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Facebook group launched: Amnesty International You Bloody Hypocrites Reinstate Gita Sahgal February 7, 2010

Posted by amnestyhaslostitsway in Afghanistan.
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This Facebook group was set up by Nick Cohen and Martin Bright — if you’re on Facebook, join it!

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1. rina sherman - March 20, 2010

In response to “Who Speaks for Human Rights?”, an article by D.D. Guttenplan & Maria Margaronis published in The Nation on March 18, 2010 (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100405/guttenplan_margaronis) with regards to the recent Amnesty International controversy opposing the ONG and their employee, Gita Sahgal, head of Amnesty’s gender unit, over the organization’s high profile public association with Moazzam Begg (Cage Prisoners), two things can be said:

First of all, Amnesty International seems to continue having difficulties in positioning itself in relation to the global problematic of political manipulation and terror in the name of religion.
Secondly, Amnesty International’s endemic hesitation to deal with criticism is questionable for an organization of its stature and reputation. Amnesty International’s attitude on both scores is comparable to that of other international Human Rights Organizations, such as the Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), in France.

In somewhat different ways related to cultural expression, and for reasons related to different historical situations and political choices, a fraction of the “Left Wing” or Liberal Cultures in several Western countries, such as France, the UK, the USA, have chosen, on occasion, and at times repeatedly, to whitewash crime executed in the name of religion. That all humans have the right to Human Rights is undisputable and human rights organizations have a mammoth task to bring any form of discrimination to the public’s attention. But that such organizations should align themselves or be associated in public with individuals, events and affiliated organizations that underwrite violence of any kind in the name of religion is unacceptable on all accounts, and also merits to be brought to public attention and especially to the attention of those that provide their funding.

In the case of Gita Sahgal, Amnesty International should immediately reinstate her in her position and suspend any association with Moazzam Begg, until such time as extensive dialogue and research over the matter has taken place, and then be made public to Amnesty International’s funders and the public at large.

A similar point in case, illustrates Amnesty International’s general approach and culture in matters regarding crime in the name of religion. In February 2004, Didier Contant, grand reporter, fell from a building in Paris whilst he was doing his third investigation into the kidnapping and the assassination of the Monks of Tibhirine in Algeria in 1996. He had just returned from a month long investigation in Medea and Blida. Upon his return to Paris, a fellow journalist, Jean-Baptiste Rivoire from Canal+ launched a slander campaign against him, accusing him, among others with the editor in chief of Figaro Magazine who was supposed to publish his article, of working for the French and Algerian secret services. Needless to say, based on Rivoire’s information, which they did not deem necessary to check, the Figaro Magazine and several other publications refused Didier Contant’s article.

In Rivoire’s slander campaign he repeatedly referred to an email from Amnesty International in London confirming his information. When contacted AI London first admitted to having had email exchanges with Rivoire regarding Contant, but then it was denied and turned into verbal conversations of which nobody could remember the content. It soon turned out that the main concern of Rivoire’s slander campaign was to prevent Contant from publishing information about the dubious activities in Algeria of a renegade officer from the Algerian Army, Abdelkader Tigha, in whose interests Amnesty International (and FIDH) acted after he was imprisoned in Taiwan when he was arrested for stealing from tourists. Tigha, in several versions of several statements blamed the Algerian Army for the death of the Monks of Tibhirine. He was an important witness for Canal+ reportages on the question. Contant returned with several hours of recordings of Blida and Medea residents describing his dubious identity. But for a few exceptions, the French press blacked out on the fate of Didier Contant. When contacted, journalists would say, “we need fresh news”, but even when the High Court of Paris condemned Rivoire for voluntary violence against Didier Contant in November 2009, not a single word appeared in the French press. As it turned out, as the storm died, neither Amnesty International nor FIDH continued to be associated with Abdelkader Tigha. For complete information about the death of grand reporter, Didier Contant, please visit: http://8e-mort-tibhirine.blogspot.com/

Will Amnesty International follow a similar strategy in the case of their association with Moazzam Begg? Time will tell. But it would indeed be a sad loss for the organization to lose someone like Gita Sahgal, who from all accounts, seems to be dedicated human rights defender.

Rina Sherman
Paris, 20 March 2010

Rina Sherman is a writer, ethnographer and filmmaker.
http://www.rinasherman.com/


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