Christopher Hitchens’ Criticism of Amnesty International

In an article on ‘Slate’ on the 15th February 2010, Christopher Hitchens accuses Amnesty International of suffering a crisis of conscience. The allegation arises out of the refusal of a staff member to appear on the same platform as Moazzem Begg – and her consequent dismissal. The accusation is that Begg is “Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban” and that he is a member of an organization, Cage Prisoners, which includes a number of members who have ‘spoken in defense of jihad’ and, inferentially, that it supports jihad. He refers to the statement by the Amnesty officer ‘dismissed’ (the dismissal itself is in issue – Amnesty has since stated she has not been dismissed), that “Cage Prisoners goes way beyond being a prisoners rights organization”. No facts are advanced in support of this statement.

My knowledge of the facts is incomplete and I am thus not able to make a definitive comment on Hitchens’ allegations. I have, however, heard Begg speak and have received, on line, the regular Bulletins published by Cage Prisoners.

Begg’s address was confined strictly to conditions experienced during his detention in Guantanamo Bay and the treatment of Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

Cage Prisoners Bulletins have been directed to campaigning for prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and against aspects of the United Kingdom’s Counter Terrorism laws.

Neither has, in the four years I have received communications from them, advocated or expressed support for jihad, terrorism or the like.

Of course, Cage Prisoners may be a ‘front’ organization. But if that is what Hitchens is suggesting, it is, I think, a matter of serious criticism that his article fails to mention the activities of Begg and Cage Prisoners on behalf of Guantanamo prisoners, which on the face of the matter, appear to be their ‘core’ activities. Perhaps the explanation is that Hitchens has a fundamental lack of sympathy for those who, like Begg, were detained by the Bush Administration in Guantanamo and are critics, sometimes vehement critics, of the American Administration.

Amnesty does have unavoidable difficulties with regard to whom it supports and with whom it associates. I refer to these in an another post: Amnesty and Political Violence: The Case of Nelson Mandela.

[Note: Without descending into detail, Begg, a British subject, was an early release at the instance of, Lord Goldsmith, the UK Attorney General, in circumstances which indicated that there was no case of terrorism etc. in Afghanistan, with which he could be charged.]

Published in: on February 28, 2010 at 1:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

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