Priorities

Amnesty International prides itself on being a non-partisan, non-sectarian campaigner for human rights, an advocate for the oppressed. And certainly at its foundation (and for much of its history) that was indeed its goal. But one can be forgiven for thinking that it in recent years it has experienced a certain drift toward the partisan—focusing on the motes of dust [1, 2] in the eyes of reasonably well-behaved nations, rather than the planks in the eyes of egregious abusers.

For example, a woman was executed for “witchcraft and sorcery” in Saudi Arabia yesterday—actually the second person in the kingdom to be executed for that crime this year. The woman (with the rather lengthy moniker of Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser) was in her 60s, and had been arrested way back in 2009. According to the Saudi religious police, she tricked people into giving her money and claimed to be able to cure their illnesses; a crime that might more properly be characterised as fraud, which doesn’t carry the death penalty upon conviction in most jurisdictions.

But the human rights group Amnesty International, which has campaigned for Saudis previously sentenced to death on sorcery charges, said it had never heard of her case until now, he adds.

A Sudanese man was executed in September on similar charges, despite calls led by Amnesty for his release.

— “Saudi woman executed for ‘witchcraft and sorcery’.” BBC News, 12 December 2011.

What’s Amnesty International doing this month? Lecturing the world on how George Bush ought to be arrested. Well, what’s the life of an elderly Saudi woman when there’s a class enemy to be persecuted?

UPDATE: Richard A. Clarke, counterterrorism advisor to three presidents, notes in his 2004 memoir Against All Enemies that Clinton and Gore were the first US administration to ignore the objections of their legal counsel and authorise extraordinary rendition against employers of terrorism.

While Amnesty International called for investigations into alleged war crimes during the 1999 Allied Force campaign against Serbia, it has thus far neglected to call for Clinton’s arrest, despite originating the practices that the NGO objects to in Bush’s case.

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