This is a statement by Gita Sahgal of Centre for Secular Space
AS I GO TO SUPPORT BANGLADESHI ACTIVISTS WHO ARE DEMANDING THAT HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS STAND WITH THE VICTIMS OF 1971. MY LETTER TO A FORMER COLLEAGUE AT AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
I write this with a heavy heart as I know that you are one of the few at Amnesty International, fully conscious of the dangers of fundamentalism and no friend of the pro-jihadi faction. I know you have done much to raise awareness of the human rights issues which are raised whenever fundamentalists press their agenda. You have fought against declaring Ahmaddiyas as ‘non-Muslim’ and explained to colleagues the importance of moving fast to prevent bad legislation being put in place. Complaining atrocities have happened is simply not good enough. They should be prevented in the first place.
I am sure that it is in that spirit that you have commented on the war crimes tribunal and on Amnesty International’s opposition to the death penalty. I too stand in opposition to the death penalty, but I support the spirit of the Shahbagh movement in its desire to seek justice and accountability.
Activists and human rights advocates have felt abandoned by the Western human rights organisations, which have produced not a single report on the crimes committed in 1971 in Bangladesh nor the impunity enjoyed by the Jamaat e Islami in the UK. As we demonstrate in front of Amnesty today, I hope that you will come out and meet us. Neither the Bangladeshi activists nor the Centre for Secular Space are enemies of human rights. Indeed, we are all engaged in one of the greatest human rights struggles of our times.
It is not too late to remedy Amnesty International’s wrongs, most of which lie elsewhere in the organisation. I hope you will share this with Salil Shetty, Widney Brown, Kate Allen and other relevant bosses.
1) Amnesty International UK should apologise for its part in legitimising the Jamaat e Islami by giving Abdul Bari a platform at an AGM, in spite of very strong advice not to treat as ‘Muslim leaders’ fundamentalists belonging to a party implicated in war crimes .
2) Amnesty International should apologise publicly and clearly for embracing ‘defensive jihad’ an ideology which was used in Bangladesh to rape and kill.
3) Amnesty International should use its own genocide guidelines to pronounce on the nature and severity of the crimes committed. We believe that these crimes amount to genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Where does Amnesty International stand?
4) Amnesty International could assert its strong committment to ending impunity and announce an investigation into the threat to human rights constituted by global religious fundamentalist organisations such as the Jamaat e Islami.
Every single one of these demands is within Amnesty International’s policies. All it needs to implement them is integrity and political will.
With very best wishes