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The Mandate - More on Amnesty's Silence

This mail is intended for use by anyone who wishes to lobby AI at the level
of individual, local group, regional group, country or International.

Apologies for the length of this message. It deals with AI's mandate, and
how it could easily cover the sanctions issue if the International
Secretariat wished it. I have produced it as a 5 page Word document if
anyone wants the version full of fonts and bolds and italics etc. I have
also produced a 1-page flier type thing, again in Word, saying similar

The full text of the mandate is available at

Take a deep breath. Here goes...

The Mandate.

A quote from the very beginning of the Amnesty Mandate, which aims...

          “To promote awareness of and adherence to the Universal
            of Human Rights and other internationally recognised human
            instruments, the values enshrined in them, and the
indivisibility and
            interdependence of all human rights and freedoms;”

The UN sanctions on Iraq are unambiguously in breach of many articles of the
UDHR (e.g. numbers 3,5,25,28,30) and also of the Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights (articles 11.1, 11.2, 12.1) the Convention on the
Rights of the Child  (article 23.3) the Convention on the Prevention and
Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (article 2) and are a gross violation of
the Geneva Convention (1977 addition, Protocol 1, article 54).
How can an organisation that purports to stand against abuses of human
rights ignore a policy that contradicts so much human rights legislation?
It would seem from this *alone* that the Mandate covers the devastation
caused by the sanctions.

In the following paragraph the Mandate states Amnesty’s opposition to

          “... of the right of every person to physical and mental

…rights which have been massively violated by the UN sanctions through
starvation, malnutrition, denial of many medicines and medical supplies
resulting in thousands of deaths from easily treatable and previously
eradicated diseases, denial of infrastructure supplies such as water
purification equipment and supplies to restore electrical power generation,
again resulting in atrocious suffering to the population.

Paragraph a) also states Amnesty’s opposition to

         “...physical restrictions imposed on any person by reason of his or
          national or social origin...”.

Given that the Iraqi people are being restricted by the Security Council in
their access to all manner of humanitarian supplies because of the Council’s
quarrel with their dictator, it would seem that this falls within the
Mandate also. After all, if you are going to punish innocent people for the
supposed crimes of a powerful man, why restrict it to the people in that
country? Innocent people are innocent people whatever their country of

Paragraph c) states the opposition to...

“...torture or other *cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment* or punishment
of prisoners or *other detained or restricted* persons...”(emphasis added)

Denying a people their right to provide themselves with the means to
survive, the right to buy adequate food, medicine, clothes, water and power
supplies, basic equipment for schools, agriculture and industry is
unarguably “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” of extremely “restricted

Paragraph d) says Amnesty opposes...

“...the extrajudicial execution of persons *whether or not* imprisoned,
detained *or restricted*...”. (emphasis added)

By denying a people the means to rebuild an adequate clean water supply in
an area where we know that water-borne diseases such as malaria, cholera,
typhoid and diarrhoea will kill vulnerable members of the population, the
Security Council is executing them as surely as if it was putting a gun to
the heads of 250 people every day. Even if one argues that such consequences
could not be foreseen, after just a few months one did not need to foresee
them because the evidence of dying children was, and is, all around.
Similarly, by denying innocent people the right to buy adequate supplies of
antibiotics and all manner of life saving drugs, by denying them the
electrical power to supply their life-saving machines until a powerful man
does as the Security Council wishes, we know that ordinary people will
suffer and die. The Council is ‘restricting’ people who have no voice, no
recourse to judicial procedures, and one and half million are as dead as if
they had been killed in a concentration camp.

Does Amnesty’s Mandate really not cover this?

On the AIUK web site, under ‘Mandate’ it states

“During most of its history, Amnesty’s campaigning has focused on
prisoners, but the movement has responded to the changing patterns
of human rights violations in the world, and has increasingly taken
action on behalf of people who are not prisoners.”

            and that Amnesty

“...devotes its energies to working against abuses by opposition
groups; hostage taking; torture and killings of prisoners; and *other
arbitrary killings*;” (emphasis added)

One can argue, as we would, that the people of Iraq are prisoners of
conscience at the political whim of the Security Council. They are
‘restricted’ just as were those who suffered in the concentration camps in
former-Yugoslavia that Amnesty recently denounced so vocally. Our
governments are denying dying children the medicine and equipment that we
know they need to survive. Amnesty should be speaking out against this
“arbitrary killing”, just as it speaks out against Saddam’s crimes.

However, even if one wants to argue that the suffering people of Iraq are
not prisoners because they are not locked in little rooms with bars in the
window; even if one wants to argue that their unnecessary suffering and
lingering deaths are not torture because they are not being physically
beaten with rubber hoses or electric-shock batons; even if one takes such
arguments seriously, it is clear to us that Amnesty’s Mandate still easily
covers the plight these of shell-shocked people.

An objection that has been put forward is that those suffering under
sanctions are not strictly ‘prisoners of conscience’ and therefore are not
covered by Amnesty’s scope. However, it is clear that Amnesty’s actual
scope, according to its own actions and Mandate, is much broader than this.
This is shown, for example, by Amnesty’s opposition to the death penalty,
its ‘Get Up, Sign Up’ campaign aimed at promoting the values of the UDHR,
and its criticism of government policy in selling arms to brutal regimes,
amongst other activities.

The mandate, in addition to the above examples, under the section entitled
“Methods”, states one of Amnesty’s tasks as being:

“to make representations to international organisations and to governments
whenever it appears that an individual is a prisoner of conscience or has
*otherwise been subjected to disabilities in violation of the aforesaid
provisions*” (namely the UDHR and all the other “recognised human rights
instruments” (emphasis added)).

It is unquestionable that the people of Iraq have “been subjected to
disabilities in violation” of just about all the human rights legislation in
existence. Still, the International Secretariat does not think this is
worthy of a campaign.

Another objection has been the argument that Amnesty does not have the
resources to take on such an issue. We would argue that this is manifestly
not the case. Amnesty has a team dedicated to Iraq, and produces regular
detailed reports, case studies and news releases about its human rights
abuses. However they focus almost entirely on abuses in Iraq perpetrated by
the Iraqi regime. These abuses are terrible, reprehensible, and deserve to
be exposed. But to spend all that energy on recording the details of
political detainees, disappeared, executed etc, and then to decide not to
expose the abuses going on for all to see in the local streets and hospitals
seems to us a crazy and irresponsible thing for a human rights organisation
to do.

It need not take much in the way of resources to gather evidence on UNSC
abuses in Iraq. The evidence is widespread and easily available. UNICEF, the
UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Health Organisation, the
World Food Programme, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent and
dozens of other delegations and aid agencies from all over the world have
compiled a huge amount of evidence on the effect of these sanctions. AI
frequently uses such sources when it cannot, for whatever reason, gain
direct access to the evidence. For example, Amnesty actively campaigns on
abuses in China, not from directly observed collection of evidence, but
through reliable sources:

“The Chinese government continues to block Amnesty International
representatives from entering the country, but that hasn’t stopped our
organisation from gathering information on human rights violations from
sources inside China. AI’s information comes from a wide variety of sources,
including people inside China who are working to promote human rights,
victims of human rights violations and their relatives, government
publications, Chinese newspapers and other sources.” – AI website, ‘China –
Frequently Asked Questions’.

On the telephone, Amnesty told us that they are “sympathetic” to the
situation in Iraq, but remain “neutral” on the matter. This response
astonished us. “Neutral” between which sides?  Is Amnesty “neutral” between
those who are dying from deprivation every day and those who are causing
that deprivation?  Presumably they mean that Amnesty is “neutral” in who it
wishes to blame for the situation, i.e. the Security Council or Saddam’s
regime. Whilst Amnesty is busy being neutral and saying nothing, however,
people are dying.

It does not matter which leaders you wish to blame. In the name of anything
that resembles humanity, the horrendous suffering that the innocent people
of Iraq have endured for eight years has to stop. The people of Iraq have no
ability to influence either their own dictatorship or the Security Council,
especially when they are struggling just to survive. The punishing of these
people, then, cannot be justified. It is not only an abuse of human rights
but also a crime against humanity, which dwarfs those subject to
high-profile Amnesty campaigns.

The Security Council is holding a gun to the heads of Iraqi children and
demanding that Saddam co-operate, or the innocent will die. The logic is
that if the dictator would only do as we say then we wouldn’t have to kill
innocent people. The same logic could be applied by any terrorist hostage
taker. We do not think this is something which a reputable human rights
organisation can ignore.

Saddam is a brutal, murderous dictator who probably cares little for his own
people. By imposing sanctions, the Security Council, led by the US and UK,
shows similar contempt for the lives, and deaths, of those same people.
Amnesty should be informing the world of all the abuses occurring in Iraq,
not just those of Saddam.

There is a saying that all that is necessary for evil people to succeed is
for good people to do nothing. For Amnesty to remain “neutral” on this
genocidal situation is to take the side of the powerful against the
powerless; to take the side of Saddam and the Security Council against the
side of the people of Iraq. We do not believe that there can be any such
position as “neutral” on this issue.

Many in the anti-sanctions movement believe that this is a ‘Dracula’ issue:
i.e. that it only needs organisations and the media to shed some public
light on the situation for the sanctions policy to collapse. We believe
this. We believe that if people see the truth of what is happening as a
result of sanctions in Iraq, they will not stand for it.

We also believe that it is the duty of organisations such as Amnesty to
highlight these abuses and bring the lifting of the sanctions nearer.

The AI representative told us on the phone that “other bodies” are taking on
the sanctions issue. This is clearly not enough, as evidenced by the death
toll of the last 8 years. It needs higher profile, established, respected
human rights organisations to join in the chorus against this morally and
legally indefensible policy. The sooner this happens, hopefully the fewer
people will suffer and die.

It appears to us that the Mandate, in a number of its parts outlined above,
can easily be interpreted to allow Amnesty to speak out on this issue.
Indeed, we think the question is not so much ‘does the mandate apply to
this?’ but rather ‘how can the mandate not apply to Security Council abuses
in Iraq?’.

Even if it is deemed by the International Secretariat that the sanctions
issue falls outside the Mandate, we believe that it is such a huge and
urgent human rights issue that the Mandate should be changed to incorporate
such abuses. With 250 people dying every day, the people of Iraq clearly
cannot wait for the next Mandate review in the year 2001. Given this, an
emergency change proposal is essential.
However, it is our opinion that it only requires the current Mandate to be
interpreted differently in order for Amnesty to start to lend its
considerable and desperately needed weight to task of exposing this massive
and ongoing crime against humanity.

We urge all members, groups, and concerned people to write, lobby, and
campaign for AIUK to persuade the International Secretariat to change its
policy NOW.

You may like to invite speakers to local group meetings, encourage members
to write to AI and AIUK both as individuals and groups, speak up at regional
meetings, or turn up and lobby for the Iraqi people at the AGM in Cardiff in

A number of local groups have already expressed their concern to AIUK, and
pressure is growing. We are hearing that many people within AI, particularly
in the Iraq section, feel the same way, but are frustrated that their hands
are tied by the policy of the International Secretariat.

It is up to the ordinary membership to put pressure on AI to change its
policy NOW.

For the sake of the 1.5 million who have already died, and for the 250
people who will die today, and tomorrow, and the day after and on and on
until sanctions on humanitarian goods are lifted, we hope you feel able to
do all you can to get Amnesty informing and campaigning on this, as it
should have been doing for the last 8 years.

Good Luck.

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