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Saturday 13th February 2010
Pressure Builds on Amnesty


The Sunday Times has reported that a second senior official at Amnesty International has publicly spoken out against their relationship with Moazzam Begg and CagePrisoners.

Amnesty's Asia Pacific director, Sami Zarif, has come out support of Gita Sahgal, who was suspended last week after she criticised the organisation's links with CagePrisoners.  According to The Sunday Times:

In an internal memo leaked to The Sunday Times, Zarifi, who oversees Amnesty's work in Pakistan and Afghanistan, claimed the charity's campaigns blurred the line between giving support for a detainee's human rights and endorsing extremist views.

"We should be clear that some of Amnesty's campaigning ... did not always sufficiently distinguish between the rights of detainees to be free from torture and arbitrary detention, and the validity of their views," says Zarifi in the email, sent to his staff and dated February 10. Zarifi advised Amnesty to consider its working relationships with activists more carefully.

He said: "We did not always clarify that while we champion the rights of all - including terrorism suspects, and more important, victims of terrorism - we do not champion their views."

Amnesty's decision to suspend Sahgal, the head of its gender unit, while continuing its support for Begg, 42, of Birmingham, has provoked criticism.

Zarifi said Amnesty should have done more to respond to public concerns about its relationship with Begg and Cageprisoners, a pressure group that highlights the plight of Muslim detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

He wrote: "The organisation had taken steps to clarify that it did not in any way support all, or even many, of Moazzam Begg's views. Obviously we did not do enough to establish this in the public sphere. We can and should publicly admit this mistake and move on and ensure we do not make the same mistake again."

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About Focus on Islamism

Focus on Islamism is a blog dedicated to analysing and exposing the modern ideological phenomenon known as Islamism.

Shiraz Maher is a writer and broadcaster.

Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is a PhD student at King's College, London.  He has contributed to various online and printed publications including, The Daily Telegraph, Lebanon's Daily Star, Standpoint and NOWLebanon. 

To contact the authors, click here

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