New York Review of Books for May 13th contains this letter by Gita Sahgal on leaving Amnesty International. (The Wikipedia link gives more details about the controversy and what has happened since her departure from Amnesty in Feb 2010).
Gita Sahgal is a longtime human rights advocate and founder of several women’s rights organizations who joined Amnesty International in 2002. In early February, she was suspended from her job as head of Amnesty’s Gender Unit after giving an interview to the London Sunday Times in which she raised concerns about Amnesty International’s connections with the group called Cageprisoners and its leader, Moazzam Begg. On April 9, Amnesty International formally announced Sahgal’s departure, citing “irreconciliable differences of view over policy.” Following is a statement by Sahgal.
On Friday, April 9, 2010, Amnesty International announced my departure from the organization. The agreed statement said, “Due to irreconcilable differences of view over policy between Gita Sahgal and Amnesty International regarding Amnesty International’s relationship with Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners, it has been agreed that Gita will leave Amnesty International.”
I was hired as the head of the Gender Unit as the organization began to develop its Stop Violence Against Women campaign. I leave with great sadness as the campaign is closed. Thousands of activists of Amnesty International enthusiastically joined the campaign. Many hoped that it would induce respect for women’s human rights in every area of social and economic life. Today, there is little ground for optimism.
The long and the short of all of this is that we should rethink any support for Amnesty International. Douglas Murray in the Daily Telegraph says:
Amnesty had at one time, unlike some NGO’s I could name, a track-record that was generally honourable. It stood against the oppressors of human rights. Some of us have noted before that the organisation seemed to have lost its way in recent years. But there was a hope that Amnesty could yet get back on the right side.
The treatment of Gita Sahgal shows that this is no longer possible. Amnesty’s purging of dissidents who have pointed out the moral squalor the organisation has found itself in is worthy of some of the regimes Amnesty International once condemned.
The episode makes clear that Amnesty have not blindly landed on the wrong side in the fight of civilisation against barbarism. It shows they have deliberately ignored and expelled voices of dissent which point out that this is the situation they are in.
I hope that readers who donate to Amnesty can read through the material above and decide, as many other people will, that Amnesty is longer an organisation worth listening to, let alone supporting. There are many organisations out there that fight for universal rights. I believe Amnesty is no longer one of them.
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