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Nick Cohen
Sunday 14th February 2010
Amnesty Int. & Megagreed Plc

Imagine an evil corporation; let us call it Megagreed plc. A worker with a fine and principled record speaks out about its directors associating with men who propagate a criminal ideology that has led to the denial of rights to millions in poor countries. Far from listening to her wise objections, Megagreed's bosses suspend her for exercising her right to free speech on matters of public importance; it is a very evil corporation as I said.  Our brave whistleblower tours the streets looking for a human rights lawyer to represent her. But none will because they are all so frightened of incurring the wrath of Megagreed plc they would rather allow an injustice to pass than run the risk of taking up her cause.

   Once men and women suffering at the hands of evil corporations like Megagreed could have turned to Amnesty International for help. Our heroine has been punished for speaking out, she is being denied the basic right to legal representation, surely Amnesty will act as a court of final appeal and give her a hearing? But our heroine can't turn to Amnesty because in this instance Amnesty International IS the evil corporation.

    According to the Sunday Times

     To say the past week has been a difficult one for [Gita] Sahgal would be an understatement. She fears for her own and her family's safety. She has - temporarily at least - lost her job and found it almost impossible to find anyone to represent her in any potential employment case. She rang round the human rights lawyers she knows, all of whom have declined to help citing a conflict of interest. "Although it is said that we must defend everybody no matter what they've done, it appears that if you're a secular, atheist, Asian British woman, you don't deserve a defence from our civil right firms," she says wryly.

So no one in the human rights world wants to cross swords with Amnesty: that's no surprise and least of all to Sahgal. "I know the nature of what I'm up against," she says. "I didn't do what I did lightly."

I've a wider piece about the affair here in the Observer. If there are any principled human rights lawyers left in England, contact me and I will pass on your details
 
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Nick Cohen
February 20th, 2010
12:02 PM
For goodnes sake ratbiter of course there's a ticking bomb argument for torture. The trouble is that the only cited case when it can be applied was the case of the German cop and the missing child and even then the torture was pointless. If you and your fellow Trots are truly interested in defending human rights I invite you to join as comrades in the struggle against radical Islam. No? Thought not.

ratbiter
February 18th, 2010
2:02 PM
In this column you put forward the infamous 'ticking bomb' argument for torture. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/nov/05/comment.terrorism Here you attack those who are trying to stop torture http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/14/nick-cohen-human-rig... You made a decision to back Dick Cheney and his torture teams. Don't complain when we remind you of it.

HaidarSpider
February 17th, 2010
11:02 AM
Well done Nick - I kick in the guts for Human Rights

Alexander Melea...
February 16th, 2010
1:02 PM
There is a difference between supported Begg's human rights, and endorsing him. AI have done their job and helped him out of Gitmo. That should be the end of it - instead they pay for him to trot the globe, while his organisation presents all CONVICTED terrorists as victims and 'prisoners of faith'. Just imagine for a second if he was a white supremacist and his group campaigned for imprisoned neo-Nazi terrorists, AI would have nothing to do with him. Alsom dont forget that his group also still promote Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaeda recruiter who was involved both in Fort Hood and the recent detroit bomb plot. http://www.cageprisoners.com/media.php?pageNum_rsDownloads=2&totalRows_r... they seem to revel in the fact that this fascist is 'banned in britain'.

Nick Cohen
February 16th, 2010
1:02 PM
@Ratbiter. True opposing imprisonment without trial is supporting human rights. But the well-sourced accusation against Amnesty is that they have turned a prominent supporter of the Islamist extreme right into a poster boy and spokesman for their charity. In other words they are sanitising clerical fascism rather than standing up for prisoners of conscience. Surely you can appreciate the distinction @ Yossarin. I am not "on the record" as supporting torture. All that has happened is a couple of Trot trolls have taken my argument that we should not allow people who are threats to our national security to be resident in Britain and say 'ah that means you support torture". International refugee law accepts that a country is under no obligation to accept people who might threaten it. Of course it does. Refugee status is an offer of the privilege citizenship and no country should want to offer privileges to men who may threaten their fellow citizens

ratbiter
February 16th, 2010
11:02 AM
Nick, standing up for Moazzem Begg's rights is also standing up for human rights.

yossarian
February 15th, 2010
9:02 PM
But Nick - you are on record as supporting torture in some circumstances. And if AI is to be judged by those they have shared platforms with, I hope Gita has more sense - and consistency - than to share a platform with you.

Callum
February 15th, 2010
4:02 PM
Dear Nick, I have been supporting Amnesty for years during my studies at uni and have found the odd thing over the years that has displeased me about them, but have thought that their general principles and the large amount of work they carry out does do good. I have, however, been dismayed by their support of Begg and now feel they have gone too far against their own principles. Sahgal seems to be the kind of person who encompases many of the ideals that I used to associate with Amnesty - now they've pushed her out in favour of keeping friendly with a facist! I have written to Amnesty informing them that I will no longer give them financial support for their actions and have given them reasons why. I hope that enough other people do the same and can end this rediculous support of extremists over people who actually support human rights. Regards, Callum

windter
February 15th, 2010
3:02 PM
"I think the point is she phoned all the lawyers she knew and none of them would help her." Might that possibly have something to do with her having no real case? And why are you personally appealing to HR lawyers here? she clearly needs an employment lawyer.

Nick Cohen
February 15th, 2010
12:02 PM
@matthew. I think the point is she phoned all the lawyers she knew and none of them would help her. @ Frankie V standing up for women's rights is standing up for human rights and to accuse me of not doing it is going it somewhat even for a man so cowardly he will make accusations against others without using his real name.

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About Nick Cohen

Nick Cohen is a columnist for the Observer and author of You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom (Fourth Estate) and What's Left? How The Left Lost Its Way (Harper Perennial). Living With Lies, a collection of his writing for Standpoint, is available as an ebook. 

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