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“The Human-Rights Facade Is Beginning to Crumble” – Excerpts

16 February 2010 266 views 6 Comments

Some thought-provoking excerpts from The Human-Rights Facade Is Beginning to Crumble by Noah Pollak (Hat Tip: Kaushal):

*** Excerpts begin ***

…The UK Times was impelled, finally, to give some space to the fact that Amnesty, one of the two largest human-rights groups* (the other being Human Rights Watch) has been promoting Begg, a former Gitmo detainee and booster of terrorists and radicals. What finally attracted press attention to this outrageous state of affairs was the appearance of a whistleblower from within the ranks of Amnesty.


Meet Gita Sahgal, the head of Amnesty’s gender unit. She went public with her disgust after spending two years in a failed effort to separate Amnesty from Begg:

“I believe the campaign [with Begg's organization, "Cageprisoners"] 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. “To be appearing on platforms with Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban, whom we treat as a human rights defender, is a gross error of judgment.”

…as a British blogger puts it, “upholding concepts of due process and women’s rights may not be best served by strolling along to Downing Street hand in hand with Moazzam Begg, a Salafi Islamist who has attended Jihadi training camps in Afghanistan and Bosnia.

There is a vital role for groups like HRW and Amnesty to play in the world. Properly understood, their mission is to use their moral authority to shame and condemn tyranny and those who wish to make the world a hospitable place for tyrants and terrorists. But moral authority requires moral clarity. HRW and Amnesty have been overtaken by activists who use their position to wage easy campaigns against open societies instead of taking on the more difficult, thankless, and sometimes dangerous struggle against closed ones.

For people who do not follow these issues closely, there have been a few recent moments that indicate beyond any doubt that something is rotten in the “human-rights community.” One moment was when HRW went to Saudi Arabia to raise money. We have arrived at another such moment…

*** End of Excerpts ***

Read in full here.

Also read: Double standards on human rights by Rahila Gupta from which this concluding sentence:

…It will take a long time for Amnesty to recover from this blow to its reputation. It has betrayed its own history and, by so doing, it has betrayed all of us who looked to it as a champion of human rights.


  • 1. Sridhar Krishna said:


    Hindu has surprisingly come out with an article along the same lines today. (Feb 16, 2010).



  • 2. sridhar krishna said:

    An excerpt from Gita Sahgal’s statement about the reasons for her dismissal. Full statement including rebuttal by Moazzam Begg is available at http://stroppyblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/amnesty-reinstate-gita-sahgal.html

    The issue is not about Moazzam Begg’s freedom of opinion, nor about his right to propound his views: he already exercises these rights fully as he should. The issue is a fundamental one about the importance of the human rights movement maintaining an objective distance from groups and ideas that are committed to systematic discrimination and fundamentally undermine the universality of human rights. I have raised this issue because of my firm belief in human rights for all.

    I sent two memos to my management asking a series of questions about what considerations were given to the nature of the relationship with Moazzam Begg and his organisation, Cageprisoners. I have received no answer to my questions. There has been a history of warnings within Amnesty that it is inadvisable to partner with Begg. Amnesty has created the impression that Begg is not only a victim of human rights violations but a defender of human rights. Many of my highly respected colleagues, each well-regarded in their area of expertise has said so. Each has been set aside.

    Shades of the Dharma conflict espoused by Harapriya?


  • 3. B Shantanu (author) said:

    Thanks for the comments Sridhar…will have a look at the links later

  • 4. B Shantanu (author) said:

    Pl take a moment to sign this petition to Amnesty to restore the dignity of Human Rights: http://www.human-rights-for-all.org/spip.php?article15

  • 5. B Shantanu (author) said:

    A relevant excerpt from An Unconscionable Act by Pratap Bhanu Mehta:

    The news reports of the Supreme Court appointed SIT’s charges against a leading activist, Teesta Setalvad are truly disturbing. She is charged with adding morbidity to the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat by “cooking up macabre tales of killings”. One has to see the full SIT report to come to terms with how grievous the charges are. On the face of it the SIT is credible. But by all news accounts Teesta Setalvad has done the cause of justice irreparable harm. And her actions, as described, will undermine the capability of civil society to have any imprimatur of impartiality in investigating riot cases.

  • 6. B Shantanu (author) said:

    Some excerpts from It’s Very Human To Disagree:

    “What do you think I’m up against?” says Gita Sahgal tersely. “The entire human rights movement—and the Islamic right.” The human rights movement and the “Islamic right” might seem, on the surface, strange bedfellows. But they have come together in her story—the story of Gita Sahgal vs Amnesty International. And, according to this outspoken India-born human rights activist, not just in her story.

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