Martin Bright

Amnesty International, Moazzam Begg and the Bravery of Gita Sahgal

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It is not often that my cynical jaw drops open at a story in the papers. But the piece on page 13 of the Sunday Times provoked just such a reaction. Congratulations to Richard Kerbaj for blowing the lid on Amnesty International's relationship with former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg and his organisation Cage Prisoners, who act as apologists for Islamist totalitarianism.

Gita Sahgal, the head of the gender unit at Amnesty International's international secretariat has been campaigning on women's issues for decades. She is rightly sick of the lazy alliance between some in the human rights world and radical Islamists. She has therefore blown the whistle on the disgraceful arrangement between her own organisation and Begg, who has visited Downing Street as a guest of Amnesty, but refuses to condemn the Taliban. Begg is now an integral part of an Amnesty campaign entitled Counter Terror with Justice.

In an email to her colleagues at Amnesty on January 30 she wrote: 

“I believe the campaign fundamentally damages Amnesty International’s integrity and, more importantly, constitutes a threat to human rights. To be appearing on platforms with Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban, whom we treat as a human rights defender, is a gross error of judgment.”

It is difficult to make a stand on these issues and keep one's friends on the left and in the human rights community, so I take my hat off to Gita. I have often discussed with her how best to raise these issues and she has been deeply frustrated by the way the British liberal intelligentsia gives house-room to right-wing Islamists.

She was one of the first people in Britain to warn of the dangers of the politics of Jamaat-i-Islami, the south Asian blood-brothers of the Muslim Brotherhood. She was instrumental in the making of a Channel 4 documentary on alleged Bangladeshi war criminals who had found safe haven in Britain (I can give you no further detail because the Spectator will get an immediate letter from Carter-Ruck solicitors who are representing a key individual in the film). 

It is Gita Sahgal who should be the darling of the human rights establishment, not Moazzam Begg.

STOP PRESS: 16.53 Sunday - Gita Sahgal has been suspended