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[casi] Some remarks on AI...

Dear List,

Much as I would have wanted this subject to be closed, I find myself compelled
to go back to it, prodded by the exchange of unfriendly messages, and the increase
in the heat which led to some boiling of blood. The subject has turned from an
“amicable discussion” into personal attacks, where some took the criticism of AI
personally. I was accused of “rushing to defend Ghazwan”, I suppose because I
agreed with him that AI has failed with regards to the sanctions issue. I don’t
deny that. But don’t I have the same right to defend someone who, in my opinion,
is being wronged, in the same way like those who “rushed” to defend AI? After all,
attacking Ghazwan is “personal”, while attacking AI is NOT personal…

I agree with Glen that perhaps it is not helpful in anti-sanctions work to
spend a lot of time and effort criticising Amnesty's record. But how helpful is it
to the anti-sanctions movement to waste energy on the same issues of Halabja or
the Ba’ath Party or the Iraqi regime? How relevant are those issues to sanctions
and their lifting?

I will try to explain my thoughts of AI, some of which will be repetitions.
But since AI chose not to comment, and its defenders evaded replying to the
questions and criticism presented, the issues have to be brought forth again. As
to personal attacks, then I will not dignify them with a reply.

I must first stress that I do appreciate the work AI has done and the
difficult circumstances it works under. However, I am not one of those who believe
in the sanctity of AI, nor of every report made by AI. I am not under any illusion
either that AI does not take sides on different issues. There is no such thing as
pure objectivity.

No one disagrees that AI has not done enough regarding sanctions. I would like
to think that the problem has to do with AI’s priorities not its principles. We
all agree on the importance of the issues of human rights. But while the world has
moved and new crises and issues have appeared, AI has not been able to adapt to
those changes.

We have been told, by members of AI itself, that after 11 years of sanctions
(or like some call, complete blockade), AI is only now bending to its members
demands to review its stand on sanctions. This looks strange to me, and this has
been the main cause of criticism.

In a report on Iraq dated 28 July 1999:” UN Security Council Considers the
Humanitarian Panel's Report on Sanctions/ A summary of Amnesty International
position and concerns”, AI states the following:
”Amnesty International does not take a position on the issue of sanctions as
tools for influencing government behaviour. However, Amnesty International
believes that the Security Council, as the body that has imposed sanctions on
Iraq, has a responsibility to carry out periodic reviews of the impact of
sanctions on the human rights of the Iraqi population.”.

AI does not take a stand on sanctions?? Why not? The biggest crime of
genocide is relegated to second or tenth place, while AI spends its time and
effort on issues like rights of homosexuals, or the death of a hardened criminal
in a Swedish jail. I am not belittling the importance of those other issues, but
there has to be some sort of rational proportionality in the issues tackled. AI’s
lack of stand on sanctions raises serious questions. Sanctions are a humanitarian
issue, where the human rights of people (and in this case Iraq) are violated. AI
It is not enough for Amnesty International to believe that “the Security
Council must take appropriate action on the recommendations of the panel it has
commissioned on the humanitarian situation in Iraq with a view to ensuring that
human rights considerations are fully taken into account.” How can an illegal and
inhuman regime (like the sanctions) allow for considerations of human rights? And
what does that sentence mean?
To me it means that the principle of sanctions is acceptable to AI; it just
doesn’t know how to go about admitting it….

Glen wrote: ”Amnesty, overstretched already, is now working on how it will
incorporate some degree of Economic, Social and Cultural rights issues (including
sanctions) into its work.” It is my belief that sanctions is NOT an Economic,
Social and Cultural rights issue, but an important human rights issue, as much as
torture and executions. If after 12 years, AI is only now considering how to
incorporate “some degree of those rights” into its work, then something is
basically wrong with AI...

Glen also wrote:” Amnesty is not god. It is not omnipresent. It cannot see and
know everything. It does not have unlimited resources to report on everything that
may constitute a human rights abuse.” If that is true, then criticism of AI,
especially when it comes from Iraqis on this list, should be tolerated, accepted,
and replied to.
Members of AI are all involved in forums and groups that deal with similar
issues. The amount of information available is tremendous, and we all have access
to this kind of information. Those members can relay information and studies to AI
for immediate use. It is therefore not justifiable to blame AI’s lack of action on
resources. AI has not identified sanctions as a major human rights violation. That
is the issue. When AI does that, you will be surprised at how fast resources and
people will be available....

AI does not argue the legality of the sanctions either. This matter has been
tackled for many years by legal experts. The latest document was posted a few
weeks ago by Elias Davidsson on the iac-discussion group (Some legal aspects of
the economic sanctions against the people of Iraq).
And it is not only the sanctions that are illegal, but all resolutions where
any one of the permanent members of the Security Council has abstained. That is
what the Charter of the UN states clearly and openly.

AI does not condemn the bombing of Iraq, whether that of the 1991 so called
“Desert Storm”, or the bombing since then. The attacks of 1991 were illegal,
because resolution 678, used to justify military actions, was illegal, China
having abstained from voting. The findings of the tribunal formed by Ramsey Clark
give enough information about the war crimes committed by the Western alliance.
These issues do not appear in AI’s literature, or at least I couldn’t find them.

In its public statement on 13 November, 1998 “US/IRAQ - Amnesty International
demands that protection of civilians be paramount”, Amnesty states the following:
”Amnesty international today expressed its fear that military action against Iraq
may result in the loss of civilian lives. Life, safety and security of civilians
must be the paramount consideration in any action taken to resolve the current
crisis. Amnesty international takes no position on the use of force to resolve
international disputes.”

What do I read in this?
First, that AI does NOT oppose military action in principle. Second, that AI
does not object to the bombing of Iraq, which happened outside any UN mandate.
Third, that AI does not object to the use of force to solve crises. Fourth, that
AI does not care for the sovereignty and integrity of Iraq. Fifth, AI has wrongly
understood the US/UK aggression as an international dispute.

AI goes on to say:” The Geneva conventions and their additional protocol I
prohibit any direct attacks on civilians or civilian objects…” AI seemingly
forgets that the same protocols prohibit the starvation of people as a weapon in
war, which is exactly what the sanctions are.
Is AI reading international humanitarian laws and agreements selectively, or
what is the reason for this dual thinking?

AI goes on to “remind the government of Iraq of its obligation to take all
measures to protect the civilian population.” It is indeed strange to throw some
of the blame on the victim of aggression. How is the Government of Iraq going to
protect its civilian population against an illegal aggression by two super powers?
Nowhere does AI condemn the attacks or call them aggression…. Why is that? Is AI
trying to show the US and UK that it is not taking sides? And someone wonders why
an Iraqi criticizes AI???

In its News Flash on 16 February 2001 “Iraq: US and UK bombing of Baghdad”, AI
states: ”Amnesty International is demanding immediate assurances from the USA and
UK governments that they will fully respect international law and the human rights
of the Iraqi people.
Given well-documented concerns over the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and reports
that civilians in Iraq have been injured, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair
must ensure that Iraqi civilians are not targeted.”

Once again there is no condemnation of the attacks, nor any call for stopping
them. All the talk about “respecting international law and the human rights of the
Iraqi people” is meaningless, as long as AI does not take a stand on sanctions or
bombing. To Iraqis, this statement means that AI accepts the bombing, but asks
that civilians be spared; of course it implicitly would mean that the US and UK
may kill soldiers, even though there is no mandate for that act….

Many times now, AI has been accused of being a victim of Western propaganda,
especially in the 1990 famous “Incubator case”. The whole case was an orchestrated
fabrication. AI did its cause no service by rushing to believe in that invented
story. It did apologize later on, but the damage was already done.

It is my belief that the reason for AI’s lack of stand on these issues is the
existing biases among the people who draft reports and make decisions within AI. I
do not want to be personal, but if more of AI’s members have the same biases and
fixed concepts about Iraq, the Ba’ath party and Saddam, as have been expressed
here, I am surprised that AI has not made more blunders like the 1990 “incubator
case”. Whether you like the regime or the leader should not be an issue when
dealing with a crime against humanity, in the scale of the sanctions against Iraq.
The sanctions have to be the main criteria, not personal opinions.

I must once again ask Bert to allow me to borrow his words: ”however useful
any theories, one's heart has to be involved". I said it before, and I have no
reason to change my opinion: AI does not have its heart fully involved yet. That
is the only explanation for why AI still doesn’t still have a stand on sanctions.

If we take AI’s recent handling of the Palestinian issue, I was amazed to see
AI treating Palestinians and Israelis equally guilty. For 54 years, Israel has
occupied Palestinian and other Arab lands, oppressed its people, killed and
deported them at will, confiscated their land and houses, kept on building
settlements, annexed cities and towns, all in violation of international law and
the UN Charter and numerous UN SC resolutions. It is therefore surprising to see
AI condemning the legal and justified resistance of the Palestinians against this
occupation and genocide. While AI admits that Israel may be guilty of War Crimes,
it condemns suicide attacks against settlements. I find this utterly unacceptable.
Whatever happened to the right of self-defense? Whatever happened to the “right
of life” of the Palestinians, who are being killed by members of the same
“civilians” from those settlements? Is a person who carries a machine gun,
occupies your land, and shoots at you whenever possible considered a “civilian”?
Should a war criminal be granted the same rights like his victims? Should an
occupation force be granted the right to peace and security, while it continues to
commit crimes? What kind of double standards is this? The occupied and the
occupier equal in guilt??? The victim and the aggressor; the oppressed and the
Why does AI condemn actions of Palestinians against Israeli civilians, while it
only “demands the protection of civilians” from the US and UK, without condemning
their actions??

Glen wrote that AI’s investigation into Jenin led it to conclude that “many
innocent people had been killed and that indiscriminate and disproportionate force
had been used.” Does that mean that the illegal occupation, and the killings and
assassinations as a principle are not the main concern of AI, only the
proportionality of the use force? Does AI then support Israeli occupation of Arab
Again, when faced with criticism for it’s inaction, the justification is
always:”the inadequacy of its resources in times like this”. How come only in
times like these resources are scarce? How come when criticizing the government of
Iraq, there is abundance of resources and eye-witnesses?

AI, we are told, “has repeatedly called for a full-scale UN investigation”.
Since AI keeps bringing international law into the arguments and its reports, why
doesn’t AI call for the immediate Israeli withdrawal (according to international
law) into the internationally recognized borders, a cessation of all acts of
aggression against the countries in the area, and a full implementation of ALL UN
resolutions. Only then, can AI demand security for Israeli civilians. As long as
the occupation continues, resistance (including armed) to it is legally accepted
by international law, and it would by hypocritical of AI or anyone else to demand
that the Palestinians stop resisting. As long as Israel continues to kill
civilians, AI has no right to demand that Palestinians not kill civilians in
And I would hope that when Glen talked about “Palestinian atrocities”, he was
not calling the legal resistance to occupation atrocities…

In its 05/06/2002 Press release “Israel / Occupied Territories / Palestinian
Authority: International human rights observers needed to end the cycle of
violence”, AI states the following: “The suicide bombing of a car which crashed
into a bus at Megiddo junction at 7.15 a.m. on 5 June 2002 killed at least 16
Israelis and injured dozens of others. Many of those killed and injured were
This statement is NOT CORRECT. Most of those killed WERE NOT CIVILIANS, but
soldiers. It is strange that AI could once again publish incorrect information.
Perhaps AI relied on information provided by the Israeli Government????
The press release continues to state:” We condemn this attack and all targeting
of civilians," said Amnesty International. "Such deliberate killing of civilians
is contrary to the basic principles of humanitarian law."
Why isn’t a similar statement issued when US/UK planes bomb Iraq daily, killing
civilians and damaging property? Surely the same resources available to condemn
Palestinians could be used to condemn the US and the UK. Or was Geroge Orwell
right about some being more equal than others???

On 14 MAY 1996, AI urged the World Health Organization to support health
professionals documenting human rights violations. I couldn’t find any document
where AI urges the WHO to support documenting the damages caused by the use of DU
shells by the US and the UK. AI has no stand on that matter either, in spite of
the increasing evidence of the effects of that weapon. Why is that so, one would
ask, hoping that AI would comment….

Another important issue, which has a human right dimension, is the issue of
water. Turkey has been building dams and holding the water of both the Tigris and
the Euphrates rivers, causing drastic water shortages in both Syria and Iraq. This
is being done in spite of international agreements that prohibit such acts. This
is not a “social or economic” issue, but an issue of the basic rights of humans,
which Turkey’s actions are violating. Shortage of water is causing dislocations of
people, death of cattle, and eventually human catastrophes. I couldn’t find a
single reference to the water issue on AI’s web pages.
If Iraq and Syria were to revert to force to resolve the issue, would Amnesty
international refrain from taking a position on the use of force to resolve
international disputes, or would it rush to condemn these “atrocities”?

One only wonders….

I hope my remarks will be clear to all. I do not wish to continue discussing
this issue, unless clear answers are given. I am not hear to defend the Ba’ath
party or the Iraqi regime. I am expressing my views as an Iraqi, who believes that
an organization that is not able to balance its acts, should be able to accept
criticism, and correct its path. I don’t believe that I have written anything that
is not based on facts taken from AI’s pages. How I interpret these statements is
my right, just like each has his/her right to view things differently.
Scandinavians have an interesting saying: “The sausage has two ends. You see
one, and I see the other”.
I hope that those who see one end will realize that there is another one….


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