The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
Greetings, These are some thoughts on Amnesty International and their silence. At the Amnesty International UK AGM this last weekend April 9th - 12th. There were four motions on sanction, which were composited to one, the substance of which was "The AGM ......DECIDES that the present mandate review process will include, in its second phase, a consideration of whether Amnesty International should alter its position on sanctions against states that violate or are alleged to violate human rights and report to the 2001 ICM". The reason for this motion of support for motions that have already been proposed (Tunisia and Ireland), was because the deadline had passed for submission of new motions to the International Council Meeting, ICM, in August at Morocco. The AIUK Board opposed the motion because they had already proposed a sanctions motion to the ICM, the substance of which is "The International Council ...... DECIDES to oppose embargoes when their effect is to threaten the physical and mental integrity of populations or to threaten lives of innocent citizens." Their argument was that the issue of sanctions were not covered by the present mandate, and as such needed to be in the mandated review process. Our contention was that we thought it was and so do the Tunisian and Irish Sections, and that our inaction on the matter has led to AI's credibility as a Human Rights organisation. My interpretation of the argument put forward by the AI UK board was they intended to separate economic and social rights from the rights of civil and political, which AI traditionally campaigns for. There was also mention during the debate on the successes of sanctions as a tool to coerce governments, with the South Africa and Rhodesia given as examples. The mandate as is states "To promote awareness of and adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other internationally recognised human rights instruments, the values enshrined in them and the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights and freedoms." The example of Iraq clearly shows the interdependence of all the rights. As an example, the degradation, cruel and inhumane treatment (civil) of someone forced to undergo an operation without anaesthetics due to an embargo on medicines (social), or the denial of the most fundamental of rights, life, (civil), through starvation (economic) and lack of access to medicines (social). On the issue of successes of sanctions, I would distinguish between sanctions that are requested for by the majority of the population, as in South Africa (a claim made by one of the delegates who was a South African) and those imposed as in Iraq and Cuba. This in my opinion is similar to the difference between a masochist torturing her or his self for their pleasure, and a torturer that tortures someone against their will. This does not however detract from the role of a human rights organisation, like Amnesty International, who should be observers of abuses. To this effect they should report on the self-inflicted abuses carried out by the masochist as well as those carried out by the torturer. The effects of sanctions, taking the Iraqi example, have been the deprivation of LIFE. AI's important campaigns have been those that have threatened the denial of this most important right, by intent either legally through capital punishment or illegally through extrajudicial executions. There is currently an AI campaign, "Death Penalty" for the former and most country campaigns cover the latter. The focus of campaigns on the abuse of this right is normally on the effect and not the cause, particularly in the illegal cases. It could easily be argued here that in the case of sanctions on Iraq, there is intent following Madeline Albright's "It is worth it" quote. This then raises the issue for AI, of credibility, which the dearth of AI reporting of the current holocaust, effected by sanctions, in Iraq highlight. The question is how can the government and more importantly the people of Iraq as well as observers, take AI seriously when the latest country report on Iraq, in the 1998 annual report, devotes fifteen paragraphs to the deaths of a few hundreds brought about by capital punishment and extrajudicial executions but mentions in passing, using less than a sentence, (from another organisations UN Human Rights Committee report) the killings of over 100,000 people in the same year by sanctions. These were some of the arguments, which I hope will be of assistance to those members of Amnesty International. Good Luck Paul Abbey -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email firstname.lastname@example.org, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html