Jews.

  54. David T — on 16th February, 2010 at 2:18 pm  

    Have you worked at Amnesty?

  55. Jon — on 16th February, 2010 at 2:23 pm  

    My name is Jon, and I certainly have. The picture that you paint of Amnesty (of another one of your stories of a Muslim or Trot takeover) does not accord with reality.

    Amnesty is a democratic institution, and Saghal is fully engaged in the debates going on in Amnesty about this and other matters. Speaking to the hostile Murdoch press (Murdoch, friend of the commie dictatorship in China – who censors the news and bans books for them) does not move forward the debate. It just allows those who will always be hostile – corporate lawyers, well paid newspaper columnists etc – who have never worked or contributed to Amnesty, to attack Amnesty and undermine its valuable work.

  56. David T — on 16th February, 2010 at 2:24 pm  

    Thank you.

  57. steve — on 16th February, 2010 at 2:41 pm  

    just to reiterate – it is astonishing that nick cohen is posing as a true defender of human rights in all this given that he has in the past advocated the use of torture.

  58. Effendi — on 16th February, 2010 at 2:44 pm  

    How’s that for unsavoury links?

    I tell you this, I’ve never shared an Amnesty International platform with Douglas Murray. So I don’t feel compelled to write 3 lengthy blog posts to justify his views. You have grievances with Murray, take them up with him.

  59. Paul Moloney — on 16th February, 2010 at 2:55 pm  

    “If these individuals had such a history, then logic will compel me to form the view that their interest in Amnesty today may be about human rights work – a genuine, proven interest.”

    So you basically say you’re not supporting Gita because… Nick and David T are supporting her. (I notice you don’t mention her name once).

    So, how exactly was my line about “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, wrong?

    For what’s it worth, I was head of an Amnesty section back in the day. I’m supporting Gita because she’s right. I think Cohen is right on many things, very very wrong on some things. My opinion on Gita’s stance is not based on Cohen’s – I didn’t suddenly start liking torture when he defended it.

    I’ve thrown more than enough criticism at the Harry’s Place comments over its direction in the last year or two; feel free to look there. However, the current rather childish spat where PP’s editorial line seems to be based entirely on opposing HP’s current line has been to its loss.

    I fail to see how Amnesty will be irretrievably damaged by not sending Begg on poetry tours.

    P.

  60. David T — on 16th February, 2010 at 3:19 pm  

    The parochial nature of this debate is remarkable.

    There is huge support for Gita Sahgal from South Asian and North African progressives and democrats – much more is forthcoming. You might think that those who actually risk the annihilation of their human rights that Salafi Jihadi politics represents are the ones we should be listening to – rather than comfortable Londoners who probably won’t be on the bus or train that blows up.

    I very much doubt that many of those backing Gita Sahgal knows or cares about blogwars between liberal commentators, or what Nick Cohen said in his last Observer column.

  61. Efrafan Days — on 16th February, 2010 at 3:24 pm  

    >> This issue is bigger than you and your haircut

    Never mistake facial hair for intelligence.

  62. Jon — on 16th February, 2010 at 3:33 pm  

    Paul Moloney,

    Gita does not need supporting because there is absolutely no doubt she will be back in her job.

    It is good that has raised the issue of Islamic fundamentalism generally; however, Amnesty, because of the broad range of wonderful work it does, deserves our full support. I hope to see David Toube’s cheery face around AI’s office soon: he can help round the office.

  63. David T — on 16th February, 2010 at 3:38 pm  

    Come off it Benji – you live in Hong Kong, from where you send mad emails chastising the Guardian for not giving you a job, or berating academics for disagreeing with you.

    Do you think we’re idiots?

  64. Subramaniam — on 16th February, 2010 at 3:54 pm  

    Sunny, you should put Sam Zarifi’s entire leaked memo next to his public retraction. You should compare them and then ask the Amnesty spokesperson to account for the key differences you spot, because there are many. Much more is going to come out from various Amnesty staff in due course which will not put Amnesty spokespeople or their various public statements in a good light at all. This is sad, as I have always supported Amnesty. But the judgements of some people in Amnesty around this issue have been deeply flawed and their public statements have only made things worse and worse for them.

    The key issue is not about preventing Cage Prisoners promoting or supporting or saying whatever they want. It is not about diminishing or not upholding the human rights of the people Cage Prisoners support. It is about Amnesty partnering with them and promoting them.

    The arguments about neoconservative / Zionist / Murdoch / Daily Mail / anti-Muslim / pro-torture / anti-Amnesty groups are true in so far as their anti-human rights agenda is concerned and how they have seized on this story. But the arguments are also largely irrelevant to the actual issues at stake which are not going to go away. Numerous highly respected Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian left-wing, anti-imperialist, anti-war human rights organizations and individuals have signed the global petition to Amnesty on Sahgal’s site. They do know what they are talking about.

    http://www.human-rights-for-all.org/spip.php?article15

  65. David T — on 16th February, 2010 at 3:57 pm  

    And I’d add, even as one of the supposed “baddies” who provides an alibi for the defence of Begg, I’m crystal clear that

    - Begg’s process rights deserve defending, irrespective of his own politics; and

    - Amnesty is a vital organisation.

    Fun though it is to blogwar, there are just some issues which transcend that pleasure.

  66. Muslim — on 16th February, 2010 at 4:23 pm  

    Effendi

    I tell you this, I’ve never shared an Amnesty International platform with Douglas Murray. So I don’t feel compelled to write 3 lengthy blog posts to justify his views. You have grievances with Murray, take them up with him.

    Houriya Ahmed , one of the main editors of your Spitoon blog works under Murray at the CSC. ! Hows that for links?

    http://www.neoconeurope.eu/Houriya_Ahmed

  67. FlyingRodent — on 16th February, 2010 at 4:26 pm  

    @David T. Fun though it is to blogwar, there are just some issues which transcend that pleasure.

    Saucer, please – you know very well why other commenters are raising your involvement in pushing this story as a negative.

    It’s because you, David T., plus a small number of like-minded journalists who share your particular manias, have a long, easily-demonsted and reprehensible history of launching mendacious attacks on a number of humanitarian NGOs for 1100% bullshit political reasons. You yourself pimped an utterly ludicrous story contending that the International Red Cross may have collaborated with a terrorist organisation to attack its own ambulance, allegedly to smear the IDF.

    It’s perfectly reasonable for people to raise your proven record of smear attacks on NGOs in the context of a new attack on an NGO that has come almost entirely from you and your mates. If you feel that’s unfair, I invite you to look at your own pronouncements on the SWP’s central role in the STWC. What’s HP Sauce for the goose is HP Sauce for the gander, after all.

    Plus, I have to object to the idea that the central issue here is either Amnesty’s involvement with Begg or Saghal’s suspension for taking her complaints to News International. The central issue is and always has been the massive black prison network that has been disappearing, torturing and occasionally murdering both the guilty and the innocent with total impunity for the best part of a decade.

    Commenters are correct to smell a rat in the near total avoidance of this issue by Amnesty’s critics, since the only engagement with it we’re getting is a half-hearted, pro-forma Of course Guantanamo is bad, but Amnesty the bastards bastards bastards. It represents a international scandal that’s graver by an order of magnitude than any of Amnesty’s actions, and its near invisibility in the AI-baiter’s coverage is, IMHO, deeply suspect.

  68. David T — on 16th February, 2010 at 4:40 pm  

    There’s little point in discussing matters with you.

  69. FlyingRodent — on 16th February, 2010 at 4:41 pm  

    Touche.

  70. Faisal — on 16th February, 2010 at 5:09 pm  

    Great comment Subramaniam at #64.

    And I would urge everyone who truly wants Amnesty to continue to stand for and support the universality of human rights, to sign that petition:

    http://www.human-rights-for-all.org/spip.php?article15

  71. dave bones — on 16th February, 2010 at 5:16 pm  

    Begg’s “process rights deserve defending” David? So you don’t think Moazzam is into blowing up busses and trains?

  72. halima — on 16th February, 2010 at 5:21 pm  

    I found this on Women Against Fundamentalism’s website:

    “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.”

  73. mirax — on 16th February, 2010 at 5:21 pm  

    You are accusing Gita sahgal of running a campaign (or being its useful idiot)against AI, based on your talk to a single unnamed ‘spokesman’? Despicable.

    Gita sahgal and other feminist human rights activists have had longstanding misgivings about a human rights discourse and activism that has, since 9/11, been narrowed to centre on certain fundamentals, to the detriment of women’s causes.

    There’s a conversation that Sahgal participated in at the School of Law, Univ of Westminster on May 16 2008 which hints at this tension.

    http://74.125.153.132/search?q=cache:j-rAnK3cpegJ:www.kent.ac.uk/clgs/news-and-events/Conversations/documents/FinalVersion.pdf+gita+sahgal+amnesty&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=sg

    Hilary Charlesworth: The post 9-11 era has
    changed fundamentally the debate about human
    rights. I have certainly observed this in the
    Australian human rights activist community where
    Amnesty and a number of other major groups are
    very focused on dealing with draconian laws. They
    put a lot of energy into defending this big wave of
    attacks on some very basic rights-the freedom of
    speech, the prohibition on torture yet campaigns
    about women aren’t seen as the frontline. In many
    ways the change in atmosphere has been
    problematic for women.

    Hilary Charlesworth is Professor of International law and human rights at the Australian National University who has extensively published in the area of international law and feminism.

    Sahgal goes on to agree with Charlesworth and expands on her concerns. So we know that Sahgal is not lying about her discomfort and there are others- learned, passionate women with first class credentials in decades long activism and advocacy (as opposed to our dodgy jihadist bookseller who has simply won unparallelled victimhood status due the bloody fucking stupidity of Bush).

    And somehow, a ‘progressive’ like Sunny finds it easier to cast nasty aspersions at Sahgal than at Begg. Begg who has not certainly not been a consistent or credible defender of human rights? Do ask the slimy toad why he is so quiet about prisoners detained for years longer than him without trial under the Draconian Internal security Act in Malaysia?

    As to the issue of whether there were structures in place internally in AI for staff to raise issues and of these issues to be resolved, we dont know do we? Either Gita is lying or your mysterious spokesman is.

    But AI has been caught out on one rather big mistake. They did have a partnership with Cageprisoners though they have been very much at pains to distance themselves form this dodgy outfit in recent days. They have featured CP activities on their website and under their human rights defender have some vague addons that suggest Begg as one though not by name.They are not in the least been coy with THE REAL DEAL HRDs like Shirin Ebadi (would Begg want to give her Nobel Prize to his CP patron Yvonne Ridley?

    Begg made a lot out of his partnership with AI. Newspaper articles in the malaysian press and elsewhere referred to this as a matter of fact.Did AI correct these supposedly erroneous assumptions at all then? I ‘d like to know. Ask your spokesman Sunny.

    Your third point is a strawman. You should ask why AI felt it needed a dodgy spokesman on a clear cut issue like Gitmo and whether this association has ultimately harmed AI’s moral standing and political impartiality.

    You do the cause of human rights a great disservice if you politicise it, if you ring a fence around it as a distinctly partisan left concern, if you attack your critics as neocons, zionists, imperialists and islamophobes. You wouldnt manufacture a conspiracy (campaign!) against youself on the basis of 2 articles. Your spokesman would have named himself.

  74. Subramaniam — on 16th February, 2010 at 5:30 pm  

    Flying rodent: your comment ‘Of course Guantanamo is bad, but Amnesty the bastards bastards bastards’ really does do a considerable disservice to and misrepresents those who have worked ceaselessly to oppose the war on terror and everything associated with it, who have worked to defend from the very beginning in practical and legal ways the civil rights of Muslims, abroad and in this country. You rightly take side against devils who have jumped on this issue for their own ends, but that is not the same as being on the side of the angels. How do you judge Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui’s view:

    http://www.human-rights-for-all.org/spip.php?article1#forum15

  75. MoreMediaNonsense — on 16th February, 2010 at 5:34 pm  

    Some people here seem to think the only matter of interest on this issue is a supposed campaign against AI by “neocons” and “Decents” for some nefarious political purpose.

    Meanwhile we have plenty of evidence eg the posts by Mirax and Subramaniam above that many people who have nothing to do with “neocons” or “Decents” think this is a major issue for AI.

    Why not try arguing with those people FR and Sunny rather than ranting about your blogging enemies ?

  76. Brownie — on 16th February, 2010 at 5:42 pm  

    Begg isn’t Irving – Bagram isn’t Barlinnie. It’s a foolish and unserious comparison.

    On the contrary, it’s a perfect test of the principle in play.

    My understnading is that once upon a time AI did indeed defend David Irving’s rights. What they didn’t do was have him reading poetry at a human rights awareness event.

    Some of us know why, even if FlyingRodent, Sunny and others remain confused.

  77. halima — on 16th February, 2010 at 6:14 pm  

    Like many on this site, I was very concerned and alarmed at the way in which this issue has polarised debate on human rights. I was also concerned because I’ve grown up as a young woman knowing Gita Sahgal to be one of the heroines of my youth, way before any ‘white’ human rights organization were taking the rights of minority women into the mainstream. The likes of Gita Sahgal and Women Against Fundamentalism have been trailblazing for the rest of us. Like Sunny, I thought I’d do my own research as I have my own links to friends and allies connected with Gita’s networks. Prior to making my own enquiries, I was uncertain in my own head as to what was going on in the UK.

    It seems that Gita isn’t quarreling with Begg, or Caged Prisoners.

    Her quarrel is with Amnesty in the UK and its inability to see beyond the lens of Islamophobia and racism in Britain to tackle head on what she sees as the religious right hijacking the case for human rights – just as much as the War on Terror camp is hijacking the human rights discourse to go into Afghanistan to protect women’s rights. The language of rights is being appropriated both by the War on Terror and the religious right. This is her chief concern, and what she raises is a tougher challenge because it’s fighting the battle of human rights against different enemies, not one, and on numerous fronts. It’s a very, very tough call for any activist.

    Gita’s position is, of course, too subtle to make on national press and media, but it arose out of her questioning of Amnesty for many years, and out of deep-felt frustration and anxiety: she believes Amnesty’s partnering with Begg etc silences other victims of extremist Islamist politics.

    I don’t have access to the petition that Faisal links (human rights sites are not easily accessible in mainland China where I write from), but I am guessing these are the arguments stated in the petition.

    I am also told that Gita Sahgal has wide support from Amnesty across the region in South Asia, but less so in Britain. Interesting. Why?

    But whatever the outcome, I sincerely hope Gita Sahgal comes out of this as the courageous person she is – however nasty the politics gets.

  78. Muslim — on 16th February, 2010 at 6:16 pm  

    Phomesy

    That Sunny and Flying Rodent would piss all over Gita Sahgal to further their neverending obsession with Harry’s Place comes as no surprise – but it’s depressing and sickening nonetheless.

    Do you really think Harrys Place a sectarian anti-Muslim blog which refused to condemn once Israeli atrocities in Gaza cares a damn about human rights?
    Didnt you see David T haranguing Moazzam Begg for the “crime” of opposing the genocide of Bosnia’s Muslims ? You really think this is an individual who gives a damn about others’ human rights? At least Sunny is consistent in supporting equal treatment for all.

  79. mirax — on 16th February, 2010 at 6:31 pm  

    I am also told that Gita Sahgal has wide support from Amnesty across the region in South Asia, but less so in Britain. Interesting. Why?

    Easy. They know the nature of the beast as they live and struggle with it daily. They recognise 30 years of idealism put into action.

    But, no worries, Muslim will be along to tell us the they are all lickspittle indians overawed by Sahgal’s family connections.

  80. David T — on 16th February, 2010 at 6:31 pm  

    “Muslim”

    Given that one of the things that we are hammered for is that we support military interventions against genocidal tyrants, the key example of which is our support for the intervention in Bosnia, your criticism is wholly misplaced.

  81. Faisal — on 16th February, 2010 at 6:34 pm  

    halima

    I’ve reposted the text of the petition here:

    http://www.spittoon.org/archives/5035

    The petition has been drafted and initiated by:

    Dr. Amrita Chhachhi, Women, Gender and Development Program, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, member Kartini Asia Network of Women/Gender Studies
    Sara Hossain, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh
    Sunila Abeysekera, INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, Sri Lanka

    Please take the time to sign it. It’s an easy two step process which needs confirmation from your email.

  82. Sunny — on 16th February, 2010 at 6:35 pm  

    do a considerable disservice to and misrepresents those who have worked ceaselessly to oppose the war on terror and everything associated with it,

    Oh really? Who would that be then? Nick Cohen et al? What a fucking joke.

    I’m not even interested in the blogging point here. I made a broader point about the attempt to undermine Amnesty. There’s a few valid responses and the rest were a gaggle of dimwits trotting out their usual crap.

    This issue is bigger than you and your haircut.

    “Effendi” – I see you’ve run out of anything interresting to retort with. Though, to be fair, you were already starting from a low base.

    just to reiterate – it is astonishing that nick cohen is posing as a true defender of human rights in all this given that he has in the past advocated the use of torture.

    Yeah, I’d like to reiterate that too. Funnily enough, none of the same people were outraged about Cohen then.

    That Sunny and Flying Rodent would piss all over Gita Sahgal

    I’ve done none of the sort and maintain excellent links with Southall Black Sisters. Nice try though, fuckwit.

  83. saskma — on 16th February, 2010 at 6:42 pm  

    @halima #79 Exactly!!!

    Despite all the strawmen being bandied about on all sides, this is actually a very nuanced story. I, for one, prefer to filter out all the rubbish, and ignore the fact that it is being seized upon by many with their own agendas.

    There are some very profound and complex questions to be considered and I wish I could find a space to do that from an anti-racist, secular, feminist perspective that doesn’t turn into a pissing match between factions who are already deep in blogger war.

  84. Sunny — on 16th February, 2010 at 6:42 pm  

    I am also told that Gita Sahgal has wide support from Amnesty across the region in South Asia, but less so in Britain. Interesting. Why?

    What, you mean you’re told some rubbish piece of rumour that you’re desperately trying to spread in order to further your agenda?

    I’m shocked!!! That would never happen!!!

    Let’s see:
    1) So far Amnesty Germany, Amnesty Ireland and various other Amnesty national brances have held events with Begg.

    2) The head of Asia operations has published a letter ttacking the Times reporting and saying he stood by the decision made by Amnesty Int.

    3) You have no proof.

    4) You’re chatting out of your arse in order to make yourself feel better.

    Does that help?

    —————–

    Salil – the “explanation” by Sam Zarifi came directly in response to the Sunday Times trying to misrepresent him.
    Hence, the timing.

    He says quite clearly he supports the Amnesty position on the matter and there was an internal debate.

  85. Refresh — on 16th February, 2010 at 6:58 pm  

    ‘I am also told that Gita Sahgal has wide support from Amnesty across the region in South Asia, but less so in Britain. Interesting. Why?

    But whatever the outcome, I sincerely hope Gita Sahgal comes out of this as the courageous person she is – however nasty the politics gets.’

    The sooner she cuts loose the pro-war pro-torture lobby that has adopted her, the sooner she continue with explaining her concerns to the wider public.

    Halima, I would ask your network to persuade her to make her views clear on her new found friends.

    ‘There are some very profound and complex questions to be considered and I wish I could find a space to do that from an anti-racist, secular, feminist perspective that doesn’t turn into a pissing match between factions who are already deep in blogger war.’

    Saskma, you appear to view human rights advocacy as a secular activity. Surely you do not believe that, do you?

  86. marvin — on 16th February, 2010 at 7:05 pm  

    This AIophobic campaign has Douglas Murray’s tentacles all over it. Support AI against the AIophobes!

    Down with the war monger Gita Sahgal and her pro-torture friends!

    This is the Goebbels propaganda campaign of our times.

  87. marvin — on 16th February, 2010 at 7:10 pm  
  88. Refresh — on 16th February, 2010 at 7:23 pm  

    Sorry

    ‘Halima, I would ask your network to persuade her to make her views clear on her new found friends.’

    That doesn’t sound right. What I meant is:

    Halima, I would ask your network to persuade her to make her views clear on all those who now wish to be seen to be her friends.

  89. halima — on 16th February, 2010 at 7:43 pm  

    ‘I am also told that Gita Sahgal has wide support from Amnesty across the region in South Asia, but less so in Britain. Interesting. Why?’

    Sunny. I am raising a point about an organisation that has its headquarters in Europe, but where its country chapters might have a different view? Equally, the key networks leading Sahgal’s petition are staunch defenders of human rights in South Asia. These are the same networks that Amnesty would work through in South Asia to secure the release of political prisoners in South Asia.

    I haven’t been listening to rumours, but have to confess that I have been speaking directly to colleagues closely involved in helping draft Gita’s Sahgal’s petition. Equally I have no prejudice against Begg or Caged Prisoners. I believe they have every right to advocate on behalf of people who are caught in the crossfire in the War of Terror.

    This is a more complex disagreement than what is presented in the papers.

    I also think there is a deeply held hostility of Muslim organizations and activists who oppose the War in Afghanistan and Iraq- both in the British right and the British secular left. I despise the ‘secular fundamentalism’ manifest in all criticisms that equate Islam with gender evils everywhere. But this doesn’t blur my judgment of Sahgal’s current predicament.

    Faisal – thank you for reposting the petition. The people associated with the petition have an impeccable record of defending human rights – often at more risk than in their environments than Amnesty activists in Rosebury Avenue in leafy Islington.

    Refresh

    I acknowledge that politics is a nasty business and often it’s not about the truth and honesty behind any particular issue, but simply about picking your battles. This is why I think the whole mess has been a sad day for human rights overall. But Gita Sahgal as one individual shouldn’t take the blame for raising what is a complex challenge in a climate that is anything but friendly either to human rights or to any Muslim activist/organisation that has problems (rightly in my view) about illegal wars taking place in Muslim-majority countries.

    “The sooner she cuts loose the pro-war pro-torture lobby that has adopted her, the sooner she continue with explaining her concerns to the wider public.”

    As far as I can see/tell, she hasn’t made a pact with pro-war torture lobby – they’ve adopted her, though I agree, she can come out strongly to criticise her new friends, but give her time, imagine being in her shoes at this moment? It’s quite painful at the best of times to internally question your own organisation (few of us would, and in any case, organisations should be open to challenge from its own staff, particularly those that are in the business of protecting human rights), and now this whole debacle is being fought out in full public glare.

    “I would ask your network to persuade her to make her views clear on all those who now wish to be seen to be her friends.”

    Yes, I agree with your advice, and I am convinced Sahgal will do the right thing by her own principles.

  90. Faisal — on 16th February, 2010 at 7:47 pm  

    Faisal – thank you for reposting the petition. The people associated with the petition have an impeccable record of defending human rights – often at more risk than in their environments than Amnesty activists in Rosebury Avenue in leafy Islington.

    Well said halima. :-)

  91. Brownie — on 16th February, 2010 at 8:00 pm  

    First of all, the only people who have a right to claim Sahgal as a “friend” are her “friends”. I’m not aware of any people now championing her cause either asking for or demanding her friendship, or her support for other positions we/they might hold.

    I supported the intervention in Iraq just as I did in Kosovo. I don’t know and don’t care what Sahgal thought of either and I’m doubtful she gives a rat ass about my opinions on these or other wars. But in the unlikely event this will matter to Sahgal, I’m sure she’ll take solace in the fact that people like Vaclav Havel, Jose Ramos Horta and Adam Michnik also supported the war. Three guys who know one or two things about human rights themselves.

    Bottom line: Sahgal shouldn’t need to answer to anyone for the opinions of some of those who support her, and the sight of some people on here demanding she does just that is, frankly, insane.

  92. saskma — on 16th February, 2010 at 8:13 pm  

    Refresh – You will note I said secular, which I mean in the sense of ‘separate from religion’, as opposed to atheist.

    Many religious figures and organisations are devoted human rights defenders. Faith can be a strong catalyst for human rights awareness and advocacy. However, they are not necessarily aligned. For example, some of AI’s Catholic supporters were not happy about its abortion policy http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/6952558.stm.

    This is not to have a go at religious human rights advocates, only to say that a secular space is where human rights issues can be debated separate from the framework of religious beliefs.

  93. dave bones — on 16th February, 2010 at 8:24 pm  

    I think halima is right. It looks like Gita Sahgal is a decent woman, and Moazaam Begg, from what I have heard and seen is OK. Neither should be sacked or ex-communicated or passed over or pissed on or whatever else people are suggesting here. This is a live and complex issue which exists in the politics of today.

  94. Shamit — on 16th February, 2010 at 8:30 pm  

    The Head of Gender Equality, who as far as I know has impeccable credentials, got suspended for questioning why Amnesty International is embracing an organisation which she feels undermines the work she was responsible for.

    If this was the Government led by Tony Blair, and something similar happened, I am sure many of the opinions who are backing AI would have applauded the “whistle blower” – and in this case the whistle blower’s credentials are impeccable and on the other side, we have an organisation represented by individuals who have questionable credentials on plurality and women’s rights.

    The question about illegal wars (which were by the way all legal – and I can provide many reasons why) does not arise here nor do they provide any sensible context except to make a flawed defence of Begg whose credentials on promoting the concept of violent jihad are already well established through his own writing.

    In my humble opinion (and I am no famous blogger and personality) this situation has been handled badly – and if a person like Gita Shahgal had to go out of the organisation to protest – then maybe AI did not do everything right; no matter what the higher echelons of AI say now.

    *********************************
    What is more appalling is the name calling among bloggers? I thought blogging is going to be a political force to be reckoned with during this election. But if this is going to be the level of debate – influence of blogs beyond the usual suspects would be minimal at best if any at all.

    But again I do not belong in that elite club of influential bloggers so may be I am missing something.

  95. Arif — on 16th February, 2010 at 8:31 pm  

    Halima, thanks for posting #77.

    My view is that Gita has a case which she seems to have slightly overstated – which, while making the issue more sensational, risks obscuring (in a specific case) the general questions about whether and how AI can work with others on human rights campaigns.

    It is useful to have a “case” like Cageprisoners, as a starting point to working out whether (and what kinds of) association with AI legitimises them as, say, advocates for human rights, and in whose eyes.

    The next step, in my view, should be to work out the principles with which AI could/should protect itself from such risk. But in a consistent way – not just to vet this particular group, but to vet any group associated in a similar way.

    It sounds to me like everyone thinks there can be an internal squabble and the right answer will emerge, but it has not emerged in this case because the squabble was suppressed.

    I think the issues are deeper than this. Amnesty does have criteria for defining prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders, and the Cageprisoners don’t fit into that kind of criteria. They are a group, it seems, which shares platforms on specific campaigns, just as there are groups sharing platforms on campaigns against FGM – or just as groups organise events inviting speakers from war zones who often address Amnesty Groups in very pointed ways (challenging our interpretations of human rights) – or with Amnesty Lectures, for example giving a platform to Gore Vidal to argue his view that caucasian countries need to get together as a global minority to face the coming backlash from the rest of the world! Should these discussions be closed?

    We want to be open to challenge, mutual learning and joint campaigning with other human rights defenders, and yet maintain integrity. In this case, Amnesty’s integrity does not seem in doubt (in terms of speaking out consistently on human rights itself). What is in doubt is whether other people outside the world of AI can understand that, say, if AI works with a persecuted homosexual to campaign against laws in Uganda, they do not also endorse that person’s views on, say, race or religion. And whether that means we should pass up the chance to make this person’s experience available using Amnesty’s platforms, and – then whether to take the next step – campaign with that person’s organisation (if it does not refer to issues of race and religion in its programme).

    At what point does a quest for purity become either an obstacle to dialogue to promote principles of universality to fellow human rights defenders, or even worse, part of a witch hunt against groups already under more general suspicion?

    I think it would not be fair to say to Gita to say in the abstract what that point is, but I do think she should explain the principles by which AI should take decisions not to work with an individual or group, and, if she can – given her experience – how the principle could realistically be put into action.

    I am dismayed that constructive approaches are not being explored.

    It has got so groups are inviting people to sign petitions to support Gita Sahgal – how do they vet who signs and ensure they are genuine human rights defenders, not people with another agenda? Have they missed the point of the nuanced discussion by replicating AI’s overly inclusive campaigning strategy?

  96. BenSix — on 16th February, 2010 at 8:37 pm  

    To be clear, by the way – whatever I think of the subsequent concern trollage – Sahgal’s dismissal was a woeful one.

    Shamit -

    I thought blogging is going to be a political force to be reckoned with during this election…But again I do not belong in that elite club of influential bloggers so may be I am missing something.

    You’re not, and it isn’t.

  97. Refresh — on 16th February, 2010 at 9:05 pm  

    saskma, thanks for the clarification. It just struck odd that you needed to mention ‘secular’ at all.

  98. Refresh — on 16th February, 2010 at 9:37 pm  

    Halima, thanks.

    If I’ve understood you correctly (your #77), it would seem that the spat appears to be about differing priorities. And from a campaigning point of view, it would make sense for national branches taking a lead on differing campaigns where they can be most effective.

    Here in Britain, there is a serious need for campaigns countering vilifiction and demonisation of muslims, and the creeping acceptance that simply being muslim leaves you open to different state-sanctioned treatment including being tortured right through to being ‘droned’. Guantanamo is a hugely important issue and it needs to be addressed. AI along with Reprieve and others seek to address it. Addressing it in Asia will not be quite the same, given the policies that need to be addressed were/are developed here or in the US.

    Needless to say gender issues that need to be addressed in the west are on a wholly different scale, than amongst the Asian contingent of Amnesty International. Perhaps the resolution to the spat should have been and could still be that Gita pushes harder on women issues in Asia/Middle East etc. – without forgetting the need to address national governments of the region who act as subcontractors in cases of ‘extraordinary rendition’.

  99. Refresh — on 16th February, 2010 at 9:39 pm  

    Marvin, your link doesn’t work.

  100. Brownie — on 16th February, 2010 at 10:14 pm  

    whatever I think of the subsequent concern trollage

    You need to spend some time away from AW.

    It seems that for certain commenters, every issue – and every position adopted on every issue – just has to be seen through the Iraq prism. You supported the war? – you obviously can’t be genuinely concerned for the future for AI. You opposed the war? – you’re axiomatically an all-round good guy who probably sacrifices half his/her salary to support various NGOs campaigning for global human rights.

    It’s just so, so tedious.

  101. Don — on 16th February, 2010 at 10:59 pm  

    spat?

    Gita is having a spat?

  102. Refresh — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:14 pm  

    Sounds it, and I hope it is.

  103. BenSix — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:22 pm  

    Brownie, I’m not talking about you, or “people who supported the war“. If I were to judge others by the consistency of their anti-imperialist stance, I’d be forced to indict myself. I’m talking about Melanie Phillips taking the chance to condemn the “human rights industry“; Nick Cohen wedging it in to the “moral disintegration” of AI; Lucy Lips’s phlegming at Comment is Free and Andrew Bolt’s snotty dismissal of Amnesty as “rancid beyond rescue“. The commentators, in other words, who’ve grasped at the chance to saddle up their hobby horses. That doesn’t include everyone who’s been taking an interest in the case – or, again, I’d be forced to issue fiery condemnations against myself – and I’ve no reason to include you. Shake?

  104. BenSix — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:35 pm  

    (Besides, how could I hate you, Brownie? We “people who connect the letters AW to Aaronovitch Watch” have to stick together – we’re a persecuted minority.)

  105. Brownie — on 16th February, 2010 at 11:54 pm  

    Okay, I take the point, but “concern trollage”? That can’t include the likes of Philips whom I agree couldn’t care less if AI went to the wall. They more or less admit this.

    What makes you think Lucy Lips or Nick Cohen don’t care about the future of orgs like AI? Apart from take a different stance on other, tangentially related issues (and I certainly haven’t agreed with everything I’ve read from either), what exactly have they done to suggest they think the world would be better off without AI and its equivalents?

    The commentators, in other words, who’ve grasped at the chance to saddle up their hobby horses

    Which hobby horses are they? I really don’t mean to appear confrontational, but I’m interested to hear what you think is the real motivation for the criticism of AI from the likes of Cohen, Lucy Lips and other non-obviously-right-wingnut-NGO-haters? I know what I think it is.

  106. BenSix — on 17th February, 2010 at 12:18 am  

    Well, I can only suspect, of course – and, to be honest, they’re pretty uninteresting suspicions – but Cohen seems to grab at anything that’ll confirm his “the Left is fucked” thesis. Thus, a friendly review to Goldberg’s tome; the suggestion that David Horowitz “does not go far enough“. As soon as the Sahgal saga showed its head, he’d packaged it into the “moral disintegration” of Amnesty – a narrative that’s built (unless I’ve missed some heinous crime) on an invitation to Noam Chomsky and a hyperbolic description of Guantanamo Bay. Having declared a “betrayal of liberalism” he’s busily justifying himself. God knows what motivates Lucy Lips, but I hope that they’ve built some windscreen-wipers into their computer: the weird piece against CiF; the proclamation that “[Begg's] fans have terrorised liberal opponents of [their] extreme politics“…It all sounds rather exciting, but, at the same time, very odd.

    Fair point on Phillips/Bolt – they’re a different category altogether. But the way they’re throwing their arms up and declaring “well, I tried to warn you” still has an endearingly trollish air.

  107. Shamit — on 17th February, 2010 at 12:23 am  

    Gita Shaghal – over 40 years of dedicated service as a human rights campaigner and head of Amnesty International’s Gender Equality section

    Refresh – Not only Muslims but every sensible person in this country abhor torture except for some loonies; and objecting to Guantanamo and upholding human rights do not mean one should embrace organisations that abhor pluralism or legitimise violent jihadi activities. Equally important is women’s rights – honour killings and abuse of women are quite prevalent in our country too. So your justification sounds a bit hollow.

    And you call this a spat – someone who has dedicated her life to working for the rights of others and felt compelled to go to the media. I think she deserves a bit more respect.

  108. Refresh — on 17th February, 2010 at 12:49 am  

    Careful Shamit. You should not ascribe to me views I’ve not expressed.

    I did not at any point mention it was a muslim only concern, it should be a universal. But that is not the goal of Cohen, Bruce Anderson et al. They would rather you fell in line – they want to re-write human rights and see Gita as a convenient vehicle.

    The question you should be asking is why? What are they trying to prepare us for?

    ——————-

    What exactly have I justified?

    I think you will find I have given her more respect than many. And I would rather it be a spat, than what a few motivated commentators want it to be. At least if it is spat, it can be mended. If not and we take your view on it then it is a weighing up of an organisation full of dedicated people and supporters 2 million strong, and Gita Saghal. Something I rather not do.

    It would be better if you actually addressed what I wrote.

  109. BenSix — on 17th February, 2010 at 2:26 am  

    God knows what motivates Lucy Lips, but I hope that they’ve built some windscreen-wipers into their computer: the weird piece against CiF; the proclamation that “[Begg's] fans have terrorised liberal opponents of [their] extreme politics“…It all sounds rather exciting, but, at the same time, very odd.

    Actually, that was too bitchy. Blog and let blog. I’ve no wish to be sandwiched between the Pickles and the HP Sauce.

  110. Lunium — on 17th February, 2010 at 4:36 am  

    This is my first comment (actually a comment on a couple of comments) in this blog, which I have bookmarked lately for its focus on south asian issues.

    In response to halima’s @ 6:14 PM comment, Sunny @ 6:42 writes – “You’re chatting out of your arse in order to make yourself feel better.”

    Excuse me for being slightly OT, but I don’t think her well-reasoned comments in this thread (so far) deserve to be rebutted in such crude and foul-mouthed manner. She may be right, or she may be wrong, but the same thing could be said in a relatively more gentlemanly manner, surely? OR is that quality not a prerequisite for becoming a human rights champion?

    btw, Halima is a common lady’s name in my part of the world.

  111. halima — on 17th February, 2010 at 5:53 am  

    Lunium

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. I think Sunny’s comments weren’t intended for me, and if intended for another, they were in response to frustration at various attempts to derail Amnesty’s core agenda. Thanks for the support, though.

    Pickled Politics comes under fire from a number of corners, and sometimes PP comments get confused online. It’s the nature of public debate that sometimes we say things, which spin out of control, god knows I have trouble defending my own views on a select range of issues, and Sunny via Pickled Politics routinely defends multiple issues.

    Hope you stay with Pickled Politics and comment on this issue – it’s nice to get comments from others parts of the world.

    Arif/Refresh, thanks for your comments, and they deserve some thinking in my own head before replying. Will get back.

    Saskma

    “There are some very profound and complex questions to be considered and I wish I could find a space to do that from an anti-racist, secular, feminist perspective.”

    I think that’s right, and Sahgal and others are probably making a similar argument. By simply reducing everything down to pro-war torture camp or religious right doesn’t help anyone – but helps only those who argue ‘you’re with us or without us’.

    Remember the Clash of Civilisations argument?

    It’s the same train of thought – either/or, with us or against us, and of course, it’s human rights that always loses out in such crude reductionist arguments. That’s been for me the first casualty of war from 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror.

  112. dave bones — on 17th February, 2010 at 6:28 am  

    Yeah. Surely what we should learn from this is that the culture of “United front pretence” should be limited to the suits who pretend for a living in that big place with the clock.

    It shouldn’t exist inside AI. I don’t think Moazaam or Gita or anyone involved in human rights ever wanted to be politicians so they shouldn’t have to be politicians. What is wrong with arguing in public? I can totally understand Moazaam and big chief AI being angry but why threaten employment or argue through journalists? Everyone has fallen out but they should calm down and debate in public like the rest of us.

  113. What Nick Actually Said — on 17th February, 2010 at 6:33 am  

    @Brownie: I’m interested to hear what you think is the real motivation for the criticism of AI from the likes of Cohen, Lucy Lips and other non-obviously-right-wingnut-NGO-haters?

    Nick Cohen on what motivates the left and Amnesty – “Any enemy of America is better than none”.

    http://bit.ly/bT5BZD

  114. cjcjc — on 17th February, 2010 at 8:16 am  

    No, dave bones, Begg is not “OK”.

    Not “OK” at all.

    AI will (eventually) recognise this.

    http://www.hurryupharry.org/2010/02/16/cage-prisoners-promotes-hizb-ut-tahrir/

  115. MiriamBinder — on 17th February, 2010 at 8:22 am  

    Each and every one of the fundamental human rights is of equal weight and each and every one is applicable to every human being the world over. As an organisation that stands for addressing the issue of Fundamental Human Rights on a global platform Amnesty International is in the unenviable position of not having the luxury of choice; Fundamental Human Rights regardless of gender, lifestyle, sexual preference, ethnicity, age or political persuasion; that is what concerns Amnesty International or rather, that is what should concern Amnesty International.
    Individuals may or may not, as a matter of choice, prefer to address the fundamental human rights of a nice, white, middle class, fully employed parent of the proverbial 2.4 children who has yet to set a foot wrong. This is not an option to Amnesty International. Once Amnesty International starts to evaluate its causes on the basis of whether the human rights of one human being are as worth arguing for as the human rights of another, it ceases to stand for Fundamental Human Rights for all.
    The basic struggle between the various parties concerned, and all those who appear to be involving themselves in the dispute is that there is an attempt to prioritise Human Rights. Ms Gita Sahgal, admirable champion of causes as she no doubt is, has the option of choice as an individual. She does not have the option of choice as the head of the gender unit at Amnesty’s international secretariat. It is lamentable that after so many years of what is no doubt sterling service in an indomitable fashion she has now chosen to put her personal political concerns first.

  116. Sarah AB — on 17th February, 2010 at 8:29 am  

    I thought the text of the petition was nuanced and (to my mind) had the effect of distancing itself from those who see this issue as an excuse to have a go at Amnesty (which doesn’t mean that some of those people won’t have signed the petition).

  117. cjcjc — on 17th February, 2010 at 8:30 am  

    Miriam you have spectacularly missed the point.

    No-one (that I have seen) is saying that AI should not have championed Begg’s right to due process as loudly and forcefully as possible.

    That is rather different from parading him around as if he himself were some kind of human rights champion, isn’t it?

  118. Rachel — on 17th February, 2010 at 9:19 am  

    Nice to see some thoughtful comments here, Halima, Subramaniam, SarahAB and others.

    Miriam, please read Gita Sahgal’s original statement, if you have not already: you will find that she does not say that Begg or anyone else is undeserving of human rights.
    How many times does this need to be said?

    Please also read the statement with the petition, at
    http://www.human-rights-for-all.org/

    You will not find any suggestion that anyone is less deserving of human rights.

    Really, I am shocked at the poor quality of some of the debate around this (with respect to MiriamBinder, at least you were not abusive).

    People, if somehow you are not familiar with Gita Sahgal/SBS/WAF then please educate yourself, do a little reading to see where she might be coming from before you start posting on blogs.

    I think Halima is right that the subtleties of Gita’s argument are not easily elucidated in a few articles in the Times. Gita asks us to deal with complexity, to attempt a nuanced analysis that does not accept the polarisation of positions as expressed by the rightwingers or some of the commentators above. At the same time, there is absolutely no compromise on the basic matter of human rights, no attempt to prioritise them.

    The ability to deal with complexity, to assert that experiencing oppression does not make perfect victims who cannot also be oppressors, to often be critical of both sides without forgetting power imbalances is one of the profoundly important contributions made by Women against Fundamentalism.

  119. Rachel — on 17th February, 2010 at 9:20 am  

    Sorry Miriam, didn’t mean to be the second person having a go at you – the comment above mine was posted while I was composing mine.

  120. Rachel — on 17th February, 2010 at 9:49 am  

    And so as to not cause confusion, I am not saying that Gita is trying to impose her own ‘WAF’ agenda on Amnesty. While I can imagine there’s not always perfect fit between Gita’s politics and AI, this would be the case with any employee of such an organisation. Just trying to point out that the suggestion that she has allied herself with the Right in order to smear Amnesty is very wrong.

  121. FlyingRodent — on 17th February, 2010 at 10:03 am  

    Right so, to reiterate:

    1) Gita Saghal has not been suspended for “following her conscience” or had her right to free speech violated – she’s been legitimately suspended for taking an internal complaint to News International. She lost an internal argument at Amnesty and, rather than do what most other people would do – i.e. swallow it and move on or just resign in protest, then speak to the papers – she denounced Amnesty to the Murdoch press and was rightly suspended.

    2) Ergo, everyone who has claimed that she is a “whistleblower” – she isn’t, since the information she provided was publicly available – or that she has been “victimised” or “persecuted” is either deliberately misleading their readers or is too dense to know the difference.

    3) Amnesty states that it has no involvement with CagePrisoners at all;

    4) Amnesty doesn’t endorse any of Moazzam Begg’s nutty political opinions and says so explicitly;

    5) In fact, Amnesty merely invites Begg to speak at events to publicise the actually existing in reality massive American black prison/torture network that is being so studiously ignored in this discussion, an entirely legitimate thing for a human rights organisation to be doing in the face of gross human rights violations.

    6) Hence, the suggestion that Amnesty “parades Begg around as if he were some kind of human rights champion” is utter horseshit – he appears at their events to discuss an actually-existing, extremely grave and ongoing extrajudicial detention/torture/murder scandal, solely because he himself was incarcerated in that black prison network;

    7) Which would imply that anyone contending that Amnesty endorses or lends its credibility to either Begg or CagePrisoners is either deliberately misleading their readers or is too dense to know the difference;

    8) Amnesty has issued a series of reports on Taliban human rights abuses and reiterates its opposition to Islamist violence;

    9) Ergo anyone contending that Amnesty is overly soft on Islamism is either deliberately misleading their readers or is too dense to know the difference;

    10) All of this means that the totality of the case against Amnesty is a) Some Bullshit and b) some politically-motivated actors pretending that they don’t understand the difference between “invite to speak” and “100% endorse”.

    I doubt anyone here is daft enough to believe that those people whose hard work and determination have propelled this story into the international press – Martin Bright, Nick Cohen, Chris Hitchens, Melanie Philips, Oliver Kamm, David Aaronovitch, reporters for the Times and a very small number of bloggers – are too stupid to understand the difference.

    Therefore, is there any reason at all to regard this entire sorry campaign as anything other than a bullshit smear campaign on Amnesty based on squarely fuck-all evidence, by a small group of like-minded individuals* who have a long and unpleasant history of deliberately smearing a range of human rights NGOs for having the temerity to criticise the USA, Britain or Israel?

    *And yes, I recall that we are all supposed to be discussing “the issue” here, which is somehow “Are Amnesty bastards?”.

    I suggest the real story should be how it’s possible for a tiny clique of journalists to successfully push a pissweak and blatantly politically-motivated smear story into papers across the planet without anybody of note in the press crying “bullshit”.

  122. douglas clark — on 17th February, 2010 at 10:07 am  

    dave bones @ 112, halima @ 111 and MiriamBinder @ 115,

    Thanks for these posts. Until now this debate has been conducted by two bald men fighting over a comb. There is no right nor wrong in this situation.

    I’d hope that it all blows over. Here is a way forward, correct me if I am wrong:

    Moazzam Begg should give a clear statement in what he believes is now. And he should do that and live with the consequences, whichever side he comes down on.

    It would be quite helpful if people didn’t ascribe motive to ‘news’ on the Caged Prisoners site. It would also be quite good if people stopped using about six degrees of separation to ‘prove’ linkages between Amnesty International and jihadists.

    It would help the debate if it could be accepted that not all legal systems are equal.

    Gita and Moazzam should sit down with the head of AI, someone called Claudio Cordone apparently, and thrash out whether or not it is legitimate for AI to continue to use Moazzam Begg in it’s campaign against extraordinary rendition, given this:

    http://harpers.org/archive/2010/01/hbc-90006368

    Arguing against that sort of thing – done in our name don’t forget – doesn’t preclude arguing against excesses elsewhere.

    We should all be on the same side here, basically. If anyone is of the view that AI is ‘passed it’s sell by date’, or ‘not fit for purpose’, they have crossed the Rubicon as far as I’m concerned. When push has come to shove in this thread, there are very few willing to go that far.

  123. Paul Moloney — on 17th February, 2010 at 10:08 am  

    Refresh: “The sooner she cuts loose the pro-war pro-torture lobby that has adopted her, the sooner she continue with explaining her concerns to the wider public. ”

    So you won’t support Gita as long as, somewhere, a single person you find unsavoury supports her. Yet, you don’t apply the same standard to Begg. Hypocrisy as usual.

    P.

  124. Rachel — on 17th February, 2010 at 10:11 am  

    Read the petition, look at the signatories. Step out of your tiny British box for a while. I doubt very much that the South Asian human rights workers who have signed it heard about it through Bright, Cohen, Philips et al.

  125. FlyingRodent — on 17th February, 2010 at 10:16 am  

    Step out of your tiny British box…

    …And into a comments thread about Amnesty UK and a story that was first reported by The Times. This won’t wash.

  126. cjcjc — on 17th February, 2010 at 10:16 am  

    Rachel – you will see from Sunny’s new post that he is obsessed with Bright, Cohen, Philips et al.

    Whatever they are against, he is for. End of.

    Poor flying rat – his/her head must be exploding with cognitive dissonance right now.

    But but but but but…don’t those people in Asia understand…it’s all the eeeevil Nick Cohen’s fault….cant they put their concerns about clerical fascism aside just for a while?

    Poor baby.

  127. douglas clark — on 17th February, 2010 at 10:26 am  

    cjcjc @ 114,

    How does your link prove anything whatsoever? Two ‘news’ items are taken as editorial. With one more degree of separation you are a jihadi supporter because you read the article.

  128. douglas clark — on 17th February, 2010 at 10:27 am  

    cjcjc @ 126,

    If there is an international debate to be had within Amnesty, then that is all to the good. But lets’ have it based on facts not smears….

  129. FlyingRodent — on 17th February, 2010 at 10:28 am  

    don’t those people in Asia understand…

    If I genuinely believed Amnesty were endorsing former jihadists and cuddling up with clerical fascists, I’d be outraged too.

    That’s what the worldwide press have been telling people, despite the fact it’s demonstrably not true. Which is rather why I’m making an effort to show why it isn’t true, and how these deliberately misleading claims have made their way into the international press – they didn’t just grow there organically like mildew.

  130. cjcjc — on 17th February, 2010 at 10:30 am  

    Right, Douglas, ‘cos there’s no editorial input in choosing which “news” items to include, or which delightful websites to link to…

  131. MiriamBinder — on 17th February, 2010 at 10:31 am  

    @ Rachel # 118 – Quite frankly Rachel, I do not care about the personal issues that face anyone with regards to Amnesty International. On a personal level I may actually agree with one or more or even some. I did not mean to intimate that Gita Sahgal has at any time indicated that she may or may not hold with Beggs’ human rights … or anyone else for that matter. However the fact remains that personal preferences and choices are not options available to individuals in positions of authority within organisations such as Amnesty International. It isn’t even an issue of (I hate this terms and all it stands for)corporate loyalty. It is simply a matter of appropriate and inappropriate concerns. As an individual, representing only the views of an individual, one can elect to prioritise preferences. One can also be less circumspect in how one goes about addressing those issues. As an organisation or a representative of an organisation such as Amnesty International one hasn’t that option.

    I don’t really want to get into the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the campaign regarding ex-Guatanamo prisoners. However I will state quite unequivocally that regardless of whether you agree with the personal politics; irrespective of whether they are, will be or have been judged rightly or otherwise … their fundamental human rights are the concern of Amnesty International within the remit of that organisation. Leaving them in a catch-22 where they are left to the tender mercies of Guatanamo Bay or a similar limbo is unacceptable and runs contrary to the remit of Amnesty International.

    Further, I neither care nor am concerned with whether Gita Sahgal is perceived as having aligned herself with the far right, the far left, or the one-eyed, one-horned purple people eater. As an individual she is perfectly within her rights, and I would uphold those rights to the end, to make whatever choices she wants. If there are other individuals who feel it necessary to qualify that as an alignment then that too is their right; it doesn’t make it so but that is beside the point really. I for one will assume that Gita Sahgal is voicing her personal concerns as an individual.

  132. douglas clark — on 17th February, 2010 at 10:57 am  

    cjcjc,

    Not really. Reportage and editorial ought to be seen as distinctly different things. If they started writing ‘news’ as editorial, then you’d have a point.

    What is your view of the link I provided you with at 122? Is it worth looking into or not?

    The problem that I have with this whole debate is that, rather than concentrate on what is known, people leap instead to conclusions. ‘No smoke without fire’ wouldn’t even win an arguement in an Industrial Tribunal far less a proper court of law.

    Have you a view on AI? (Maybe you’ve already responded to that, but I don’t recall whether you think they are a ‘good thing’ or a ‘bad thing’. Please remind me.)

  133. cjcjc — on 17th February, 2010 at 11:02 am  

    I support AI (generally) and I oppose Gitmo.

    Begg/CP have a different definition of “celebrities” than most people, eg Anwar al-Awlaki!

  134. douglas clark — on 17th February, 2010 at 11:05 am  

    cjcjc,

    Didn’t realise you could read my post until after I’d edited it! Changed my mind so I did.

  135. Refresh — on 17th February, 2010 at 11:08 am  

    Paul Moloney,

    No hypocrisy here. Just the recognition that this smearing of AI is not new. You may not have had seen the earlier attempt (a few weeks back), it didn’t fly then. I don’t even believe its about Begg.

    I agree with FlyingRodent and MiriamBinder.

  136. douglas clark — on 17th February, 2010 at 11:13 am  

    On a conspiratorial note I do rather wonder why these attacks are being made right now?

  137. Rachel — on 17th February, 2010 at 11:44 am  

    Miriam, please read Gita’s words before you post next.

  138. MiriamBinder — on 17th February, 2010 at 11:53 am  

    Rachel, they are immaterial … I have read them BTW but they alter my view re Amnesty International not one iota.

  139. Rachel — on 17th February, 2010 at 12:04 pm  

    Good, it seems to be much the same view that Gita holds!

    I don’t mean to pick on you, Miriam, I just think it’s very important to once and for all crush this idea that Gita Sahgal has said that Begg or other Gitmo detainees’ rights should not be fought for or protected by Amnesty. That simply isn’t true.

  140. Aisha Gill — on 17th February, 2010 at 8:08 pm  

    Here is a link to a petition in support of Gita’s position: http://www.human-rights-for-all.org/spip.php?article15

    The petition has been drafted and initiated by:

    Dr. Amrita Chhachhi, Women, Gender and Development Program, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, member Kartini Asia Network of Women/Gender Studies
    Sara Hossain, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh
    Sunila Abeysekera, INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, Sri Lanka

    Please sign it in support of Gita Saghal

  141. Dr Aisha Gill — on 17th February, 2010 at 10:17 pm  

    WLUML Statement in support of Gita Sahgal

    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, Kandahar, and 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.
    Gita Sahgal’s concerns are about Amnesty International’s association with fundamentalist groups that have claimed to support the Taliban and promote ideas of the Islamic Right, which are not supportive of women’s rights. Sahgal is well-placed to raise such issues, with a demonstrated commitment to exposing and addressing fundamentalisms – political movements of the extreme Right, often operating within religious, ethnic and/or cultural discourses – and assessing the implications of their agendas on women’s human rights, including as a founding member of Women Against Fundamentalisms (WAF) in the UK. Along with directing numerous films on the topics of women’s rights, conflict and violence against women, Sahgal has also written extensively on multiculturalism and religious fundamentalism, and is the co-editor of Refusing Holy Orders: Women and Fundamentalism in Britain (Virago, 1992; WLUML, 2001).

    It is clear that Sahgal, like Amnesty International, is committed to promoting and upholding human rights. We agree, with Sahgal, that AI’s admirable and non-partisan support of the human rights of those who have faced unfair imprisonment, denial of due process, and torture is to be commended and supported. Nonetheless, if human rights are indeed universal and indivisible, then she has raised a crucial point in distinguishing between supporting specific human rights of an affected group, and providing a public platform for those who may not support the indivisible human rights of others.

    The human rights of women and minorities are particularly abused by state and non-state actors who justify their political agendas by reference to religion. Those who challenge the structures, policies and practices that create and perpetuate such violations are frequently isolated and attacked. The WLUML network recognizes the bravery demonstrated by Gita Sahgal in raising the important issue of state and non-state collaboration with those groups who may not uphold the rights of all, even if they themselves are also the victims of human rights violations.
    We call for civil society and governments alike to engage in a wider debate about partnerships with organisations that claim to support human rights but do not uphold the rights of all, including women and minorities. While WLUML deeply regrets the attempts of some media commentators and apologists for torture and war crimes to hijack this important debate to smear progressive movements, organisations and individuals, we as Human Rights organisations and activists, cannot ask for democracy, openness to criticism and transparency of other organisations and government, if we ourselves do not observe these basic rules.

    Women Living Under Muslim Laws
    International Solidarity Network
    http://www.wluml.org
    wluml@wluml.org

  142. Salil — on 18th February, 2010 at 3:02 am  

    Sunny, thanks for responding.

    You say:

    >>

    Salil – the “explanation” by Sam Zarifi came directly in response to the Sunday Times trying to misrepresent him.
    Hence, the timing.

    >>

    Here’s the thing. Zarifi wrote an internal memo, after the suspension, in which he pointed out what he saw as flaws in Amnesty’s approach, and the fact that the organisation had made a mistake. That memo got leaked. The memo implied there wasn’t much of a robust debate internally, a point the organisation had made earlier. The memo quite clearly showed Zarifi’s disappointment – or frustration – over the lack of proper discussion internally. And this is the point he made after the suspension. Sunday Times may or may not have mischaracterised Zarifi’s position; what seems to me is that the case, that there was robust internal debate within the organisation, is yet to be proved.

    >>>

    He says quite clearly he supports the Amnesty position on the matter and there was an internal debate.

    >>>

    Zarifi does not say he “supports” the position. He says he “does not oppose” the position. I’m not trying to be lawyer-like here. But Amnesty is full of very smart lawyers, and these words are always chosen carefully. And based on what’s publicly available, like I said, the case that Amnesty had an internal debate, remains to be proven.

    Thanks;

    Salil

  143. Dr Aisha Gill — on 18th February, 2010 at 12:02 pm  

    Gita Sahgal, Feminist Whistle Blower, Suspended by Amnesty International
    Wednesday 17 February 2010

    (Reproduced from: Meredith Tax’s Blog – TAXONOMY, 14 February 2010)

    A week ago Gita Sahgal, head of the gender research unit at Amnesty International, was suspended because she gave an interview to the Times airing her concerns about AI’s relationship with Moazzam Begg, a British jihadi who was imprisoned in Bagram and Guantanamo. Her suspension has since become an international cause celebre: the story is all over the web; it has been featured on the BBC and in all the major British newspapers; a website called Human Rights for All has been put up; and a Facebook group called “Amnesty International You Bloody Hypocrites Reinstate Gita Sahgal” has 900 plus members. This is because Gita’s courageous action raises fundamental questions about human rights work today.

    I should say here that Gita is a friend of mine. She is also one of the most thoughtful human rights activists I have ever met. A founder of the English feminist groups Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalism, she was one of the first to understand the threat fundamentalist movements pose not only to women’s rights but to the secular state itself, in Europe as well as the Global South. She is no hothead but a careful and principled activist, and a brilliant but deliberate thinker with great loyalty to Amnesty. She would never gone public with her concerns, risking her own career and her family’s livelihood, unless she felt the stakes were very high indeed. In fact, she believes that Amnesty’s close connection with a Taliban supporter, Moazzam Begg, undermines its claim to defend the universality of human rights, because the Taliban does not stand for human rights for women, homosexuals, infidels, or apostates. In her words:

    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….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.

    So who is Moazzam Begg? He is a British citizen who was held at Bagram and Guantanamo for three years, then released without trial. So he is a victim of arbitrary arrest and torture. When he returned to England, he started an organization, Cageprisoners, whose mission is to help those still imprisoned in Guantanamo. Amnesty International appears to consider Cageprisoners a human rights organization. But the Cageprisoner website does more than advocate for closing Guantanamo; it also endorses jihadi prisoners in the UK such as Omar Khyam, convicted of trying to blow up a British shopping mall and nightclub; Abu Qatada, an Islamic militant described as Al-Qaeda’s spiritual leader in Europe, wanted on terrorism charges in 8 countries; and Abu Hamza, author of the handbook The Encyclopedia of Afghan Jihad.

    Begg himself is a jihadi by his own admission. His book Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guananamo, Bagram, and Kandahar, published here by the New Press,describes his first trip to Afghanistan, in 1993, where he trained at a mujahedeen camp, which he says was a “life changing experience for me.” He fought in Bosnia, and subsequently tried to join Muslim fundamentalists in Chechnya, but could not get into the country. In 2001, he moved his family from the UK to Afghanistan so he could help the Taliban build a new society. This was around the time that the Taliban was destroying the ancient Buddhas at Bamiyan, massacring four thousand people in Mazar-al-Sharif because they were Hazara rather than Salafi Muslims, crushing homosexuals to death, closing down all schools for girls, and forbidding girls over eight to be out in public. Yet Begg says Afghanistan was better off under the Taliban than it had been for the previous twenty-five years.

    There is no question that Amnesty International has developed an extremely close relationship with Begg and Cageprisoners as part of its campaign to close down Guantanamo. Despite advice from experts on its own staff, including Gita Sahgal, who raised questions on this alliance for two years, Amnesty has helped organize a European speaking tour for Begg and made him part of a delegation to Downing Street.

    It is essential for a human rights organization to be able to draw a clear line between defending someone’s rights and supporting his opinions—or trying to cover them up. Because it is easier to get support for “pure victims,” there is a temptation to pretend people are other than what they are. But this way disaster lies. And blurring the line is not necessary. Remember Franjo Tudjman, leader of the Croatian nationalist movement, responsible for policies of ethnic cleansing after the breakup of Yugoslavia? He was an Amnesty “prisoner of conscience” in the 1980s. But Amnesty did not sponsor speaking tours by Tudjman. Nor did they sponsor speaking tours by the Shining Path members jailed without due process in Peru. Though they had to be defended against torture, they were part of a terrorist organization that engaged in mass murders of civilians. Thus they were not appropriate spokespeople for human rights. Neither are Taliban supporters.

    The world is a complicated place and freedom has more than one enemy. It is folly to assume that everyone imprisoned by the US is a good guy or that anyone who opposes US imperialism is a friend of the people. Now more than ever these principles need to be clear. The website Human Rights for All makes this point in several places, and has posted a petition by three prominent South Asian feminists, which reads in part:

    We believe that Gita Sahgal has raised a fundamental point of principle which is “about the importance of the human rights movement maintaining an objective distance from groups and ideas that are committed to systematic discrimination”.

    This issue of principle is critical at the present moment, with the United States led “War on Terror” leading to the suspension of human rights and increased surveillance over individuals and the body politic. Ironically, the language of human rights and human rights defenders is being taken over by the US/NATO alliance in its efforts to legitimise a re-born imperialism. Equally disturbingly, this language is also being hijacked by organizations that espouse extremist and violent forms of identity-based politics. The space for a position that challenges both these is shrinking, and human rights are becoming hostage to broader authoritarian political agendas, whether from states or communities.

    It is extremely important for people to sign this petition and to widen this discussion. Large nonprofits like Amnesty operate almost outside public scrutiny, yet the policy decisions they make can affect as many people as the decisions of governments. AI must have hoped that, by suspending Gita, they could truncate the discussion but the opposite has happened, and that is to the ultimate benefit of the human rights movement. A joint statement by Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalism makes this point trenchantly:

    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….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.

    Friends—read the documents—sign the petition—think about how these issues apply in the US—and let me hear from you.

    Copyright © Meredith Tax 2010. All Rights Reserved.

  144. Muslim — on 18th February, 2010 at 2:11 pm  

    David T

    Given that one of the things that we are hammered for is that we support military interventions against genocidal tyrants, the key example of which is our support for the intervention in Bosnia, your criticism is wholly misplaced.

    Which makes your haranging Moazzem Begg for the “crime” of going to fight to defend Bosnia’s Muslims against genocide all the more hypocritical.

    Can you explain why the video of this has been removed from You Tube?

  145. bananabrain — on 18th February, 2010 at 2:33 pm  

    We believe that Gita Sahgal has raised a fundamental point of principle which is “about the importance of the human rights movement maintaining an objective distance from groups and ideas that are committed to systematic discrimination”.

    i like this statement of the problem. it’s succinct, clear and non-partisan.

    it is a shame that an equally clear-headed position is not being taken by everyone else, as opposed to labelling people as driven by ideological reductionism and damning them by association.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  146. FG — on 18th February, 2010 at 11:16 pm  

    johd – your statement about this video is nonsense:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wk3707UhmvA

    It was not produced nor disseminated by Cageprisoners, but by another group/blog which is now defunct known as Prisoners of Faith.

    Anyone can post a video to the Cageprisoners Facebook group, as you can do with many other Facebook groups – it was not posted by one of their group administrators, members of staff or volunteers so what does that prove?

  147. Dr Aisha Gill — on 19th February, 2010 at 2:09 pm  
  148. halima — on 19th February, 2010 at 7:57 pm  

    Arif @ 95

    As you say, AI are clear on what they do, and none of this is in doubt, but what’s less clear is how others perceive their stance. But should Amnesty or Sahgal be accountable for how others perceive their actions? For instance, AI isn’t responsible for repudiating the views of every member they’ve helped to release in the past. Neither does Gita Sahgal now need to endorse the views of the new right wing supporters she finds rallying behind her.

    On your broader point that organizations need clearer and transparent partnership principles, is well made, and I imagine Amnesty do this most of the time.

    Refresh @98

    You are raising an important point for any organization working globally on a range of issues – that is, to what extent is a corporate campaign given precedent over issues of a more regional significance. The issue Sahgal also raises is one of prioritizing human rights abuses, and Amnesty have chosen to highlight (in Sahgal’s view) the unfair imprisonment from the War on Terror over gender-based abuses. I imagine the War on Terror is far more integral to AI’s core values, than other human rights issues. Within human rights movements there is a division of labour among organizations who do political rights and those that lead on gender, child rights and so on. Realistically, if I am honest, most organizations, even those working on human rights, don’t do very well on gender issues and this is why we tend to have gender champion to address the deficiency. However, Sahgal isn’t questioning Amnesty’s commitment to gender per se.

    Yes, the War on Terror is more significant in Europe/Americas, but I don’t think we should ask the gender unit in Amnesty HQ to simply do gender ‘out there’ as though gender isn’t relevant ‘here’ so to speak; this simply caricatures the divide between the global north and the south. AI’s current and hugely successful campaign on violence against women is a fantastic case in point where common issues across developed and developing world matters.

    But I tend to agree that the War on Terror is the major challenge for human rights for our generation, it defines our challenges as an internationalized and networked world. Muslims living in Europe and America do face huge difficulties at the moment, and their/our rights should be safeguarded as best as possible given the climate of suspicion on Muslim men.

    Other than this, I am not sure what more can be said. Sahgal is a deeply principled and committed professional, and I look forward to seeing her develop an agenda that provides continuous challenge for others looking to improve their game on gender-based human rights work. I, for one, welcome any such challenge.

  149. TC — on 20th February, 2010 at 10:26 pm  

    http://www.blowe.org.uk/
    If this link been posted b4 – well tough, it’s worth posting again. :)

  150. earwicga — on 21st February, 2010 at 12:54 pm  

    I wonder if Rushdie was “suffering from a kind of moral bankruptcy” when he signed the petition in support of Polanski? You know, the man who raped a 14 year old then did a runner for decades.

  151. earwicga — on 21st February, 2010 at 2:59 pm  

    151 should read ‘the man who raped a *13* year old.

  152. halima — on 21st February, 2010 at 4:51 pm  

    Interesting, isn’t it, how the media is repeatedly saying ‘had sex with a 13 year old’ as opposed to ‘rape’. Nice one.

  153. chicojack — on 22nd February, 2010 at 10:45 pm  

    Tim Coster http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/03/2010_08_mon.shtml

    BBC Woman’s hour:

    ” I hired Gita and she worked with me for six years. While I was there those concerns did not come to light. She didn’t ever express them to me…” Irene Khan

  154. Stanislaw — on 5th April, 2010 at 3:47 pm  

    “I wonder if Rushdie was “suffering from a kind of moral bankruptcy” when he signed the petition in support of Polanski? You know, the man who raped a 14 year old.”

    Rushdie was brought up to revere as the Prophet of God a man who had sex with a nine-year old girl. I suppose from a start like that, 14 years old is progress.

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