Amnesty Int’l’s distortion of humanitarian laws has become an art form - opinion

It is left to us now to admit, once and for all, that the rights organization has stretched the definition of “charity” to be, instead, a party to bloodshed and political radicalism.

 UKRAINE’S PRESIDENT Volodymyr Zelensky walks with soldiers in the town of Izium last week after it was liberated by Ukrainie’s armed forces. (photo credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service)
UKRAINE’S PRESIDENT Volodymyr Zelensky walks with soldiers in the town of Izium last week after it was liberated by Ukrainie’s armed forces.
(photo credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service)

Amnesty International hit a nerve this week as images of its campaign material emerged, pandering to a pro-Russian narrative vis a vis Ukraine. New fundraising literature of the prominent organization promotes, through emotive imagery, the need for both Ukraine and Russia to embrace one another in recognition of the fraternal bonds that, supposedly, unite them.

Amnesty’s thirst for funds utilizes the abusive embrace of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin, reminiscent of his infamous quote, “like it, or not – be patient, my beauty,” to, allegedly, source donations for Russia’s oppressed opposition. Such disregard for the shattered lives of countless Ukrainians, and those souls that were claimed by terror in their prime and infancy, is ever more hypocritical. 

One remembers how Alexei Navalny’s status as a prisoner of conscience was revoked following his illegal arrest, subsequent imprisonment and torture, after a heroic return to the country, mere months after an attempt on his life. Such transgression on the part of Amnesty International is but one of many. 

From the pedestal it operates, Amnesty International towers over the “official” narrative, dictating the public’s opinion through its social media, press influence and membership network – a power we ought to counteract given the stakes. The “charity” promotes a narrative divorced from its self-proclaimed core values by pumping out so-called research papers on Ukrainian endangerment of their citizens, in efforts to protect them from Russian bombardments; putting out misguided statements on Russian opposition; and now, its adaptations of disowned and withdrawn imagery of Ukraine-Russia ties. 

Whatever arguments Russia may have employed to justify its belligerence matters very little at this point.

 A worker from the war crimes prosecutor's office takes in the damage from overnight shelling that landed on a building of Kharkiv's Housing and Communal College as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues in Kharkiv, Ukraine, June 21, 2022.  (credit: Leah Mills/Reuters) A worker from the war crimes prosecutor's office takes in the damage from overnight shelling that landed on a building of Kharkiv's Housing and Communal College as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues in Kharkiv, Ukraine, June 21, 2022. (credit: Leah Mills/Reuters)

But it screams cognitive dissonance for an organization with a name as grandiose as Amnesty International – which claims at its essence to stand as an impartial party – to whitewash Russia’s war crimes by suggesting both nations sit on equal footing regarding their respective responsibilities in the war.

With an annual budget that exceeds $300 million, the rights organization holds an almost undisputed monopoly on the allocation of political prisoner status – without, it must be said, any real oversight by way of fact-checking, and more to the point, financial transparency.

If we consider the implications of such powers, logic dictates we ask exactly what agenda Amnesty International is pursuing, beyond the obvious anti-Western narrative and overt bigotry.

With Ukraine and Israel, Amnesty International dilutes a nation-state's right to exist

ALTHOUGH MANY will argue that Amnesty International’s position on the war in Ukraine is divorced from its systematic criticism of Israel, one only needs to look at the challenge posed to Kyiv’s right to defend against the assaults of the Kremlin to realize that there lies a terrible intent – that of the dilution of a nation-state’s right to exist within the sanctity of its borders.

The abode of the woke, Amnesty International is peddling a dangerous and revolting narrative, forgiving the faults of the aggressors so that responsibility could instead be imprinted onto the victims, denying them the courtesy of their suffering while acting as apologists for criminals.

Such intellectual exercise has been so well rehearsed over the decades that few have dared raise an eyebrow of contention.

Russia’s unapologetic aggression does not exist in a vacuum. Our collective inability to recognize Israel’s right and, it needs to be said, imperious duty to protect its own civilians from the challenges posed by terror outfits, allowed the creation of a space within which certain powers have been able to level unfounded territorial and/or political claims. 

Collective responsibility transcends the accountability of the aggressors for inflicted terror and must reflect our ineptitude in standing up for liberty, as accumulative assaults on sovereignty inevitably become justifications for new oppressions.

There is such a thing as symmetry as a fundamental premise of a rules-based international order – when a state, regardless of its might, finds itself on the receiving end of unfettered criminality – it ought to defend itself. Anything else would certainly equate to self-flagellation. 

When British prime minister Winston Churchill commandeered a civilian armada to free British soldiers from the clutches of Nazi Germany, none challenged the premise of such a strategy. When confronted with annihilation, a nation will do what it must, without of course falling prey to unwarranted brutality. Positioning troops adjacent to vacant schools at times of enemy onslaughts, or in urban centers, falls within the realm of the reasonable. 

It is considered lawful restraint when targeted raids – which also factor the prevention of non-combat casualties into the response – are conducted against those who barrage civilians with rockets. It is reasonable to expect that those targeting innocents in schools, or mounting offensive actions from their rooftops and endangering civilians, are kept to account. 

But reason does not feature on the agenda when instead one is armed with vitriol to project unfettered bias. Of that, Amnesty International is certainly guilty. 

AMNESTY’S PRONOUNCEMENTS are routinely transcribed directly into media headlines, then cited verbatim in academic publications – without due care for the integrity of the claims they make, never mind the accuracy of their findings. There is something to be said about leading the blind, or blinding to lead.

The issue here is the organization’s propensity to exploit its status in the media and academia to influence not only minds but policies. Rather than hold true to its self-proclaimed impartiality, Amnesty International has systematically taken very political positions, weaponizing human rights law, international humanitarian law, and the laws of armed conflicts to advance a private agenda, untrammeled by oversight. 

The problem with the attack on Ukraine’s right to self-defense, protecting the very idea of the state’s sovereignty and independent identity, is the same as with the oversight of Amnesty’s use of imagery on their campaigns. It is set up to rebuke any rebuttal through the apparent, morally elevated self-portrayal of the organization, and our acceptance of their proclamation of infallibility.

Reports are built on anonymous tips and witness reports. None of the “facts” can be independently verified, yet we are called upon to accept them as truths. Truths withstand scrutiny… if indeed they are that!

It is pandering to the abominable to validate Putin’s criminal war narrative against Ukraine, his torment of Russians in the opposition, terror aggressions toward Israel– not to mention crimes committed against Palestinians, whether through indoctrination or physical violence, or the propagation of martyrdom by misguided ideologues the world over. 

It is left to us now to admit, once and for all, that the rights organization has stretched the definition of “charity” to be, instead, a party to bloodshed and political radicalism.

The writers are research fellows at the Henry Jackson Society.