Oslo Journal: Human Rights
10:41 AM, May 12, 2011 • By SOHRAB AHMARI
So why would Amnesty International throw its weight behind Cageprisoners and, in the process, sully the legacy of the human rights movement? Why would Amnesty fire Gita Sahgal, the director of its gender unit, after she went public with her concerns about the organization’s association with Begg and Cageprisoners? And will the Obama assassination stunt finally lead Amnesty leaders to break ranks with this odious practitioner of physical and ideological jihad? These and other critical questions remain unanswered – four days since Cageprisoners first released its mock story. Attempts to reach an Amnesty spokesperson went unanswered.
On previous occasions, Amnesty has tried to distance itself from Cageprisoners by suggesting that the partnership is about securing the individual voices of former detainees as a way of spotlighting abuses at Bagram and Guantanamo. Yet this is clearly a false pretense: Amnesty has repeatedly described Cageprisoners as a “human rights organization” and a “human rights charity” in numerous press releases. Indeed, it has gone out of its way to give both Cageprisoners and individual detainees an institutional platform, inviting Begg to give the 2006 Amnesty International Annual Lecture in Belfast and including Cageprisoners in its list of 39 “leading human rights groups” behind a report on CIA detention practices.
The truth is that Begg and Cageprisoners have nothing in common with the human rights advocates I have met during my time in Oslo: men and women whose activism is solidly grounded in liberal values – and not a rhetorical pretext masking a deep hatred for democracy and individual dignity. Over the years, I’ve also come to know many rank-and-file members of Amnesty International: suburban moms and young undergraduates who write earnest letters calling on their elected officials to intercede on behalf of this or that political prisoner. They exemplify what it means to seize one’s freedoms to aid those born unfree. The question is: how much longer can these advocates watch as Amnesty’s international leadership squanders their trust and moral capital on men like Begg?
Sohrab Ahmari’s writing has previously appeared in the Boston Globe and Commentary, among other publications.