Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Betrayal of Amnesty International

Much inks, or megabytes have been devoted to the “gulag of our time” comment by Amnesty International. Most of the writing have been focus on the unfairness of the comment toward the US. Sure it was unfair to the US and particularly unfair to the men and women in uniform. But I am not that concerned about the US. It is after all a superpower and superpower is often targeted unfairly. And the negative impact on the US image is minimal; those already hate us will continue to hate us; and most reasonable persons will see that “gulag of our time” is an overblown comment.

But I am deeply concerned about the impact of this incident on the future of human right world wide - in particular to grave injustice suffered by true dissidents, prisoners of conscience, and victims of murderous regimes. To be blunt, Amnesty International have betrayed the very same people it claims to advocate.

Unlike many, I understand the important of organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Right Watch. My family have lived under the brutal tyranny of Communism and had always depended on said NGOs to highlight our condition of injustice. My father was jailed for unknown reason. We speculated the reason for his detainment was his friendship with the poet Ha Si Phu, a well known dissident. His condition of detainment was far worse than at Guantanamo. Real tortured actually occurred there, and people did get executed. My uncles were put into concentration camps (they euphemistically call them Re-Education Camps) after the war in which many inmates died from starvation, lack of hygiene, no medical care, tortured, and summary executions. Many relatives were internally exiled in what they called new-economic zones. They were essentially send off into the jungle, given a few hand tools, and told to live there. At no time any of the said injustices were described by Amnesty International as “gulag of our time.” And I agreed wholeheartedly that they should not. Sure what we experienced were horrible and inhumane, but the Soviet gulags were far more horrible and far more inhumane. We dare not equate our suffering to those who suffered far worse.

My family have experienced things far worse than Guantanamo, and in turn victims of gulags experienced far worse than my family. It is very important that we keep things in perspective. And for a long time, Amnesty International kept things in perspective. It reported everything, but it differentiated between the worst offense and the milder ones, giving priority to the worst atrocities. It ability to differentiate give its credibility allowing better advocacy for the victims.

But in one statement –“gulags of our time” – Amnesty International turned it back on all the victims it claim to represent and advocate, past, present, and future. It is a shocking betrayal to the victims and their relative who depended on and supported Amnesty International all these years. Who will pay attention to the executions of North Korean political dissidents if the condition of North Korea is described by Amnesty International as equal to the US. Who will highlight the rape of Tibetan nuns in Tibet, or mass rapes in Sudan and Uganda, or hideous torture in the dark corner of Libya? If the US is “the gulag of our time,” then there can be no worse offense, anywhere. Sadly there are far worse offense and no one will pay any attention to them. I cry for the victims who stories will be ignored and forgotten.


Anonymous Anonymous said...



1:29 AM  
Blogger Pedro said...

Your story and experience humbles me. Thank you for your perspective.

4:50 PM  

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