Amnesty International must translate words into action

Why the meek response when it comes to Tehran? And why go through all the work to write an 80-page report on Iranian human-rights violations just to urge a toothless inquiry?

The logo of Amnesty International. Source: Facebook.
The logo of Amnesty International. Source: Facebook.
Eitan Fischberger
Eitan Fischberger is a Middle East analyst based in Israel. His work has been published in National Review, NBC News, New York Daily News, Tablet Magazine and other news outlets. Tweet him @EFischberger.

A horrifying new report released by the influential NGO Amnesty International details the mass arrests, disappearances and unlawful killings of thousands of Iranian men, women and children as young as 10 years old by their tyrannical government since a brief uprising erupted in November 2019. In the report, Amnesty describes in heartbreaking detail the wanton floggings, electrical shocks and other gruesome tortures inflicted upon innocent Iranians. Just a few days ago in a separate show of brutality, Iran executed wrestling champion Navid Akfari, who was tortured into confessing to the murder of a security guard during an anti-government protest in 2018.

Of course, for those of us paying attention, this is nothing new. The Iranian government has been oppressing its citizens for decades, though too few have taken notice. As expertly demonstrated by Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, the United Nations is also guilty of turning a blind eye to Iranian despotism.

Indeed, during its quarterly meeting on the “The Situation in the Middle East, Including the Palestinian Question,” the Security Council—the most powerful U.N. body—spends a wildly disproportionate time bashing Israel while largely failing to address Iran.

Amnesty International has been issuing frequent reports describing the systematic abuses occurring in Iran since the protests began and has now petitioned the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to take action.

Amnesty, which has enjoyed consultative status at the United Nations since 1964, has boasted about the myriad of U.N. human-rights conventions it helped pass. In fact, Professor Kerstin Martens, an expert on intergovernmental organizations and NGOs, wrote in 2006 that Amnesty’s “work at the U.N. has always focused on the ratification and development of legal instruments for human-rights protection.” Specifically, its campaign on banning torture beginning in the 1970s is believed by many to be among the most successful initiatives ever undertaken by an NGO at the United Nations.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The United Nations approaches Amnesty for advice on human-rights matters, and their findings are frequently cited as sources in reports issued by the world body. Over the years, Amnesty and U.N. personnel have developed personal networks of informal communication through which they feed each other information that would be otherwise inaccessible.

Clearly, the organization holds enormous sway at the United Nations.

Amnesty has never been afraid of lobbying for harsh action against countries at the United Nations, like Israel, for various reasons. For example, it has played a prominent role in the push for the creation of a blacklist ordered by the UNHRC of businesses operating outside Israel’s 1949 armistice line.

It went a step further when in 2016 it openly called for the suspension of Saudi Arabia from the UNHRC over “gross and systematic violations of human rights,” referring to executions, putting children on death row after unjust trials and crackdown on dissenters. The new Amnesty International report concerning Iran is rife with phrases like “systematic patterns of mass arrests,” “widespread patterns of serious human rights violations” and “unlawful killings of protesters and bystanders.”

Sound familiar?

Yet despite the bone-chilling similarities in language and accusation, in the case of Iran, it has merely urged the UNHRC to establish a U.N.-led inquiry to ensure accountability and non-repetition. This is an alarmingly weak response when compared to its justifiable call for the suspension of the Saudis from the UNHRC. Why the meek response when the shoe is on Tehran’s foot? And why go through all the work to write an 80-page report on Iranian human-rights violations just to urge a toothless inquiry?

In its 2016 statement on Saudi Arabia, Amnesty argued that the Saudis have put the credibility of the UNHRC at stake by derailing attempts to pass resolutions condemning them. The same can be said about the UNHRC’s treatment of Iran, especially when 85 percent of the council lauded the regime’s human-rights record in 2019.

Surely, with all the clout that Amnesty International holds at the United Nations, it could do far better than recommending a measly inquiry. Why does it not utilize its significant influence and implore every single U.N. body it can access to take tangible steps against Iran in the face of its brutal crackdown? With the U.N. General Assembly running until Sept. 30 and the 45th regular session of the UNHRC running until Oct. 6, now is the time to translate their words into action.

Eitan Fischberger is an activist and veteran of the Israeli Air Force. Follow him on Twitter @EFischberger.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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