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Amnesty International: A False Beacon?

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    Double Standards and Curious Silences Amnesty International: A False Beacon? By PAUL de ROOIJ October 13, 2004 Given the current escalation of Israeli
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 16, 2004
      Double Standards and Curious Silences
      Amnesty International: A False Beacon?
      By PAUL de ROOIJ
      October 13, 2004

      Given the current escalation of Israeli depredations in Gaza and the
      daily US bombings of Falluja, it is interesting to examine Amnesty
      International's (AI) statements on the situation. AI is widely
      viewed as an authority on human rights issues, and thus it is of
      interest to analyze its output on these recent events. Careful
      scrutiny of AI's record reveals that, its typical response to the
      daily obscene deeds by either Israeli or US armies is a few barely
      audible ruminations with an occasional lame rebuke. The impotence of
      these responses raises many questions.

      Occupation with human rights?

      Consider the title of a recent press release: "Israeli army must
      respect human rights in its operations" [1]. According to AI, the
      Israeli depredations on occupied land are acceptable as long as
      they "respect" human rights. This is analogous to recommending that
      a rapist should practice safe sex [2]. It is also difficult to
      imagine that a military occupation could ever be imposed while
      observing "human rights".

      Consider the context. During September 2004 the Israeli army killed
      on average 3.7 Palestinians per day; it injured an average of 19.3
      p/day; it demolished many houses affecting the lives of thousands;
      it has transformed vast areas of Gaza into a denuded moonscape. It
      is also clear that these gruesome statistics will be worse in
      October. The Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz openly states that
      the Palestinians should be punished, and the measures advocated
      entail collective punishment. The entire Palestinian population is
      taken hostage; pressure is exerted on them as a whole. Ethnic
      Cleansing is on going, and the construction of the grotesque wall
      stands as proof of the criminality of this policy.

      Given the devastation inflicted by the Israeli army and clear
      violations of international law, one would expect at least a tiny
      condemnation. However, this is the extent of AI's reaction:

      "[AI] is concerned that the Israeli army's use of excessive force in
      this latest incursion in the Gaza Strip will result in further loss
      of lives and wanton destruction of Palestinian homes and property.
      Reprisals against protected persons and property are prohibited by
      the Fourth Geneva Convention and Israel is obliged to ensure that
      any measures taken to protect the lives of Israeli civilians are
      consistent with its obligations to respect human rights and
      international humanitarian law.

      Israel should immediately allow international human rights and
      humanitarian organizations to enter the Gaza Strip. At present [AI]
      delegates and staff members of other international organizations are
      denied access to the Gaza Strip."

      Note that this lame statement was uttered in reaction to the attack
      on Jabalya, an onslaught which Dr. Mustafa Barghouti described as
      follows: "Sharon's tanks are rampaging through Jabalia and Beit
      Lahia, just as they did in Khan Yunis, Rafah and Beit Hanun. The
      simple fact is that Sharon is doing to Gaza what he did to the West
      Bank in 2002." [3] AI's hypocrisy in issuing this limp statement is
      evident when it is compared with the press release analyzed below.

      Double Standard?

      In May 2004 AI issued a press release headed "AI condemns murder of
      woman and her four daughters by Palestinian gunmen." The body of the
      text contains the following condemnation:

      "Such deliberate attacks against civilians, which have been
      widespread, systematic and in furtherance of a stated policy to
      attack the civilian population, constitute crimes against humanity,
      as defined by Article 7 (1) and (2)(a) of the 1998 Rome Statute of
      the International Criminal."[4]

      So, when Palestinians kill some civilians, then it constitutes
      a "crime against humanity" -- one of the most serious crimes under
      international law, and a precursor to genocide. But, when Israel
      kills far more civilians "in furtherance of a stated policy" (the
      phrasing AI used against Palestinians) to "exact a price" (to use
      the words of Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz [5]), all that AI
      can do is to wring its hands and worry about "the Israeli army's use
      of excessive force". Thus, we see that AI does not hesitate to use
      against Palestinians terms, such as "crime against humanity", which
      it has never unambiguously leveled against Israel.

      Note that the Israeli woman killed by Palestinians in the above
      episode was a settler. Thus, AI was stretching a point a to call her
      a civilian -- settlers are armed and they consider themselves, when
      they feel like it, the shock troops of an expansionist zionism whose
      stated goal is to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from, at
      least, all the land west of the River Jordan.

      Regarding the Palestinian attack, AI also states: "deliberate
      attacks against civilians, which have been widespread, systematic
      and in furtherance of a stated policy to attack the civilian
      population." Whoa! It is astonishing that such a description was
      added to its accusation pertaining a Palestinian attack, but at the
      same time, it is not willing to classify any Israeli actions
      as "systematic, deliberate and widespread [etc.]". AI portrays
      Palestinian violence as worse than Israeli violence, and this
      amounts to a clear double standard.

      Neglecting settler violence?

      On Sept. 27, 2004 a settler from the Itamar settlement killed a
      Palestinian in cold blood, and the Israeli authorities even sought
      to exempt the settler from house arrest; at most -- though not
      likely -- he will be charged with manslaughter [6]. While AI was
      willing to issue a press release about the settler woman and her
      kids who were killed, it was not willing to issue any statement
      about this incident. What makes this neglect curious is that around
      the same time it issued a press release regarding an abducted CNN
      stringer -- someone who was eventually released unharmed [7].

      Researching AI's public record reveals an odd sense of proportion in
      selecting which events it chooses to discuss.

      It seems that AI regards settlements as mere misplaced suburbs, and
      its residents as just some Western suburbanites. For some
      settlements, this may be the case, but several settlements are home
      to racist zionist fanatics. Jeff Halper, the director of the Israel
      Committee Against House Demolitions, observes that there is now a
      second generation of settlers, those born in the settlements; he
      calls them the "clockwork orange" settlers who are more extreme,
      racist and violent than their predecessors [8]. The clockwork orange
      settlers frequently violently harass Palestinians, demolish homes,
      and occasionally kill with impunity. This context raises questions
      about AI's repeated calls to exempt settlers from Palestinian

      During the second intifada, AI has not issued any statement about
      settler violence.

      What happened to the supreme crime?

      AI is not an anti-war organization, and this stance creates numerous
      contradictions. With the onset of the US war against Iraq, it issued
      statements about the means the US would employ in warfare, but
      curiously, AI didn't condemn the war! This is particularly curious
      given that the war was one of aggression and thus constitutes a
      supreme international crime. This is what Prof. Michael Mandel
      (Prof. of Law at York Univ., Toronto) had to say about the matter:

      When the attack was launched, stern warnings were issued to all
      the 'belligerents' by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International
      [...], reminding them of their duties under the laws and customs of
      war. But neither said a single word about the illegality of the war
      itself or the supreme criminal responsibility under international
      law of the countries that had started it. [9]

      And pertaining to the press releases AI issued during this period:

      Amnesty also questioned whether the required precautions were being
      taken to protect civilians, and called for investigations into
      civilian deaths like those at the Karbala checkpoint, and the
      shooting of demonstrators in Falluja. But never once did Amnesty
      International [...] mention the fundamental reason why none of the
      incidents really had to be investigated at all -- namely that all of
      this death and destruction was legally, as well as morally, on the
      heads of the invaders, whatever precautions they claimed to take,
      because it was due to an illegal, aggressive war. Every death was a
      crime for which the leaders of the invading coalition were
      personally, criminally responsible. [10]

      Again, AI ruminations amount to recommending the "rapist to engage
      in safe sex" -- no mention of the crime! Even though AI often refers
      to international law to issue its statements, when it comes to US
      depredations, then even supreme crimes are not mentioned.

      Another double standard?

      Consider AI's statement issued regarding the situation in Darfur:

      "The United Nations Security Council should stop the transfer of
      arms being used to commit mass human rights violations in Darfur
      [AI] urged today while releasing a report based on satellite images
      showing large-scale destruction of villages in Darfur over the past

      The situation may be awful in Darfur, and the measure suggested may
      be warranted. However, the curious aspect of this statement is that
      AI has never called on the UN or any other body to impose an arms
      embargo on Israel, although there are ample grounds for such a

      An American academic inquired about this double standard, and she
      received the following answer from Donatella Rovera, AI's principal
      researcher on Israel-Palestine:

      "The situations in Sudan and in Israel-Occupied Territories are
      quite different and different norms of international law apply,
      which do not make it possible to call for an arms embargos on either
      the Israeli or the Palestinian side. The West Bank and Gaza Strip
      are under Israeli military occupation (not the case for the Darfour
      region in Sudan). Hence, certain provisions of international
      humanitarian law, known as the laws of war (notably the 1907 Hague
      Convention and the Fourth Geneva Convention) apply in the Occupied
      Palestinian Territories (and not in the Darfour region)." (email
      communication July 5, 2004).

      AI is couching its double standards in dubious legalese, but
      consider what Prof. Francis Boyle (Professor of International Law at
      Univ. of Illinois Champaign) has to say about Rovera's statement:

      This is total gibberish. When I was on the Board of Directors of
      Amnesty International USA near the end of my second term in 1990-92,
      we received the authority to call for an arms embargo against major
      human rights violators, which Israel clearly qualified for at the
      time and still does -- even under United States domestic law. Of
      course no one at AI was going to do so because pro-Israel supporters
      were major funders of Amnesty International USA, which in turn was a
      major funder of Amnesty International in London. He who pays the
      piper calls the tune -- especially at AIUSA Headquarters in New York
      and at AI Headquarters in London.

      What about the prisoners?

      The core of AI's efforts have to do with "prisoners of conscience",
      prison conditions, and torture. So, it is of some interest to
      determine how this issue is dealt with pertaining Palestinian
      prisoners and the Abu Ghraib torture scandal [12]. The table below
      provides some context for the Palestinian prisoners.

      Number of Palestinian Prisoners (July 8, 2004)


      Children (age < 18)


      Age > 50

      42 Violation of accords [1]

      Pct of prisoners put on trial

      Administrative detention [2]

      Notes: [1] All prisoners held prior to the signing of the Oslo
      Accords should have been released. [2] Administrative detention is
      illegal under international law. Administrative detention orders may
      last for up to six months, with Palestinians held without charges or
      trial during this period. Israel routinely renews the detention
      orders thereby holding Palestinians without charge or trial
      indefinitely. During this period, detainees are often denied legal
      counsel. Source: http://www.nad-plo.org/faq1.php

      Down with Human Rights
      by Joh Domingo

      (A response to the http://www.counterpunch.com/rooij10132004.html )

      The article in the latest issue on Counterpunch called `Amnesty
      International: A False Beacon?' by PAUL de ROOIJ is well overdue and
      provides clear detail on just why Human Rights Organizations pose a
      serious danger to humanity, although this is obviously not de
      Rooij's intention; he simply wants to expose the double standard
      employed by Amnesty International when they are dealing with
      `savages' as opposed to `Saints'. Nevertheless, it is a timely eye-
      opener for all of us, and not only those that mindlessly parrot
      `Human-Rights' propaganda.

      It is a belated follow-up to the interview of Professor Francis
      Boyle by Dennis Bernstein In the Summer 2002 Edition of CovertAction

      h tml

      Paul de Rooij continues in his discovery of a pattern he first noted
      (to this writers knowledge) in his 2002 article entitled `Amnesty
      International & Israel: Say it isn't so!', also in Counterpunch,
      about this very issue, on http://www.counterpunch.org/rooij1031.html

      He seems to be rapidly evolving towards an inescapable conclusion;
      despite the well-intentioned involvement of tens of thousands of
      activist at the grassroots level to protect the Human Rights of
      ordinary people, the fix is in at the top. I would go further than
      de Rooij, I would declare that Human Rights was nothing more than a
      propaganda slogan anyway.

      The evidence detailed in the article is no more than the first whiff
      of the stench that permeates the Human Rights industry, which is not
      only compromised at the top, but is an ideology rooted in
      Colonialism. In fact, it is the primary vehicle used to justify the
      neo-colonial interventionism currently plaguing our planet.

      It is unfortunate that despite the plethora of smaller Human Rights
      organizations sincerely plugging away at the mass of injustice
      facing the world's people, they are minnows compared to the Human
      Rights Superpowers; Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
      These smaller groups face the same juggernaut confronting smaller
      sovereign nations, as they contemplate the prospect of Western
      `Civilizing' missions - the doctrine is prescribed by those that
      seek to subdue them.

      It behoves us to deconstruct the edifice of the Human Rights
      Industry and examine what oozes out, because clearly, if innocent
      people are being crushed by the apparatus of State it is wrong; we
      don't need to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to know
      that it is wrong. Why then is the idea promoted, that Rights that
      are codified and ratified, provides protection against abuses? The
      codification of these Rights do not protect people who, more often
      than not, do not know that they are being killed, to uphold Rights
      they did not know they possessed?

      At first glance, it appears that the Human Rights Lobby is driven by
      the intention to protect the Rights of others. The intention is
      `good', but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and
      usually it is the sentiment behind the intention that leads us to
      perdition. The case of Universally Declared Rights is particularly
      fraught with complex implications.

      When a `Right' is declared, it creates an immediate moral
      requirement to respect it, and thereafter divides all human actions
      into three distinct categories; actions which respect that Right,
      actions that violate that Right, and actions which are neutral with
      respect to that Right. The declaration of that Right rarely requires
      any action from the holders of that Right, and in fact denies the
      holder of that Right the right to renounce it. Implicitly, it
      promotes and legitimates actions to enforce those rights on behalf
      of the holder.

      While it appears to create entitlement for the holder of that
      `Right' not to have it violated, the political reality is that it
      creates entitlement for others to prevent the violation of that
      right. The `right not to be tortured' thus becomes `the right to
      prevent torture', which is a hop-skip-and-a-jump to `the right to
      bomb torturers', including the right to cause collateral damage.

      The intent behind the Declaration of Human Rights becomes clearer
      when we examine who declares these rights. It obviously is not the
      poor oppressed that declare these rights, as is subliminally
      suggested by the propaganda, but Governments and powerful non-
      Government Agencies. Even then, it is extremely rare that a non-
      Western government declares a `claimed' right, but rather it is
      declared by powerful Western States, who explicitly declare these
      rights to be irrevocable, unable even, to be rejected by the
      `claimant'; a blatant violation of the idea of political freedom.

      The Declaration of a right is comparable to a decree, such as that
      given by a sovereign. If we want to know who rules a place, we
      ask: "who makes the laws here?" It stands to reason that he, who
      makes the laws, implicitly can also legitimately enforce the law.
      Declarations of a Human Right are fundamentally political acts,
      designed to promote the political legitimacy of those that enforce
      them. It is not surprising that those that police human rights, are
      functionaries of the Ruling Elite, rather than champions of the
      oppressed. We should not be astonished that the Human Rights Lobby
      selects their targets according to the agenda of the Ruling Elite.

      Human Rights are invariably promoted as being embodied in Democracy,
      but the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is far from a
      democratic document. It is not even Universal. Yet, the Human Rights
      lobby claims that it is morally binding on the whole world, forever.

      Diplomatic representatives of UN Member States, as it was
      constituted at the time approved the document in 1948. In many cases
      the victorious Allies installed the governments of the represented
      States and their colonial overlords represented many of today's
      countries. The populations of Germany and Japan were not
      represented, and the political status of the inhabitants of entire
      continents, meant they were excluded. Far from `claiming' the Rights
      contained in the Declaration, most of the World's population never
      saw the text, before it was approved. The text is still not
      available in most of the languages spoken by the world's population.
      It is not available in Mandarin, nor is it available in Swahili.

      No provision was made to periodically review the Declaration, nor
      does any mechanism exist to revise it. There is no appeal against
      the enforcement of its provisions, nor is their any provision to
      appeal its content. The Universal Declaration is considered to be
      beyond any appeal, nay, beyond any legal procedure.

      Human Rights is a universal doctrine that was imposed by political
      tradition that is rooted in the broad liberal tradition, which has
      now been co-opted by the neo-liberalism adopted by Interventionist
      States seeking the implementation of neo-colonialism. It fosters the
      notion that no alternative ethical value system exists outside
      Western neo-Liberalism. Certainly Shariah fails to pass muster, let
      alone Confucianism or Nihonism. The cultivated myth is that Human
      Beings demanded their Human Rights, and the UN graciously consented.
      The reality is that the Great Powers issued a decree, and proceeded
      to enforce it in furtherance of their agenda.

      The imposition of Human Rights, is the imposition of a political
      ideology. It is no accident that supporters of Human Rights are also
      supporters of the Free Market, Democracy and an Open Society. Most
      recent military interventions were justified on the grounds of Human
      Rights, and also sought to bring Free-Market economies into the
      countries that were a victim of the intervention. If you buy the
      concept of `Claimed Human Rights', you buy the whole neo-liberal
      package whether you want to or not.




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