Martin Bright vs Amnesty
This morning's Sunday Times ran Amnesty International is 'damaged' by Taliban link:
Gita Sahgal, head of the gender unit at Amnesty’s international secretariat, believes that collaborating with Moazzam Begg, a former British inmate at Guantanamo Bay, “fundamentally damages” the organisation’s reputation.
(Unspeak alert: is 'collaborating' really the best word here? It seems to imply guilt on Amnesty's part. It also doesn't seem to be Ms Sahgal's word. I've quoted her below.)
This was taken up by Martin Bright in the Spectator: Amnesty International, Moazzam Begg and the Bravery of Gita Sahgal. Bright's prose is somewhat over-caffeinated: "... blowing the lid... rightly sick of the lazy alliance... blown the whistle [hmm, lots of 'blowing' going on here - Ed] ... Begg is now an integral part ... she has been deeply frustrated by the way the British liberal intelligentsia gives house-room to right-wing Islamists ... Jamaat-i-Islami, the south Asian blood-brothers of the Muslim Brotherhood... It is Gita Sahgal who should be the darling of the human rights establishment, not Moazzam Begg." What, I wonder, is giving "house-room"? Until today, when, according to Bright, Ms Sahgal was suspended she was a 'senior official at Amnesty' (Sunday Times). So which of them, if either, was a 'darling' of the "liberal intelligensia"?
“I believe the campaign fundamentally damages Amnesty International’s integrity and, more importantly, constitutes a threat to human rights,” Sahgal wrote in an email to the organisation’s leaders on January 30. “To be appearing on platforms with Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban, whom we treat as a human rights defender, is a gross error of judgment.”
I can understand Ms Sahgal's position, but I can also see why Amnesty suspended her for taking an internal disagreement to the press.
The Spittoon has picked up this story.
Amnesty has issued a statement.
I'm on Amnesty's side here. I can't help but see Bright's argument as being, "if I think you're guilty, who cares if you get a fair trial? and if you support terrorism AND you've been accused of terrorism and taken to Guantanamo Bay, who cares if legal niceties were observed or not? I, for one, don't want to know you."
I don't doubt that Bright is sincere in his feelings, but writing, as he did, in the grip of deep emotions alienates rather than persuades me. Put another way, Bright's post fails the Politics and the English Language smell test.
Update 19:30 Harry's Place got there last night. It includes this, which, if I could be bothered, I'd tie into Nick Cohen's libel piece today.
Here is a Guardian apology which makes the point that Martin and Gita cannot:
Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin: we apologise for publishing allegations that he was part of a group that abducted people in East Pakistan and was involved in the commission of genocide (Prosecute Bangladesh’s war criminals, 7 October, guardian.co.uk).
Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin has never been prosecuted, charged nor even arrested in connection with these events. Mr Mueen-Uddin has consistently denied the accusations made against him as utterly false.
We are sorry for the distress our article caused him.
Britain’s absurd libel laws are another part of the jigsaw that allows champions of human rights abuses and jihadism to pose as progressives and civil libertarians. Put simply, the more outrageous and extreme your behaviour, the easier it is to cry ‘defamation’ when your politics is pointed out.
IANAL (and David Toube, who may or many not be 'Lucy Lips' is), but alleging that someone committed genocide is different to pointing out their politics.
Update 2 21:30. I'm glad I posted this. Mail on Sunday pointed out the politics of a blogger. Justice Eady dismissed the libel case. Why? Because there was clear evidence that those were the blogger's views. There is no such evidence that Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin committed genocide. See also Nick on libel today, particularly this comment.
There is a case for some reform. But not the half-baked slanderer's charter drafted by PEN, which is a thinly disguised plea by the UK media to do what the hell it likes with no fear of comebacks. If enacted, it would have prevented say Kate and Gerry McCann from successfully suing the UK tabloids for alleging they had done away with their own daughter.