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Clare Short - hypocrite.

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Friday May 15, 1998   

  Short attacks Amnesty 'carping' 

By Owen Bowcott 

Clare Short, the international development secretary, has attacked human
rights pressure groups, including Amnesty, for spending too much time
"carping" about illegal arrests and torture while ignoring health,
education and economic issues.

In a characteristically forthright intervention aimed at broadening public
debate over Britain's relations with the Third World, Ms Short criticised
the narrow focus of the human rights lobby.

Her comments, in an interview for Trade Union Alert, an Amnesty
International magazine, will surprise charities set up to monitor
extra-judicial killings and disappearances in developing countries.

"The discourse on human rights has got stuck in a denunciation of abuses
of civil and political rights," Ms Short suggests. "While I think this is
important, it is very carping and does not see human rights as work in

"Most of the people who talk about protecting human rights, including
Amnesty, have almost forgotten that the United Nation's Universal
Declaration of Human Rights includes the right to a livelihood, to health
care, to education and so on.

"We are in danger of slipping into thinking that human rights is all about
people not being beaten up in police stations . . ." Ignoring the problems
of poverty and talking only about political prisoners would, she warned,
result in charities "losing an audience in a large chunk of the world".

Ms Short has pledged to boost Britain's overseas aid budget and supports
an international campaign to halve the number of people living in poverty
by the year 2015.

On a recent trip to Uganda, she was dismayed to receive a briefing from
Amnesty which "seemed to treat the Lord's Resistance Army - which kidnaps
children, and turns boys into soldiers and the girls into sex slaves - and
the government of Uganda as equally bad people".

She said: "Of course all sides commit human rights abuses in a war, but I
remember thinking: 'I can't quite believe this. The one side is so much
worse than the other.'"

She added: "Governments of the [developed] world should not go around
hectoring poor countries."

The new UN high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson, has made
similar comments. Last year she suggested her organisation had "lost the
plot". Western countries should move away from lobbying about civil and
political rights, she said, and focus more on economic and social issues.

Some campaign groups already share these concerns. The director of African
Rights, Rakiya Omaar, said she sometimes felt "embarrassed" to say she
worked on human rights. "The focus of human rights now . . . seems to have
little to do with the complexity of problems in a poor country."

But Conor Foley, a senior member of Amnesty's campaigns team who conducted
the interview with Ms Short, said yesterday: "Amnesty supports all the
rights contained within the Universal Declaration, both social and
economic as well as civil and political.

"We are currently running a major campaign to promote the Universal
Declaration. We believe that human rights are absolute, and reject
arguments about cultural and political relativism."

Earlier this week, Amnesty's secretary-general, Pierre Sane, launched a
campaign to persuade oil companies operating in Algeria, Nigeria, Myanmar
[Burma] and Colombia to raise human rights issues in those countries.

"We have to ensure that those companies will join in the effort to improve
the human rights situation in those countries," he said.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations
in December 1948, has 30 Articles. They include: 
Article 3: The right to life, liberty and security.

Article 5: No one to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading

Article 9: No one to be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 20: The right to peaceful assembly.

Article 25: The right to a standard of living sufficient for health and
well-being, including housing and medical care.

Article 26: The right to education.

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