Amnesty Official Questions Partnership with Begg

ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS

For some years, CagePrisoners (CP) has enjoyed a very useful relationship with Amnesty International.  The Sunday Times has an exclusive story about one of Amnesty’s senior official raising serious concerns about the group’s ‘jihadi’ nature.

In 2007, Amnesty signed CP up as research partners and in early January sponsored a CP event in Parliament.  For more on CP extremism see here, here and here.  

According to the story:

A SENIOR official at Amnesty International has accused the charity of putting the human rights of Al-Qaeda terror suspects above those of their victims.

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.

In an email sent to Amnesty’s top bosses, she suggests the charity has mistakenly allied itself with Begg and his “jihadi” group, Cageprisoners, out of fear of being branded racist and Islamophobic.

Sahgal describes Begg as “Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban”. He has championed the rights of jailed Al-Qaeda members and hate preachers, including Anwar al-Awlaki, the alleged spiritual mentor of the Christmas Day Detroit plane bomber.

Amnesty’s work with Cageprisoners took it to Downing Street last month to demand the closure of Guantanamo Bay. Begg has also embarked on a European tour, hosted by Amnesty, urging countries to offer safe haven to Guantanamo detainees. This is despite concerns about former inmates returning to terrorism.

Sahgal, who has researched religious fundamentalism for 20 years, has decided to go public because she feels Amnesty has ignored her warnings for the past two years about the involvement of Begg in the charity’s Counter Terror With Justice campaign.

“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.”

Amnesty is the world’s biggest human rights organisation with 2.2m members and a galaxy of celebrity supporters, including Bono, John Cleese, Yoko Ono, Al Pacino and Sinead O’Connor. Its decision to work with Begg poses liberal backers with a moral dilemma and raises questions about the direction in which Amnesty has travelled since it was set up in 1961 to support “prisoners of conscience”.

“As a former Guantanamo detainee it was legitimate to hear his experiences, but as a supporter of the Taliban it was absolutely wrong to legitimise him as a partner,” Sahgal told The Sunday Times.

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