The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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The Amnesty International Council Meeting is to be held in less than 2 weeks time, in Portugal (changed at the last minute from Morocco). There are NINE UK delegates to the ICM. Personally I think it would be a great help for all AI members opposed to sanctions to write to these delegates and try to persuade them to allow Amnesty to at least take a position on *human rights abuses arising from economic sanctions*. At the ICM this would mean them supporting the Tunisian and/or Irish motions currently before the ICM. (see previous postings on this list under 'AMNESTY'S SILENCE'. Those delegates names: Peter Pack David Bull Fiona Weir Jane Oberman Clive Romain Andy McEntee Liz Robertson Amahl Smith Jackie Parker. Easiest to send letters to them via AI UK at Amnesty International UK 99-119 Rosebery Avenue London EC1 4RE As members of this list may remember, a motion at this year's UK AGM to support the Tunisian and Irish proposals was narrowly defeated, with the board voting against. A colleague of mine has more recently had correspondence with Peter Pack on this issue, and his line appears to still be something like 'we're sympathetic but its not an issue we can deal with'. I think the line we need to take is that to take a position on human rights abuses that result from economic sanctions does not necessarily restrict AI's work, or force it to take a stance regardless of the circumstances. One of PP's points is that sanctions are a very difficult area when it comes to pinning down the 'cause' of any abuses that may arise (he quotes Max Van der Stoel who places blame on the Iraqi authorities for creating delays that lead to suffering). However, IF A GIVEN SITUATION IS PARTICULARLY DIFFICULT, THEN AMNESTY IS NOT OBLIGED TO TAKE A POSITION. If the evidence is inconclusive then there is nothing to say AI must take a position. But when there is CLEAR CONSISTENT EVIDENCE, then it HARMS Amnesty tremendously to say nothing. The Pinochet case is 'difficult'. Were Amnesty to remain silent on this matter for that reason, we would be justifiably disgusted, and the organisation would lose credibility with almost everyone who currently supports it. When writing to these people (who are all honest and decent people as far as I know) I think arguing about the weight of evidence in the case of Iraq (Annan, Halliday, Sponeck etc) may help a little, but it is not really the point they will be looking for. AI need a general rule they can work to, applicable to all countries. The point of raising Iraq as an example is to stress the URGENCY of the matter - decide something NOW, not at the mandate review in 2001, when countless thousands more would have died needlessly. * RESOURCES is another sticking point. It is sometimes argued that AI doesn't have the resources to investigatre such matters thoroughly. Well, Amnesty is not permitted access to China, but bases its reports there on accounts from secondary sources and reliable organisations. It can easily do that in the case of Iraq, with little more resources than a good computer and a phone. If the information isn't available, then Amnesty is still not committed to take a position and nothing is lost. But if it IS there, then to be silent is to make Amnesty look embarrasingly selective in whose human rights abuses it seeks to expose. * Another argument from those opposed: if AI takes on this issue, then why shouldn't it take on other political/ public health issues like unemployment? Provision of health care? I think the answer to this is: INTENT. It is difficult to show that when a state takes on, for example, neo-liberal economics it is INTENDING to create an underclass or to depress wages and working conditions in order to promote the wealth of the few. It is also arguable that much of such policy making is beyond the control of politicians or individual states. However, when you have a country like Iraq that you have bombed until their public infrastructure is crippled, and their access to food and clean drinking water is dramatically reduced, you KNOW that thousands will die unless the world allows them to repair the very things they need to survive. Iraqi people NEED to be able to buy antiseptics and needles, and to replace the equipment we destroyed: air conditioning units, communication equipment, spare parts for water sanitisation plants and pipe systems, electrical power stations upon which countless other life saving devices rely. DENY OR RESTRICTING THESE THINGS TO PEOPLE WHO NEED THEM TO SURVIVE IS A DELIBERATE ACT WITH CLEAR AND FORSEEABLE CONSEQUENCES. As people with anything resembling moral values, we have to be responsible for the predictable consequences of our actions. The consequences in this case are that thousands of blameless people will die. If there are mitigating circumstances - for instance if we were at war - then Amnesty does not have to ignore that. BUT IF THE CIRCUMSTANCES AND EVIDENCE CLEARLY SHOW THAT PEOPLE ARE BEING DELIBERATELY SUBJECTED TO LIFE THREATENING CONDITIONS FOR NO GOOD REASON, AMNESTY'S SILENCE DISCREDITS IT AS AN ORGANISATION. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE WRITE TO THESE PEOPLE. Most of us know that when we explain this whole mess to people clearly and with supporting evidence, 90% come around eventually. I think it is extremely important that we convince this particular bunch of good people. Thanks, Glenn Bassett, using firstname.lastname@example.org -- ------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Please do not sent emails with attached files to the list *** Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html ***