Irene Khan challenges Gita Sahgal’s version of events on Amnesty


by guest
22nd February, 2010 at 6:32 pm    

contribution by Earwicga

Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International 2001-2009, was on Woman’s Hour this morning to discuss her book The Unheard Truth – Poverty and Human Rights in which Khan ‘advocates for: awareness about what she sees as the indisputable link between the title’s two components. Khan states flatly, “Poverty is the world’s worst human rights crisis.”‘. More details can be found here.

At the close of the interview Khan was asked about Gita Sahgal’s campaign against Amnesty International, specifically her claim that Amnesty has shown a gross error in judgement in those it has chosen to work with in it’s campaign to close Guantanamo. Gita Sahgal is specifically accusing Moazzam Begg of supporting the Taliban and has accused Amnesty of ignoring her complaints for years, which has led to absolutely no credibility across the world in being serious about treating the equality of women and the emancipation of women seriously’.
Khan had this to say:

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 so I can’t comment on her specific case or what’s happened since I left.

Then when pushed she added the following:

There are two things, first is that when you’re an advocate for human rights you obviously have to have the voices of victims heard. Victims are not paragons of virtue and Amnesty has to make very tough decisions about who it works with, who it gives a platform to. We’ve worked with the Catholic Church on the abolition of the death penalty, but we have been in opposition to the Catholic Church on sexual and reproductive rights for instance. So you have to make those judgements.

Now, during my time I launched the campaign to close Guantanamo, but I also launched the campaign to stop violence against women, because there’s a lot of talk about the Taliban, about terrorism – very little talk about sexual terror which probably takes many more victims every day in bedrooms, in battlefields, in back streets, in workplaces. So I think it’s important to focus on both issues equally strongly.

So Irene Khan, boss of Gita Sahgal didn’t hear those concerns from the time she employed Sahgal to December 2009 when she left Amnesty. Bit odd that, as Sahgal has been telling different stories in increasingly stronger tones:

Sahgal … decided to go public because she feels Amnesty has ignored her warnings for the past two years about the involvement of Begg in the charity’s Counter Terror With Justice campaign … “I believe the campaign fundamentally damages Amnesty International’s integrity and, more importantly, constitutes a threat to human rights,” Sahgal wrote in an email to the organisation’s leaders on January 30.
The Sunday Times 07/02/10

—-

I sent two memos to my management asking a series of questions about what considerations were given to the nature of the relationship with Moazzam Begg and his organisation, Cageprisoners.
Statement following suspension 07/02/10
(one of which was on 30/01/10 as stated above)

—-

The questions I raised with my organisation were how we had come to such a close relationship with Cageprisoners, when there has been as far as I can discover a weight of expert evidence within the organisation that would have advised against it and had advised against it
BBC Newshour 09/02/09
(So far, neither Sahgal or anybody else from Amnesty has produced any of this expert evidence or agreed with Sahgal’s assertions)

—-

Well, I was not involved with building that relationship[between Moazzam Begg, Cageprisoners & Amnesty]. I advised very strongly against it on several occasions, for several years. On many many occasions at the level of the board of Amnesty International USA, on the level of extremely senior people in the UK, in the British section of Amnesty and had raised these issues internally, so I did not build that relationship and I think that’s a question that you should ask to my superiors.
Interview on CBC Radio 18/02/10

It is inconceivable to think that Irene Khan, in her position as Secretary General, would have missed all these occasions of strong advice from Sahgal.

Even if we conveniently forget for a minute that Sahgal has produced no evidence and that nobody from Amnesty is supporting her claims – in fact quite the opposite, it is clear that even Sahgal’s own statements don’t marry up with each other, let alone marry with the recollections of her boss at Amnesty, Irene Khan.

Not surprising that Sahgal is garnering claims of smear merchant is it really?
H/T Lucy


              Post to del.icio.us


Filed in: Current affairs,Islamists






174 Comments below   |  

Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. pickles

    Blog post:: Irene Khan challenges Gita Sahgal's version of events on Amnesty http://bit.ly/cdLT6J


  2. Robin Ince

    RT @pickledpolitics: Blog post:: Irene Khan challenges Gita Sahgal's version of events on Amnesty http://bit.ly/cdLT6J


  3. Liberal Conspiracy

    RT @pickledpolitics: Irene Khan challenges Gita Sahgal's version of events on Amnesty http://bit.ly/cdLT6J


  4. earwicga

    RT @libcon: RT @pickledpolitics: Irene Khan challenges Gita Sahgal's version of events on Amnesty http://bit.ly/cdLT6J


  5. Naadir Jeewa

    Reading: Irene Khan challenges Gita Sahgal’s version of events on Amnesty: contribution by Earwicga
    Irene Khan, Se… http://bit.ly/bZPSf5


  6. Allan Siegel

    RT @pickledpolitics: Blog post:: Irene Khan challenges Gita Sahgal's version of events on Amnesty http://bit.ly/cdLT6J


  7. Sarah Raphael

    RT @libcon: RT @pickledpolitics: Irene Khan challenges Gita Sahgal's version of events on Amnesty http://bit.ly/cdLT6J


  8. Irene Khan on Gita Sahgal, Amnesty & Poverty « Earwicga

    [...] February 22, 2010 Irene Khan on Gita Sahgal, Amnesty & Poverty Posted by earwicga under Amnesty International, Gita Sahgal, Moazzam Begg [5] Comments  Cross posted at Pickled Politics [...]




  1. Sunny — on 22nd February, 2010 at 6:36 pm  

    Wow, this is huge!

    I can’t wait for the usuals to turn and up and claim that Irene Khan has no credibility on the issue.

  2. Niels Christensen — on 22nd February, 2010 at 6:52 pm  

    Yeah Khan misses a lot. Anyone who equalize Guantanamo with Gulag wasn’t much awake at the history lessons.

  3. David T — on 22nd February, 2010 at 6:55 pm  

    Er, Sunny…

    How much do you know about the campaigning and management structure at Amnesty International?

    I do appreciate that your feud with Nick Cohen etc propels you to an endless quest to grasp at straws.

    Still, feel free to claim that Sahgal is a liar. I think you’ll end up looking just a little silly.

    Sillier, I mean.

  4. MaidMarian — on 22nd February, 2010 at 7:05 pm  

    Sunny – This is not about the credibility of individuals indulging in personality conflicts. I make no value judgment on these competing claims which, to my mind ought to be played out in private.

    The point is that whoever made the decision, whatever form it took, Amnesty has an undeniably close relationship with Begg.

    How they got there does not really matter. The article is absolutely correct in that simply because Amnesty works with some (like the Catholic Church) does not mean that they endorse in full the Church’s views. Equally however the dividing line between Amnesty and Begg has been blurred.

    I fully accept that some are looking for reasons to beat Amnesty. But the relationship with Begg does leave a bad taste in the mouth and I am at a loss as to why you can’t see this.

    Amnesty should air their dirty laundry in private, but their relationship with Begg is an entirely legitimate subject for public comment.

  5. MiriamBinder — on 22nd February, 2010 at 7:06 pm  

    Or complain about ad hominem attacks on Gita Sahgals’ stance …

  6. Sunny — on 22nd February, 2010 at 7:09 pm  

    Still, feel free to claim that Sahgal is a liar. I think you’ll end up looking just a little silly

    It’s not me claiming it. Though I’m sure you’ll tell me soon enough why Gita Sahgal is more believable than Irene Khan.

    If you can get over the knee-jerk remarks, read what Irene Khan says:

    Victims are not paragons of virtue and Amnesty has to make very tough decisions about who it works with, who it gives a platform to. We’ve worked with the Catholic Church on the abolition of the death penalty, but we have been in opposition to the Catholic Church on sexual and reproductive rights for instance. So you have to make those judgements.

    but I suspect such nuance is very difficult for some people to swallow.

  7. earwicga — on 22nd February, 2010 at 7:12 pm  

    MaidMarian
    “This is not about the credibility of individuals indulging in personality conflicts”

    But Gita Sahgal has only provided her credibility as a campaigner as evidence that we should believe it when she says that Moazzam Begg is “Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban”. There is nothing anywhere else that supports this claim.

  8. Sunny — on 22nd February, 2010 at 7:14 pm  

    But the relationship with Begg does leave a bad taste in the mouth and I am at a loss as to why you can’t see this.

    MM – For me, Cage Prisoners leave a bad taste in the mouth. But that doesn’t mean Amnesty is tainted automatically by touring Begg.

    Why, for example, doesn’t the association with the Catholic Church leave a bad taste in the mouth? They’ve actually contributed to the deaths of many more people than any Islamist terrorist.

  9. David T — on 22nd February, 2010 at 7:28 pm  

    “It’s not me claiming it”

    But you think it is “huge”. How can it be “huge” if you don’t think it is true?

    Nevertheless, contrary to your guest poster, you accept that Saghal did in fact raise, appropriately and through the officers specifically charged with Amnesty’s campaign strategy, detailed information on the problematic relationship with Cageprisoners?

    In which case, surely, you should be writing a piece asking why concerns of this magnitude were not taken to the Secretary General. And why Irene Khan still finds that relationship unproblematic.

    Let us say that Amnesty did tour around an activist in the Catholic Church who supported the establishment of a theocratic state, and who believed that all Catholics had an obligation to engage in violence in order to preserve such a state. Lets say that this activist didn’t merely believe that foetuses are persons with full human rights, but wanted to replace democracy with rule by priests…

    … perhaps a member of the Spanish Falange.

    Would you be OK with that?

    They’ve actually contributed to the deaths of many more people than any Islamist terrorist.

    Have they? Really? Compared to, say, the Taliban in Afghanistan, or the Shia and Al Qaeda death squads in Iraq?

    I mean, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the Catholic Church’s position on personhood and abortion is correct. But to suggest that the Catholic Church, in recent years at least, compares with jihadist politics is as loopy as those who claim that “libruls” are responsible for the deaths of, like, billions and billions of aborted babies.

    Or are you talking about the Inquisition in the 15th and 16th Centuries? The Wars of Religion, perhaps?

  10. David T — on 22nd February, 2010 at 7:41 pm  

    Or the Crusades?

  11. Sunny — on 22nd February, 2010 at 7:41 pm  

    But you think it is “huge”. How can it be “huge” if you don’t think it is true?

    It’s huge because Irene Khan has impeccable credentials on the issue, and was the former head of Amnesty. If she’s saying she didn’t see the issue being raised, then it raises a lot of questions.

    Of course, feel free to ignore all that. Irene Khan is irrelevant in all this… stick to the script David.

    you accept that Saghal did in fact raise, appropriately and through the officers specifically charged with Amnesty’s campaign strategy, detailed information on the problematic relationship with Cageprisoners?

    How do I know what’s going on inside Amnesty? Are you now saying Irene Khan is part of this vast conspiracy to protect Moazzam Begg?

    Would you be OK with that?

    Have you ever campaigned for Amnesty to break off all links with the Pope and Catholic church?

    Or are you talking about the Inquisition in the 15th and 16th Centuries? The Wars of Religion, perhaps?

    I’m going back centuries.

    But if you want, we can dig out stats on how many people died when they asked people to not use protection or said abortion was wrong.

    Why don’t you give me a stat on how many people Islamists have killed.

  12. Sunny — on 22nd February, 2010 at 7:43 pm  

    How many people died when the Catholic Church banned the use of condoms, thereby helping spread HIV/AIDS?

    Have you ever argued for Amnesty to cut off all relations with the church?

  13. Roger — on 22nd February, 2010 at 7:48 pm  

    But Gita Sahgal has only provided her credibility as a campaigner as evidence that we should believe it when she says that Moazzam Begg is “Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban”. There is nothing anywhere else that supports this claim.

    Is it the claim that Begg is famous for supporting the Taliban or the claim that he supports the Taliban you object to? The first is debatable. As to the second, Begg thought Taliban-ruled Afghanistan a suitable place to take his wife and children to when public execution by torture was about the only form of public entertainment available and has never said that he was mistaken in his assessment of them since then, so it looks pretty much as if he supports the Taliban.

  14. David T — on 22nd February, 2010 at 7:49 pm  

    If she’s saying she didn’t see the issue being raised, then it raises a lot of questions.

    Indeed – it shows quite how seriously Amnesty took Saghal’s concerns. You’d think that a sensible organisation would have elevated these concerns to the highest levels.

    Have you ever campaigned for Amnesty to break off all links with the Pope and Catholic church?

    If we found that Amnesty was touring round – let’s say – Bishop Richard Williamson, I think we’ve have something to say about it, yes.

    I’m going back centuries.

    Of course you are. You’d have to!

    Silly.

  15. earwicga — on 22nd February, 2010 at 8:01 pm  

    @ David T
    If you can’t see the clear contradiction between what Gita Sahgal is claiming and what Irene Khan said today then there is no point explaining it to you.

    Sam Zarifi has already explained that the debate regarding using Moazzam Begg as part of Amnesty’s campaign against Guantanamo; Counter Terror With Justice has taken place within Amnesty. Claudio Cordone has already explained if there were evidence forthcoming that Moazzam Begg was unsuitable to take part in this campaign then this position would be re-assessed. Perhaps Sahgal somehow missed the internal debate? Perhaps Sahgal’s emails to Cordone which were obviously full of evidence were caught up in spam?

    Re. deaths caused by Catholic Church
    1) It is estimated that since 1981 more than 25 million people have died of aids.
    2) 200 women a day die from unsafe abortions – that’s 70,000 deaths per year. In addition, up to seven million women survive unsafe abortions but sustain long-term damage. (1998 estimates)
    UN figures – look them up.
    The Catholic Church isn’t responsible for each and every one of these deaths, but plays a ridiculously large part in these figures.

  16. Sunny — on 22nd February, 2010 at 8:06 pm  

    If we found that Amnesty was touring round – let’s say – Bishop Richard Williamson, I think we’ve have something to say about it, yes.

    Straw-man. You didn’t answer my question. The Catholic Church isn’t some heterogeneous org – they’re pretty straight on issues.

    So I’ll take that as a no, then.

    Of course you are. You’d have to!

    I asked how many people you think have been killed by Islamists. You don’t want to venture any thoughts.

    Neither did you comment on how the Catholic church helped spread HIV/AIDS by campaigning against condoms.

    Thanks – all I needed to know.

  17. earwicga — on 22nd February, 2010 at 8:06 pm  

    @ Roger
    “so it looks pretty much as if he supports the Taliban.”

    Read the book Roger. Read anything that helps you see past the bull being touted about Moazzam Begg.

  18. David T — on 22nd February, 2010 at 8:13 pm  

    The Catholic Church isn’t responsible for each and every one of these deaths, but plays a ridiculously large part in these figures.

    Really?

    How large a part?

    How does the Church’s position on reproductive and gender rights compare with, say, that of the Protestant Churches? Or the clerics who run the Islamic Republic of Iran? Or, for that matter, the Taliban?

    The Catholic Church, in any case, is a very large organisation, which encompasses the most socially conservative and the liberation theologians.

    Cageprisoners, by contrast, is a very small organisation, whose activists are politically closely aligned, which is run by Begg who supports jihadi political theory, and jihadist clerics.

    Now, if you’re telling me that Amnesty has been touring around a Catholic priest who also supports violence against abortion clinics – and who believes that Catholics all over the world must flock to countries which allow abortions in order to join anti-abortion militias – then obviously that ought to stop immediately.

    Has it?

  19. David T — on 22nd February, 2010 at 8:16 pm  

    The Catholic Church isn’t some heterogeneous org – they’re pretty straight on issues.

    ha ha ha.

    You really ought to read up on Catholic church politics.

    Um – are you basing your views on a close reading of the Da Vinci Code?

  20. marvin — on 22nd February, 2010 at 8:22 pm  

    Yeah Khan misses a lot. Anyone who equalize Guantanamo with Gulag wasn’t much awake at the history lessons.

    Talk about understatement.

    On average the (hundreds of) Gitmo prisoners put on 13 pounds in weight. Nobody died.

    On average, Gulags killed 30,000,000 people.

    Anybody who likens the deaths of 30 million people to the Guantanamo detention centre which safely held hundreds of Al-Qaeda suspects and played them Britney Spears records over and over, is one stupid c*nt.

    She should have been sacked immediately for this patently deluded propaganda driven by sheer hatred of the right-wing Bush administration. It’s from the mouth of a very angry far-leftist, or one who is quite a adept at doing an impression of one.

    And Sunny, without any sense of irony, holds this woman up to be the truth-bearer!

    God help the left as Sunny represents it!

  21. MaidMarian — on 22nd February, 2010 at 8:22 pm  

    Sunny – Thank you for your reply. Sure, I accept that there are lines to be drawn. You use the word, ‘touring.’ I think that sums it up well. I don’t claim to know where the line is, but to my mind AI crossed it here.

    Of course, a better way would be to separate identity politics out of this, but that’s for another thread.

    Earwigca – Thank you for your reply. I agree, she has provided her personality. This is something that is, or should be private. Begg’s link with AI amount to a full public tour.

    AI, of course, are free to use whoever they want to to highlight their cause, and people are free to leave AI over it. It’s just that I and a great many others will not salute the flag run up by Begg. Even it it is run up AI’s mast.

    Best of luck to you.

  22. Sunny — on 22nd February, 2010 at 8:28 pm  

    Um – are you basing your views on a close reading of the Da Vinci Code?

    Shall I take it you endorse the Church’s stances then on these social issues?

    I know you don’t – so all you’re trying to do is deflect from the fact that when Amnesty works with other orgs you don’t say much because you know it’s unlikely Amnesty would be influenced by them.

    In fact Irene Khan really spells out everything that needs to be said. If you think she’s without merit – just say so.

    Cageprisoners, by contrast, is a very small organisation, whose activists are politically closely aligned, which is run by Begg who supports jihadi political theory, and jihadist clerics.

    Oh gimme a break. They’re mostly a bunch of delusional idiots who don’t condemn some jihadis as you’d like them to. If you are trying to pretend they had any influence on millions of people that contributed to their deaths – then you really are delusional.

  23. FlyingRodent — on 22nd February, 2010 at 8:35 pm  

    @David T. – I think Khan’s making a reasonable point, myself. After all, she’s saying that some issues are so grave and represent such great travesties of justice that it may be worth, say, inviting a dodgy character with a nasty history to speak in order to keep it in the public eye. Issues like torture, murder and extrajudicial detention, for instance.

    Surely you can understand this, David. I mean, would you bunk up with a lot of psycho Republican lunatics and pretend that you believe that the Red Cross could be bombing its own ambulances, if it helped a cause you believe is justified?

    Or would you give the Daily Mail an exclusive on how the Muslims were taking over your local swimming pool to terrify the snake-handling bigots that read it, if you thought you were in the right?

    Oh wait, I forgot – you actually did do those things, and still think you were justified in doing so. I must’ve been distracted by your brazen hypocrisy or something.

    Still, never mind me. Tell us more about how your principles would forbid you from mixing it with reactionaries, why don’t you.

  24. Roger — on 22nd February, 2010 at 8:39 pm  

    I have read the book, Earwicga. It is a powerful indictment of the way Pakistan and the U.S.A. treat their prisoners and how they decide who to make prisoner and shows the disgraceful way the U.K. evades responsibility for its citizens. It is completely inadequate as an explanation of Begg’s religio-political opinions- there’s a passage where Begg is asked why he went to Afghanistan under the Taliban and he simply says “You wouldn’t understand” to his questioner, and that’s about as far as it goes.
    The problem is there are two Beggs: the tortured prisoner guilty of no crime and the sympathiser with violent jihadists and A.I. have not properly made it plain which they are associated with.

  25. saeed — on 22nd February, 2010 at 8:45 pm  

    The catholic church has teamed up with the Sudan, Saudi and Iranian regimes to help thwart women’s rights in organizations like the UN.

    So sunnys point about the catholic church is valid

  26. MoreMediaNonsense — on 22nd February, 2010 at 8:48 pm  

    AI in Norwich eg has lost the plot IMO, from this :

    http://www.norwichstopwar.org.uk/index.php?title=Norwich_Stop_the_War_Coalition

    it appears they are having a joint meeting with STWC :

    “Wednesday 10th March: Documentary: Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo, 7pm, The Curve (downstairs in The Forum)

    Screening of documentary “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo”

    followed by Q & A session with

    Andy Worthington (journalist and author) and Omar Deghayes (former prisoner)

    Film produced by Spectacle (http://www.spectacle.co.uk in Association with Guantanamo Justice Centre.

    Screening organised by NSTWC and Norwich Amnesty Further information from info@norwichstopwar.org.uk, info@norwichamnesty.org.uk or http://www.norwichstopwar.org.uk. ”

    I’m sure Sunny approves.. after all he’s against the Afghan war as well…. Oh wait… :)

    Imagine if you were strongly for the war in Afghanistan and an AI member in Norwich – where would that leave you ?

    Surely that’s why AI should not partner closely with other political organisations ?

  27. MariaS — on 22nd February, 2010 at 9:28 pm  

    I have yet to see anyone explain exactly how Moazzam Begg is “Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban”. What are his links with the Taliban? How does he actively promote them?

    All that is offered is that he once wrote that the Taliban were in some ways an improvement on the lawlessness that preceded their rule in Afghanistan. I fail to see how that is anything other than a sad small statement of fact.

    Nor has anyone explained exactly what constitutes Amnesty’s close relationship with Cageprisoners that everyone is so horrified by. Moazzam Begg has spoken at Amnesty events about his experiences in Guantanamo. That’s about all. Cageprisoners itself does not, at least on its website, present itself as having any kind of formal relationship with Amnesty. How can Amnesty disengage from this other than by no longer asking Begg to speak? Given that he has already withdrawn from such speaking engagements in order to protect the Guantanamo detainees campaign from the media flak surrounding him, is that a satisfying result for his critics?

    Or rather, is the desired result that Amnesty’s credibility is undermined – not by substantial criticism but by vague smears and insinuations?

    DavidT: “Let us say that Amnesty did tour around an activist in the Catholic Church who supported the establishment of a theocratic state, and who believed that all Catholics had an obligation to engage in violence in order to preserve such a state. Lets say that this activist didn’t merely believe that foetuses are persons with full human rights, but wanted to replace democracy with rule by priests…”

    Where has Moazzam Begg stated such beliefs? Where has he promoted violence in the cause of a fundamentalist Islamic state?

    As I understand it the extent of this is that he has declined to condemn those who speak in favour of violence committed by people living under foreign occupation against those occupying forces, for speaking that way. This is not a theological matter. It is not irrational fundamentalism. Whether you agree with it or not, it is a rational political & emotional position for a Muslim person who feels solidarity with other Muslims living under occupation. Or indeed a person of any faith or none who feels such solidarity. How to respond to state violence is a moral and political dilemma for any peace activist.

    I’ve seen Moazzam Begg speak at anti-war events. He does not come across as a militant person. He does not make political points, he does not make religious points. His is a moderate voice, who has responded to being unjustly imprisoned for several years without anger and aggression, suprisingly, but instead put his energy into peace & human rights work. He has extended his friendships with those of his American prison guards who have joined him in speaking out against the Guantanamo detentions (and other extra-judicial imprisonment carried out by or on behalf of the USA.)

    He is happy to work with Amnesty on the issue of these detentions, Amnesty being an organisation that also speaks out for the rights of women and of LGBT people, presumably in contradiction of the tenets and traditions of the religion he adheres to.

    As far as I can see Moazzam Begg is an ordinary British Muslim who has been subjected to an extraordinary and deeply unjust experience. The insinuations against him stray dangerously near to relying on the kind of knee-jerk racist assumption that associates “Muslim” with “terrorist” for their effect.

  28. Lucy — on 22nd February, 2010 at 10:01 pm  

    @MariaS:”The insinuations against him stray dangerously near to relying on the kind of knee-jerk racist assumption that associates “Muslim” with “terrorist” for their effect.”

    Maria, your entire comment is eloquent and sane. Good luck to you and thanks.

  29. Brownie — on 22nd February, 2010 at 10:11 pm  

    How many people died when the Catholic Church banned the use of condoms, thereby helping spread HIV/AIDS?

    You can’t have it both ways. The Catholic church preaches monogamy and no sex before marriage. If you’re going to cite Catholic doctrine, you can’t leave out the bits that render your point pointless. I speak as someone whole-heartedly opposed to the church’s contraception policy in Africa, but the Catholic church is not responsible for the AIDs epidemic spurred in part by people indulging in unprotected sex with multiple partners, behaviour that the church explicitly proscribes.

    On Khan, she effectively like a CEO, and she’s saying a she never heard about the complaints of a middle-manager who presumably made those complaints to her immediate bosses. Why is this surprising to anyone? I doubt my CEO knows what I said to HR about my immediate boss last week.

    Sahgal claims she sent two memos that went unanswered. I have yet to hear anyone from AI specifically refute or deny that claim. Presumably because hard evidence of the existence of those memos exists. It would be a reckless thing to claim if no such memos were sent.

    So Sunny, do you think Sahgal is lying about those memos? And why hasn’t anyone from AI denied their existence if it is made up?

  30. Rachel Davenport — on 22nd February, 2010 at 10:12 pm  

    Please, if you don’t know this name, look it up.
    Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow

    You will see that Aisha was a 13 year old girl stoned to death for ‘adultery’ in an al-Shabaab controled area of Somalia. Amnesty tried to save her.

    One of the fans of al-Shabaab and their attempts to impose Shariah is Anwar al-Awlaki. One of the fans of Anwar al-Awlaki is Moazzem Begg, as you will find on the Cageprisoners website.

    Anwar al-Awlaki is a former Guantanamo detainee, never charged, among the thousands whose cases CP publicises, is right to publicise in its attempts to bring justice to some of the victims of the war on terror. But Anwar al-Awlaki is not just a one of the prisoners listed there. He has been invited to speak at CP events and was interviewed by Begg. Read the website. Now, probably he was only going to speak about the plight of the prisoners, and not about his views on Sharia and the rights of women. But, all you ‘feminists’ on this site, so outraged by the presence of the media junkie Rushdie in this debate, consider how you feel about al-Awlaki. Consider how CP does not distance themselves from his views. Maybe they don’t share them, but they don’t feel the need to distance themselves from them. Do you feel happy about Amnesty promoting CP (and if they weren’t before, they are now)? Remember, as we are taught by Women Living Under Muslim Laws and the dozens of secular organisations from South Asia, it is Muslims who are the main victims of the Islamic Right.

    Amnesty’s website says two of their big campaigns now are Stop Violence against Women and Terrorism, Security and Human Rights. Maybe these should not be as separate as they seem to be now.

    The work of SBS/WAF/Gita Sahgal developing the connections between authoritarian nationalist and religious movements and the oppression of women has been profound and radical. It’s not very surprising that she could not carry on living the contradiction she was in at Amnesty. How could she not speak out? I’m sure she would have raised the same doubts about an Amnesty having a sustained relationship with supporters of Hindutva or Christian or Jewish theocrats. Look at her history.

    I can understand that many people disagree with her. Gareth Pierce certainly must. I still respect her. But you can disagree with Gita without calling her an Islamophobe, a careerist, a neo-con, a dupe or a liar.

  31. Brownie — on 22nd February, 2010 at 10:13 pm  

    The insinuations against him stray dangerously near to relying on the kind of knee-jerk racist assumption that associates “Muslim” with “terrorist” for their effect.”

    What, even when those “insinuations” are made by other Muslims?

    Who’s the racist?

  32. Rachel Davenport — on 22nd February, 2010 at 10:18 pm  

    Brownie, the Muslims who don’t think Gita Sahgal is wrong are more or less invisible to most of the ‘experts’ here.

  33. Brownie — on 22nd February, 2010 at 10:21 pm  

    Brownie, the Muslims who don’t think Gita Sahgal is wrong are more or less invisible to most of the ‘experts’ here.

    Or the ‘wrong kind’ of Muslim.

  34. swift — on 22nd February, 2010 at 10:32 pm  

    David T

    Still, feel free to claim that Sahgal is a liar. I think you’ll end up looking just a little silly.

    Sillier, I mean.

    Wow the man who publically harangued Moazzem Begg for fighting in Bosnia (then had the video of this removed from You Tube) while having admitted the Muslims of that country faced genocide and who failed to utter a single word of condemnation during Israels slaughter and ongoing starvation of Gaza while once having signed a petition for expelled Palestinian’s right of return thinks other people look silly.

  35. Sunny — on 22nd February, 2010 at 10:51 pm  

    Or the ‘wrong kind’ of Muslim.

    The kind that disagree with you guys about the War on Terror, right?

    Rachel – I agree, we can disagree with Gita Sahgal without calling her slurs and I don’t intend to do that. I don’t think she is a racist or an Islamophobe at all and nothing she has said suggests that.

    However she is slagging off Amnesty willy-nilly and making accusations that are very quickly coming apart.

    Partly, because most of her accusations seem to be copied from Harry’s Place – where degrees of separation automatically condemn you to a life of terrorism, and words are twisted out of all context especially when it applies to Muslims. Just take the witch-hunt against Mehdi Hasan for example.

    In this case – there are loads of accusations made against Begg that just don’t stand up. Furthermore – the guy is continually being accused of being a liar in once instance (when he protests his innocence) but his word is taken as definite in other cases (from his book).

    And also note how none ofg her supporters are addressing what Irene Khan says above.

  36. somebody else — on 22nd February, 2010 at 10:54 pm  

    Brownie and David T,

    Honestly, you’d think Pickled Politics was under a takeover bid from Harry’s Place.

    Where is your evidence? Spit it out here and lets all see what’s to be made of it.

  37. KB Player — on 22nd February, 2010 at 10:55 pm  

    Here’s Gita Sahgal’s statement on Begg:-

    http://www.human-rights-for-all.org/spip.php?article30

    “Moazzem Begg was released from Guantanamo Bay, without being charged with any terrorist-related offence. So what’s wrong with Amnesty involving him in its campaign against human rights violations in prison?

    Amnesty International could have involved him in meetings to describe his experiences at Guantanamo, without whitewashing his views. For instance, it is clear that he was an admirer of the Taliban, had attended jihadi training camps and had sold books and videos promoting global jihad and terrorist attacks, such as Abdullah Azzam’s book. [Azzam, who preached jihad, was a mentor of Osama bin Laden and persuaded him to come to Afghanistan.] These things could have been stated in his introduction to make it clear that he held abhorrent views, but nevertheless his rights should be defended. Instead, he appears as someone simply doing charitable work in Taliban Afghanistan.”

    Also, Amnesty have made a very poor fist of defending their activities with Begg.

  38. Sunny — on 22nd February, 2010 at 10:58 pm  

    but the Catholic church is not responsible for the AIDs epidemic spurred in part by people indulging in unprotected sex with multiple partners, behaviour that the church explicitly proscribes.

    What?? So you are in fact trying to justify the Church’s ludicrous position and absolve it of all blame.

    On Khan, she effectively like a CEO, and she’s saying a she never heard about the complaints of a middle-manager who presumably made those complaints to her immediate bosses

    Middle Manager? She was head of gender related affairs. If Sam Zafiri had been dragged into the row then it’s ludicrous to say Irene Khan would not know of it.

    And why hasn’t anyone from AI denied their existence if it is made up?

    Why the hell would Amnesty put out statements to please you? They’ve got their internal procedures to deal with. Idiot.

  39. Rachel Davenport — on 22nd February, 2010 at 11:00 pm  

    I am sure that Gita Sahgal is not copying things from Harry’s Place. Do you honestly think she is doing that? I reckon she does her own research.

    Again, your obsession with the right wingers. Why not consider the left wing secular and/or Muslim critics of Amnesty’s policy? There are numerous individuals and websites on Gita’s petition as I have pointed out several times. Why not communicate with them or about them?

    http://equalityiniraq.com/
    http://www.wluml.org/
    http://siawi.org/

    etc etc etc Maybe they all support the War on Terror but I doubt it. To paraphrase what someone said a few weeks ago here, it’s possible to oppose both the War on Terror and authoritarian religious movements. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.

  40. cnn — on 22nd February, 2010 at 11:00 pm  

    “internal procedures to deal with”

    internal procedures you clearly know nothing about if you think that Irene Khan’s story is true

  41. Brownie — on 22nd February, 2010 at 11:36 pm  

    What?? So you are in fact trying to justify the Church’s ludicrous position and absolve it of all blame.

    A bizarre thing to write given you have just accused me of being an “idiot”.

    FWIW, I condemned the church’s position on contraception in Africa. What I’m saying is that Rome, which preaches monogamy, is not responsible for an AIDs epidemic. Do you think the people having unprotected sex with multiple partners are listening intently to anything the Catholic church has to say?

    Back on topic: you said, “Though I’m sure you’ll tell me soon enough why Gita Sahgal is more believable than Irene Khan.”

    The point, Sunny, is that neither is saying anything that contradicts the other. Khan has stated she was not aware that Sahgal has raised concerns. I have no trouble believing that at all. You think this is surprising, but like DT says you clearly don’t have the first clue about the organisational structure of AI. We can say this with certainty because you admit it yourself in comment #11 How do I know what’s going on inside Amnesty?

    Sahgal hasn’t made vague claims about raising these issues during some corridor chat. She says, specifically, that she sent two internal memos alluding to her concerns, and that neither was acknowledged. If this was bullshit, presumably AI would deny it. I’m assuming they haven’t because that electronic paper trail exists. I repeat, this is a very specific claim from Sahgal and weeks now after this story broke, not a single AI spokesperson is denying it.

    So I’ll ask you again: when Sahgal claims she sent memos, do you believe her, regardless of what Khan does or does not know of the matter?

  42. Katy Newton — on 22nd February, 2010 at 11:50 pm  

    Sunny,

    I am a bit surprised that you are now suggesting that Gita Sahgal lied about raising her concerns within AI. The internal debate about AI’s relationship with organisations like Caged Prisoners was confirmed in the letter that Zafiri wrote to the Sunday Times (see here).

    Of course you know this, because you linked to the letter in your post here.

    You also referred to it in your comment here, when you said that Zafiri’s letter demonstrated that there was an internal debate within Amnesty, which Gita Sahgal lost.

    Regardless of whether or not Irene Khan was involved in the internal debate, it is quite clear that there *was* an internal debate, as you yourself have said. If there had been no concerns raised, I have no doubt that AI would immediately have said so, as would Zafiri, and Gita Sahgal would have been suspended not for taking her concerns to the press but for making them up.

  43. Sunny — on 22nd February, 2010 at 11:56 pm  

    Here’s what Irene Khan said. Why don’t you think about that a bit more…

    There are two things, first is that when you’re an advocate for human rights you obviously have to have the voices of victims heard. Victims are not paragons of virtue and Amnesty has to make very tough decisions about who it works with, who it gives a platform to. We’ve worked with the Catholic Church on the abolition of the death penalty, but we have been in opposition to the Catholic Church on sexual and reproductive rights for instance. So you have to make those judgements.

  44. Brownie — on 23rd February, 2010 at 12:20 am  

    So you have to make those judgements.

    I have no quarrel with that. My contention is that on this occasion, they got that judgment wrong.

    Did Sahgal send those memos, or do you think she is lying?

  45. Refresh — on 23rd February, 2010 at 1:08 am  

    I am afraid Sunny, this is a highly motivated campaign against Amnesty International. That said, all the more reason to get off the back foot. I would not dignify DavidT with a response – he and his collaborators are there to simply wear down any resistance.

    Crumbs, this is the calibre of the attack:

    One stalwart is comfortable with Guantanamo and secret prison system:

    ‘On average the (hundreds of) Gitmo prisoners put on 13 pounds in weight. Nobody died.’

    Which of course is an untruth – at least three died (it seems killed) with simultaneous ‘suicide’ as the cover story.

    Irene Khan really does put Gita Saghal’s claim in its place.

  46. Brownie — on 23rd February, 2010 at 1:18 am  

    Irene Khan really does put Gita Saghal’s claim in its place.

    Really? How does “I’m not aware these claims” begin to address the substance of the same claims?

    Note Khan didn’t even attempt to refure the specific claims, she simple pleaded ignorance. I’m more than happy to believe Khan when she says she’s not aware of Sahgal’s internal memos, etc. Most employees who have a complaint don’t take it straight to the CEO and the CEO is often-times unaware of everything that is happening within the organisation. Big surprise that one.

    Sunny won’t answer, but presumably you’re happy to claim Sahgal is lying when she says she sent the two memos?

  47. Refresh — on 23rd February, 2010 at 1:32 am  

    Brownie, I’d much rather debate Sahgal directly than the rubbish being strewn here.

    I think it is for Sahgal now to come out and say that her views were not treated as seriously as she wanted – in that it didn’t even get to the secretary general.

    Perhaps others employees hold views contrary to the organisations settled position on other matters – and feel they should be heard before Sahgal.

    It would seem, Sahgal lost the debate. Losing the argument does not mean you watch those wary of your organisation’s cause tear it down brick by brick.

  48. Refresh — on 23rd February, 2010 at 1:35 am  

    Brownie,

    As an aside really – would you say two memos (over two years?) constitute a passionate exposition by Gita Sahgal of her anxieties?

    It is quite possible that she wasn’t effective enough within the organisation, and that does lead to frustration. And yet, as in any organisation to get things done you need to convince people of your case. She clearly didn’t.

  49. Sunny — on 23rd February, 2010 at 2:09 am  

    Victims are not paragons of virtue and Amnesty has to make very tough decisions about who it works with, who it gives a platform to. We’ve worked with the Catholic Church on the abolition of the death penalty, but we have been in opposition to the Catholic Church on sexual and reproductive rights for instance.

    I just wanted to repeat that Brownie because I don’t think you quite get it. This isn’t a matter of you disagreeing – this is Amnesty policy.

    I repeat, this is a very specific claim from Sahgal and weeks now after this story broke, not a single AI spokesperson is denying it.

    She also claims a lot about Moazzam Begg that doesn’t seem to stand up. Would you like a point by point elaboration of that?

  50. Roger — on 23rd February, 2010 at 3:38 am  

    We’ve worked with the Catholic Church on the abolition of the death penalty, but we have been in opposition to the Catholic Church on sexual and reproductive rights for instance.

    However,

    So you have to make those judgements.

    The question is whether A.I. distinguished between Begg as a victim and opponent of Guantanamo and Begg ass a supporter of Taliban and jihadists.

  51. Sunny — on 23rd February, 2010 at 5:02 am  

    Let’s assume your characterisation of Begg is correct – what’s the evidence they didn’t?

    After all, they recognise the Catholic Church as an enemy in certain circumstances and an ally in other battles.

    I can’t imagine why such a simple point isn’t understood at all.

  52. Rachel Davenport — on 23rd February, 2010 at 8:25 am  

    Sunny, sorry to sound patronising but think you should get some rest. leave the computer for a day or so then come back and state your position.

    As a general question, is Amnesty really being uundermined/destroyed? I’m sure many people have stopped paying their subs but I’m betting other people have joined. It was not so much Gita Sahgal’s first interview but rather Widney Brown’s first statement about it that made me feel Amnesty had gone badly wrong. Other people will feel that the choices AI are making now will mean that it is a good time to join.

  53. Arif — on 23rd February, 2010 at 9:55 am  

    Rachel, in considering your general question (#52), who do you think will be more or less inclined to join Amnesty and why?

    There are several loops in which AI is apparently caught up:

    1. An attack on Amnesty’s processes of vetting fellow campaigners. This casts AI as a powerful legitimating organisation, a bit like the BBC, whose platforms confer an aura and for which they need to take more responsibility.

    2. An attack on AI as an employer, for suspending Gita Sahgal after she went to a newspaper. This casts AI as either a faceless bureaucracy or an organisation with something to hide.

    3. An attack on Moazzam Begg and Cage Prisoners as a front for human rights abusers. This casts AI as naive leftists who have privileged anti-Americanism over women’s rights.

    4. Some defences of AI from AI itself and some existing supporters. These usually cast AI as a large organisation which has many human rights campaigns, none of which compromise other campaigns.

    5. Moazzam Begg’s distancing himself from AI, as an organisation smeared for association with him, and for the hatred he feels he has received for working with AI. This casts AI as an organisation which has been smeared for working alongside religious Muslims, and is considered by the mainstream as the turf of non-Muslims.

    It is a classic “clash of civilisations” dynamic, were mistrust breed mistrust, and anyone trying to humanise the other is accused of supporting the other side.

    The only people I think more inclined to join AI will be those who self-consciously oppose the “with us or against us” mindset.

  54. Brownie — on 23rd February, 2010 at 11:01 am  

    I just wanted to repeat that Brownie because I don’t think you quite get it.

    What, even though I commented:“I have no quarrel with that” at number 44 immediately after the first time you posted the same paragraph? It seems you want to have a fight even when I’m agreeing.

    Let me say again, I accept these judgments have to be made, as you say. My contention is that AI’s judgment on this occasion was flawed. I think the decision to partner with Begg was a strategic mistake. I’m not saying AI were wrong to have an internal discussion about whether to partner with Begg. Do you understand?

    On the subject of the internal disucssion and the topic of this post, you said upthread that the fact Khan didn’t know about Sahgal’s concerns “is huge”, and when questioned on this you wrote:

    It’s huge because Irene Khan has impeccable credentials on the issue, and was the former head of Amnesty. If she’s saying she didn’t see the issue being raised, then it raises a lot of questions.

    It’s obvious to a 5 year old that you are indirectly quesitoning Sahgal’s claim that she raised concerns about the AI-Begg partnership. You’re effectively saying that if Sahgal had raised these concerns, Khan would have known. But we don’t need to worry about this because Claudio Cordone has already clarified that there was, indeed, an internal discussion. In fact he was at pains to stress how AI welcomes “vigorous debate”, although this “vigorous debate” is not why Sahgal was suspended. That was because she went to the press, apparently.

    So all this innuendo as regards what Sahgal did and did not do can really stop. AI (if not Khan – which I’ll get to in a second) have confirmed Sahgal raised these issues, that were was a debate (meaning Sahgal’s concerns were given an audience contrary to her suggestion) but that partnership with Begg would still go ahead. As Refresh says above and as you have said previously, “Sahgal lost the debate”.

    So, the question remains: why did Khan not know about Sahgal’s concerns, concerns which AI have conceded were raised and confirmed were debated internally? Ask yourself the question, Sunny: given Khan didn’t know this debate was even happening inside AI, is it more likely that the debate was of the “vigorous” variety depicted by Cordone, or is it more likely Sahgal’s concerns were casually brushed aside as she has claimed?

    Remember, option 3 – that Sahgal didn’t raise any cocnerns – has already been contradicted by Cordone.

    Give youself 30 minutes or so and let’s hear what you have to say.

  55. Florence — on 23rd February, 2010 at 11:26 am  

    Here are several thoughts:

    1) Watch how each successive (albeit well-meaning) statement in support of Sahgal increasingly glosses over – or fails to mention – her clumsy, if not cynical, vilification of Begg in the national press, and her foolish decision to approach the Sunday Times. The Murdoch-media predictably exploited the opportunity to attack the very notion of human rights for all and to suggest that those that pursue this logic are nothing but a bunch of left wingers who support the rights of terrorists. Should we not wonder how much prior contact Sahgal had with commentators of this mindset, whose agenda she has (unwittingly) promoted? Yes, yes, I know that the ST and like minded media outlets slipped in Sahgal’s disclaimer of sorts on Guantanamo, but the overall objective of the article(s) should not be lost on advocates of human rights and those of us who watch the right-wing press with alarm as it downplays or dismisses the gravity of what we are witnessing this last decade: the erosion of the rule of law nationally and internationally (new anti-terrorism/patriot acts, control orders, absence of due process, extraordinary rendition, torture & its cover-ups and the shocking collusion of our intelligence services, etc, – all leading to the impossibility of a fair trial) in response to the ‘War on terror’.

    2) This is indeed a slippery slope as these supportive statements – from scaremongering and defensive to indignant, and finally to noble, paint an unrecognisable picture of a sequence of events, and the forces at work here. Now Sahgal is a victimised defender of human rights, and Begg is bizarrely her aggressor (‘I’m afraid to sit with him’, etc). This has been turned into a battle of ‘good’ versus ‘evil’ so that any of us who might dare to publically question the methods and the objectives of Sahgal’s actions might yet be branded ‘terrorist-lovers’ or jihadi-apologists, and each time there is a murmur of disquiet it is hushed, as after all are you not supportive of women’s rights and afraid of terrorist bombs? Yes, of course you respond, but Begg has not been tried or found guilty of any violation of human rights and the ongoing insinuations made against an innocent person are unfair if not unlawful, surely – not least at this historical and political junction? Oh they respond, but you know his kind… Look at this country, look at that (insert unrelated contexts). Now sign here please…

    3) Begg’s wilful ignorance in 2000 of the real conditions for women under the Taliban is idiotic and contemptible, it is true. His journey – in which he was a clear victim of a grave injustice for 3 years – has been a painful one that i would not wish on my worst enemy. He has come to learn a lot about what universal human rights mean and is determined to use his experience and hard-won insights to campaign for the rights of all those held in the ‘war on terror’, whether the general public find their views, attitudes and/or actions abhorrent or not. In this sense he is an ideal person to share a platform with Amnesty as the latter puts pressure on governments to ensure they uphold their legally-binding promises under various international conventions on torture and rights to a fair trial, etc. If Amnesty brought him onto a platform to talk about women’s rights, i would laugh then cry, as he clearly has a huge amount to still learn. But if having a nuanced and evolved understanding of the rights of women were a pre-requisite for campaigning on all issues, then Amnesty would have a hard time getting on a platform with any victim of an injustice. This would go for a lot of Catholics, Jews and atheists I know too who have come under the sway of regressive and reactionary ideologies. That is just the thing – we cannot hang around for the ‘perfect victim’. Begg is not a well-developed human rights defender (nor pretends to be – see his latest statement) like Aung San Suu Kyi (although she of course has her own detractors), but sadly nor is Sahgal it now seems.

  56. Brownie — on 23rd February, 2010 at 11:51 am  

    Florence,

    Begg is not a well-developed human rights defender…like Aung San Suu Kyi…but sadly nor is Sahgal it now seems.

    You have a pop at those traducing Begg’s name, but you engage here in the most scurrilous of smears against Sahgal. What possible justification do you have for questioning Sahgal’s commitment to human rights, given her track record? Christ, not even AI are suggesting that Sahgal is anything other than a committed human rights activist – see Cordone’s statement justifying their decision to suspend.

    And all this innuendo about contacts with the “Murdoch” press. We’re talking about the Times, here, which whatever you think of it is not some rabid right-wing rag with a long history of attacking human rights down the decades. And Sahgal claims she went to the press not because she lost the debate within AI, but because AI didn’t give her concerns an audience. They just brushed her aside. I don’t know whether this is true and nor do you, but IF it is, this provides a completely different context for her decision to go to the press.

    What I do know is that Khan’s ignorance of the whole situation chimes more with Sahgal’s version of events (i.e. no real debate) than with AI’s official line (that there was a vigorous debate). I don’t expect you to acknowledge this as I know you are busy assassinating the character of someone whose boots you’re not fit to lace, but you ought to give it at least 5 seconds thought.

  57. Florence — on 23rd February, 2010 at 12:00 pm  

    Sahgal has made a mistake – and it is one that sadly throws into question her defense of universal human rights. She has shown ignorance of the local, if not international, political and social context. I would not be too bothered about lacing her boots! It seems the distinguished human rights lawyers she approached did not want to particularly touch said boots either.

  58. Brownie — on 23rd February, 2010 at 12:15 pm  

    Sahgal has made a mistake – and it is one that sadly throws into question her defense of universal human rights.

    Yeah, the way these things work is that you need to *show* this, not just keep asserting it in an arbitrary, evidence-free way.

    She had concerns about a specific AI campaign, believes her concerns were not given an audience and went to the press. This calls into question her decades long commitment to defending human rights how, exactly? Or even unexactly?

    She has shown ignorance of the local, if not international, political and social context.

    What is this supposed to mean? It’s just a jumble of words meaning nothing in particular so far as I can tell. But let’s see: shall we focus on, say, ‘local’? What is the ‘local’ context that you apparently grasp, but which escapes Sahgal?

    Really, I’m all ears.

  59. Florence — on 23rd February, 2010 at 12:34 pm  

    If you are all ears – you are clearly not all eyes! You have not read my post which will answer your questions. It would appear that Sahgal is ‘guilty’ of what she charges Amnesty with: ‘collaborating’ with those that do not espouse universal human rights – indeed her ‘partners’ (many of whom we are the ‘Decents’?) specifically use their platforms in the media to rubbish the rights of those who are literally guilty without trial or charge, or have become guilty by association, which leads very nicely to positions such as: the majority of the inhabitants of Gaza voted in Hamas in elections therefore they are supporters of Islamist terrorists therefore they are potential terrorists or harbour terrorists therefore they deserve to be indiscriminately bombed, therefore Israel was legitimately defending itself…

  60. Florence — on 23rd February, 2010 at 12:54 pm  

    I am a little late to this ‘debate’ but presumably everyone else picked up on what a coincidence that this post on Harry’s Place (cross-posted on Spitoon) went up on January 27th 2010, more than a week before Sahgal’s ‘expose’ with the Sunday Times. It begins:

    “Amnesty International UK has promoted Moazzam Begg of Cageprisoners for years, right up to a Downing Street publicity stunt earlier this month.

    Begg and Cageprisoners in turn have promoted al Qaeda preacher Anwar al Awlaki. Just two weeks ago Begg was still defending him, with this laughable line about what happened after Awlaki’s detention in Yemen in 2006 and 2007…”

    Now, you all might not find HP and Spitoon disturbing cyber forums, but the sensationalist language and tone they use is very similar to that of 7 Feb Sunday Times piece authorised by Sahgal. Looks like a bit of a long-standing, concerted campaign and if you read other recent post of HP, it is obvious what and who its wider targets are.

    Seriously, for a leading human rights campaigner, WTF? Nice bed-fellows indeed.

  61. Florence — on 23rd February, 2010 at 1:01 pm  

    Oh, this is the link to the HP post: http://www.hurryupharry.org/2010/01/27/awlaki-on-amnesty-international/

    Apologies if you have already debated this nice confluence of campaigns…

  62. Sunny — on 23rd February, 2010 at 1:14 pm  

    My contention is that AI’s judgment on this occasion was flawed.

    Based on the fact that you agree with Irene Khan that Amnesty does this on other occasions with other partners?

    You really are confused…

  63. Brownie — on 23rd February, 2010 at 1:27 pm  

    It would appear that Sahgal is ‘guilty’ of what she charges Amnesty with: ‘collaborating’ with those that do not espouse universal human rights

    Eh? It “appears” is another way of saying “my fantasy is”. Sahgal went to the Times. That’s the London Times, not Pravda.

    For the record, I’d never heard of Sahgal before this story broke, but yes HP has been posting about Begg/CP and his/their desperate attempts to legitimise his/their agenda for a good few years. It stands to reason we would highlight their collaboration with one of the world’s pre-eminent NGOs.

    What is mind-blowing is that you reject utterly the possiblity that anyone other than a “Decent” (a stale joke growing staler by the day, not least because none of you seems capable of defining what one is from one day to the next) could come to the same conclusion about the Begg-AI partnership; namely, that it was wrong, a mistake.

    The result is that someone like Gita Sahgal, whom even this blog was prepared to agree has impeccable credentials as a human rights activist, at least until last week, is accused by a complete nobody and never will be of ditching her principles. It’s not enough that you might disagree with her stance on a specific issue; no, she must have spent her adult life merely masquerading as a human rights activist; she must be in cahoots with HP (a blog I suspect she’d never heard of until this month, if at all). It’s as if Sahgal’s life pre-Begg never existed.

    But you have to believe all this, or pretend to believe it, because reconciling her unimpeachable human rights record with what she’s saying about Begg and CP is just too difficult to get your head around.

    For shame.

  64. cjcjc — on 23rd February, 2010 at 1:35 pm  

    Sunny @62

    Who said this:
    “I have the highest respect for Amnesty, but I think they made a few mistakes here. First, they should have paid more attention to its very loose relationship with Cage Prisoners for reasons I’ll come to later. I decision to suspend Gita was not unexpected, but Amnesty has to realise this is no longer about her.

    The loudest voices pushing this campaign have had a vendetta against Amnesty for years because of its unrelenting willingness to highlight human rights abuses across the Middle East. This is also an issue I’ll come to later.

    The point is, they need to quickly draw a line underneath this episode. Reinstate Gita, have discussions about her concerns and deal with them. Say it will review its relationship with CP and MB and put joint events on hold until that has been done. It should also admit that they should have been more careful before associating with Cage Prisoners.

    Also – Amnesty should recognise that most online commentators bad-mouthing them, in all likelihood, never paid much attention to universal human rights anyway and don’t donate to Amnesty. The real danger for them is to have feminists turning against them and this dragging on. Draw a fucking line underneath it.”

    That’s you, that is.

    What happened to that reasonable tone??!!

  65. Brownie — on 23rd February, 2010 at 1:58 pm  

    Based on the fact that you agree with Irene Khan that Amnesty does this on other occasions with other partners? You really are confused…

    Um, based on the fact I don’t think AI should be partnering with the likes of Begg and CP, Sunny.

    Khan said “you have to make those judgments”. I accept that, but think that judgment was wrong in this case. You’ll have to explain why you think this means I’m “confused”? The fact AI parters with other people YOU find offensive does not mean it’s okay for them to partner with people I find offensive. The debate is about whether the degree of offence is warranted or feigned, whether the association harms AI or helps it, etc..

    You appear to think that because AI can rationalise a decision to partner with the Catholic Church this means I should drop my objection to them partnering with Begg and CP. I say the two partners are qualitatively different and the damage rendered unto AI as a result of each partnership is of a different order of magnitude.

    We can argue about this, of course, but all you keep doing is posting the same Khan paragraph as though you think this ends the discussion, and because you apparently believe me to be confused. It really is quite strange behaviour.

  66. Florence — on 23rd February, 2010 at 2:19 pm  

    Brownie, it is amusing that you have decided to character-assasinate me (not fit to tie her shoe laces, a nobody, etc – all echoing a social pecking-order I do not recognise) because you claim I am assasinating the character of Sahgal. Now what happened to those universal principles?

    One again: Sahgal has shown a grave lack of judgement as a leading human rights advocate by igniting a heavily-biased and distorted ‘debate’ in the politically-loaded context of Britain in the midst of its ‘War on terror’, by which standards Begg inevitably looks like he is not an innocent victim of a grave injustice. I do not deny Sahgal the right to engage in a mature debate with other progressive voices as to the wisdom of AI sharing a platform with Begg. We might all have different opinions on that and it would not have needed to degenerate to the extent it has.

    And what makes you sure these links to the likes of HP are so recent?

  67. Refresh — on 23rd February, 2010 at 2:32 pm  

    Florence, Spittoon launched the anti-Amnesty International campaign quite a while before then, although the article pretended to be anti-Awlaki it was clear that it was a sneaky attempt to take down AI.

    The article was cross-posted to PP.

    Not being very good with the search facility on PP I can’t find it. Perhaps someone else could oblige?

  68. Sunny — on 23rd February, 2010 at 2:34 pm  

    You appear to think that because AI can rationalise a decision to partner with the Catholic Church this means I should drop my objection to them partnering with Begg and CP.

    Why don’t you explain this difference to me. Then we may reach some agreement

  69. Rachel Davenport — on 23rd February, 2010 at 8:53 pm  

    Florence, I’m no fan of Harry’s Place but like many here I think you overemphasise its importance.

    What do you think about the recent pro-Amnesty article on al-Awlaki on Spittoon, or what I said about him in comment #30? Remember, he is on the CP website not just talking about the prisoners, but also about his worldview, his views on Islam etc. Could you argue he is not promoted there? Is it right-wing to criticise his views on Sharia? Muslims are doing it (criticising Sharia) all over the world. Look for them and listen to their voices – you might find a place to start on the petition in support of Gita Sahgal, if you can look past the few names of celebrity conservatives also on there. They are also out there criticising all sorts of foul ideas to be found on CP, such as the idea of ‘Muslim lands’.

    As I say every here couple of days, please have a look at some of the signatories on Gita Sahgal’s petition – try to step outside the tiny world of London blogs and you’ll find there’s a whole world out there.

    Arif, thanks for your interesting post. Let me think about it.

  70. Florence — on 23rd February, 2010 at 9:29 pm  

    Rachel, if you carefully read my original post I think you might begin to understand that I am all too aware of who many of the signatories are. Please keep your patronising assumptions to yourself next time.

    In fact I am shocked to see many people who I admire signing up here there and everywhere when they barely know the facts or the local and specific context, or far worse are doing so out of ‘loyalty’. The fact that there are ‘Muslim’ or South Asian names on these petitions means little to me I am afraid as many dissenting voices have been silenced… for now.

  71. Brownie — on 23rd February, 2010 at 9:34 pm  

    Brownie, it is amusing that you have decided to character-assasinate me (not fit to tie her shoe laces, a nobody, etc – all echoing a social pecking-order I do not recognise) because you claim I am assasinating the character of Sahgal. Now what happened to those universal principles?

    Florence, your first couple of posts amounted to a smear job on Sahgal. Like I said, it’s not enough for you people to disagree with her position, or try to pick apart her arguments; no, her commitment to human rights – which even this blog wasn’t questioning a matter of days ago – is openly doubted, her motives questioned and innuendo is heaped upon innuendo. And why? Because you’ve fantasised some grand conspiracy with the Murdoch press and a couple of blogs I’ll bet she’d never heard of before February. If now.

    Is it really asking too much to give her the benefit of the doubt? To assume her motives were pure, and that she’s genuinely concerned about the damage an association with Begg and CP might inflict on AI? Hasn’t her activism in the field of human rights earned that obligation from you?

    And what makes you sure these links to the likes of HP are so recent?

    As a co-author at HP, I’m pretty certain I would have known if we’d been conspiring with Sahgal to undermine AI’s credibility.

    Yeah, I know: I would say that, wouldn’t I?

  72. Brownie — on 23rd February, 2010 at 9:39 pm  

    The fact that there are ‘Muslim’ or South Asian names on these petitions means little to me I am afraid

    You imagine this is all a Cohen-Murdoch-HP-Sahgal conspiracy and when it’s pointed out that there are supporters of Sahgal out there with unimpeachable human rights credentials who are also beyond the reach of a Nick Cohen column or HP blog, you say that this “means little to me”.

    Priceless.

  73. Katy Newton — on 23rd February, 2010 at 9:45 pm  

    try to step outside the tiny world of London blogs and you’ll find there’s a whole world out there

    Yes, that’s a very good point. What I am getting annoyed about is not whether Moazzam Begg is a Taliban supporter or not. I have no real opinion on Moazzam Begg, because I don’t know enough about him or his views. I do think that it is reasonable for people within Amnesty like Gita Sahgal to question whether and to what extent Amnesty should provide them with a platform as opposed to highlighting their plight, and given Amnesty’s remit I believe that they should have been slow to suspend one of their employees for raising the issue in the press. I believe that debate within Amnesty should be open, just as Amnesty presses for freedom of debate within government and within society.

    What I am getting annoyed about is the suggestion that everyone who is concerned about this issue (a) is in favour of Guantanamo, the war and torture, (b) is in some way in bed with Nick Cohen, Peter Hitchins and Salman Rushdie because they also object to the way AI has handled this, and (c) is acting in bad faith out of a desire to see AI wound up, rather than because they believe AI should act in accordance with its own principles of fairness and openness. I am also annoyed about the suggestion that Gita Sahgal has lied or turned into a neocon overnight. Suddenly the years of good work that she’s done highlighting women’s rights counts for nothing and she’s an out and out liar, even though Amnesty as an organisation has at *no* point suggested that she did not raise those concerns AND several individuals who still work for AI and have chosen to comment publicly on this issue have conceded that she did. Whether you think she was right or wrong to have the concerns that she did, I cannot see how anyone could seriously question her integrity.

    Believe it or not, some of us just think that an organisation that dedicates itself to openness and freedom of debate in the name of the world population should exercise the same principles it rightly urges upon government.

  74. KB Player — on 23rd February, 2010 at 10:37 pm  

    Exactly Katy – except it’s Christopher, not Peter Hitchens. I’ve been a member of Amnesty for years and so are other people who are finding AI’s behaviour problematic. I suppose some of the anti-Sahgal lot imagine we took out our membership as part of a long-term conspiracy to bring the whole organisation down.

  75. Katy Newton — on 23rd February, 2010 at 11:23 pm  

    it’s Christopher, not Peter Hitchens

    So it is.

  76. chicojack — on 23rd February, 2010 at 11:43 pm  

    Brownie
    ‘’I doubt my CEO knows what I said to HR about my immediate boss last week’’
    (We are talking six years.)
    ‘’do you think Sahgal is lying about those memos? And why hasn’t anyone from AI denied their existence if it is made up?’’
    ‘’sent two internal memos alluding to her concerns…If this was bullshit, presumably AI would deny it’’
    ‘’Did Sahgal send those memos, or do you think she is lying?’’
    ARE YOU SIX YEARS OLD????
    Have you never heard of an employment tribunal? Stop pretending to be stupid in hope someone will accidently dish some dirt like Khan has done

  77. somebody else — on 24th February, 2010 at 12:12 am  

    KB Player @ 74,

    I am also a long term member of AI. I don’t find AI’s behaviour problematic.

    I find it ridiculous that a probably heart felt moral position by Gita Sahgal has become a cause celebré of the Indecents.

    That’s what I think.

    I think she has been usurped by a lot of very warped, very twisted folk that couldn’t give a stuff about what we do or what we care about, and narrow a discussion down to their agenda, their morality, their ideas of right and wrong. Brownie is an example of someone with no case and a great combative style. You find folk like that in the Inns of Court, willing to argue right is wrong, or wrong is right, whoever is holding their purse or immoral strings.

    I need someone to demonstrate just how bad a guy Moazzem Begg is.

    So far, we have had sleaze, innuendo and shit thrown at him. None of it has stuck.

    Lets see the evidence for the prosecution, for that is what it is, a witch trial by degrees of separation, a witch trial by a bent judge and a bent jury.

  78. Brownie — on 24th February, 2010 at 1:27 am  

    chico,

    (We are talking six years.)

    Yeah, you’re kinda missing the point that the CEO isn’t necessarily kept informed about every employee dispute/concern and that this is the case because organisaionts like to employee people in middle-management who – get this – are employed to manage, thereby acting as a buffer between mere employees and the C-level execs.

    So 6 months, 6 years, 6 decades…it’s irrelevant.

    ARE YOU SIX YEARS OLD????

    Let’s see…blog owner puts up a post titled: “Irene Khan questions Gita Sahgal’s version of events”. Let’s leave to one side the fact that she did no such thing (she’s merely pleading ignorance), but the point is that it’s perfectly natural such a post should elicit comments focused on the extent to which those who believe the post title disbelieve Sahgal. The obvious smear is that Sahgal did not say or do what she says she said and did prior to her suspension. I’m merely asking the smearers to have the cojones to say what they are happy to cowardly insinuate.

    Let’s remind ourselves that Cordone has already conceded that Sahgal did indeed raise her concerns internally. It is precisely because AI claim there was a “vigorous” internal debate that they believe they were within their rights to suspend her for going public. So the fact Khan seems to have been unaware of this vigorous debate would seem to indicate that the debate wasn’t that vigorous at all, which points to Sagal’s claim that she was to all intents and purposes ignored being accurate.

    Remember, the ‘third way’ option preferred by Earwigca and Sunny – that Sahgal didn’t raise her concerns internally before going to the Times – is contradicted by Cordone. So we can forget that.

    Hope you’re following my ’6 year old’ analysis?

  79. MiriamBinder — on 24th February, 2010 at 2:18 am  

    @ Brownie # 77 –
    “Yeah, you’re kinda missing the point that the CEO isn’t necessarily kept informed about every employee dispute/concern and that this is the case because organisaionts like to employee people in middle-management who – get this – are employed to manage, thereby acting as a buffer between mere employees and the C-level execs”

    Correct me if I am wrong but wasn’t Gita Sahgal head of the gender unit? Since when is the head of the gender unit a ‘mere employee’?

  80. douglas clark — on 24th February, 2010 at 5:09 am  

    Katy Newton,

    I’d like to be able to agree with you, honest!

    To this extent, I do. I think Gita Sahgal has raised what she sees as legitimate concerns. I doubt she would be happy to have these concerns becoming a cause celebré for the likes of Brownie, whose only contribution to the debate is to rubbish the organisation she worked for for all those years. Apologies, but he sounds like a typical QC, able to argue anything with conviction and absent any true belief…

    It is perfectly clear, to me at least, that her new found fans – HP, the Spittoon etc, etc, – are Johnny come lately allies with their own, and hopefully different agenda.

    Least, that’s what I think. A reasonable point of view, right or wrong, has been appropriated by idiots.

  81. douglas clark — on 24th February, 2010 at 5:17 am  

    Brownie,

    I’d like you to spell out the case against Moazzam Begg. I’d like you to show us the evidence that you have. So far, it is has been damnation by acclamation by your side, as far as I can see.

    You say things, you bring zero evidence to support them.

    If I started a campaign that Brownie was a witch, would you expect me to provide evidence rather than conviction?

    I rather think you would.

  82. douglas clark — on 24th February, 2010 at 5:33 am  

    Which has always been the problem with the very nice ‘above the line’ folk at Harry’s Place. They chuck out half baked accusations at people who are usually just human beings, with faults and the rest of it.

    They ‘employ’ people like habibi who only make a conspirators case. Very badly, btw.

    I’d suggest, correct me if I am wrong that Harry’s Place’s motto ought to reflect their reality:

    “Liberty if it means anything, is the right to obfuscate.”

    Which is what they do.

    Contrary to some of the opinions above, it is quite clear to me that smear, absent evidence, is a tactic that appeals to a certain mind set.

    Brownie cannot, or will not, provide evidence.

  83. douglas clark — on 24th February, 2010 at 6:01 am  

    Brownie,

    It is pretty clear that:

    So the fact Khan seems to have been unaware of this vigorous debate would seem to indicate that the debate wasn’t that vigorous at all, which points to Sagal’s claim that she was to all intents and purposes ignored being accurate.

    Seems to me to be completely accurate. And about the scale of the storm in a teacup that you would wish to blow up into Hurricane Katrina.

    If Gita Sahgal couldn’t win her case internally, why should anyone think she is a realistic whistle blower? I am willing to agree she has serious objections, I just wonder whether that is based on any sort of reality. The poor woman may have been reading Harry’s Place, and you know how that messes with the mind?

  84. douglas clark — on 24th February, 2010 at 6:09 am  

    Guess what?

    So far, so good with renewed posting rights….

    I have been totally frustrating what with Brownie writing shite all over this place.

  85. douglas clark — on 24th February, 2010 at 6:12 am  

    Whatever happened to the ‘Edit’ function?

    “It has been” would have been better than “I have been totally frustrating” or summat.

  86. cjcjc — on 24th February, 2010 at 8:08 am  

    I see you’ve got that telescope on the wrong eye again!

  87. Arif — on 24th February, 2010 at 8:15 am  

    I am with Brownie on at least one thing – I have no interest in questioning Gita Sahgal’s motives. I can give her the benefit of the doubt in not realising the “local political context”. Her choosing to publicise this issue through the Sunday Times and her not somehow distancing herself from supporters who take a less robust line on human rights, these are not really relevant to the issue she is trying to raise.

    It is just as unfair to smear Gita Sahgal on the basis of the kinds of people who support her being overly sympathetic to the war on terror, as it would be to smear Moazzam Begg on the basis of the kinds of people supporting him being overly sympathetic to al Qaida.

    I am very pleased that there are many South Asian names in the petitions supporting Gita Sahgal, inasmuch as it reflects a belief that human rights discourse can be for all of us, they are not just an ideology of the west.

    I am concerned, however that the way this is being covered by the media will make it seem like human rights are now – rather than a resource for Muslims caught up in black prisons – just another stick to beat Muslims with. And if human rights activists are not concerned about this dynamic, then I do think that we have lost our way and become a plaything of the powerful rather than a resource of the powerless.

    Muslims who have been dismayed by the rise of politically motivated “fundamentalism” within their communities, which denounces other Muslims as unbelievers and attempts to create ever clearer lines of division etc. might also not be attracted to a human rights movement which starts along the same lines.

    I certainly understand why Moazzam Begg has walked away. The treadmill of constantly having to prove oneself would be too exhausting, and detract from the main struggle to dismantle the black prison networks, bring people to trial – both those accused of terrorist offences and of torture – and ensure those trials are fair.

    Gita Sahgal might also want to avoid wasting her energy countering smears associating her with supporters of the War on Terror, and get on with making religious governments and groups accountable for their treatment of women and supporting women who are being abused and threatened.

    However the smears have made the jobs of both of them so much harder as they will have lost standing in some of the very communities where they most need alliances. I hope Amnesty International will come out without losing such standing, and strengthens the case that human rights are for everyone by continuing to work with both Cageprisoners and Women Against Fundamentalism.

  88. douglasclark184@google.com — on 24th February, 2010 at 9:14 am  

    cjcjc,

    Nope.

    I always saw you as, somewhat, evidence based. But at least someone that respected the idea of evidence.

    Otherwise you would be an even smaller person than you are right now!

    Och, OK, contrary to Mr Hundal I find you quite a good foil, and at least you are not a complete idiot, unless you have fallen for the ‘decents’ agenda.

    You haven’t, have you?

  89. douglas clark — on 24th February, 2010 at 9:34 am  

    Arif,

    If that was the extent of Brownies’ beef, we could all go home. But that is not what he wants to make out of this event, circus, what have you.

    Brownie, quite deliberately in my view, escalates a minor internal struggle, now externalised, into an attempt to take Amnesty International down. Make no mistake about this, Harrys’ Place has a history of finding and targeting people or organisations they disapprove of. And they are as proud as Punch when they manage to get three falls or a submission. It is the politics of the school bully.

    So far ace reporter habibi hasn’t landed a punch and brownie has deflected, as only he can do.

    I refer you to my post @ 5:09am, for some reason the actual post number is still hidden.

    Och, here it is again:

    Katy Newton,

    I’d like to be able to agree with you, honest!

    To this extent, I do. I think Gita Sahgal has raised what she sees as legitimate concerns. I doubt she would be happy to have these concerns becoming a cause celebré for the likes of Brownie, whose only contribution to the debate is to rubbish the organisation she worked for for all those years. Apologies, but he sounds like a typical QC, able to argue anything with conviction and absent any true belief…

    It is perfectly clear, to me at least, that her new found fans – HP, the Spittoon etc, etc, – are Johnny come lately allies with their own, and hopefully different agenda.

    Least, that’s what I think. A reasonable point of view, right or wrong, has been appropriated by idiots.

  90. Rachel Davenport — on 24th February, 2010 at 9:43 am  

    Last night I swore off looking at PP (“Books not Blogs” my new motto). I think the debate here suffers from general lack of knowledge, for example you’ve got people who don’t know the difference between Islam, a religion, and Islamism, a political movement, believing they are experts on ‘Islamophobia’. You’ve got people who don’t know their Ahmadiyyas from their al-Awlakis acting like they are experts on the Sahgal/CP controversy because they’ve spent hours transcribing and combing through media reports of the last 3 weeks.

    There are some exceptions, such as Arif who opposes my view with integrity and very thoughtful arguments.

    Anyway, my last act as a media creature is to post this link to an intelligent article,

    http://justspeculations.blogspot.com/2010/02/affaire-gita-sanghal-new-fault-lines.html

    I only wish the author had included, alongside the rights of women, the rights of religious minorities, which GS has also always highlighted in her concerns about religious fundamentalism be it Muslim, Christian, Jewish, etc.

    Perhaps there is no ‘local political context’, we are part of the globalised world This might just be Sahgal’s point.

    Against crusades, against Jihad. For the world human community.

    bye folks

  91. Rachel Davenport — on 24th February, 2010 at 9:48 am  

    My last comment sounded more patronising than I wanted it to. I’m not expert on the issues either, but at least I know that.

  92. douglas clark — on 24th February, 2010 at 10:00 am  

    Rachel Davenport,

    So why are you not willing to stay and debate?

    I assume you don’t get to be the head of Amnesty Internationals equality team without being pretty damn good. Doesn’t mean you are media savvy, necessarily, does it?

    Do you think Gita Sahgal would want to be associated with the sort of smear campaign that certain people seem to actually enjoy?

    I’d agree that there is no local political context that excuses human rights violations. That goes as much for honour based murder, female genital mutilation, cruel and unusual punishment, wrongful attribution of rape to the victim, etc, etc. As much as it does to torture and wrongful imprisonment.

    Amnesty International does not choose political sides in these debates, it stands out against them whoever the perpetrators happen to be.

  93. Florence — on 24th February, 2010 at 10:37 am  

    Let me be clear – I am not questioning Sahgal’s excellent past contribution to the human rights of women and socially marginalised groups, to which I am equally committed. However, I am seriously questioning her judgement in this specific case, and beginning to suspect the alliances she may or may not have made in order to ‘expose’ the already exposed Moazzam Begg.

    I agree that that it is perfectly legitimate to question ‘partners’ and ‘collaborators’ made by human rights organisations, which I understand Sahgal did within Amnesty and while she had a number of supporters; others disagreed. Now the next logical step for a progressive human rights advocate fully aware of the local social and political context is to open a debate in a forum (and not with a total hack, Kerbaj) that has not been widely discredited already for its failure to properly investigate all the forces at work here in the UK – all of which are equally a cause of serious alarm: a government engaged in an illegal ‘war on terror’, the abuse of the anti-terrorism act, the erosion of our civil liberties, the widespread use of control orders, the demonisation of all Muslims as guilty by association, teh rise of the BNP, and the intelligence services’ collusion in torture so those held in the ‘war on terror’ and in Guantanamo were either never tried or found guilty of any terrorism offence or were convicted but whose chances of a fair trial were seriously compromised (and yes that does matter if we care about due process and the rule of law). That is the context that should be properly interwoven into mature debates as to why young men such as Begg are brainwashed by Islamist ideology or wilfully and woefully ignorant of what life under the Taliban meant for thousands of women, and men, to the extent that alongside their humanitarian intentions, they believe(d) they can travel to the country searching a ‘pure Islamic state’ in which they and their families can live and work.

    All of these factors are worthy of a serious debate and this has degenerated into the total vilification of a man who has never hidden his past, has never used the AI platform to speak of anything but his own horrific experiences and knowledge of the black prisons, the torture, the illegal detention, and who finds himself once more being smeared with the same baseless accusations made by CIA and FBI agents: allegedly linked to al-Qaeda, etc. And if Begg believes in dialogue with the Taliban – while I am extremely anxious about this – that is not a taboo or evidence that he is a shady, woman-hating, perpetrator of insinuated, but unknown violations. So in what way is Sahgal a ‘whistle-blower’ or ‘courageous’?

    As for the reason why I am not so impressed by the number of ‘Muslim’ and South Asian names, that is because I know many people with similar surnames who are active feminists, anti-racists, anti-fundamentalists, etc, and nevetheless are very distubed by this clumsy ‘crusade’ and its target…

  94. Arif — on 24th February, 2010 at 10:40 am  

    Douglas Clarke,

    If you look at the link from Rachel Davenport it is to a blog which highlights how Gita Sahgal has also been supported by the likes of Gayatri Spivak and all sorts of other sensitive thinkers. In my opinion it is likely that Gita Sahgal is more conscious of the support or otherwise she is gaining for her stance from impeccably anti-imperialist human rights supporters than she is concerned with the thoughts of people who might want to knock AI anyway.

    I’m not going to do an analysis of Brownie’s unspoken motives – because it is not respectful and constructive even though I understand why you consider it relevant. Perhaps I have underestimated Brownie’s power to undermine AI, if that is what s/he wants to do. But in that case, I am not going to overestimate my power to stop a campaign by such a mighty presence!

    Seriously though, I do get that people are always trying to chip away at human rights NGOs which challenge their narratives, and that this is a dirty, disrespectful fight. I just don’t think I can be dirty enough to make a difference in such a fight, and I am assuming Gita Sahgal and Moazzam Begg feel the same.

  95. cjcjc — on 24th February, 2010 at 11:08 am  

    The evidence against CP is strong – even you must agree with that?

    Even Sunny admits they smell bad.
    (And there’s more to go on than smell.)

    Now CP doesn’t just support Begg – it is Begg’s own crew. So, for me, the evidence is there sufficiently to suggest that it was unwise (at best) for AI to choose to go with Begg on this campaign.
    Enough I assume for Sahgal too, obviously, who knows far more than me, you, Brownie, Arif, Sunny, Florence or anyone here about it all.

    certainly understand why Moazzam Begg has walked away. The treadmill of constantly having to prove oneself would be too exhausting

    Well he hasn’t even done one turn on that treadmill, has he?

  96. douglas clark — on 24th February, 2010 at 12:27 pm  

    cjcjc,

    If the evidence is so strong, why is it never revealed?

    You can talk all you like about a ‘bad smell’ but you really do need to provide something concrete.

    I am willing to concede that CP is Moazzam Beggs’ own vehicle. I am not willing to concede that what has been said on there constitutes anything HMG would disapprove of, at least not the Foreign Office. At least not recently.

    If you can point to Moazzam Begg actually supporting proven terrorists – say in the last ten years or so – then I will change my mind. Until then all you have, sorry about this, is a belief that there is no smoke without fire.

  97. douglas clark — on 24th February, 2010 at 12:39 pm  

    Arif @ 94,

    Brownie is merely a bit player in the ‘decents’ pack.

    Frankly I have no issue with Gita Sahgal raising the point, (the public / private nature of it is another matter). I do however object in the strongest possible way to the fifth column that has attached itself to her.

    I also accept that my ‘voice’ counts for damn all in the scheme of things.

    Anyway what has imperialism got to do with this?

    I agree completely with your final paragraph. Storm in a teacup? But people are being hurt as collateral damage in a flipping blog war.

  98. Katy Newton — on 24th February, 2010 at 12:44 pm  

    Very sensible and measured comments from Arif as per usual.

    As I understand it, Gita Sahgal is not saying that AI shouldn’t publicise Begg’s plight or the issue of detention without trial. I thought she was very clear that AI’s role was to support the rights of victims of abuse regardless of their personal views. However, I think what she’s saying is that AI needs to be very careful about the extent to which they partner with or endorse the views of people who may be victims of human rights abuses but who equally may support ideologies that themselves perpetrate human rights abuses.

    I don’t think, in principle, that that is an unreasonable debate to have, nor do I see why it should be kept out of the public domain. I think that, if anything, evidence that such issues are fully debated by different voices within Amnesty is extremely positive, and counters those who argue that Amnesty is full of a particular kind of leftist who share the same identikit agenda. That’s why I think it was a shame that Sahgal was suspended. For me this isn’t really about the pros or cons of AI’s partnership or support of any particular person.

  99. Chris Williams — on 24th February, 2010 at 1:07 pm  

    This is indeed an entirely reasonable debate to have, both within AI and outside it. However, it’s worth pointing out that:

    1) Not all of the people having it are reasonable: many of them are in fact characterised by a long-term desire to destroy or hobble human rights organisations, often attempting to disguise this desire with a veneer of lip-service about ‘concern’. That’s why it’s relevant for Sunny to have brought up Hitchens’ past in this: his ‘concern’ is entirely posed.

    2) If I was on the losing end of a complicated and important argument about policy at work, and responded by going off to the Sunday Times with a story which would be used to bash the organisation, I’d be in breach of my contract, and expect some kind of comeback. This is not to be confused with whistleblowing about actual skullduggery, of course. One of the consequences would be to make complicated and important arguments about policy (especially those involving me, if I retained that job) a lot more difficult, since some of the people round the table could always threaten to say “I will denounce you to the press . . . and then come back to this table.”. That’s not likely to be especially helpful, especially given what we know about the propensity of some of the press to have a partial view of human rights. And it’s not the same as saying “If this goes ahead, I will resign, and might then go to the press.”

  100. Brownie — on 25th February, 2010 at 1:05 am  

    I doubt she would be happy to have these concerns becoming a cause celebré for the likes of Brownie, whose only contribution to the debate is to rubbish the organisation she worked for for all those years.

    I doubt Sahgal knows who I am, so I’d assume she oculdn’t give a rat’s ass whether this became a “cause celebré” [sic] of mine, or even a cause célèbre.

    But fwiw, you’re a lying cretin. The extent of my criticism of AI has been that they’ve made a “strategic mistake” in partnering with Begg and CP. Doing so confers legitimacy on both (there is a certain kudos attached to being a partner of AI), and undermines AI’s credibiity. You’ve heard nothing from me about AI going soft on Islamism and Islamists, or being overrun by hard-left entryists. This is your fantasy.

    If I started a campaign that Brownie was a witch, would you expect me to provide evidence rather than conviction?

    Unlike Sunny, who accepts what and who Begg was before his time in Bagram and Gitmo at least, you don’t appear to know the first thing about Begg. You literally haven’t so much as typed his name in a searh engine, have you? Yet here you are holding court and demanding I do your homework for you. Pathetic.

    But just for you, the correct analogy is that 8 years ago, I was caught flying around on a broomstick and casting spells. No-one has seen me wearing a black pointy hat since then, but I have yet to repudiate my witchy past.

    Acocrding to you, the burden of proof lies with those who suspect I may be a member of a coven.

    This is because you are a moron.

  101. Brian from Toronto — on 27th February, 2010 at 6:09 pm  

    A comparison of the Taliban to the Catholic Church can’t be taken seriously.
    The Church’s doctrines are completely irrelevant, as the Church does not have the powers of a state, as the Taliban did, and cannot compel anyone to follow its teachings.

    Nor does the church have the powers of a terrorist group. It doesn’t throw acid in girls’ faces if they act in a way the Church doesn’t approve – as of course the Taliban does.

    How many deaths from AIDS is the Catholic Church responsible for?

    None.

    To assert otherwise is moral idiocy or racism – believing those poor Africans don’t have the intellectual wherewithal to do anything except what the Church tells them to do.

    In comparing the Taliban to the Church, Khan has just inflicted more damage on AI’s credibility.

  102. MiriamBinder — on 27th February, 2010 at 6:49 pm  

    @ Brian from Toronto # 101 – Except that the comparison was originally made by Irene Khan who said, quite rightly, that “We’ve worked with the Catholic Church on the abolition of the death penalty, but we have been in opposition to the Catholic Church on sexual and reproductive rights for instance.”

    As no one has seriously taken the stance that Amnesty International working closely with the Catholic Church on issues, and campaigns, relating to the death penalty and must be assumed to have accepted and endorsed the Catholic Church’ position on sexual and reproductive rights, it seems a tad irrational to assume that Amnesty International using Begg as a living testimonial to the horrors of Guatanamo must mean that Amnesty International endorses all the views, past and present held or assumed to be held by Begg.

    Double standards at best wouldn’t you say? Or then again, maybe you wouldn’t ;)

  103. jim — on 27th February, 2010 at 9:27 pm  

    Sunny

    DavidT/Harrys Place have a post on Eric Lee (that champion of human rights ) standing for election for UK section of Amnesty International.

    Eric Lee served in the IDF in 1980s in the Occupied territories. He was not forced to serve but did it out of choice.

    Hre is his bog on Amnesty international

    http://amnestyhaslostitsway.wordpress.com/

    and here is his post on serving in the IDF:

    http://www.ericlee.info/2006/08/why_i_served.html#more

    Can we expect DavidT to point out the contradiction on someone like Eric Lee running for election for a Human rights organisation and,also having served in IDF to maintain a brutal military occupation to deny people their rights?

    Would DavidT

  104. Arif — on 1st March, 2010 at 8:55 am  

    Brownie, what is wrong with Cageprisoners? From what I can tell, it is a human rights organisation, campaigning for the rights of people who have been held in the “war on terror” and their families.

    As an organisation it does not claim those being tortured or disappeared are pacifists or fit people to govern any particular state. Just that people should not be tortured nor be detained outside of a fair judicial process.

    Even if they have a wider agenda, it would still be odd to avoid campaigning with them on human rights issues.

    Should there have been a campaign against AI inviting speakers from the Anti-Apartheid Movement because they supported the human rights of people western governments deemed terrorist? Or against AI inviting speakers from the Quilliam Foundation just because some people (equally vaguely) assert it is a front for neoconservatives who in turn support the human rights abuses from the war on terror? Or against working with the Catholic Church because it has a different concept of women’s reproductive rights?

    Maybe so. Then be clear that AI should not work with any other organisation.

    I am still waiting for Gita Sahgal to make her reasoning clear – beyond calling Begg “the foremost supporter of the Taliban” and casting doubt on him being a charity worker in Afghanistan. If that is enough to make him persona non grata, I guess AI should not work with anyone.

    In fact, based on slurs, AI itself should be wound up as it is clearly a front for communist anti-semitic islamophobic imperialist useful idiots as a sample of the things its detractors accuse it of, on the basis of its inconvenient campaigns.

  105. cjcjc — on 1st March, 2010 at 9:40 am  
  106. Arif — on 1st March, 2010 at 10:19 am  

    #105 – again there is a lack of clarity about what makes an organisation beyond the pale.

    These kinds of links to people who once said this and that would be enough to make the Anti Apartheid Movement or Quilliam Foundation beyond the pale as well.

    What are the principles that AI should adhere to and how should it put them into practice in a consistent way? Either people really think AI should not associate with other organisations whether or not they share interests in human rights, or AI should react to any allegations or slurs against other human rights campaigners by immediately freezing them out, or what?

    I am just asking for the principles people want AI to operate on to be clarified, not for more second guessing what people believe and what they would advocate in another context and how you think you would not want to associate with them.

  107. Brownie — on 1st March, 2010 at 10:43 am  

    Brownie, what is wrong with Cageprisoners?

    Why don’t you ask Sunny? He claims they leave a “bad taste in [his] mouth”. He’s spent 3 weeks trying to draw a distinction between CP and Begg…until I pointed out that AI has been collaborating with CP since at least 2007.

    At which he point he changed the subject.

  108. Arif — on 1st March, 2010 at 10:53 am  

    OK Brownie, from that answer I take it your problem is with Sunny, not with Cageprisoners.

    Maybe others can provide an answer then – SarahAB for example? I am not trying to catch anyone out, just want to start discussing the relevant principles by which we, as supporters of human rights, would like human rights groups to interact with one another.

  109. Brownie — on 1st March, 2010 at 4:14 pm  

    Arif,

    CP agitate for anyone who has been incarcerated for violent Jihad. Not just detainees at Gitmo who’ve never been charged with anything. They campaign for convicted terrorist and anti-Semite Aafia Siddiqui and cheerlead for self-confessed Jihadis Abdullah Azzam and Anwar Al Awlaki. They believe in the right of Muslims in “occupied lands” to “resist” occupiers. Ask CP directly whether this means they support the Taleban in Afghanistan and Al Qaeda in Iraq, and they’ll tell you that ocucpied people have a right to resist occupation. This is because they are not stupid and they think obfuscation of this sort will confuse observers and deflect criticism.

    It’s a tactic that works better on some than others.

  110. Sunny — on 1st March, 2010 at 6:44 pm  

    and they’ll tell you that ocucpied people have a right to resist occupation.

    That’s funny. David T said the same thing once.
    http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/2720

  111. Arif — on 1st March, 2010 at 10:13 pm  

    Brownie – thanks for the post.

    As far as I am aware, Aafia Siddiqui was not convicted of a terrorist related offence – she was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. Given that she had been disappeared, claims to have been tortured, was unable to choose her lawyers, was possibly mentally ill, separated from her family etc, I think that there are fair grounds to doubt her trial can be considered an outcome of due process.

    She is anti-semitic. But that does not remove her human rights.

    I am not familiar with Abdullah Azam, but Al Awlaki is not a character I find inspirational in the way that CP’s leaders seem to. However, as Sunny points out, if supporting the rights of occupied people to resist occupation makes you beyond the pale for human rights advocacy, then a lot of groups will need to be culled.

    However I think the point you are really getting at is that people advocating the right to self defence should also clarify more of their self-defence principles.

    And I think you are also suggesting that fighting against X can be subtly shifted into fighting for Y – and that this Y may be inimical to human rights.

    So I suggest the questions to put to Cageprisoners should be:

    1. Whether they believe the right to self defence from occupation includes harming civilians.

    2. To clarify that their support for human rights of people detained in the “War on Terror” would include support for those detained by any group involved in the “war” (including the Taliban or al Qaida).

    I think that these are reasonable questions if there are real reasons for concern.

  112. soru — on 1st March, 2010 at 10:38 pm  

    If they had answered the question with a simple ‘yes, it was’, would you have gone to the Harry’s Place archives and done a search to see if anyone there had ever used that phrase?

    A group that doesn’t think terrorism is a crime may be _aware_ of human rights, but it is not _in favour_ of them.

    Impunity from prosecution is strongly associated with many of the worst human rights abuses in history, from the slave trade (it took place outside the jurisdiction of the English law banning slavery) to lynchings (you don’t pose for a postcard having killed a man if you fear the law).

    Amnesty of course recognise this: presumably, outside the context of your petty blog-war, you do too.

  113. Brownie — on 2nd March, 2010 at 4:39 pm  

    However, as Sunny points out, if supporting the rights of occupied people to resist occupation makes you beyond the pale for human rights advocacy, then a lot of groups will need to be culled.

    I very much doubt so, given most will happily distinguish between Afghans who choose to engage the ISAF and NATO forces, Iraqis who chose to fight coalition forces, versus the murderous pond-life who explode bombs in random marketplaces, use brain-damaged children as bomb proxies, attack funeral corteges, decapitate journalists, slaughter young-men queuing for jobs, etc., etc., et-bloody-cetera.

    The point is that, when invited, CP don’t choose to make any such distinctions. I think this is significant even if you’re not trying to present your organization as one at the forefront of defending human rights. What is more, I simply cannot understand why anyone else would think this insignificant; or why an organization such as AI would choose to ignore such an obvious evasion.

  114. Brownie — on 2nd March, 2010 at 4:46 pm  

    That’s funny. David T said the same thing once.

    Cirkey, you didn’t need one citation from DT. I’m on record more times than I care to mention that if I were a young Palestinian living in the West Bank I couldn’t discount the possiblity I would take up arms against the IDF (which is what DT is talking about in that link). It’s more than likely I would. What I wouldn’t do is waltz into a Jerusalem pizzeria and self-immolate amongst civilian men, women and children, just because there was a better than even chance that most were Israeli.

    I hope for your own good that you can spot the difference. My opposition to CP is grounded in the fact that they cannot.

  115. Sarah AB — on 2nd March, 2010 at 6:29 pm  

    @Arif – I haven’t read all the comments here – but just noticed you mentioned me at 108 in the context of CP. It’s pieces like this:

    http://www.cageprisoners.com/articles.php?id=31054

    given the nature of the speaker the CP writer is so keen on:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anwar_al-Awlaki

    that make me think AI should be careful not to become too closely associated with CP

  116. douglas clark — on 2nd March, 2010 at 7:09 pm  

    Sarah AB,

    Is it reasonable to argue for a right to a fair trial, or not? If it is not reasonable then you give carte blanche to governments anywhere and everywhere to arrest, detain and torture on suspicion. You also might as well wind up Amnesty International tomorrow.

  117. Sarah AB — on 2nd March, 2010 at 9:06 pm  

    Of course it’s reasonable to argue for a fair trial! So many people in this debate seem to accuse those with (comparatively mild) issues with Amnesty of not supporting human rights.

  118. Kulvinder — on 2nd March, 2010 at 9:16 pm  

    I hope for your own good that you can spot the difference. My opposition to CP is grounded in the fact that they cannot.

    For what its worth, and i mention this simply to juxtapose people who are deemed ‘persona non grata’ as opposed to those who are ‘respectable’

    Geoffrey Alderman holds the view that every person who voted for Hamas in Gaza is a legitimate target and that the ‘Christian’ idea of proportionality is something that is thankfully not jewish.

    He is an apparently respected historian, academic and media commentator.

    I’m guessing you’d think Hamas horribly repugnant if they made the argument that, as every israeli jew had to serve in the IDF, they were culpable for the oppression of the palestinians and as such legitimate targets whether in uniform or not?

  119. douglas clark — on 2nd March, 2010 at 11:12 pm  

    Sarah AB,

    Perhaps we are talking at cross purposes.

    It was your link to this:

    http://www.cageprisoners.com/articles.php?id=31054

    that I was commenting on. As far as my reading of it is concerned the only mention of al-Awlaki that is relevant is here:

    Cageprisoners campaigned for the release of Awlaki when he was detained without charge in Yemen…

    (My highlighting.)

    Human Rights Organisations are supposed to be about encouraging due process as much as anything else. I would agree that al-Awlaki looks a pretty dodgy character nowadays, however the Yemen government or judiciary eventually released him. I’d, frankly have preferred it if they had given him a fair trial.

    So, in this case, I see no difference between what Amnesty would have done, and has done in similar circumstances relating to Guantanamo inmates, rather than what Caged Prisoners did in this particular case.

    As someone else said, there is no ‘perfect victim’.

  120. douglas clark — on 3rd March, 2010 at 12:42 am  

    Sarah AB

    Perhaps there are no perfect human rights organisations either. Nor any perfect supporter of a human rights organisation, or organisations.

    And, then, there are people who don’t give a jot, but pretend they do.

    You are not that person.

    Our discussion, such as it is, is between two people who are fundamentally on the same side. It is utterly ludicrous to allow a difference of inflection to allow people with a completely different agenda to walk into a civilised discussion and twist it to their own end game. It is those people I have an issue with.

    Least, that’s what I think I think.

  121. douglas clark — on 3rd March, 2010 at 1:09 am  

    Do you, for instance, recognise, even in a warped and twisted mirror. this take on Amnesty International:

    http://www.hurryupharry.org/2010/03/02/amnesty-uk-promotes-ben-white-again/#comments

    It is armaros’s comment I’d particularly like you to concentrate on.

  122. douglas clark — on 3rd March, 2010 at 1:23 am  

    This is what the idiot Morgoth had to say on the same thread:

    This would be the same Ben White who is Sunny Hundal’s big chum?

    Here is Sunny Hundal’s big chum:

    http://tinyurl.com/ydnd4l6

    Does that justify the vituperation? Perhaps on Planet Prejudiced it does.

  123. Sarah AB — on 3rd March, 2010 at 7:32 am  

    Douglas – sorry I wasn’t ignoring you – I just go to bed early! I seem to have linked to the wrong article somehow, for which I apologise.

    http://www.cageprisoners.com/articles.php?id=30493

    I looked at the HP thread – armaros’ points seem pugnacious and exaggerated – ‘modern nazi’, ‘hate group’ – although I can understand why s/he is upset – I can’t seem to access the original Ben White article though so it’s difficult to be quite sure. I don’t think I care for Ben White much – can’t comment on Sunny’s views! – I glanced at the article you linked to and it wasn’t so much that but I can quite understand why people don’t like the fact he shared a platform with Tamimi and find this piece highly objectionable.

    .http://www.counterpunch.org/white0617.html

    But the Gita Sahgal business is complicated – it involves so many different people, events, different versions of those people and events, etc etc. There’s so much I just don’t *know* for certain (what is GS’s motivation, what’s the real deal with that girls’ school?) and I don’t want to stop supporting Amnesty – but I would like slightly straighter answers from them. Arif’s points above were useful (at 104) and one reason why I’ve been inclining more to the Gita side is that it seems that AI has made a very big deal in the past about how carefully it thinks about all its links.

  124. Arif — on 3rd March, 2010 at 7:51 am  

    SarahAB – I think I’m close to Douglas in my the judgment I am coming to on this affair.

    I have listened to a number of interviews given by Gita Sahgal, and looked at many links and arguments from those who are supporting her opposition to AI working with Cageprisoners.

    What her argument comes down to seems to me this:

    1. Moazzam Begg is too sympathetic to a political group (the Taliban) which – among other things – is well known to have abused human rights.

    2. AI is legitimising someone (Moazzam Begg) who in turn is legitimising other people who make statements fundamentally opposed to universal human rights (eg Anwar al-Awlaki).

    I don’t think this is an unreasonable argument, but it is only a starting point for discussion – not enough to end the discussion about whether AI should work with CP and in what capacity.

    I can only make sense of Gita Sahgal’s actions by empathising that her work against religious fundamentalism has made her familiar with and instinctively very suspicious of conservative religious political activists. I do not think she is wrong to be so, or to question others’ judgments, but she is taking a somewhat arrogant line against people with different judgments.

    It is analogous to Sunny’s suspicions of the agenda of Harry’s Place. Writers there may sympathise with regimes which abuse human rights (while disclaiming support for those human rights abuses) and legitimise people who appear to support imperialism or islamophobia. Sunny, from his blogging experience, clearly thinks this is part of a deeper unsavoury agenda. How should I judge whether HP writers can legitimately share a platform with me or help me with research on a specific human rights campaign?

    In order to avoid prejudice, I should clarify the principles with which I agree to work with anyone, rather than single out Harry’s Place on the basis of the instinctive fears of their detractors.

  125. cjcjc — on 3rd March, 2010 at 8:21 am  

    Well, Douglas, we’ll have to disagree about whether AI should be promoting an unashamed Hamas supporter.
    If that’s Planet Prejudiced then beam me up!
    (Or down?)

  126. douglas clark — on 3rd March, 2010 at 8:39 am  

    Sarah AB,

    No worries.

    Ré your new link to Cagedprisoners.

    I find what Fahad Ansari had to say basically pathetic. By 2009, everyone knew exactly what al-Awlaki stood for. That is pretty clear.

    I take it that that is the point you are making?

    al-Awlaki is no democrat and basically an idiot. Thus Cagedprisoners were wrong to link or support him at that time. He was a free man and his free speech was not being, particularily, restricted. A decent human rights organisation would have chalked up a victory and walked away, they would not have published the nonsense Fahad Ansari did.

    Unless, of course, they saw his freedom of speech issues, his habeas corpus rights, etc as having been usurped. It could be argued, could it not, that by allowing al-Awlaki to speak against that, platforming him for instance, Cagedprisoners are justified? The fact of the matter is he went substantially further than that and is, in my view, completely in the wrong.

    Compare and contrast, if you will, what Moazzem Begg has had to say on an Amnesty International platform. No-one, including Gita Sahgal, has suggested that he usurped the stage he was given. Leaving aside for a moment exactly what relationship he had with them.

    I have said elsewhere that, as far as I’m concerned, Cagedprisoners need to identify with all caged prisoners, whether muslim or not, if they want to be taken seriously. Moazzem Begg makes, sort of, the same point, rather more eloquently than I can:

    There is another charge implicitly laid against me (and Cageprisoners): that I am only concerned with the rights of Muslims. Just a few months after my release from Guantanamo I saw on the television images of four hostages in Iraq, dressed in orange Guantanamo-like suits, facing threats of execution. I contacted all the former Guantanamo prisoners I knew and issued a televised and written statement in all our names calling for their release: Sadly, the only American hostage was killed but, the others, a Briton, an Australian and a Canadian (all non-Muslims) all lived and are safely back home. All of them have written to me the warmest messages of support I’ve ever read. I told them it was the orange suits that did it.

    That’s his own testimony, here:

    http://www.cageprisoners.com/articles.php?id=30493

    I am perfectly willing to agree with you that there is a great deal more to this whole fandango than we are being told. I, too, would like some clarity, particularly on the girls school. (There must be independent voices?)

    The problem, it seems to me, is attempting to occupy the middle ground in this debate, when the likes of brownie has already decided what you and I should think. I am not willing to agree with him or his cohort without a damn sight more substantial evidence than has been presented so far. It still strikes me as a McCarthyite attack by people who have no love of universal human rights.

    Least, that’s what I think.

  127. cjcjc — on 3rd March, 2010 at 8:44 am  

    al-Awlaki is an “idiot” is he?

    Is that all he is?
    (You know the answer to this question.)

    If all CP was doing was promoting an “idiot” there wouldn’t be a problem, would there?
    But that’s not all that they are doing.
    So there is.

  128. douglas clark — on 3rd March, 2010 at 8:47 am  

    cjcjc @ 125,

    Oh joy! Where is your evidence?

    BTW, in your case I’d beam you to a very warm place, maybe Venus ;-) Lots of carbon dioxide.

  129. Sarah AB — on 3rd March, 2010 at 8:49 am  

    @kulvinder – I read some of the exchange you link to and find Aldermann’s views objectionable. Apart from anything else, Palestinians in Gaza haven’t been offered the chance to vote in an election recently!

    @Arif – I think you raise some very interesting points and the HP analogy is thought provoking! I might want to take issue with this bit:

    “I can only make sense of Gita Sahgal’s actions by empathising that her work against religious fundamentalism has made her familiar with and instinctively very suspicious of conservative religious political activists. I do not think she is wrong to be so, or to question others’ judgments, but she is taking a somewhat arrogant line against people with different judgments.”

    In being against conservative religious political activists she is (I assume) simply defending universal human rights and I don’t think such a stance is arrogant.

    I wanted to explain a bit further the point about AI being fussy about platform sharing. It was this article which I had in mind:

    http://www.howardleague.org/francescrookblog/amnesty-and-platform-sharing

    And it is this quote which is of particular relevance

    “I used to work at Amnesty British Section, and at that time there was an absolute rule that it did not “share a platform” with other organisations. This used to cause all sorts of challenges as I was responsible for working with politicians and celebrities, and we had to make it clear in public that these individuals were supporting Amnesty but the organisation was not supporting them.”

  130. douglas clark — on 3rd March, 2010 at 8:57 am  

    cjcjc @ 127,

    I’m perhaps willing to say he’s damned himself from his own lips. Certainly from the viewpoint of a human rights organisation. Contrary to what I think you are saying, his opinions seem to have altered pretty dramatically around and about 2006.

    Though I’d really like to see a trial to prove the complicity he is accused of. This court of public opinion really isn’t good enough. Especially when the judge, jury and executioner are all ‘decents’.

    Prove it in a court of law.

  131. Sarah AB — on 3rd March, 2010 at 8:59 am  

    Douglas – I last posted before I read your own recent long message and just wanted to say (before the day job kicks in!) that you raise some very interesting points.

  132. cjcjc — on 3rd March, 2010 at 9:08 am  

    Well AI operates to a large extent in the “court of public opinion” does it not?

    Which is why it needs to make a very clear distinction and take the very greatest of care in differentiating between those whose due process rights it defends – ie everyone, even the “idiots” – and those whom it promotes/partners with/describes as fellow human rights supporters.

    Now I don’t know whether Ms Sahgal counts as a “decent” in your book, but her views seem reasonably clear. And I don’t know whether Sunny is also a “decent” but he says that CP has a “bad smell”.

    It strikes me as simple common sense that AI should fight for the rights of the smelly, but not get too close to them otherwise.

  133. Arif — on 3rd March, 2010 at 9:21 am  

    Sarah AB, I am not sure if I am interpreting you correctly. You wrote: “In being against conservative religious political activists she is (I assume) simply defending universal human rights and I don’t think such a stance is arrogant.”

    Do you think that means conservative religious political activists have no place either in or working with AI?

    I also take it (from what you also write about AI being fussier about who it works with), that you also think that AI should not have campaigned with the Catholic Church on the issue of the death penalty (the original example posted).

    If these are the principles underlying Gita Sahgal’s argument, then I hope she can be more explicit that her stance is peculiar to her own opinions about conservative religious political activists, and also that she is not singling out any particular group.

    And I would hope AI could articulate different principles, rather than blacklist people with conservative religious views.

    Like you say, we are speculating somewhat about where Gita Sahgal stands. My real point is to further a dialogue with you to tease out the issues which human rights activists need to grapple with before working with each other.

    1. Is it that the level of purity we demand from others should be “what/who we are comfortable with” or should there be consistent principles?

    2. Is it that we need to agree on all principles, some principles (and if so which), or merely share an interest before working together in campaigns?

    For me, those are the issues you and I disagree on – but I am not 100% clear where I stand on the second issue and am willing to revise my opinions on both based on arguments.

  134. Arif — on 3rd March, 2010 at 9:44 am  

    cjcjc – regarding the court of public opinion, while I don’t think AI should pander to it, if taking account of it, AI should be equally inclusive of the opinions of left and right, all religions, all countries etc. It takes only a moment’s reflection to recognise that what seems like common sense to a majority in, say, Yemen may not seem like common sense to a majority in the UK.

    Similarly what seems “smelly” to bloggers in Yemen may be very different to what is “smelly” to bloggers in the UK.

    And what seems “too close” for Gita Sahgal, clearly isn’t “too close” for others in AI.

    So it isn’t clear cut.

    In principle, though, I think AI should resist pressure from lobbying, particularly as resources for lobbying and swaying public opinion are not equally distributed and also as there is no necessary connection between public opinion and principles of universal human rights (the opposite is often the case).

  135. douglas clark — on 3rd March, 2010 at 9:47 am  

    cjcjc @ 132.

    Para 1. We can discuss this at length if you like. The short answer is that it’s purpose is to mould public opinion in a way that meets the organisations objectives. That is not to say that it should be swayed by public opinion. Do you agree with that or not?

    Para 2. I am still beholden to the notion that, via six degrees of separation you could be linked to a saint or a dictator. Same goes for me. At what point is it reasonable to stop applying guilt by association? And that is what you have here.

    Second point, same paragraph. You cannot make a religious person, and that is what Moazzem Begg appears to me to be, say things that are contradictory to their beliefs. The trap, and it is a trap, that he has fallen into is believing that his approval of, for instance:

    womens rights

    the case against detention

    the case against torture, etc,

    would in any way make him acceptable to folk who have their own agenda. What’s a guy to do? He is being accused of being an imperfect human being. Frankly, this suggests that reflection on ones own inadequacies is not really a fully formed concept in the ‘decent’ camp. Just saying.

    Para 3. I certainly hope Ms Saghal has higher aspirations in life than that. BTW, this is my point of view, it is not approved, nor need it be, by Sunny. I have also made it fairly clear that I think Cagedprisoners were wrong to partner with al-Awlaki after it became clear just what he was saying. They should learn a lesson from that. Not have your somewhat universal declamation. Damned to the sixth circle of hell for eternity or some such. (Which, in your case, I have to note, seems to have a singular direction. Ever found a remark on Harry’s Place a bit beyond the pale? You have been astonishingly silent on it if you have.)

    Last para. I refer you to my remarks ré para 2. (You are repeating yourself for dramatic effect ;-) )

  136. cjcjc — on 3rd March, 2010 at 11:07 am  

    One degree of separation.

  137. Sarah AB — on 3rd March, 2010 at 11:57 am  

    @ Arif – I’ll try to respond quickly to some of the difficult questions you raise.

    “I also take it (from what you also write about AI being fussier about who it works with), that you also think that AI should not have campaigned with the Catholic Church on the issue of the death penalty (the original example posted).” I’d have to ask several different follow up questions (to myself) in order to arrive at my answer but I think consistency and underlying principles are key. I would probably be trying to differentiate between someone’s private views and the degree to which that person wanted those views reflected in law. So – I might think it ok to work with someone who thought homosexuality was wrong but not with someone who thought it should be punished – particularly severely punished. Abortion is a difficult issue and I understand why some people think AI shouldn’t engage with it. I was shocked (as the mother of a similar aged daughter) that the Catholic Church excommunicated those who procured an abortion for a little girl who had been raped, I think, by her stepfather. But excommunication is a different order of response to the response of some Islamist regimes – in Somalia? – who might execute a young girl in a similar situation. (I don’t *at all* want to imply that Begg endorses that particular approach – I’m just quickly trying to sketch a response to the issues raised by partnership and shared platforms)

    “If these are the principles underlying Gita Sahgal’s argument, then I hope she can be more explicit that her stance is peculiar to her own opinions about conservative religious political activists, and also that she is not singling out any particular group.”

    Singling out a particular group – absolutely – that would be wrong – consistency is vital. But I’m not sure about the ‘peculiar to her own opinions about conservative religious political activists’. The last three words suggest people who are trying to enforce their religious beliefs, maybe make them binding on all, through politics – and (given the nature of most religions!) I would say that is not easily compatible with universal human rights.

  138. Brownie — on 3rd March, 2010 at 12:03 pm  

    Geoffrey Alderman holds the view that every person who voted for Hamas in Gaza is a legitimate target and that the ‘Christian’ idea of proportionality is something that is thankfully not jewish.

    The first point marks him out as an idiot and the second as a fraud. “Proportionality” is part of just war theory and transcends religion.

    He is an apparently respected historian, academic and media commentator.

    Is he?

    I’m guessing you’d think Hamas horribly repugnant if they made the argument that, as every israeli jew had to serve in the IDF, they were culpable for the oppression of the palestinians and as such legitimate targets whether in uniform or not?

    Well they do make that argument and, yes, that makes them repugnant. Their convenant calls for the removal of the Jew from all the holy lands.

    What did you expect me to say?

    It is analogous to Sunny’s suspicions of the agenda of Harry’s Place.

    No. Really it’s not.

    Writers there may sympathise with regimes which abuse human rights (while disclaiming support for those human rights abuses) and legitimise people who appear to support imperialism or islamophobia.

    They “may” do, but they don’t.

    Sunny, from his blogging experience, clearly thinks this is part of a deeper unsavoury agenda.

    That’s because Sunny has “issues” with HP that make it impossible for him to analyse and report our output objectively.

    How should I judge whether HP writers can legitimately share a platform with me or help me with research on a specific human rights campaign?

    By reading what we write instead of taking your lead from an antipathetic source, perhaps?

  139. KB Player — on 3rd March, 2010 at 1:03 pm  

    Arif – you make some reasonable points. I would like to have a more detailed analysis of how AI presented Begg, and linked to Cage Prisoners, and how or whether that differed from how they presented/linked to other people and organisations.

    Of course it’s reasonable to argue for a fair trial! So many people in this debate seem to accuse those with (comparatively mild) issues with Amnesty of not supporting human rights.

    Indeed! I’m sick of that particular meme as well. That link to the Howard League is an interesting one.

    I’m perhaps willing to say he’s damned himself from his own lips. Certainly from the viewpoint of a human rights organisation. Contrary to what I think you are saying, his opinions seem to have altered pretty dramatically around and about 1996.

    Though I’d really like to see a trial to prove the complicity he is accused of. This court of public opinion really isn’t good enough. Especially when the judge, jury and executioner are all ‘decents’.

    Prove it in a court of law.

    Under what charge exactly? It’s not a crime in this country to hold reactionary politico-religious views, nor should it be. It’s not a crime to hold the same views as Nick Griffin or our old chum LJB. I suppose Begg could sue Gita Sahgal or HP for defamation, and we might get the same kind of trial as in the Irvine case.

  140. Kulvinder — on 3rd March, 2010 at 1:47 pm  

    I read some of the exchange you link to and find Aldermann’s views objectionable. Apart from anything else, Palestinians in Gaza haven’t been offered the chance to vote in an election recently!

    Personally i find his view more than merely ‘objectionable’; regardless im unsure what your point was regarding palestinian elections, agree or disagree with Hamas they did win the 2006 legislative elections.

    “Proportionality” is part of just war theory and transcends religion.

    Just war theory doesn’t ‘transcend’ religion as its founded on religious principles

    He states his view are formed as a practitionar of ‘religious judaism’ and as such he considers the idea of proportionality irrelevant – as to him its something thats christian not jewish.

    Is he?

    An idiotic rhetorical question, but yes he is.

    Hes a professor at the University of Buckingham as well as a contributor to various newspapers from the Jewish Chronicle to the Guardian.

    What did you expect me to say?

    I expected you to say it was repugnant; i had hoped you’d be able to see the point that singling CP out as having particularly odious views – or certainly odious enough to be ostracised is silly given other, respected, individuals who on the basis of their religious point of view say its acceptable to target civilians based on whom they voted for in an election.

    The point, taken with what i asked KB about Mandela above, is that trying to find the perfect, respectable, individual or victim to support is both a hugely subjective and ultimately futile exercise. The world we live in at this moment in time finds it far far worse for a muslim, than a jew, to suggest that those who vote in a certain way in elections are legitimate targets. In the cold light of day you may disagree with them equally, but the muslim catches the headlines. In addition our view of victims are liable to change despite them having the same opinions now as they did in the past.

    CP aren’t the ‘worst’ or most ‘objectionale’ human rights organisation in existence. Much of what they say is tamer than what many respected individuals and organisations say, as such i don’t see whats wrong with AI working with them to close Guantanamo bay.

  141. cjcjc — on 3rd March, 2010 at 1:52 pm  

    I’m a bit confused.

    Has AI hosted any meetings with this Alderman guy?

  142. Kulvinder — on 3rd March, 2010 at 1:56 pm  

    nb im finding discussions about the meaning of ‘partnerting’ ‘working with’ ‘working alongside’ ‘platform sharing’ etc tedious.

    This isn’t about the merger of AI and CP, which is what some seem to suggest if they’re even in the same room.

  143. Kulvinder — on 3rd March, 2010 at 2:03 pm  

    Has AI hosted any meetings with this Alderman guy?

    I was making a wider point about whom we find objectionable or not.

  144. Sarah AB — on 3rd March, 2010 at 2:08 pm  

    Yes ‘objectionable’ is probably too weak – I don’t dispute the Hamas victory (not that I know a great deal about it) although as I understand most Palestinians favour a two state solution (I think?) I assume many voted out of exasperation with Fatah and through lack of a better choice – and many might prefer another regime now. I think it is a vital marker of democracy that you can, if you want to, get rid of the current regime – so even though Hamas were voted in, unless the people of Gaza have a proper chance to express their views in a democratic election, I don’t think they are a fully legitimate government.

  145. Arif — on 4th March, 2010 at 8:19 am  

    Sarah AB, we clearly come at this from different angles, but our positions are not that far off from each other. Apologies in advance for this long post to try to place this “scandal” in my view of the struggle for universal human rights.

    Since we agree that AI should base its relationships / refusal to co-operate on principles, rather than feelings (either those of a senior employee, of social groups or of the press), we just need to clarify those principles.

    I think we may disagree partly on the function of working with other human rights organisations, and partly on our understanding of how religious commitments can be reconciled with human rights, but even then only slightly.

    In terms of the function of working with human rights organisations, I think AI should not only be doing it to highlight particular violations, but also to promote the universality of human rights by showing how particular struggles relate to universal principles.

    There is a pragmatic aspect to this – how will people (brought up in different discourses) enter a struggle for universal human rights if they do not perceive that it relates to them?

    There is also a theoretical aspect to this – the nature of universal human rights is constantly being defined – often widened – to take in aspects of experience and “human nature” that previously generations of theorists have not been sensitive too.

    On the issue of the place of religion in a human rights campaign. In this era, I think AI has a role to start a dialogue between campaigners for religious freedoms and campaigners for freedom from religion. What religious groups in effect sometimes claim is that there is no “right for error”, yet in effect, that is what they are claiming for themselves when they argue for religious rights which are not recognised by the wider community.

    I think human rights advocacy is in a situation where to express the universality of human rights it also has to relativise what is a “human wrong” – so that people are safe to argue “what is wrong for you, is not wrong for me, and neither of us will interfere in each others rights (to avoid what is wrong for them, and pursue what is right)”.

    I think it is this “right for error” which AI and its partners should try to uphold, recognising that rights will continue to be perceived to clash with one another and that it does not solve all practical arguments.

    The right for error is particularly difficult for religious organisations to take on board as it justifies a kind of moral relativism. But it is just as hard for many secularists and it also can be used to undermine the universality of human rights as an abstract construction. That is one reason why I see human rights as a work in continual progress based on enlarging our experience and empathy.

    In my view, Moazzam Begg, while having clear views on some injustices, admitted he does not have all the answers on human rights. However, he has first hand experience of relatively current human rights violations. He has used this to campaign for the human rights of others, it appears including people imputed to be on the other side of the “war on terror”, and therefore is working within his own sphere to enlarge human rights.

    On the other hand he is a member of a religion which has been used to justify human rights violations as understood by AI, and has given platforms to people who in other contexts have justified those violations. So whether he is opening space for the “right to error” or closing it down is a subtle one, and one which he may not wish to explicitly deal with at this time, because of the controversy this would raise within his community of religious Muslims, where he also needs standing in order to do effective human rights work.

    AI needs to remember that it’s own need for good standing to do its human rights work, is also not limited to one community (even one as broadly defined as secular modernists) – it aspires to a global standing. In trying to universalise human rights principles, it has to be able to promote itself as relevant to people with other political and metaphysical commitments.

    So personally, I would take the risk of working with Cageprisoners, and be ready to break off the relationship if they condemned any campaign by AI, or if they undertook a campaign opposed by AI according to its human rights principles (not fear of religious political activism per se).

  146. douglas clark — on 5th March, 2010 at 2:25 pm  

    Arif @ 145,

    That is a very good and thought provoking post. Maybe you should turn it into an article and submit it?

  147. Sarah AB — on 5th March, 2010 at 3:02 pm  

    Arif – I’m beginning to know how Socrates’ pupils must have felt! – which is a compliment – I think ;-)
    Crossreferencing back to your recent post on another thread about how we all arrive at positions based on existing positions – yes, I think that is true, although many people will adjust their instinctive positions in the face of logic/fact. I suppose one of my instinctive positions is ‘secularism’ although that can of course be defined in many ways. I am opposed to curtailments of people’s religious rights though, naturally, whether that be the right to change your religion or the right to build minarets in Switzerland, or the right to wear religious headcoverings (or not to of course). What you say about involving different kinds of people in human rights struggles is interesting. One point I raised before was that AI has in the past taken a very purist line on this. There’s a lot to be said for getting people and groups who don’t see eye to eye networked together to perceive common ground (and I’m aware of work done in the ME to facilitate that) but I don’t personally see that as Amnesty’s role.
    “There is also a theoretical aspect to this – the nature of universal human rights is constantly being defined – often widened – to take in aspects of experience and “human nature” that previously generations of theorists have not been sensitive too.”
    In that case I suppose it boils down to making an individual decision about where your own sympathies and beliefs lie – taking sides if you like. Amnesty wouldn’t have much meaning if it decided to embrace a purely relativist view of human rights.
    I don’t know quite how to respond to the ‘right for error’ point. Obviously I think a religious person should be free to avoid certain foods, sexual practices, etc but not impose those rules on others. I find your point about not interfering in another person’s view of what is wrong problematic – it depends how you interpret this. If someone thinks it’s wrong to eat shellfish, sleep with someone of their own sex or change their religion – fine. But if someone starts imposing punishments – judicial or otherwise – on *others* who transgress – that’s not.
    I’m sorry I probably haven’t engaged with all your points – but thanks for your interesting post!

  148. Arif — on 5th March, 2010 at 4:37 pm  

    douglas clark – thanks for that, I am happier for this to remain in context here – unless it is bad netiquette to have such long posts in the middle of a discussion. Would be interested in the thoughts it provoked for you.

    Sarah AB – thanks for your compliment too. I’m sorry I am focusing on you, but you might notice not many people share an interest in the points I’m trying to explore (boo hoo. By the way, don’t feel you have to keep responding out of pity either!)

    Anyway – on the issue of secularism or not – I am personally agnostic! Like you, though, I am obviously opposed to curtailing religious rights.

    In terms of whether AI’s role is or is not to involve different kinds of people in human rights struggle, I would argue this is something that AI has always aimed to do, but that it does not and should not use joint campaigns as a means for this (in the sense of tailoring campaigns in order to appeal to others). I think it is likely (and desirable) that the campaign comes first and the co-campaigners are then sought.

    If you feel AI should not seek co-campaigners that is one position. If you feel it should, but very carefully, we still need to clarify how, with what degree of expectation on the other organisation and at what points different levels of expectation come into play. It may be that you feel it should not be Amnesty’s role because it sounds like way too much complexity and research to do properly – and maybe so. I am still trying out various formulations of how it might work myself.

    On the relativism and universality paradox – I don’t really know how this can be sidestepped without AI either ending up as a kind of organised religion itself or accepting that human rights are an ongoing construction. I think it is both more honest and historically coherent to accept that concepts of human rights develop, but I think you leave this open by only arguing against pure relativism, and maybe I am arguing for a relative relativism!

    A key issue for me is if some parts of the world are involved in the ongoing construction of human rights and others are not, its claim of universality becomes equivalent to various religious and political claims based on access to absolute truth, rather than a different kind of claim based on its recognised applicability to all.

    If your moral philosophy is along the lines of “pursue your happiness as long as it does not affect anyone else’s” – then it may appear that there is no problem, but my experience is that this is more like a rhetorical tool which can actually also be used to undermine human rights, by claiming that someone’s behaviour does affect others in some way. After all, minarets, headscarves and cartoons offend the eyes of some, and not of others. And there are supporting arguments then made about how these items lead ineluctably to destruction of local cultures, further restrictions through cultural pressure and hate-based violence against minorities.

    So when you say it comes down to taking sides, and that you have an instinctive position, I think that is very honest, but you then also need to recognise other people will take different sides and have different instinctive positions. Like you they may be amenable to reasoning (if I can use that term instead of yours “logic/fact”), and I think that is one starting point for reasoning on human rights with as many different groups as possible to make it as “universal” as possible.

    The other starting point for such reasoning, I believe (yes this is me taking sides) is whatever other concepts your interlocutor has for doing unto others as you would be done by. The ideal is to neither privilege nor give up our own moral intuitions, but to recognise we are all sensitive to different kinds of oppression and all should be addressed and get into the details of how this should be done (ie through campaigns, legal institutions, safeguards etc)

  149. Sarah AB — on 5th March, 2010 at 5:24 pm  

    You raise many complex debates – I think your last point about being sensitive to different kinds of oppression is a very important one and I often find it useful to map controversies surrounding one group onto another group (slightly adjusting the scenario) – to see if I still feel the same way.

  150. douglas clark — on 5th March, 2010 at 5:41 pm  

    Arif,

    Changing the habits of a lifetime, I’m going to think a bit before I reply.

  151. Shamit — on 6th March, 2010 at 2:13 am  

    Arif -

    Brilliant and definitely one of the best thought pieces I have come across in PP.

    The questions you pose about the paradigms within which human rights activists should operate have been lingering in my mind as well. My initial reaction, however, was purely based on instincts.

    The human instincts, which you rightly point out would differ from person to person – and I accept that along with the fact that situations which have an absolute right or an absolute wrong are very few and far between.

    But human rights do have some absolute rights and wrongs and organised religion as well as States of all types have often been on the wrong side of the divide.

    Human Rights though, I believe are, inviolable and are sacrosanct. Human rights are always about oppression, directly or indirectly – and unfortunately, religions that were meant to be forces of emancipation, have been twisted by structured or unstructured clergy and “learned MEN’ (and I include the false religion of communism, fascism within these categories) to hold on to their positions and power and issue diktats that have nothing to do with a loving and caring God.

    Most conservative religious groups, the Catholic Church, the Taliban, the Bajrang Dal etc etc, have continuously violated rights of others in the name of their God.

    Popes John Paul I and John Paul II were committed to the message of humanity, compassion and human rights while their successor Pope Benedict is keen to portray a very different Catholic Church.

    For example, under John Paul II, the case of the 9 year old little girl being excommunicated and humiliated in Brazil, because she was forced to abort due to life threatening pregnancy which was a result of an incestuous rape would have been dealt with very differently. This current Pope did not excommunicate the rapist step father but the little girl, and her mother and the Doctors who saved her life.

    John Paul II, the person who gave hope and inspiration to millions behind the Iron Curtain, had a very different approach to humanity. Now, when the Catholic Church was headed by this man, AI working with them would have made sense but it would be an untenable relationship now. That does not mean, AI cannot share the same views or work for the same cause on certain issues such as the banning of death penalty.

    But, if it joins hands with the Catholic Church and shares platforms, the despicable views of the Catholic Church on many issues would put a dark stain on AI’s reputation and would harm its position as a force for good and the leading voice against oppression in this world.

    AI needs to be cleaner than clean – it needs to be the moral force that does the right thing and is seen to be doing the right thing.

    No one in their right minds with any sense of fairness and justice and who is committed to the rule of law can point a finger at AI’ laudable role in standing up and fighting for the rights of those detained in Guantanamo Bay.

    What Gita Saghal challenged was this perception of embracing Cage Prisoners and their key spokesperson Begg whose own views are quite contrary to the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights.

    Imagine a young woman in Afghanistan, trying to fight for social justice and equality in her country and who looks to AI as the ultimate force for good – perceives that AI is partnering with Cage Prisoners with their rather disturbing views on women’s rights – that would be detrimental for AI. There are many similar examples we could highlight.

    AI is put on a pedestal and it should be – and therefore, it becomes imperative for AI not to create any perception that it stands for anything but human rights for ALL – not just the chosen few who may become media stories.

    There are ways of working on a common cause without creating that perception and AI failed at it miserably and they compounded it by trying to defend it with absolutely appalling media manipulation tactics such as the deliberately leaked email and the recent NPR interview. It wanes the moral authority of the organisation and hurts the cause of human rights for all those who deserve and need the support of AI most.

    Its late and I should stop here but any thoughts from yourself and others would be very much appreciated.

  152. MiriamBinder — on 6th March, 2010 at 8:21 am  

    Shamit – Why did no one start a fracas about the “perception of embracing the Catholic Church”? Why did Gita Sahgal feel perfectly comfortable about being the Head of the Gender unit within an organisation that felt perfectly comfortable and within its remit sharing platforms with the Catholic Church on the issue of the death penalty despite its standing on the issue of that little 9 year old Brazilian girl, her mother and the doctors that saved her life.

    If, as you quite rightly say the issue is that it is imperative that Amnesty International be perceived to stand for Human Rights for ALL (and please note I do not perceive them as not doing so despite the best efforts of all the current detractors); why is it merely the Begg and by extension Caged Prisoners association that seem to occupy the various detracting individuals concerned?

  153. douglas clark — on 6th March, 2010 at 11:01 am  

    Arif.

    The problem, as I see it too, is much as you describe. I don’t know if this will add much to the debate, but here goes:

    Amnesty International is working in a world where many peoples loyalties are still predicated on advantaging or advocating, ones own nation state, economic advantage or religion, or a combination of the foregoing. That it not to say that these are evil men and women, it is to say that it dominates their thought processes. These people, probably the majority of human beings, have an innate tendency to defend the group when it comes under external attack, or even internal attack when it contradicts their group think.

    Amnesty International was created on the basis of individuals who thought that universal human rights were an important part of their philosophy. There is really only one important word in that sentence and that is individuals. It seems to have resonated quite widely and in some senses it is a transnational organisation with it’s own objectives and beliefs that directly challenge the status quo.

    So, we have essentially different criteria that apply to our judgements when an issue arises.

    The Christian may, indeed, ask themselves, ‘What would Jesus do?’

    The capitalist may worry about what it means for the markets. The marxist may exult over the same set of circumstances.

    The statist may wonder whether their green and pleasant land is effected.

    The advocate of human rights may worry about the victims.

    It should be added, for completeness, that it is only the priority that is placed on these questions that determines the individual, for we are all influenced by all of these beliefs, one way or another. Whether we check-list them internally or are challenged on them externally via discussion, media or indeed comments columns on blogs, whatever.

    Turning that model of the thought processes involved into something useful is perhaps obvious.

    Like any proselytising organisation Amnesty International will either grow or die. It is in a battle of ideas, and it is up against some very big hitters indeed. It needs to be able to counter the almost relentless and frankly near mainstream propaganda that religions, states and economic systems push out in the defence of some very unattractive policies. (From the point of view of someone whose priority is universal human rights and not the status quo.)

    I do not expect perfection in people. I am most certainly imperfect and frankly I think that that is the default for us all. On the case in point, I think there are practical reasons that AI should work with victims. And, as Shamit has said above, pick and chose where or when to work with them.

    I also think that someone who is willing to share a platform with AI may also be a person who is on, at the very least, a cusp of changing the priority of their thought processes.

    It is to be expected, but challenged, when people with other priorities try to apply their world view to our, alternate one. And we should fight off takeover bids by people who we suspect have a subtle. or not so subtle, but different agenda.

  154. douglas clark — on 6th March, 2010 at 11:09 am  

    MiriamBinder,

    Good point.

  155. douglas clark — on 6th March, 2010 at 10:34 pm  

    Arif, MiriamBinder, Shamit et al

    This will fall off the front page without a continuing discussion my friends. It doesn’t deserve to fall into that black hole. You are all saying interesting things…

  156. MiriamBinder — on 7th March, 2010 at 12:43 am  

    It will fall into a black hole Douglas Clark me fears as there is no real intent to turn this into the type of debate you, Arif and others would have. The sole reason it was brought up was that it was another way of trying to ensure that Human Rights were only allocated to those perceived as deserving of Human Rights; a sort of carrot to a dual edged sword.

    The concept of universal Human Rights was grasped with both hands before it was fully understood that universality actually means just that.

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted on 10th December 1948. Article 2 states quite unequivocally that:

    “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”

    I’ll grant that article 1 holds that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

    It does not however, at any stage, allow for upholding the human rights of ‘x’ to be more valid then upholding the human rights of ‘y’. Nor does it at any time state that if ‘q’ does ‘z’ (or ‘n’, ‘p’ etcetera and so forth) then this declaration is null and void for ‘q’.

    Amnesty Internationals’ Statute states:

    “Amnesty International’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.”

    That is its core remit. Nothing I have seen, heard, read or have garnered from other sources has led me to think that Amnesty International has actually strayed from that core remit.

    What I have seen, heard, read or garnered from other sources over the past few lamentable days has been a value laden evaluation of merit in the field of Universal Human Rights. A sort of ‘if ‘x’ then ‘y’; where ‘y’ = then your Human Rights claims are valid and ‘x’ = if you agree with me/if you follow my/if you concur with our … etcetera and so forth.

    When this whole sordid episode first hit us on this blog a number of comments tried to address the whole issue from within the global socio-political framework which is where it quite rightly belongs; Gita Sahgal, Begg, Caged Prisoners have somehow become central stage when in actuality they are but minor bit-players … so minor that if this was a closing credit for a block-buster they would be found identified only as ‘and diverse others’.

  157. douglas clark — on 7th March, 2010 at 1:32 am  

    Hmm..

    I suspect that the sort of debate Arif and Shamit and I are interested in, is something you are interested in too?

    I think you and Arif and Shamit and I are not very far apart, correct me if I am wrong. It is, if you like, an arguement between people that generally agree with each other. You may even agree with the general thrust of what I had to say @ 153?

    I am attempting to say, probably very badly, that either you are for an idea of universal human rights – and are willing to accept that that may cut across other ideas of who or what you think you are – or not.

    Some folk, obviously, see their ‘side’ as right.

    This is a reply, not a challenge….

    Just to be repeat, I don’t think we are that far apart.

  158. MiriamBinder — on 7th March, 2010 at 8:20 am  

    ;) Sorry … I did not mean to throw any gauntlet down. We probably are more in agreement then not.

    I suppose that I do not feel that Amnesty International needs to either clarify its position or justify its engagement with any groups or individuals. In many ways engaging in this sort of discourse, as Amnesty International … oops, let me rephrase. For Amnesty International to engage in this sort of discourse would be wrong. As individuals concerned with the concept of Universal Human Rights of course we can engage in any discussion to clarify our view of either Amnesty International or the concept of Universal Human Rights.

    I don’t disagree with the general thrust of your post as stated on # 153. In fact it is exactly why it is imperative, in my view ;) Amnesty International does not enter into any debate such as has been occurring here and in other locations and formats.

  159. douglas clark — on 7th March, 2010 at 9:10 am  

    MiriamBinder,

    I think we are in agreement. Phew!

    The challenge that we face, and it is a challenge that you have, due respect and all that, picked up and run with, is that there are folk round here that do not sympathise with our general outlook. Broadly speaking, these folk call themselves ‘decents’ when they are anything but.

    The trope they effect is to claim the moral high ground when they are actually occupying what, at best, could be described as an intellectually barren position. What I would personally describe as a nihilist place. In the sense that it becomes necessary (for them) to destroy anything that stands in the way of their own, very personal, world view. There seem to be quite a lot of them around, though I think that that is part of the deception. They are just a shower of loud mouths, who have perhaps learned from climate change denialists that a rat-a-tat-tat of dodgy claims makes it nigh on impossible to refute adequately. It is beyond parody.

    It is probably a condition that ought to be medicalised. ;-)

  160. MiriamBinder — on 7th March, 2010 at 10:11 am  

    It is a question of ‘emotional maturity’; whether the lack thereof can be redressed by medication is something I personally doubt. A wee bit too ‘Brave New World’ even if it were possible I dare say ;)

    I suppose that the primary difference between the ‘decents’ and others engaged in discourse is empathy; accepting that others hold their view with the same degree of conviction that you hold yours or I hold mine. It’s a good first step in the right direction anyway.

    I think it was cjcjc who first pointed out that I am internally consistent; it was meant as a scathing put down, I doubt me not and I apologise to cjcjc for not actually taking it so.

    Internal consistency is the sole measure that needs to be met. If my insistence on ‘a’ means that you are deprived of ‘a’ then my insistence on it runs counter to the very principles of Universalism. It is the one single point that the ‘decents’ fail on every step of their torturous way …

    Me fears however that the ‘decents’ are not the only ones who fail there. Most governments do as well which is why we have inconsistencies such as ‘the war on terror in the name of democracy’ to name but one.

  161. Shamit — on 7th March, 2010 at 3:38 pm  

    I think in our own ways all of us are talking about pluralism.

    Debate of ideas and differing convictions enable us to improve as a society; however, I think, we all agree that when ideas are taken to the extreme and winning becomes the key objective; it unleashes destructive forces that could challenge our existence.

    The Cold War – interesting battle of ideas was taken to such extremes that neither side drew a line and degraded humanity and progress just to Win.

    There would always be evil in our worlds and therefore, I think, we also need institutions such as Amnesty International that stand up for nothing but the good. Taking up challenges of fighting for the rights of all people without seeming to become associated with their agendas.

  162. Travel — on 8th March, 2010 at 9:41 am  

    Yeah, i am extremely interested to reading this,.
    nice post.
    keep going on.

  163. earwicga — on 9th March, 2010 at 3:36 am  

    Although ‘Travel’ is spam, I can’t help agreeing that I have been interested in watching this thread develop.

  164. Arif — on 11th March, 2010 at 2:52 pm  

    On the whole I agree with both douglas clarke and MiriamBinder on this, and to some extent with Shamit.

    Where I think we are most at odds is the question of how AI should react to PERCEPTIONS that it is associated with other agendas than universal human rights.

    I think Shamit, you see it as relatively unproblematic to identify those associations which will lead to negative perceptions. I think this is very difficult because:

    a. You don’t know what issues or agendas will arise which suddenly makes co-campaigners controversial.
    b. You have to decide WHOSE perceptions are worth worrying about and WHY – since any human rights campaigner (including AI itself) will have detractors who consider them to stand for the opposite of what they say.

    I think this is partly why MiriamBinder thinks AI should ignore the fuss and get on with doing good work for human rights with other groups as it sees fit (is this right MiriamBinder?)

    I take the view that it is worth worrying about whether the groups and individuals you work with on a human rights campaign can really be relied on to support universal human rights – in the sense which I think douglas clarke expressed in #153 (not limiting concern to your own group). Because of this, I think I am more open to discussion on the principles by which AI works with Cageprisoners and the Catholic Church etc, than MiriamBinder.

    My reason for this is not to avoid perception (of being associated with another’s agenda), but integrity (in the sense of not being captured by another’s agenda).

    I agree with MiriamBinder that in this example there seems to be no evidence of AI being captured or manipulated by Begg. Any association with him may create negative perceptions in some groups and individuals and positive perceptions in other groups and individuals – but as douglas clarke suggests, this is more a reflection on those groups’ other concerns.

  165. MiriamBinder — on 11th March, 2010 at 3:11 pm  

    Arif # 164 – Yes, I do think that for Amnesty International to enter into any debate on this subject is wrong for a number of reasons; not least of which is that I think it far more important that they use the resources they have to addressing the issue of Human Rights. I also think that for Amnesty International to allow itself to be dragged into the debate, certainly on the level that most of the detractors seem to favour, would be to lay themselves open to politicisation; something Amnesty has successfully refrained from doing to date and a very strong point in their favour as a global defender of Universal Human Rights.

    I do not think there is anything to stop individuals from entering into discussions regarding what principles they would like to see Amnesty International deploy in their interaction with other individuals/groups/associations; provided of course that any such discussion is based on looking at principles rather then allegations/counter allegations, general mud-slinging or smoke-screen deployments. I think that any debate that occurs along the lines of principles is actually to be encouraged.

  166. douglas clark — on 11th March, 2010 at 3:46 pm  

    Well,

    I think we all subscribe to the idea that Amnesty International should be non-political. Which is why I find the ‘decents’ so objectionable. They would take away that neutrality for the sake of aligning it with the ‘decent’ case.

    Whilst Eric Lees’ candidacy stands, or hopefully falls, on an exceptional case in favour of Israel, it is the exclusivity from wrong that it exhibits, that frankly is against what AI is all about.

    Neither fear nor favour, I think. Least that is what I pay them for….

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Pickled Politics © Copyright 2005 - 2010. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions.
With the help of PHP and Wordpress.