Sunday, 2 November 2008

Amnesty International

For a while now I've been considering joining Amnesty International (AI). They are renowned throughout the world, either for being a beacon of hope for those suffering injustice, a candle in the dark, or for being a "defender of lawbreakers". Which of these you consider them to be depends on your point of view...

In the eyes of many governments of the world, including the USA, China and Iran, Amnesty International disregards national security as a factor in the status of prisoners. The argument here is that certain prisoners pose a threat to national security, and so cannot be allowed freedom whilst the government accumulates evidence in case, during that time, they do cause an incident of some description.

With the rise of terrorism the fear of national security being threatened is, understandably, greater than ever. Governments can fall on their stance on terrorism (for example, in Spain in 2004, following the Madrid bombings, José María Aznar's Partido Popular claimed that ETA were responsible for the Madrid bombings. Later evidence pointed to the involvement of al-Qaeda and a complete lack of involvement by ETA. The Partido Popular lost the ensuing election, having been in the lead in the polls prior to the bombing.) and so cannot possibly risk terrorist attacks.

Do not get me wrong, terrorism should be treated with the utmost caution, and governments should do all in their power to avoid and prevent terrorist attacks from occuring. Unfortunately, as is the way with politics, the majority of governments are more concerned with how they do in the polls than how the public's quality of life is. I'd like to believe that governments are so harsh on terrorism because they don't want people to get hurt (and I'm sure that many members of governments all over the world don't want people to get hurt), but I suspect that the driving factor behind harsh policies on terrorism is, as with all things, votes.

As such any organisation, such as AI, that attempts to stand up in the face of such policies will inevitably experience criticism. I personally feel that terrorism and other threats to national security should be treated carefully and all the appropriate measures should be taken to combat these threats, but this does not mean that fundamental human rights can be abused. Human rights are exactly that - rights that every human is entitled to. Alleged criminals are still human. No government by itself can determine whether or not a human is permitted access to these internationally agreed rights and, as these are fundamental, basic rights, any government that flaunts their responsibility to allow their prisoners these rights should suffer international consequences.

This is exactly why organisations such as Amnesty International are so important. The silenced, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the voiceless all need representation, all need someone with wealth, morals and, most importantly, freedom to argue their case, to fight for human rights, to ensure that all members of the human race have the same fundamental rights, the same access to justice and the same chance of freedom.