From Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.
Your recent article (‘Second Amnesty chief attacks Islamist links’, 14 February) mischaracterizes my views.
I have been a part of the internal AI debate surrounding the issue of AI’s collaboration with various groups as part of its campaign to close down Guantánamo. My opinions have been heard, considered, and where appropriate, implemented.
I do not oppose our current initiative working with Moazzam Begg in the recent European tour seeking to convince European states to receive more of the Guantánamo detainees who cannot be repatriated because of the risk of further human rights abuses.
As I told my programme staff in the internal email leaked to your paper, my concern has been that AI’s campaigning has not been sufficiently clear that when we defend somebody’s right to be free from torture or unlawful detention, we do not necessarily embrace their views totally.
This raises the risk of creating a perception, particularly in South Asia, that AI is somehow pro-Taleban or anti-women, playing into the rhetoric often used against us by governments and groups in the region that wish to deflect our criticism. But any suggestion that our work with Moazzam Begg or Cageprisoners has weakened our condemnation of abuses by the Taleban or other similarly-minded groups does not withstand scrutiny.
I believe that it was wrong to take this debate into the public in the manner and at the time done. And I fully agree with the measures AI has taken in response to the decision to publicize this debate now and in this manner.
Director, Asia-Pacific Programme