Thursday, May 24, 2007

The sad decline of Amnesty International

What has happened to Amnesty International over the years has been a shame and a disgrace. Even by about fifteen years ago, when I was a university student, I refused to give the group my support on account of the group's blanket opposition to the death penalty. It seemed to me at the time that A.I. had arbitrarily decided that any kind of execution was an abuse of human rights, regardless of the circumstances under which it occurred or the degree of necessity that prompted it. (By the same sort of reasoning, A.I. could just as easily have decried the incarceration of a criminal as an offence against the individual's freedom of mobility). This summer at its conference in Mexico Amnesty is seriously considering recognizing abortion as a "human right", so that any democratic government whose electorate has found itself opposed to abortion would be stigmatized as guilty of a "rights" violation. Whatever next -- a "right" to infanticide, polygamy, female genital mutilation?

This week, the organization has also come under fire for its clear biases in decrying rights abuses in the Middle East and elsewhere. A.I. spends an inordinate amount of time focussing on the actions of Israel, and comparatively little on those of neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Egypt whose human rights records are objectively much worse. (When was the last time Israel tortured and executed homosexuals, denied women the right to drive, and stoned adulterers to death?) More recently, A.I. decided to prominently feature U.S. Vice- President Dick Cheney on its website as a torturer and cartoon villain. It looks very much as if Amnesty International is falling prey to an anti-American and anti-Israeli animus that threatens to undermine much of the fine work it has done in the past.

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