By Peter Kayode
Amnesty International has been in the news again, this time around, and its typical fashion of turning the truth on its head in pursuit of an often disjointed agenda aimed towards causing conflict in countries where they have their operations.
The case of Nigeria is no different from other countries where Amnesty International have been accused of engaging in acts that either undermine national security or incite the people against constituted authorities. A good example is an accusation levelled against Amnesty International by a couple of countries such as the United States, China, Congo, Russia, as well as Chile, where the complained about Amnesty International for what they assert is one-sided reporting, or a failure to treat threats to security as a mitigating factor.
This much has been witnessed in Nigeria with the way, and manner Amnesty International has serially accused the Nigerian government and the Nigerian Military of human rights violations in the prosecution of the Boko Haram war in North-East Nigeria. Amnesty International has on several occasions churned out reports and statements castigating the Nigerian Military when substantial gains are recorded in the fight against terrorism, and feign ignorance when Boko Haram terrorist kill women and children and burn down villages.
This disposition of Amnesty International tells one thing: which is the fact that its motives have always been to cause unnecessary distraction either by commission or omission in most cases.
The Catholic Church has also criticized Amnesty for its stance on abortion, particularly in Catholic-majority countries. This fact was also highlighted recently by an international law expert Elyssa Koren who criticized Amnesty International’s new support for abortion access through all nine months of pregnancy and its claim that human rights protections “start at birth.”
She stated thus: “Amnesty’s announcement is reflective of a self-referential echo chamber made up by abortion groups and elements of the international system,” “The right to life that all persons possess applies from the moment when life starts, which science confirms is at conception,” Koren said. “International law supports this reality. This is evidenced in historical protections for pregnant women facing the penalty of death.”
Koren cited the preamble of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by over 190 countries, which affirms that children need “special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.”
“Given that Amnesty International has no power to re-craft international law or the laws of science, their announcement that human rights ‘start at birth’ creates no change in the human rights tradition,” Koren said. “That said, it does contribute to the existing body of dangerous misinterpretations that seek to re-imagine the international order.”
The position of Elyssa Koren aptly captures Amnesty International in their elements in misrepresenting facts to suit their narrative which often is not the reflection of the reality on the ground, but a deliberate attempt to cause chaos in the society.
The position of Amnesty International as a global human rights body has also been questioned in several quarters for what was described as an organization with toxic workplace culture. In a report undertaken by the KonTerra Group and led by psychologists, to look into lessons learned following the suicides in 2018, found bullying and public humiliation were routinely used by management.
“There were multiple reports of managers belittling staff in meetings, deliberately excluding certain staff from reporting, or making demeaning, menacing comments like: ‘You’re shit!’ or: ‘You should quit! If you stay in this position, your life will be a misery,’” it said.
The consultants, who focused on Amnesty’s international secretariat, based in London, found it to be mainly operating in a “state of emergency” following a restructuring process to decentralize and move staff closer to the ground in places of civil unrest and conflict.
Many staff at Amnesty International described their employment as a vocation or life cause. It said there had a “significant risk of experiencing secondary stress or vicarious trauma” due to the nature of the work. But, the report found, the “lion’s share” of wellbeing issues were not isolated to exposure to trauma or suffering. Instead, the adversarial culture, failures in management and pressures of workload were among the most significant contributors to wellbeing issues.
Staff reported multiple accounts of discrimination based on race and gender and which women, staff of colour employees were targeted or maltreated.
“Given Amnesty’s status and mission – to protect and promote human rights – the number of accounts the assessment team received of ‘bullying’, ‘racism’, and ‘sexism’ is disconcerting,” it said. The reviewers provided Amnesty’s secretary-general with a private report on allegations of abuse of power, discrimination and unfair treatment, which merit further investigation. They found multiple instances of alleged favouritism or nepotism in hiring and cases where “it appears that positions or individuals may have been made redundant without due process”.
In 2019 Amnesty International’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo admitted to a hole in the organization’s budget of up to £17m in donor money to the end of 2020. To deal with the budgetary crisis, Naidoo announced to staff that the organization’s headquarters would have cut almost 100 jobs as a part of urgent restructuring. Unite the Union, the UK’s biggest trade union, said the redundancies were a direct result of “overspending by the organization’s senior leadership team” and have occurred “despite an increase in income”.
Unite, which represents Amnesty’s staff, feared that cuts would fall heaviest on lower-income staff. It said that in the previous year the top 23 highest earners at Amnesty International were paid a total of £2.6m– an average of £113,000 per year. Unite demanded a review of whether it is necessary to have so many managers in the organization.
The above examples indeed give an insight into the operations of a supposed global human rights organization dedicated to the protection of human rights. I believe that Amnesty International is indeed a charade, and this much has been highlighted with its operational strategies in Nigeria that somewhat promotes mediocrity and celebrates evil over good.
This fact has led to calls for the expulsion of Amnesty International from Nigeria by a large segment of the population for allegedly inducing chaos in the country. They cited instances where Amnesty International systematically supports the activities of terrorist and militant groups in Nigeria. Worthy of mention is the way and manner Amnesty International have been providing tactic support to groups like Boko Haram, Islamic Movement in Nigeria and the Indigenous People of Biafra.
They have consistently feigned ignorance of the nefarious activities of these groups that have resulted in the loss of lives and the disruption of socio-economic activities in the country. This fact has been highlighted numerous times and with evidence to support.
It must indeed be stated that Amnesty International as an organization has so many skeletons in its cupboard and this is mainly responsible for its tirade against the efforts of the Nigerian government in the prosecution of the war against terrorism and other militant acts in the country.
It must indeed be stated that this disposition of Amnesty International is not restricted to Nigeria alone but also in countries where Amnesty International operates. There are several instances in countries like Israel, the United States of America and the likes where the operations of Amnesty International have been questioned amidst calls for circumspection.
I believe that it is indeed time for total scrutiny of the operations of Amnesty International across the globe to put issues in proper perspectives for the good of humankind. The peculiarities of time indeed necessitate so.
Kayode PhD wrote of University of Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State.