Amnesty International in Spirit No Longer Exists*
By Paul Richard Harris
Amnesty International’s reputation was built on standing up for victims. While sometimes outside viewers might have thought the victims were getting what they deserved – they put themselves in stupid situations, they were inherently bad people, and so on – AI nevertheless came to their rescue. Well, they wrote stuff about coming to the rescue; they didn’t actually show up on white horses with their banners unfurled on the breeze.
But over the past week, two reports out of Amnesty cause me to question who it is that has purchased AI’s soul.
With the whole world watching, Israel unleashed a hugely disproportionate assault on Gaza last year. And in a story two days ago, AP reported:
The human rights group Amnesty International said in a report Thursday that Palestinian militants committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza conflict by killing both Israeli and Palestinian civilians using indiscriminate projectiles.
The report comes after two other reports issued in late 2014 that accused Israel of war crimes for attacks on multi-story civilian buildings and Palestinian homes during the war.
The 50-day Gaza war left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, mostly civilians, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians were killed.
Amnesty claims that they conferred with an ‘independent munitions expert’ who told them that 13 Palestinians killed in a Gaza refugee camp died because of an errant Palestinian rocket. To be fair, Amnesty has also condemned Israel for the brutality of last year’s assault.
But the conclusion of the report accusing Gaza of war crimes is an exercise in fatuous stupidity. Essentially, it concludes that you can’t misbehave just because someone is misbehaving toward you. In other words, when Israel attacks you with highly sophisticated weaponry, you must simply stand there and take it if you can’t return fire with equal sophistication. Well, that seems pretty reasonable.
This morning I read on teleSUR that Amnesty has now sold the Venezuelan people down the river. While the actual report from AI is not public at the time of this writing, their executive summary is. As reported by teleSUR:
Amnesty International’s latest report on Venezuela calls for justice for the dozens of people killed during the unrest that shook the country a year ago, while using sleight of hand to deflect attention away from those responsible.
“The Amnesty International report documents events of February 2014 when thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets, resulting in the death of 43 people, including eight law enforcement officials,” Amnesty said in a press release accompanying the release of the report’s executive summary.
Essentially, AI is choosing to ignore how those 43 died, who caused it, and why it happened. They choose to ignore the assaults upon security forces, the barbarism of opposition renegades in Venezuela, and the underlying current of foreign money and foreign encouragement driving a handful of people to attack the government.
I’ll let teleSUR pick up the story here:
“The use of unnecessary or disproportionate force is precisely what exacerbated the wave of tragic events last year,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Amnesty’s Americas director.
The summary levels blame at both security forces and government supporters. The latter were accused of engaging in state sanctioned human rights abuses. However, Amnesty’s allegations don’t match the facts. How did those 43 people die?
At the time of the protests, the independent news organization Venezuelanalysis.com listed a total of 40 deaths, 20 of which were deemed to have been caused by opposition barricades, or opposition violence. The deaths included people gunned down while trying to clear barricades, ambulances being blocked from hospitals by opposition groups, and a motorbike rider who was decapitated after opposition groups strung razor wire across a road. A similar death toll count by the Center for Economic and Policy Research reflected a similar consensus: while security forces were indeed responsible for a few deaths, the opposition groups were hardly peaceful. Around half the victims of the 2014 unrest were either government supporters, members of security forces or innocent bystanders.
While condemning the government for supposedly cracking down on freedom, the report shied away from any criticism of the opposition’s intentional restriction of movement through the use of barricades, widespread intimidation and attacks on government supporters, and repeated attacks on journalists ranging from state media workers and community radio stations to international media. For example, in March 2014, a mob of anti-government protesters beat journalists working for organizations such as Reuters and AFP. One photo-journalist, Cristian Hernandez, was beaten with a lead pipe, but was rescued by state security forces.
Another journalist that witnessed the beating tweeted, “They protest for freedom of expression and against censorship, and they attack photo-journalists … for no reason? Where’s the coherence?”
Unlike that witness, Amnesty chose not to question why incidents like this took place – instead preferring to turn a blind eye to widespread human rights abuses committed by anti-government groups.
Indeed, none of this is included in Amnesty’s executive summary. teleSUR did try to contact Amnesty for clarification as to whether any of this would be included in the full report, but received no reply.
There is also a conclusion reached in the teleSUR piece that rings true:
One possible explanation is that Amnesty prefers to criticize governments, rather than call out substate actors. However, this doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. On Feb. 20, 2015, Amnesty International issued a report accusing both Boko Haram and the Nigerian government of human rights abuses. Then on March 26, 2015, they accused Palestinian militants of war crimes, after also condemning Israeli forces for human rights abuses in 2014. Clearly, in many parts of the world, Amnesty is capable of critiquing both sides of a conflict – but not in Venezuela.
At first, the question of what makes Venezuela unique may seem baffling, but it all became clear after I spoke to a former Amnesty employee, who asked to remain anonymous. He explained quite simply that within Amnesty, the biggest priority isn’t human rights. It is securing funding – mostly from wealthy donors in the West.
Here at Axis of Logic we have long dismissed Human Rights Watch as a shill for corporate interests, and clearly in the pockets of several governments and lobby groups. From this point forward, I think it’s safe to say we aren’t going to be paying much attention to Amnesty International’s blathering either. It’s a shame, because the organization once appeared to stand for something noble.