War

What is wrong with Amnesty International?

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In the summer of 2022, the international human rights organization Amnesty International published a scandalous report accusing Ukraine’s Armed Forces of endangering civilians. The authors noted that the Ukrainian military occasionally stationed in residential areas, particularly on school and hospital grounds. In this way, the human rights organization echoed Russian propaganda by attempting to smear the defending party while ignoring the aggressor’s crimes. Following the publication, the head of Amnesty International Ukraine resigned.

Because of the one-sidedness of the statements and Russia’s promotion of disinformation, we decided to team up with Molfar, a global OSINT community, to investigate Amnesty International’s activities over the last 15 years. We managed to find the organization’s ties with Russia, irrational spending, and incompetent research.

Who is Amnesty International, and how is it funded?

Lawyer Peter Benenson founded Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization investigating human rights violations, in the United Kingdom in 1961. Infringement of physical and psychological integrity, freedom of conscience and self-expression, and freedom from discrimination are under the scope of Amnesty’s research.

The organization uses its studies to influence governments, companies, and decision-makers. Amnesty organizes campaigns, actions, and mass demonstrations; it writes letters and petitions to draw media and public attention to current issues.

As stated on the official website (the funding section), the organization does not accept research funds from governments or political parties but only from thoroughly vetted businesses. For example, in 2011, Amnesty received a 1.3 million dollar grant from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development — a structure that has passed a thorough inspection.

Surprisingly, 93–96% of Amnesty’s funding is not designated. The organization states: “We have the right to use them (funds. — Ed.) where we see fit.” Therefore, we offer to take a closer look at the budget and the corresponding charitable contributions to Amnesty International.

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Molfar investigators decided to look into the organization’s spending of such large amounts of money. Spoiler alert: irrational expenses were detected.

Where does the money go?

In 2011, Amnesty spent 1.3 million dollars to triple the salaries of Irene Khan, then general secretary, and Kate Gilmore, her deputy. In 2019, Amnesty International stated that they expect a 22-million-dollar budget gap by the end of 2020, resulting in the layoff of 70 lower-level employees. These policies may indicate a double standard: excessive spending on executive positions and neglect of the core staff.

Furthermore, according to the republicworld.com article, the organization did not use funds for stated purposes. Thus, in 2010, Amnesty UK transferred 5.1 million dollars to Amnesty India in tranches for the following purposes: maintenance, advance payments, and foreign direct investment. Of this amount, 3.7 million dollars were designated for consulting services. After checking the bank accounts of Amnesty India and associated companies, it turned out that the funds were not sent to the previously specified trusts. The audit also revealed that Amnesty India received donations from foreign sponsors that were later allegedly spent on consulting services. Amnesty India and Amnesty UK have approximately 45 service contracts for “activities related to Kashmir” (an Indian Muslim province disputed by Pakistan).The Indian Ministry of Finance accused Amnesty India of organizing riots in Kashmir with 750 thousand dollars received from Amnesty UK.

Following allegations of money laundering, Amnesty closed its Indian office in October 2020. Amnesty’s accounts were frozen earlier in September due to credit reporting violations under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). According to the Indian government, Amnesty was not registered under the FCRA to receive overseas donations.

Problems with local managers

Amnesty International can employ people who previously worked for pro-government propaganda institutions with a bias toward the military and political situation. One such employee is a Russian Alexander Artemyev — Amnesty’s media manager for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, who works and lives in Moscow. Before joining Amnesty, he worked for Russian media outlets, including state-owned RBC, Lenta.Ru, Gazeta.Ru, and ITAR-TASS. Presumably, he is a co-author of the Amnesty report on the deployment of Ukrainian military personnel in residential areas. Artemyev stated “While we fully support our conclusions, we regret the pain caused. Amnesty International’s priority in this and any other conflict is to ensure the protection of civilians. Indeed, that was our only goal when we released the latest report.” In 2020, Amnesty paid Artemyev 350 thousand rubles of income.

Repeatedly documented, the organization’s management work issues frequently led to disastrous outcomes. In September 2020, The Times reported that Amnesty International had paid 1.08 million dollars as compensation for the workplace suicide of French office employee Gaëtan Mootoo. At the same time, the organization signed an NDA with the deceased’s wife and demanded that his family keep the deal secret. In the suicide note, he complained about high work pressure and lack of support from management. A 65-year-old Mootoo who specialized in investigating events in West Africa worked for Amnesty International for 30 years. According to London Crown attorney James Leddy, a labor law specialist, Amnesty’s “serious management error” contributed to the suicide.

Another employee, Rosalind McGregor, an intern at the organization’s Geneva office, committed suicide due to difficult working conditions. She worked for five months at the Geneva branch as part of a paid internship.

Following the suicides, several investigations revealed a “toxic” work culture , bullying, and nepotism at Amnesty International.

Excessive politicization

The former director of Amnesty Hungary, Orsolya Jeney, admitted in an interview that during her work there were attempts to impose a political role on the organization, and she could not always avoid them. Government representatives can influence Amnesty, which deprives it of the right to call itself an “independent human rights organization.” Janey stated that sometimes she was forced to criticize Viktor Orbán’s government in the media for no apparent reason. She also told how the organization once issued an official statement on her behalf, which she was not even allowed to read. According to Janey, after her dismissal in 2018, all barriers to those attempting to exert pressure on the organization vanished, and it became even more politicized.

Racism in Amnesty

According to The Guardian’s April 2021 article, Amnesty International perpetuates a culture of white privilege with instances of overt racism. High-ranking employees engaged in microaggressions and used the N-word.

Separately, the staff claimed that the management “deliberately supported racism and actively harmed representatives of ethnic minorities.” One employee stated that co-workers asked to touch her hair, mocked her accent, and referred to her as a “black girl.”

According to another staff member, management did not provide career opportunities for employees from numerous ethnic backgrounds and consistently favored higher-paid white managers during salary reviews.

Amnesty said it sincerely apologized to all employees who had faced discrimination and acknowledged that the organization had not achieved total equality on many levels.

Groundless criticism of the authorities

УIn 2000, the Democratic Republic of Congo criticized the Amnesty report. The DRC embassy in Washington called the Western world’s perception of the events in the Congo false. Together with the Western countries, the Swiss report failed to grasp the nature of the DRC’s war — the country was blamed for the “illegal invasion” of Rwanda and Uganda. The DRC embassy said their country was fighting rebel groups backed by Rwanda and Uganda. The report also ignored human rights violations and the occupation of nearly a third of the country.

Second Congo War (1998–2002)
The war on the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in which over twenty armed groups from nine states participated.

In a report in 2008, on Russia’s war against Georgia, Amnesty expressed concern about grave violations of international and humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict. As with the Ukrainian report, such conclusions are provocative since the main and only culprit of violations and potential danger is the aggression of Russia, without which there would be no war, no casualties, and no report.

Furthermore, in 2009, Amnesty accused Israel of killing more than 1,400 Arabs in the Gaza Strip and injuring another 5,000. The report accuses the Israeli army of repeatedly violating the laws of war and criticizes Israel for demolishing houses in Palestine without permits, erecting security barriers, and establishing army checkpoints. The Israel Defense Forces criticized Amnesty’s annual report’s one-sidedness and failure to mention the “unbearable suffering of Israeli citizens from constant rocket attacks over the last eight years.”

Israeli-Palestinian conflict
An armed conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinians that has lasted since 1948.

Accusations of the Ukrainian Armed Forces

On July 4, 2022, Amnesty published a report claiming that the Ukrainian army put civilians at risk. According to reports, the Armed Forces’ presence in civilian areas attracts Russian attacks. However, such a statement is provocative and equalizes the responsibility between the injured party and the perpetrator. This statement sparked outrage and the resignation of the management of regional offices:

– Oksana Pokalchuk, the former CEO of Amnesty’s Ukrainian branch, has resigned.
– Per Wästberg, co-founder of Amnesty’s Swedish branch resigned;
– 80 employees resigned from Amnesty Norway, 60 of whom explained this decision as a protest against the report on the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ placement of weapons in residential areas.

According to the former CEO of Amnesty’s Ukrainian branch, Oksana Pokalchuk, the Ukrainian office tried to inform Amnesty’s leadership about the war launched by Russia against Ukraine. Pokalchuk claims that Amnesty International requested a comment from Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense but gave them little time to respond. Following that, Amnesty published a report that appeared to support Russian narratives.

On August 5, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Agnès Callamard, tweeted: “Ukrainian and Russian bots and trolls are attacking Amnesty’s investigation — it’s called war propaganda and disinformation.” At the same time, she failed to provide evidence to support the charges brought against the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Ukrainian media, politicians, and military quickly responded to Callamard’s accusation.

For example, Ukraine’s presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted about the Russian military shelling Ukrainians from Grad rocket launchers. On his Telegram channel, Taras Berezovets, political analyst and TV presenter, posted a photo of Russian military equipment in the backyard of Bucha’s apartment building. The photograph was taken in March 2022, with an explanation that it was the Russians who were doing what Ukraine’s Armed Forces were accused of.

On August 7, Amnesty formally apologized for the “distress and anger” caused but did not change its report.

Questionable statements of Amnesty’s current Secretary General

Since 2020, Agnès Callamard has been involved in numerous scandals: in one of her posts, she openly condemned the Pentagon’s assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani in an airstrike near Baghdad airport. Before his death, Soleimani, one of the most influential figures in Iranian politics, was planning terrorist attacks against the US and other countries.

In September of the same year, Amnesty published a post in support of Sheikh Salman al-Ouda’s membership in the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2017, Saudi authorities arrested Sheikh Ouda on conspiracy charges against the state and participation in the Muslim Brotherhood, classified as a terrorist organization in the country.

Muslim Brotherhood
The international religious and political organization founded in Egypt. "Islam is the solution" is its slogan, and the movement's goal is establishing a Sharia-governed state.

The sheikh is known for his close relationship with Qatar, having advised a fatwa in 2017 prohibiting Saudi Arabia from severing ties with the country. The diplomatic conflict has been ongoing since 2017 as Saudi Arabia and eight other Middle Eastern countries announced the termination of diplomatic relations with Qatar. They accused Qatar of supporting various terrorist organizations operating in the region, including Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, as well as destabilizing other states’ internal situations and promoting extremist ideology through the media.

Fatwa
A decision made by the highest religious authority on any one of a wide range of issues based on Islamic principles and precedents of Muslim legal practice.

In September 2021, journalist Hussain Al-Ghawi published a post exposing Callamard’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. According to him, Callamard was a defender of the Muslim Brotherhood founder’s grandson Tariq Ramadan who was accused of raping five women in France, two of whom were minors. Callamard’s public defense of his radical position as a matter of religious conviction at the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva confirms this connection. She also spoke out in favor of Ramadan at a meeting of the Norwegian PEN Club.

What exactly is the issue with Amnesty International?

The key concerns regarding Amnesty International include: non-transparent use of funds, politicization that encourages nepotism and the appointment of people with dubious backgrounds, and finally, the questionable activities and information that the organization provides. Analysis only confirms the organization’s bias and lack of competence in assessing world precedents. All of the facts and dubious expertise we’ve uncovered during our investigation of Amnesty’s 15-years-work leave us wondering: is this organization even necessary in its current form?

The full text of the study is available at thislink.

War
The material is prepared by

The author of the project:

Bogdan Logvynenko

Author:

Анастасія Юрчишина

Editor-in-chief:

Natalia Ponedilok

Editor:

Олена Задворна

Compilation of information:

Артем Старосєк

Daria Verbytska

Photo editor:

Yurii Stefanyak

Content manager:

Kateryna Minkina

Translator:

Sofia Havryliuk

Translation editor:

Hanna Uraieva

Sharon Henning Garland