Denis MacShane, the Labour MP for Rotherham and staunch defender of free speech and human rights, has sent a letter to Amnesty International’s UK Director, Kate Allen, regarding the organisation’s decision to suspend Gita Sahgal. It is reproduced below in full:
17-25 New Inn Yard
EC2A 3EA 10 Feb. 10
I was very concerned to hear on Today this morning that Amnesty International has suspended Gita Saghal because she quite rightly raised questions about whether Amnesty should be promoting someone whose views run contrary to everything Amnesty stands for.
I know she works for the International Secretariat but Amnesty UK is involved as it has been promoting the man in question. Given your own admired and respected role in raising women’s right issues as part of Amnesty’s work I do think some reflection is required before the International Secretariat victimises one of its most respected researchers because she rightly called into question Amnesty’s endorsement of Mozzam Begg whose views on the Taliban and on Islamist jihad stand in total contradiction of everything Amnesty has fought for.
Wherever Islamist ideology wins power as in Afghanistan under the Taliban whom Mr Begg so much admires there has been an immediate assault on human rights especially on women and on freedom of expression. Under the Taliban every citizen of Afghanistan became a prisoner of conscience. Yet Mr Begg went to live under Taliban rule and has never resiled from praising the Taliban.
His terrible experience in Guantanamo cannot justify Amnesty endorsing someone whose political ideology is opposed to everything Amnesty works for. Mr Begg is entitled to make his case and enjoy freedom of expression in the UK. But his support for the Taliban’s and extreme jihadist ideology with its denial of human rights means that Amnesty should leave to his own and other organisations the business of promoting him.
For Amnesty to victimise a woman who has raised legitimate questions about Mr Begg is Kafkaesque as Gita Saghal, the exposer of an ideology that denies human rights, has her career threatened by the very organisation meant to defend human rights.
Rt Hon Denis MacShane MP