Friday, February 12, 2010

Conor Foley wades in

In defence of Amnesty and its impartiality.

Perhaps predictably, some of the people who were most vociferous in calling for Garlasco’s suspension have been equally forthright in calling Sahgal’s reinstatement.
I used to work as a middle level manager in Amnesty International UK Section’s Campaign Department 10 years ago and a large part of my job involved personnel issues.
I have absolutely no doubt that if a member of my staff had behaved as Sahgal is alleged to have done I would have had to take disciplinary action against her and this applies not just to Amnesty International, but to every management job in every organisation I have done before or since.
As even her friend and supporter, Rahila Gupta, admits here Sahgal was not a whistle-blower because she was not revealing activities that anyone was trying to conceal.

I think Conor makes a mistake in trying to second-guess Ms Sahgal's intentions; OTOH, I feel his second-guessing happens to be correct - unless Ms Saghal is very naive and/or unaware of the attitude of certain journalists toward her employers.

She disagreed with a decision that Amnesty had taken to give a platform Moazzam Begg and to work with his organization Cageprisoners on behalf of people detained in Guantánamo Bay. She must have done it knowing this would be used by journalists like Nick Cohen who is on record as supporting the torture of detainees in certain circumstances, as part of his ongoing campaign to denigrate the organization.

Ah, Nick Cohen, back in 2006:

Because Germany has experienced the horrors of both fascism and communism, torture is a taboo, banned not only by laws, but by the constitution.

Could there be another country which explicitly banned torture in its 8th Amendment without having experienced fascism or communism?

For the first time in British history, there are asylum seekers who could attack the country which gave them sanctuary. I don't think people realise how unparalleled this change is.

Quite right, Nick, 'asylum-seekers' is new, politically correct speech. We didn't use to call immigrants that, even if they were refugees.

Peter the Painter, also known as Peter Piaktow (or Piatkov, Pjatkov, Piaktoff), was the leader of a gang of Latvian revolutionary criminals in the early 20th Century. After supposedly fighting in and escaping the Sidney Street Siege in 1911, he became an anti-hero in London's East End. ...
In 1988, based on research in the KGB archives, the historian Philip Ruff suggested Peter the Painter might in fact be Gederts Eliass, a Latvian artist involved in the 1905 Revolution and living in exile during the time of the Siege, returning to Riga after the 1917 Revolution.

Famously, then Home Secretary Winston Churchill went to see the Sidney Street siege and was nearly killed when an anarchist's bullet went through his top hat. (Since the EU body responsible for 'asylum seekers' is the European Council for Refugees and Exiles, I don't think the exile/refugee difference is all that important here.)

This brings me to Nick Cohen's recent Standpoint blog where he reproduces a whole chapter from Waiting for the Etonians.

But ever since Khan took over [Amnesty International], I've had an uneasy feeling that it is losing universal principles and treating the abuse of rights by the United States as worse than similar or more grotesque abuses by dictators who aren't white, middle-class or Western.

I'd say Nick Cohen has an "ongoing campaign to denigrate the organization."

Update Sat 13:20. Sunny Hundal has a say, too: Amnesty, Gita Sahgal, Moazzam Begg and why they’re all wrong which is an admirable stab at a "nuanced position", and one I pretty much agree with. David T pops up in the comments and wants to discuss - at length - some guy called Massoud Shadjareh who appears to be Iranian, wasn't a prisoner in Guantanamo, and otherwise has no connection whatever to Amnesty, Moazzam Begg, or Gita Saghal, but he has his own personal definition of 'human rights' so let's all talk about that for a while. (Also if Massoud Shadjareh is pro-Iran, he's very likely to be a Shi'a Muslim; the Taliban, al Qaeda, and Moazzam Begg are Sunnis.) If you're against torture, your position is "this person should not have been tortured" not "what bad things did he do or believe?" Sunny Hundal is quite right to ask for evidence that Moazzam Begg has any influence on Amnesty's policy or its definition of human rights. Via Harry's Place. Is there a reason why 'Your View' refers to 'Sunny' and 'Foley'?


Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

done a little bit of digging using this, which was very helpful:

Cohen's beef goes back to the Khan quotation which seems to have been seized on by HP Sauce and Norm back in 2005. You have to read it with your eyes half-shut to get outraged by it. Full quote is here:

2/12/2010 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OT: Blair was in TV in the USA complaining about the Chilcot Inquiry: something about consipracy theories. The guy from MI5 was complaining about conspiracy theories. So that's two people who've read Aaro's book.


2/13/2010 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

OC, thanks for linking to the FT piece, it's very interesting. One thing I picked up from it is that Khan seems to be responsible for driving Amnesty's change of focus to have a more "issues based" approach, which is presumably why they have such a thing as a "gener unit", the head of which is (or was) Gita Sahgal.

2/13/2010 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I don't know much about the internal politics of Amnesty, but I have noticed that their remit has broadened massively in recent years. At last year's Gay Pride in Belfast, an Amnesty spokesman took the platform to denounce the Dublin government's civil partnerships bill for not offering full same-sex marriage. I thought, "That's all well and good but why is someone from Amnesty saying it?"

Likewise with Gita Sahgal. The issues-based approach would indeed explain why AI had something like a gender unit in the first place.

HP used to have this weird relationship with Sunny - sort of like the one they have with Peter Tatchell - of alternately patronising him personally, quote-mining him on issues where they found his views congenial, and loudly disparaging most of what he stands for. To Sunny's credit, he seems to have seen through them, especially after the misogynistic monstering they gave Laurie Penny. Peter still hasn't seen through them. (Nor has Laurie, who still seems to think they'd have a lot to commend them if they tightened their comments moderation.)

In any case, fun to see Mr T having to pop up and engage in some blatant whataboutery. His "dynamite" case doesn't seem to have much to it beyond innuendo.

2/13/2010 08:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

For the first time in British history, there are asylum seekers who could attack the country which gave them sanctuary. I don't think people realise how unparalleled this change is.

Wow. I know Nick prefers to get his history from retired TV gag-writers, but this must stand as one of the most clueless things he's ever said, mustn't it? I mean, would it be too much to ask for these principled defenders of Enlightenment values and true history to know anything?

2/15/2010 07:31:00 PM  

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