An official at the human rights charity deplores its work with a ‘jihadist’
A SENIOR official at Amnesty International has accused the charity of putting the human rights of Al-Qaeda terror suspects above those of their victims.
Gita Sahgal, head of the gender unit at Amnesty’s international secretariat, believes that collaborating with Moazzam Begg, a former British inmate at Guantanamo Bay, “fundamentally damages” the organisation’s reputation.
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 “
Amnesty’s work with Cageprisoners took it to Downing Street last month to demand the closure of
Sahgal, who has researched religious fundamentalism for 20 years, has decided to go public because she feels Amnesty has ignored her warnings for the past two years about the involvement of Begg in the charity’s Counter Terror With Justice campaign.
“I believe the campaign fundamentally damages Amnesty International’s integrity and, more importantly, constitutes a threat to human rights,” Sahgal wrote in an email to the organisation’s leaders on January 30. “To be appearing on platforms with
Amnesty is the world’s biggest human rights organisation with 2.2m members and a galaxy of celebrity supporters, including Bono, John Cleese, Yoko Ono, Al Pacino and Sinead O’Connor. Its decision to work with Begg poses liberal backers with a moral dilemma and raises questions about the direction in which Amnesty has travelled since it was set up in 1961 to support “prisoners of conscience”.
“As a former
Begg, 42, from
Among the Muslim inmates it highlights are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Abu Hamza, the hook-handed cleric facing extradition from
Sahgal, 53, is not the only critic of Begg at Amnesty. In 2008 a board member of its
When Begg appeared at Downing Street last month as part of a group delivering a letter to Gordon Brown calling for the release of the last British resident held at
This weekend Amnesty said it had launched an internal inquiry after Sahgal raised her concerns with bosses, including Allen and Claudio Cordone, the interim secretary-general.
Anne Fitzgerald, policy director of Amnesty’s international secretariat, said the charity had formed a relationship with Begg because he was a “compelling speaker” on detention. She said he had been paid expenses for his attendance at its events.
Asked if she thought Begg was a human rights advocate, Fitzgerald said: “It’s something you’d have to speak to him about. I don’t have the information to answer that.”
Yesterday Begg dismissed Sahgal’s claims as “ridiculous”. He defended his support for the Taliban and the decision by Cageprisoners to highlight the plight of detainees linked to Al-Qaeda: “We need to be engaging with those people who we find most unpalatable. I don’t consider anybody a terrorist until they have been charged and convicted of terrorism.”
Source: Times Online