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More smoke and mirrors from Gita Sahgal & actual facts from Amnesty

February 19, 2010

Interview on CBC Radio, Canada on 18 February 2010 with Gita Sahgal and Claudio Cordone.  After a spectacularly misinformed introduction and more smoke and mirrors from Gita Sahgal, Claudio Cordone explains why Sahgal was suspended following her “misrepresentations” in the media, how her allegations against Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners have already been dealt with and how the evidence simply IS NOT there to sustain them.  Sahgal is dealing in “sensationalism”.   I’ve transcribed what Claudio Cordone said in response to the inane questions from the CBC interviewer, but not what Gita Sahgal said as she offers nothing more than she has offered before, which is also nothing.

[Update:  I have now transcribed the whole of the Amnesty section.]

Take it away interim Secretary General of Amnesty International, Claudio Cordone:

Well it’s a simple reason [for Sahgal’s suspension], when Gita decided to go public with her criticism of Amnesty and in a context when there was all kinds of misrepresentations in the media, we had to make clear that she was no longer speaking on behalf of Amnesty while we were looking into the matter.  The suspension is not a sanction, it’s not a punishment, it’s just a precautionary measure to make clear that Gita cannot speak on behalf of Amnesty while we look into the matter.

Moazzam Begg is someone who’s been detained in Guantanamo.  He speaks very eloquently  about that experience, and at the moment we’re campaigning to the end of the detentions in Guantanamo, because they’re still continuing  and he’s very good in that respect.  And because of that he’s been on a speaking tour with us, so we’ve had other instances in which we’ve participated with him, and the key point is that this is something that we know about him and we work with him in that respect, and nothing, and I go back to what Gita was saying before, that has come up to make us believe that he does in fact have a violent of discriminating agenda.  This is Gita’s point but every time we’ve looked for specifics we don’t get any specifics or we get sensationalisms.

Of course and we look into all those [reports that Cageprisoners support jihadi views] but that’s the critical point in this debate.  Are we supposed to act on the basis of accurate information, or just innuendos or generalisations?  When Gita says, or others say, these guys are promoting extremist views, can someone please explain what are these views; look at their website, look at what they’ve been saying publicly, that’s the evidence on which we have to go about.  But the sort of things that we’re getting are generalisations or sensationalising such as they’re promoting the rights of people who have reprehensible views, and when you look at that we can be accused of the same thing.  We talk about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who as you know has taken credit for the 9/11 attacks.  He’s been waterboarded,  and we’re saying he shouldn’t have been waterboarded and he deserves a fair trial.  Does this mean that we’re promoting his views which are as reprehensible as any views that include killing civilians and discrimination.  Of course not.

Of course [jihadi views would not be compatible with other human rights] , but that’s my point – in this case nothing has come up to prove that Moazzam Begg or Cageprisoners are in fact promoting violence, or are promoting discrimination.  And every time, in the few times that Gita or any of the others in the last 11 days have been engaging in this have been pushed, or when we try to pin them down on what exactly you’re referring to, we’re not getting anything.  Her concerns are not new, we were taking them on board and again because we’re not getting anything that should lead us to review that relationship [between Amnesty and Moazzam Begg] we haven’t.  I’ll be the first to say that if any evidence comes up that in fact that they are promoting or advocating things that we do not stand for of course we’ll end that relationship immediately.  It’s a matter of principle at this stage that we cannot, on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations, just end that relationship.

I agree with that [quoted from a petition:  Many of us who work do defend human rights  in the context of conflict of terrorism know the importance of maintaining a clear and visible distance from potential allies and partners when there’s any doubt about their commitment to human rights], but this is not the case we are talking about.  As I said, it’s a matter of basic principles, and people are innocent until proven guilty in all kinds of ways, and in this case … Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners are being accused of promoting violence, of promoting discrimination and I’m saying  …  there’s no evidence that they support Taliban views and what are the jihadi views?  … He [Begg] hasn’t written a book in Taliban views … the last time we were able to pin Gita and others down in this respect, what he said in his book is that the Taliban were better than what had come before and I bet you we can even find NATO generals possibly sharing that view …

By the way, we have a very long record of opposing the Taliban, not just with regard to their treatment of women but their attacks on civilians and all the rest, but Moazzam Begg himself has condemmed some of these abuses.  He has rebutted all the accusations put to him point by point whenever those accusations were specific.  And that’s why I’m saying, if there is something else that is specific, things that they’ve said, things that they’ve written beyond what has been referred to so far which to me would not justify breaking that relationship we would, but none of that has come up and it’s just distorting on the basic objective that we’re trying to achieve which is to highlight the plight of Guantanamo and do it with former prisoners and people who also have credibility within communities that we’re trying to reach, hoping that people are not going to take up those grievances to blow up trains instead of engaging with the proper systems.

Look, if we were to say we’re gonna stop speaking on the same platform as Moazzam Begg, on the basis of rumours, innuendos, the sort of stuff that actually governments have been throwing at us for years, then that’s where Amnesty would be betraying it’s basic principles.  This is a legitimate debate, but that’s not the way to handle it.

The book deal and the media career are in the bag now Gita, the smearing of Moazzam Begg is obviously something you feel very proud of and have no scruples about doing, like so many of your comrades in spite.  Way to go Gita and your fellow pro-war pro-torture supporters.  To speak for human rights by using spite, smear and lies defeats the point.  And as I’ve said before “Playing the victim card doesn’t wash, Sahgal, when you are actively smearing an actual victim; in fact it is disgusting.”.

“I have been Foolish and Deluded,” said he, “and I am a Bear of No Brain at All.”
“You’re the Best Bear in All the World,” said Christopher Robin soothingly.
-from Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne


Amnesty, Moazzam Begg, Gita Sahgal – Link roundup

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 19, 2010 18:33

    Rachel, you might have noticed that I didn’t publish your last comment, and I shall not be publishing the comment you left on this post earlier either.

    I would like to draw your attention to my comments policy:

    “Comments Policy:
    If it’s stupid it won’t be published. If you are a HP tosser it won’t be published. If it disagrees with my views and isn’t stupid and/or by a HP tosser it will be published.”

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