May 2007


If you were an interested Amnesty International UK members looking for some information or comment over the recent decision to advocate abortion as a human right, one of the first places you might turn would be the organization’s members’ magazine, Amnesty Magazine, particularly as the organization’s own staff are unable or unwilling to give correct information.

AIUK members receiving their copy of the May/June issue this week would have to flick over quite a few pages – to page 37 of the 40 page issue- before hitting upon a small, pink box which mentioned the issue (it’s been blown up on this blog for easier reading).

Hawk-eyed members would be rewarded with the information that following the resolutions put to the AGM in March:

“…AIUK’s Board now has the task of analysing the decisions and determining the UK section’s approach to future international discussion on the subject.”

Couple of things:

1. What future discussions? The decision was apparently taken on 16 April – more than a month ago. The magazine manages to report on other stories that occurred several weeks after that date, so obviously production deadlines were not an issue in failing to report quite an important piece of information.

Did the AIUK Board forget to tell the editor that a decision had already been made or was this just a deliberate attempt to mislead AIUK members into thinking that there was still some doubt about what decision AI would come to ? Of course, this suggestion would have been unthinkable in the past, but that was before the shocking behavior of the AI Board on this matter and its attempts at a cover up had been revealed.

2. What happened to the democratic process that AI makes so much about in its secret documents? It appears that the AIUK Board is now quite clear: they’ll take the decision on what the membership really thought. Now could it be that they would side with the resolution to form a policy on adoption proposed by…err… the AIUK Board?

I’m sure that there will be a few dictators and aspiring dictators who are all in favor of this type of democracy.

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Zimbabwe was once a prosperous nation – the bread basket of Africa – well farmed, with a strong economy and a stable government: it was a nation that, for all its faults and its needs for social reform (which included the need for fairer distribution of land), thrived and was respected. We know the reality today. A brutal, corrupt and incompetent government has brought the country to its knees: it relies on the handouts from the UK, EU and US to survive and bites the hand that feeds it; its mind-boggling inflation rates and mounting debt has forced electricity supplies to be slashed to 4 hours a day. So it makes a mockery of the United Nations that Zimbabwe has been chosen to head the UN’s Commission on Sustainable Development.

Amnesty International has been respected for its human rights work since it started; campaigning for the rights of individuals and saving many thousands of lives in the process. It well-deserved the Nobel Peace Prize for its work. But, as we have seen with Zimbabwe, reputations crumble quickly. It is no less of a mockery to human rights that AI has adopted a policy that advocates abortion and continues to call itself a human rights organization, than Zimbabwe’s chairmanship of the CSD is a mockery of the UN. AI is aware that its decision to advocate abortion is not only divisive and contrary to members’ wishes, but it also risks denying millions of individuals their human rights (see previous post).

But there is still time for AI bosses to reflect on the wishes of the organization’s members, its past triumphs and reverse this policy, before AI – like Zimbabwe’s leaders – irrevocably loses widespread support and respect. Urge Amnesty’s leaders to take this opportunity and tell them that there is, in effect, still time to SAVE AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL.

When forced to address the abortion issue, AI representatives have often attempted to package their decision to advocate having an abortion as a “human right” with issues around protecting women from violence (AI has never quite explained just how abortion does this – isn’t killing an unborn child a pretty violent act?). Anyway, by taking this approach they have thus far succeeded in avoiding all the difficult questions that adopting this policy and their subsequent attempts to cover it up raise.

Now that Amnesty International’s leaders have apparently been successful in imposing their wishes on the organization, it is beholden on them to come clean about:

  • the real consultation process and why it was so biased;
  • why they failed to inform staff about the adoption of the policy;
  • why they were apparently quite happy to mislead AI members about the adoption of the policy;
  • why the policy was adopted before the slated date and why AI continued to say that a consultation was still ongoing, when the final decision had already been taken;
  • and, most importantly, provide a proper explanation as to why a human rights organization feels it can morally and logically adopt this policy.

On the last point, if AI is to justify its new position on abortion with any ounce of credibility it must provide the evidence of where and when life begins, for if it really believes in human rights, it must identify at what point a person exists to claim those rights. I suspect that this will be pretty problematic for the organization as, until now, no-one has been able to prove at what point a person exists (once we get 100% proof of this, then the abortion debate is over).

Given this lack of evidence, logically there are two positions that can be adopted: (more…)

Sometimes it is in the throw-away lines that you can learn much more about what’s really going on without the spin. So it is with Widney Brown’s interview as reported by the Reuters press agency.

To be honest, Amnesty International has not been very good about putting a spin on its decision to adopt a policy on abortion and subsequently to hush up the decision: all attempts up until now make the organization’s leaders look disingenuous and have damaged the reputation and integrity of a great organization.

Nevertheless, the Senior Director of International Law, Policy and Campaigns at AI’s International Secretariat made an interesting remark: “We sort of felt like if we’re going to work on stopping violence against women we have to address (abortion),”

We sort of felt like it! Who is “we” Ms Brown? It was not the members. (more…)

It would appear there was no press officer sitting in on the conversation between a Reuters’ interviewer and Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law, Policy and Campaigns at Amnesty International’s International Secretariat. For surely, if there had been, Ms Brown would not have made some of her absurd claims.

According to Reuters she told the agency that Amnesty was not deliberately trying to suppress the fact that the decision to support abortion had been made (even although allowing your staff to state that the policy had not been made and marking documents “for internal distribution only” looks pretty like such an attempt in my eyes). Instead Ms Brown told Reuters: “There’s simply no reason for us to ‘publicize’ policy issues.” (more…)

If the scandal of Amnesty International ignoring the most basic rights to unborn children wasn’t bad enough, the powers that be at AI have caused further outrage by attempting to cover up their decision – even trying to keep it from their staff.

As late as Tuesday afternoon, workers at Amnesty International UK’s headquarters claimed that they believed a decision on the abortion policy had not been taken and would not be taken until later this summer, and indeed were reassuring members of this, apparently blissfully unaware that Amnesty was in fact trying to cover up the fact that it had already made its decision.

So their gas was put at the proverbial peep when it was pointed out to the benighted AIUK employees that documents on Amnesty International USA’s site, uncovered by Consistent Life, completely contradicted what they were saying (see previous post) and these documents made them look, at the very best, sadly uninformed.

So the AIUK staff went off to find out more. At the time of writing this, they still had not managed to give a response to the member in question – that’s almost 48 hours later, but we can assume that there has been some frantic activity, in fact there have been quite a few hits on this blog and its mirror sites from Amnesty International IP addresses over the last 24 hours (perhaps AIUK staff are trying to find out what their bosses have apparently been keeping from them). (more…)

One of the contributors to the blog has just contacted Amnesty International UK to ask them about their position on the abortion question. The contributor was asking as a private AI member, so was not speaking to a press officer or spokesperson. Anyway the AIUK rep was quite clear about the situation: AIUK had passed two “conflicting” resolutions at its AGM in March; one to develop a policy and one to remain neutral. (I have my doubts about this). Absolutely no decision had yet been made, she said, and AIUK could not adopt policy by itself, but would take its recommendations to the International meeting later this summer. She said there was a statement prepared and she would send it over (we’ll publish it here when we get it).UK US flags
But what about the documents in the members only section of the AIUSA website, dated April 2007 and declaring that a policy had been adopted? The AIUK representative was puzzled (no wonder: the documents completely contradict what she had been saying). So puzzled was she, that our contributor offered to email her over a copy of the documents and she could respond once she had a chance to see them. He did this earlier this afternoon and awaits the result. No doubt there will be some frantic conversation between Amnesty International press officers before he gets a response.
If a decision has already been made, there is another question for AI bosses: is Amnesty putting its front line staff in the unenviable position of misleading members, by not giving their own staff the full facts to respond to queries correctly? We’ll have to wait and see.

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