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Salil Shetty, the new secretary general of Amnesty International

August 16, 2010

Salil Shetty, interviewed by Sarfraz Manzoor for the Observer, highlights his dedication to universal human rights and discusses today’s new challenges for Amnesty International including the potential for and dangers of using new digital media in the way Wikileaks does.

From the article:

The idea of human rights being universal is something Shetty imbibed early in his life and he believes that being Indian can be useful in making that argument. “If you ask poor people in developing countries or countries like India, where I am from, about whether human rights are a western concept they would not even understand the question,” he said. “The popular misconception is that human rights are something that is given from the west to developing countries. But my take is different, and for me the idea of basic human rights – the right to education, free expression – is deeply embedded.”

The challenge for Amnesty lies, he believes, in making the organisation truly international. “Our presence in the developing world needs to expand,” he said. “We need a more vibrant presence in India, Brazil and Africa so that it is the people there who are doing the research and the campaigning and not people sitting in London.” Amnesty International’s origins, from its inception following a letter in the Observer in 1961, were linked to the idea of individual members making a difference.

I hope that one of Shetty’s first actions is to ramp up the campaign to repeal India’s Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA).  The AFSPA gives immunity to government forces who rape, kidnap and kill and generally abuse citizens in any which way pleases them.

In Manipur for example, the AFSPA  is the root cause of much of the violence perpetrated there by non-state actors, keeping the citizens of Manipur in a constant state of poverty and turmoil.

Report from HRW on HR abuses in Manipur:  “These Fellows Must Be Eliminated”  Relentless Violence and Impunity in Manipur

Amnesty International Statement: Government of Manipur Must Release Irom Sharmila Chanu

From CounterCurrents: AFSPA And Political Violence In Kashmir

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