Amnesty International has always positioned itself as an independent, impartial human rights organization. But, how does our organization maintain its impartiality when dealing with issues that involve conflicting political stances, cultural values, and perspectives? Human rights is our stance, and ought to be protected no matter what side of the fence you are on. Amnesty International ensures its impartiality by concerning itself with the protection of human rights, advocating for certain persons based on the lack of human rights protections. It should also be noted that this blog post is specifically referencing Amnesty International USA.
Amnesty International Does Not Side with Any Political Party
Amnesty International is not Democratic, Republican, Green, Socialist etc. The organization does not pledge support to any candidates. We lobby our government officials, but we lobby any government official who is willing to listen to us and would support the cause of human rights.
This does apply when we advocate for those abroad, particularly prisoners of conscience who were imprisoned for exercising their human rights. It would seem like Amnesty is siding with a minority political party or with one side of a political issue when we are advocating for a particular prisoner or a group of people. However, Amnesty International supports the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Both of these are often in violation when it comes to prisoners of conscience.
Amnesty International Does Not Claim Innocence or Guilt
When Amnesty advocates for certain prisoners, it may seem like we are claiming innocence when we ask for their release. However, this is not the whole story. We ask for release in many of these cases because they are charged with crimes that are not recognized under international law (peaceful protest and expressing your opinion online are not crimes, for example), or they might not have been charged with anything at all and are held indefinitely/incommunicado. Although, Amnesty does retract its support if the person is charged with a recognizably criminal offense, or if the person commits a recognizably criminal offense after support is given.
This did get confusing with Reggie Clemons case, where some of our coalition partners claimed Clemons’ innocence. This we understand, although we have never made such a claim about Clemons. We oppose the death sentence of Reggie Clemons not only because the organization is against the death penalty, but there are so many problems with the trial and the case that Clemons at least deserves a retrial so that he can be tried fairly in a court of law. If he is found to be innocent in a retrial, the he ought to be released. If the case ends up being thrown out because of the previous problems, then he ought to be released.
Amnesty International Does Not Support Any Particular Government, Religion or Economic Interest
Amnesty International does not support or have an opinion of which type of government, which religious creed, or which economic system or interest is best. As long as human rights are protected within the government, religion, or economic system of choice, then we stay out of the way. It’s only when human rights are violated that we would intervene with our letter-writing actions etc, but that intervention is based on the violation of human rights.
The economic interest has been a sticking point with some members because this stance means that the organization would not advocate for divestment as a way to put pressure on human rights abuses. Divestment is the reduction of some kind of asset for financial, ethical, or political objectives (in case you didn’t know), and support this method as a way of pressuring human rights abusers would mean supporting an economic interest, or perhaps blatantly not supporting the economic interest of another.