Saturday, December 16, 2006

Amnesty Loses the Plot

In August, Amnesty International showed that it had lost its way in the modern world when it took the sorry step of trying to accuse Israel of war crimes in Lebanon. Now the organization is again reinforcing the impression that it has lost the moral focus which once inspired it, by issuing a report on Estonia which - almost incredibly - charges that country with “human rights abuses” allegedly committed against its Russian-speaking residents.

As Edward Lucas points out on his blog and in The Economist,

The report is puzzling for several reasons. It is a bad piece of work, ahistorical and unbalanced. It echoes Kremlin propaganda in a way that Estonians find sinister and offensive. But most puzzling of all, it is a bizarre use of Amnesty’s limited resources. Just a short drive from Estonia, in Belarus and in Russia, there are real human rights abuses, including two classic Amnesty themes: misuse of psychiatry against dissidents, and multiple prisoners of conscience. Yet the coverage of these issues on the Amnesty website is feeble, dated, or non-existent.

Amnesty seems to have become just another left-wing pressure group, banging on about globalisation, the arms trade, Israel and domestic violence. Regardless of the merits of their views—which look pretty stale and predictable—it seems odd to move to what is already a crowded corner of the political spectrum. To save Jüri Kukk and other inmates of the gulag, people of all political views and none joined Amnesty’s campaigns. That wouldn’t happen now.

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