Open letter to Amnesty International

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Jul 31 07:38:09 MDT 2003

(This is being sent to AI offices worldwide.)

Dear Amnesty International,

I strongly urge you to step back from your newly announced campaign to 
release the 75 US agents in Cuba. Associated Press reported on July 30 
that your researcher Paige Wilhite has stated that "They are prisoners 
of conscience and the Cuban government has to release them immediately 
and without conditions." To the contrary, they have broken Cuban laws 
prohibiting funding from foreign governments, a law found in any 
sovereign state, including democracies like the USA and Great Britain.

To people of conscience on the left, this well-orchestrated campaign to 
isolate and punish Cuba economically is rather transparent. You have 
joined groups such as Reporters Without Borders, whose animosity to 
communism or state-owned media in 3rd world countries is driven more by 
bottom line considerations than freedom of expression it would seem. 
(42% of the budget of "Reporter Without Borders" is covered by the 
Commission of the European Union, a body which is fanatically 

While Amnesty International has a rather preening posture about being 
"above politics", it has shown a rather dismaying tendency in the past 
to adapt to the foreign policy needs of the USA and Great Britain, where 
it seems to enjoy the greatest support both socially and economically.

For example, when the Iraqi army was accused of ripping babies from 
hospital incubators in December 1990, Amnesty International told the 
Washington Post that "We heard rumors of these deaths as early as August 
but only recently has there been substantial information on the extent 
of the killings." Not only were you spreading disinformation hatched by 
the infamous Hill & Knowlton public relations firm, you were helping to 
launch the war against Iraq whose opening salvos relied on this lurid 

Next you got involved in the Balkans--once again on behalf of US foreign 
policy. When you sponsored a 25 city tour in the USA for Jadranka 
Cigelj, Judith Miller (!) of the NY Times wrote glowingly about your 
efforts to raise awareness about how the Serbs were using rape as a 
political weapon--even quoting the wretched David Rieff, who has emerged 
as a frontline spokesman for humanitarian imperialist interventions.

Unfortunately neither Judith Miller nor your public relations department 
spelled out the exact character of Cigelj's activism around the rape 
issue, nor her sordid political past. In "Fool's Crusade", Diana 
Johnstone points out that "Cigelj was a vice president of Croatian 
president Franjo Tudjman's ruling nationalist party, the Croatian 
Democratic Community (HDZ) and was in charge of the Zagreb office of the 
Croatia Information Center (CIC), a wartime propaganda agency funded by 
the same cryptofascist Croatian émigré groups that backed Tudjman. The 
primary source for reports of rape in Bosnia was Cigelj's CIC and 
associated women's groups, which sent 'piles of testimony to Western 
women and to the press'".

She adds:

"The CIC benefited from a close connection with the 'International 
Gesellschaft fur Menschenrechte' (International Association for Human 
Rights, IGfM), a far right propaganda institute set up in 1981 as a 
continuation of the Association of Russian Solidarists, an expatriate 
group which worked for the Nazis and the Croatian fascist Ustashe regime 
during World War II. In the 1980s, this organization led a propaganda 
campaign against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, accusing them of running 
camps where opponents were tortured, raped, and murdered on a massive 

Finally, an article by Paul De Rooij in the October 31, 2002 online 
edition of Counterpunch titled "Amnesty International & Israel: Say it 
isn't so!" ( you to task for 
trivializing Israeli violence and apolitical fence-sitting.

He writes:

"Reading AI's reports doesn't reveal why there is a conflict in the area 
in the first place. The portrayal of violence is stripped of its 
context, and historical references are minimal. The fact that 
Palestinians have endured occupation, expulsion, and dispossession for 
many decades, the explanation of why the conflict persists, is nowhere 
highlighted in its reports. This posture eliminates the possibility of 
taking sides, and AI doesn't automatically side with the oppressed 
victims; instead, it assumes a warped sense of balance. It qualitatively 
equates the violence perpetrated by the IOF with Palestinian resistance. 
In attempting to be impartial, AI is oblivious to the history of ethnic 
cleansing that is the root cause. Israeli violence is qualitatively 
different than Palestinian violence; it is different than that found in 
other conflicts because it aims to expel the native population."

Not that I would gainsay De Rooij's compelling argument, but I would 
quibble with one characterization. Instead of describing AI as 
"fence-sitting", I would regard you--at least in these instances--as 
having fallen off the fence and into the lap of the US and British 
foreign policy establishment.

Louis Proyect


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