It's time for Amnesty International's candle to be extinguished - opinion

Amnesty International's Ukraine report was a reckless immoral act that only helped the Kremlin and its propaganda.

 The logo of Amnesty International is seen next to director of Mujeres En Linea Luisa Kislinger, during a news conference to announce the results of an investigation into humans rights abuses committed in Venezuela during protests against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela February 20, 2 (photo credit: REUTERS/CARLOS JASSO)
The logo of Amnesty International is seen next to director of Mujeres En Linea Luisa Kislinger, during a news conference to announce the results of an investigation into humans rights abuses committed in Venezuela during protests against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela February 20, 2
(photo credit: REUTERS/CARLOS JASSO)

The resignation of Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnès Callamard is no longer enough to serve justice. It is time for Amnesty International to complete its 60-year mission and go down in history, before all memories of the heroic days of the struggle for human rights have faded. The scandal with the Ukrainian report is a moment that Amnesty should seize and close its doors forever. It is the only remaining honorable exit, worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Unfortunately, Amnesty International did not understand this and thus it condemned itself to a shameful and painful end. And not only itself, but also all its predecessors who fought against torture in the past six decades, including the founding father of Amnesty, Peter Benenson.

“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness,” wrote this British lawyer back in 1961 in a famous article for The Observer, in which he demanded the release of two Portuguese students, victims of Salazar’s dictatorship and thus laid the foundation of one of the largest global organizations for the protection of human rights. Looking at his successors today, Benenson would probably say – “It is better to extinguish the candle than to celebrate the darkness.”

With the report on Ukraine, Amnesty International celebrated the darkness and helped to make it even thicker. Accusing Ukraine of knowingly sacrificing civilians by deploying its military forces in residential areas is an unforgivable support for the worst human rights violation the world has seen since World War II.

With this report, Amnesty has done the greatest service to Russian aggression since it began almost six months ago. Incomparably greater than all its propagandists have achieved together since February 24. This is a service for which the Kremlin would gladly give billions, because that’s what it will really be worth, if Amnesty International survives and continues to work as it has been working until now.

 UKRAINE’S PRESIDENT Volodymyr Zelensky visits Ukrainian service members, in Dnipropetrovsk region, last month.  (credit: UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/REUTERS) UKRAINE’S PRESIDENT Volodymyr Zelensky visits Ukrainian service members, in Dnipropetrovsk region, last month. (credit: UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/REUTERS)

Either they didn’t realize what they did, which is less likely, or cocooned in their bubble of inviolability, they know very well what they did, but they don’t care (which is more likely), even after all the criticism, they’re repeating that they stand by their Ukrainian report. Moreover, they launched a counterattack, calling their critics “mafia,” “war propagandists” and “trolls.” Is this the Kremlin’s dictionary, or the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize winner and the world’s greatest moral authority in the fight for justice and human rights?

Yes, this is an organization that has been working for six decades under the motto of impartiality, equal treatment of all victims, independent from any government in the world. Or were they just pretending all along? Because Amnesty’s Ukrainian report of August 4 is the most reckless equating of victim and executioner that the modern world has seen, not counting the propaganda of dictatorial regimes during the wars they waged.

This is not just a service to the Kremlin, worth billions, it is “only” a consequence. Let’s ask ourselves – where did Amnesty get the idea to make a report on this topic? Where does the largest global authority for human rights get the motive to start investigating, in the middle of the biggest human rights violation, whether those whose human rights have been brutally violated, including the right to life, are also violating human rights?

Perhaps the analogy is banal, but this would be equivalent to a judge who, instead of a rapist, would question a rape victim about how much she drank, whether she crossed the street at a red light, why she wore that particular short skirt, and why she was wearing make-up.

It is true in the Amnesty report that the Ukrainian army sometimes finds shelter in school sports gyms. It is also true what they say that deploying the army to school buildings, when the schools are not working, is not an offense under the international rules of war. But then why are they writing about it at all?

How hypocritical do you have to be to accuse a nation of defending itself against an aggressor from its own cities, when the aggressor attacks those same cities, razes them to the ground, expels the population and forcibly takes many of them to camps? According to Amnesty, how should the Ukrainian army behave? Should they leave the cities, settle in the fields and forests and leave its people to persecution, bombing and death?

Amnesty International cannot be trusted

For Callamard, the head of Amnesty International, the deployment of the army in residential areas is not an incident; according to her, it is a “pattern” applied by Kyiv. In other words, the Ukrainian authorities are consciously and systematically sacrificing their own people, with the aim of causing propaganda damage to the Russian attackers because they are killing civilians. Shocking or not, these are not the views of the war headquarters in Moscow, which we have been listening to for half a year, these are the views of the leaders of Amnesty International.

After the Ukrainian report, even with the greatest tolerance, not a single finding, research, or report of Amnesty International can be trusted. All their fieldwork (if there was any) and all their semi-anonymous interlocutors (if they really exist) are worth nothing. Amnesty consciously rejected the only value it had and built over the years, which is trust.

The Ukrainian report is only the biggest and most severe violence that Amnesty has inflicted first on itself, and then on millions of people around the world, who believe in the power of an impartial struggle for the protection of all human rights. Its reputation has been tarnished for years, from within. They admitted that there was racial discrimination by superiors against Amnesty staff. They recruited extremely biased people as researchers, for example prominent anti-Israel (pro-Palestinian) activists to examine the human rights conditions in Israel. They ignore the findings and engagement of local associates, but produce reports with preconceived views.

The head of Amnesty’s Kyiv bureau, Oksana Pokalchuk, and her associates are the latest victims of this practice, because the “big bosses” ignored their objections to the draft report on Ukraine. They left the organization as highly moral people, leaving it to fend for itself with the label “instrument of Russian propaganda,” which Pokalchuk rightly gave them on her way out.

The Telegraph’s commentator Stephen Pollard accurately described the state of Amnesty International after the Ukrainian report – “Amnesty is a worthless, morally bankrupt sham, that gives succor to terrorist states.” This is only an excellent beginning for the complete dismantling of such an organization, which, due to its old glory, will continue to have influence in the free world, if it does not end its work soon. Since, apparently, it does not occur to its current bosses, they are left to face the harder, more painful and embarrassing way.

Most of the money to finance its actions it receives from individuals and their small donations. According to the 2021 financial report, Amnesty’s budget was $357 million, where 1.7 million people paid small amounts, an average of $12.60 a month, or $257m. 

All these people not only believe in the correctness of Amnesty International’s goals, in its methods to fight against torture and autocracy, but they are ready to give it money to persevere in that fight. After the Ukrainian report, they have been deceived and the least they can do to ease their conscience is to immediately stop donating to Amnesty International.

The same applies to Amnesty’s business partners, for example London’s Lloyd’s Bank, with which this organization has an account. Is it a reputational risk for one of the largest and most reputable banks in the world to have as an important client someone who gives Putin’s Russia conquest goals and war propaganda a strong wind at its back? Why do they need such a client?

Neither does the DLA Piper law firm from London, which is the official legal representative of Amnesty International and one of the largest law firms in the world with more than 4,000 lawyers and more than 90 offices worldwide. Amnesty is no longer needed by any of those who cited its reports to gain global influence, nor by anyone who ever had a business or charitable relationship with them. Since August 4 and the Ukrainian report, Amnesty International is a name you don’t want to be associated with if you have freedom and the fight against tyranny at heart.

Even The Times has no dilemma about the only fate of Amnesty International: “A once-respected humanitarian campaign, Amnesty now evinces a deplorable indifference to oppression. Having shown itself soft on crime and soft on fascism, it should have the decency to depart the stage.”

That is why denying support to Amnesty today is a moral act. Extinguishing Amnesty International today is the only way its candle can continue to light this world against the darkness of torture and death. 

The writer is founder and director of the Belgrade-based International Security Institute.