Should Amnesty rename itself “Surrender”?

Activist and political blogger, Muhammad ibn Adam, highlights the hypocrisy of Amnesty International planning to share a platform with the neoconservative Islamophobic organisation, The Henry Jackson Society.

Amnesty’s surrender to government and media pressure, and its refusal to share a platform with CAGE should come as no surprise if you look at its plan to share a platform with The Henry Jackson Society (HJS).

In the wake of the CAGE/Jihadi John saga, Amnesty International announced that it would no longer share any platform with CAGE.  It made the following statement on its website:-

“Amnesty no longer considers it appropriate to share a public platform with Cage and will not engage in coalitions of which Cage is a member. Recent comments made by Cage representatives have been completely unacceptable, at odds with human rights principles and serve to undermine the work of NGOs, including Amnesty International.” 

Let it be said from the outset that CAGE has not been convicted of any crime nor has it supported any, and the organisation has been subject to much misreporting in the media.

Media pressure 

An honest and independent organisation would have clarified with CAGE those statements it felt may be at odds with its own principles first, rather than succumbing to political and media pressure. Amnesty of course has been under pressure over its relationship with CAGE since one of its ex-officers, a self declared champion of nothing, received prominence in the media.

CAGE have been demonised over their Jihadi John narrative
CAGE have been demonised over their Jihadi John narrative

Muslims understand media and political pressure better than anyone, being subject to its attacks on a daily basis. However, one would not expect an organisation like Amnesty, which has such a noble mission, to succumb so easily to such pressure.

Amnesty International was founded 80 years ago “to protect men, women and children, wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied”. The word Amnesty is translated as seeking a pardon for those convicted of political offences. CAGE has been subject to trial by the media for nothing more than political comments. This means that CAGE should in fact be an organisation that should be supported by Amnesty.

Compare Amnesty’s approach to that of the Quaker charity, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Foundation, which made it clear that its decision to no longer fund CAGE was due to intense pressure from the Charity Commission.

This honest approach should not surprise us; the Quakers have an amazing history of instigating socio-political reforms in the UK, and facing persecution by the powerful elite at the same time.

Principles 

Instead of admitting to political pressure, Amnesty chose to justify their decision in terms of a difference of principles with CAGE.

But in terms of principles, Amnesty purports to stand against torture, imprisonment-without-trial, enforced disappearances, transparency and accountability. These are all principles that underline CAGE’s work. The difference, rather, comes down to CAGE’s insistence on closer scrutiny of Britain’s security services in stoking extremism – a stance no organisation has had the courage to take until now.

Perhaps Amnesty might benefit from a re-brand with the name “Surrender” being more appropriate.

The actions of Amnesty demand that we take a closer look at how true they are to their own principles. Just a couple of weeks after their decision to break ties with CAGE, Amnesty was due to share a platform with two neoconservative organisations yesterday: the Henry Jackson Society (known torture apologists) and the Quilliam Foundation. The discussion was entitled, ‘The Radicalisation of Youth in the UK and Beyond: Causes and Effects’. [1]

William Shawcross
William Shawcross

The HJS is an organisation whose representatives often propose and justify the hate-mongering War on Terror policies of the US and the West that specifically target Muslims.

Some of its members advocate torture, and its ex-director, William Shawcross, now head of the Charity Commission, even justifies the use of military tribunals in Guantanamo, in his book Justice and the Enemy. In this book, he shows his disdain for CAGE. This explains the pressure the Charity Commission has placed on Joseph Rowntree and other charities [2].

David Miller, a professor of sociology and co-founder of Spinwatch, investigated public records in the US and the UK to find out who donated to the HJS, and late last year he told the Guardian [3]:

“In recent years, the Henry Jackson Society has become increasingly anti-Islam, expressing views characteristic of the far right. Its anti-Islam orientation appears to have garnered it increasing support from a range of conservative funders in both the UK and US. While it continues to pose as favouring a moral approach to foreign policy, it is dabbling in the politics of hate in an approach which is supposed to be the opposite of British values of fair play and the rule of law.”

In response to Spinwatch’s demands to see the source of the HJS’s funds, a request that fell in line with the law, HJS pulled funding of two parliamentary groups on homeland and international security. “Our donors are entitled to privacy,” HJS said. “We do not wish to expose them to unwarranted funding requests by publishing their details,” they added.

Hypocrisy and double standards

So Amnesty was prepared to share a platform with the HJS, which has expressed sympathy with far right groups such as the English Defence League, and has recently demonstrated a clear lack of transparency, but it cannot share a platform with CAGE, which does not justify any such racism or policies?

What should we make of this outright hypocrisy?

Well it should not surprise us. Organisations like Amnesty are fronts for a ruthless form of Western ideology. In the epic Indian series, Tipu Sultan, the strategy of the British occupation army is exposed. The British send in the Indian soldiers to loot, rape, use grotesque violence and capture resisting villages. When the brutality is over and the village captured, the British enter to administer bandages on wounds and slam the excesses of Indian soldiers who they then try for crimes.  Thus the impression is given that the British are civilised, uphold notions of justice, human rights and due process in their murderous wars.

The West has become more sophisticated since then. Now they have organisations like Amnesty to stick plasters over the wounds inflicted by Western-backed wars, mass murders, looting and plundering. They plaster over the cracks, giving a pretence of civilisation, justice and humanity, providing a sheen for Western supremacy, whilst never dealing with the root causes of crime and injustice.

Henry-Jackson-Society-Logo2In a situation of war and occupation, the greatest human rights are the rights to life, security, food, shelter and the right bring to an end to oppression and injustice.

These organisations cannot have an effect on these issues because they are part of the West’s neo-colonial ideology and institutions for its defence, which rely on certain systemic hierarchies to be maintained. Instead they deal with rights that in war and conflict are secondary rights such as the right to education, women’s rights, rights of minorities, and legal redress. These rights are crucial for society, yes – and they are all enshrined in Islam – but they come after the basic rights have been secured for all.

These organisations have a problem with Islam precisely because Islam, properly understood and applied in the defence of oppressed people, advances those first level basic rights from which all other rights can be built, and this may mean dismantling oppressive Western-enforced hierarchies, especially in developing countries.

So it’s no surprise that Amnesty actually considered sharing a platform with HJS, but won’t share a platform with CAGE. If you are affronted by this hypocrisy, tell them, and refuse to share a platform with them or fund them.

Amnesty issued the following statement after pressure was mounted on them by the general public on social media:

“Since the invitation, the conversation around the debate has evolved to focus on politicised UK issues which go beyond the representative’s country remit. For this reason, it was decided that instead of participating in the debate, Amnesty International will instead submit s short written statement on the situation in Bangladesh by email.”

Notes

[1] Amnesty shares a platform with torture apologists? https://justpaste.it/Amnesty-HJS

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S86lQzj6a8I

[3] Right-wing thinktank pulls funds for Commons groups after disclosure row: The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/dec/30/rightwing-thinktank-pulls-funds-commons-groups-disclosure-rules

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