On Sunday, Gita Sahgal, head of the gender unit at Amnesty’s international secretariat, shared with the Times of London that Moazzam Begg, a former terrorist, inmate at Guantanamo Bay, and Britain’s leading supporter of terrorism has strong ties with Amnesty International.
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.
After letting the cat is out of the bag on Sunday, instead of purging its ranks of terrorist connections, Amnesty suspended Gita Sahgal.
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She was removed from her post within a few hours of her criticism emerging, and now a bitter war of words is raging between the activist and her employer. Both have angrily defended their position over Mr Begg, 42, a Briton held at Guantanamo for three years until 2005 because of suspected links to al-Qaeda.
Miss Sahgal insists Amnesty, which is the world’s biggest human rights organisation, should not be closely associated with Mr Begg because of his role as a figurehead for a campaign group called Cageprisoners.
This group campaigns against the imprisonment of Guantanamo inmates and other suspects held as part of the war on terror. It has championed the rights of jailed al-Qaeda members and hate preachers, including Anwar al-Awklaki who was spiritual adviser to two of the 9/11 attackers [plus Major Hasan and the Underwear Bomber].
Miss Sahgal, 53, an expert on religious fundamentalism who has a 30-year history in human rights campaigning, claims the group ‘actively promotes Islamic Right ideas and individuals’.
By associating itself with Begg and Cageprisoners, Amnesty is risking its reputation on human rights, she argues.
In an e-mail to her bosses at the end of January, she said: ‘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.’
She claims her warning was ignored. Shortly after it was revealed by the Sunday Times last weekend, Amnesty suspended her and launched an internal inquiry.
Doesn’t sound like Amnesty is very interested in the Human Rights of its own employees.
Miss Sahgal immediately released an angry statement online, claiming: ‘Amnesty International has sanitised the history and politics of ex-Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, and completely failed to recognise the nature of his organisation Cageprisoners.
‘The issue is a fundamental one about the importance of the human rights movement maintaining an objective distance from groups and ideas that are committed to systematic discrimination and fundamentally undermine the universality of human rights. I have raised this issue because of my firm belief in human rights for all.’
She said there was a history of warnings within Amnesty about Mr Begg that had all been ignored.
‘Amnesty has created the impression that Begg is not only a victim of human rights violations but a defender of human rights. Many of my highly respected colleagues, each well-regarded in their area of expertise has said so. Each has been set aside,’ she said.
‘I have been a human rights campaigner for over three decades, defending the rights of women and ethnic minorities, defending religious freedom and the rights of victims of torture, and campaigning against illegal detention and state repression.
‘I have raised the issue of the association of Amnesty International with groups such as Begg’s consistently within the organisation. I have now been suspended for trying to do my job and staying faithful to Amnesty’s mission to protect and defend human rights universally and impartially.’
Her situation has sparked fury among Amnesty’s own members, some of whom are now threatening to quit the organisation and cease donations.
A group set up on social networking website Facebook, named ‘Amnesty International, you b***** hypocrites, reinstate Gita Saghal’ already has almost 700 members.
…..Amnesty refused to comment on Miss Sahgal’s suspension today. A spokesman described it as a ‘personnel issue’.
But senior director Widney Brown has already posted a response online, refuting Miss Sahgal’s allegations and insisting Amnesty would never favour one group’s human rights over anothers.
She said: ‘Amnesty International is being accused of putting the human rights of some people above those of others. This is not, and has never been, true. Implicit in the accusation is the view that we should choose those whose rights we promote. We reject this view utterly.
‘Amnesty International campaigns for all internationally recognised human rights for all people. It is not about their views, their political opinions, their actions – it’s about upholding the universality of human rights. These are the inalienable rights of all human beings.’
Of Mr Begg, she added: ‘Amnesty International is being criticised for speaking alongside him and for being “soft” on the Taleban, when our record is one of unreserved opposition to their abuses over the years.’
Ms Brown must be living in a fantasy world. You can’t criticize a terrorist on one hand, and embrace their supporters with the other, its still nothing but appeasement. Terrorist organizations thrive on appeasement. With its actions in lending comfort and support to terrorists, the Human Rights organization Amnesty International may very well be causing the deaths of innocents at the hands of groups like the Taliban.