On the day that Britain agreed to pay millions to those tourists to Afghanistan who ended up in Guantanamo, rather than contest their cases, Gita Sahgal discusses the protests of Asian and Middle Eastern feminists against the decision of the ACLU and the Centre for Constitutional Rights to litigate on behalf of Al Qaeda’s Anwar Al Awlaki:
Karima Bennoune’s public criticism of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU’s case in defence of Anwar al-Awlaki is a welcome stand for a universal vision of human rights that has largely gone missing from western human rights organisations.
Many Asian, African and Middle Eastern groups and organisations who are struggling against both state and non-state violence feel utterly betrayed by the deliberately ignorant and partial stands taken by organisations in the US and Britain which are supposed to represent human rights. Their outrage was ignored or attacked by the left in Britain. The three founders of Amnesty International in Algeria were allegedly expelled from the organisation for raising an internal complaint about Amnesty’s failure, in their view, to criticise atrocities committed by Islamist rebels, as opposed to government repression, as Algerian feminist Marieme Helie Lucas made public for the first time earlier this year.
In my case, I asked my bosses at Amnesty International for informationabout what investigation of Moazzam Begg, the former Guantánamo detainee, they had conducted – including his beliefs both before his detention without charge in Guantánamo Bay and, subsequently, when his admiration for Anwar al-Awlaki and Ali al-Timimi should have rung alarm bells. They failed to answer my questions and I left Amnesty International due to “irreconcilable differences”, having been suspended after going public. Later, an internal review (pdf) found that Amnesty International had not done “adequate due diligence”. In plain terms, Amnesty executives had entirely failed in their duty to conduct an investigation of Moazzam Begg. Although they expressed regret for their failure, they also affirmed their relationship with Begg.
To this day, no investigation of Moazzam Begg or Cageprisoners‘ suitability as a partner for a human rights organisation has been made available to Amnesty International staff or members. Nor have any of the issues been debated internally.