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[casi] How much time should we spend attacking AI?

Hello all. Glenn here.

As someone who has been actively trying to change Amnesty's policy on
sanctions since 1998, I would like to concur with Bert's comments.

I am sure Blair, Bush, Hussein and all the rest would be very happy to see
good people devoting large parts of their time and energy to criticising
Amnesty International.

Whilst constructive criticism of Amnesty is valid, in an anti-sanctions
discussion I think we should spend more of our time and energy criticising
those *imposing* the sanctions, rather than those who may or may not be
*opposing* sanctions as much as we'd like.

I am the first to criticise Amnesty when I feel it is not doing something it
should, and I have been doing so for some years. However, I have been trying
to do this constructively, as part of an effort to achieve change within the
organisation -- an organisation that, as Berts says, does enormously good
work on issues that do matter to many many human beings.

Amnesty's traditional focus has been on civil and political rights. Its
mandate has been getting wider and wider over 40 years, with constant
pressure to expand and 'do everything'. Increasingly, the membership has
been pushing for work on economic, social and cultural rights to receive
more attention (these definitions overlap in many places).

Importantly though: 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. It exists on donations
and volunteer fundraising, and has a relatively small number of paid staff.
All staff, paid and voluntary, and local group volunteers, spend their time
working hard on important human rights work, trying all the time to satisfy
those outside and inside who constantly want them to do more.

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.

This is an organisation of good, hard-working people, with limited time and
money and scope, trying to act against huge forces that abuse human rights.
It may not do so perfectly or completely, but essentially it is on the side
of oppressed people, and against oppressors.

That's mostly what I wanted to say. I'll respond to a couple of specific
points below.

All the best,



>Yet apparently it failed to mention this grassroots-driven decision
>to link violations of these rights to the humanitarian
>disaster of sanctions, in its report on Iraq. In other words, it ignored
>mandate of its own membership.

Some country sections voted to work on sanctions. Some didn't. Even if they
did, that does not mean it is possible to do so within constraints of
mandate, money, time, expertise etc.

However, now, in its 2-yearly international meeting it has indeed taken on
board the 'mandate of its own membership' and is now looking at how to work
on the issue more actively.

>This has to be put together with the fact that AI by and large
>does not adopt US political prisoners,

That is not true. In fact, Amnesty has just finished an 18 month campaign
focusing specifically on human rights abuses in the United States, and works
very hard on death penalty cases there, eg Mumia Abu Jamal.

>AI did not condemn the Jenin attack as a massacre. So clearly
>there is a blind spot in the leadership of AI where US/Israeli
>policies are concerned

Amnesty was one of the very first organisations to send investigative teams
into the camp. It concluded that many innocent people had been killed and
that indiscriminate and disproportionate force had been used. However, it
realises the inadequacy of its resources in times like this, and has
repeatedly called for a full-scale UN investigation. It has sent many
delegations to Israel over the last 18 months, and repeatedly criticised
sales of US arms to Israel. It has been frequently criticised by pro-Israeli
groups as showing bias toward Palestinians: UK chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks
called groups like Amnesty "murderous" for reporting what they saw,
presumably because he thought this meant they were trying to justify
Palestinain atrocities.

Regarding sources:

>Regarding Iraq, the report repeats itself year after year and has nothing
>say but the same information without any documents.
>Yes I agree with Hasan that most of data are biased on reports given by
>Iraqis who seek asylum in the west

I would suggest that if you want to know about Amnesty's sources, contact
Amnesty. Only then can you make informed judgments about where Amnesty gets
its information. However, putting out vulnerable sources' names and
addresses on the Internet would probably be a rather irresponsible thing for
them to do.

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