Friday, May 13, 2011

Amnesty Still Playing Partisan Politics

Amnesty International continues to hector Candian government

Full disclosure: I write this post as a member of the University of Alberta chapter of Amnesty International, of which I have been a member since 2008.

Having failed to influence the outcome of the 2011 federal election, it seems that Amnesty International is settling for trying to invoke a feeling of buyer's remorse in the Canadian electorate.

Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, has accused Canada of not being a strong enough guiding force in terms of human rights advocacy.

Oddly enough, Shetty's complaints largely seem to deal with things that have little, if anything, to do with Canada.

"The human rights revolution now stands on the threshold of historic change," Shetty announced. "But there is a serious fight-back from the forces of repression. The international community must seize the opportunity for change and ensure that 2011 is not a false dawn for human rights."

"A critical battle is underway for control of access to information, means of communication and networking technology as social media networks fuel a new activism that governments are struggling to control," he continued. "As seen in Tunisia and Egypt, government attempts to block Internet access or cut mobile phone networks can backfire — but governments are scrambling to regain the initiative or to use this technology against activists."

"In 2010 progress (in Canada) on key concerns was disappointing," Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Alex Neve said. "The year was marked by failing leadership by Canada on human rights issues."

Salil goes on to note Wikileaks revelations -- if one could call them that -- that the regimes of countries such as Tunisia tortured political detainees.

"Some of the documents made clear that countries around the world were aware of both the political repression and the lack of economic opportunity, but for the most part were not taking action to urge change," Shetty declared. "One leaked cable showed that the then-Canadian envoy, the US ambassador and the UK ambassador all acknowledged that the Tunisian security forces torture detainees; that diplomatic assurances that the government will not torture detainees sent back to Tunisia are 'of value' but unreliable; and that the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] does not have access to detention facilities run by the Ministry of Interior."

Of course, this seems to beg an important question: what does this have to do with Canada? The answer seems to be "not very much".

Canada has not been deeply involved with Tunisia. It has not transferred detainees to Tunisian prisons, nor to Libyan prisons.

In fact, when Libyan President Muammar al-Ghadafi resorted to strafing peaceful protesters with fighter jets, Canada rushed to respond by helping implement a no-fly zone with its fellow NATO partners. Nor has Canada acted blindly within this mission, aborting CF-18 airstrikes that posed unacceptable risks to civilians.

Frankly, Amnesty has too big a plank in its own eye to be complaining about the speck in Canada's. Their relationship with Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners -- who recently mocked up assassination photos of US President Barack Obama.

To be fair, Salil Shetty has likley considered very little of his comments very deeply. More likely, it's the work of Neve, who was a guest of then-Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff at his Canada 150 conference.

Neve also committed Amnesty Canada as a signatory to the Voices/Voix petition, which complains about the government's cuts to various activist groups.

Apparently, Amnesty Canada has adopted the position that funding advocacy groups on an ideologically-preferential basis is some sort of human right. Which is, of course, complete and utter rubbish.

Perhaps Shetty and Neve are just confused about what their role should be in an increasingly complex, increasingly polarized political environment. Fortunately, your not-so-humble scribe can explain to them how Amnesty International should be budgeting their time:

Time spent promoting human rights -- actual human rights: 100%. Time spent engaging in partisan politics: 0%. Simple. Salil Shetty and Alex Neve had better figure this out for themselves very quickly, or they had better do something else altogether:



  1. I've been hearing about Amnesty International all my life, just as I've heard of the Red Cross, with only a vague awareness of their actual activities. But that vague awareness has led me to classify them with the American Civil Liberties Union: they do a lot of good, but they also do a lot of mischief - - - although ACLU mischief is probably more pronounced. But neither group should inject itself into partisan politics, and both groups do. I'm glad that Ai has members such as yourself who will call them to account when necessary.

  2. By my experience, Amnesty International has been colonized by various far-left ideologies. They're now just as interested in expanding the idea of human rights to benefit specific far-left ideological projects as they are in advocacy for actual and established human rights.

    In other words, they've drifted.


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