Friday, February 12, 2010

Follow-up: Gita Saghal explains her concerns about Amnesty International

From the BBC:

The head of Amnesty International's Gender Unit, Gita Sahgal, has been suspended following her claim that the human rights group has too close a relationship with Moazzam Begg the former Guantanamo detainee and spokesman for the group Cageprisoners which campaigns on behalf of those imprisoned in the so-called "war on terror".

Ms Sahgal explains her concerns about the group.

Here is a transcript (during the preamble it was made clear that she couldn’t talk about the suspension):

GS: I asked Amnesty International two or three questions which should have been very easily answered. And when I say ‘Amnesty International’, I mean my own bosses – I was working inside the organisation, and raised perfectly legitimate question, and that was: How did we come to have such a close relationship with CagePrisoners – how did we decide that they were a safe and proper organisation for us to work with?

JW: So you sent these emails – these requests – to people within Amnesty – you’re saying that their reaction has been to suspend you.

GS: That’s correct.

JW: What is the substance of your concern about Moazzam Begg?

GS: [pause] You know, I’ve been concerned about what Moazzam Begg and his organisation stand for for a long time but I think the issue that I have is with my employer because we are a human rights organisation, we make very careful decisions about how and where we partner with people, we have long discussions around these things, and when I spoke to people in my office, who are experts on these matters, who investigate on group violations, who are regional experts, who work on counter terror policy and so on – all of them, they had recommended against this relationship. I then asked where the decision had been made to have such a close relationship, or whether we just drifted into it and, you know, whether we had any form of paper work which would explain what we were doing and why we were doing it. And none of that has ever been answered

JW: But this is a man who was imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, he wasn’t subjected to any trial, he was released in the end without charge, he does not personally advocate violence. Why on earth shouldn’t Amnesty be closely associated with him?

GS: Because I believe that the organisation CagePrisoner has an agenda that is way beyond being a human rights organisation -

JW: – and this is the organisation for which he speaks?

GS: Exactly.

JW: And what do you think they do want?

GS: Well, yesterday I was on radio with Assim Qureshi, who is another prominent figure in the organisation, and he said – well, he didn’t deny when read out to him – statements that he made supporting global jihad, which he said was protected under international law.

JW: What Amnesty has said in a statement is that they consistently document and condemn abuses by the Taliban, Islamist armed groups, whenever they occur and especially Afghanistan and Pakistan.

GS: Amnesty International has never done any research on the networks developing in Britain or Europe or the US, as far as I’m aware. In a personal capacity I do that kind of research, and it’s slightly alarming if we don’t connect what’s happening in Pakistan and Afghanistan or any other countries to developments over here.

JW: Why do you think they don’t do that research – what do you think is at the heart of it?

GS: Well, I think you should pose that question to them, because they refuse to answer any of the questions that I’ve posed.

JW: But what’s your suspicion?

GS: [pause] My suspicion is that they need perfect victims. In other words, we need to defend somebody who might not have done a wrong – and I’m not saying that Moazzam Begg has – I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not saying that he has committed a crime or a human rights violation. And that’s why I find the statement after statement that Amnesty International has put out in his support somewhat surprising, because the issues that I am concerned with are addressed to Amnesty International.

JW: But you’re making a wider point aren’t you – that Islamic radicalism is treated, what, softly by liberals.

GS: Something like that – but we are not liberals, we are a human rights organisation and we should not be falling into the traps that many people do fall into.


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