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
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
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."
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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