Respect Universality in Principle and Practice: Defend Women's Human Rights
Posted on: Tuesday, March 2, 2010
A statement from the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition.
As women human rights defenders and members of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC), we note with grave concern the circumstances under which Gita Sahgal, a member of the WHRD IC Executive Committee and head of the Gender Unit of the International Secretariat of Amnesty International (AI), was suspended on the same day that she publicly questioned the specific alliances entered into by AI in its advocacy to defend victims of torture in Guantanamo Bay.
We would like to use this occasion to discuss the defence of the rights of all to be free from human rights abuse including torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and at the same time ensure adherence to the universality of human rights, particular the defence of women’s human rights. Others have raised similar concerns and this issue was recently discussed in a working group on direct accountability of religious fundamentalist political forces convened during the Strategic Conversation: Addressing Gaps in the Defence of Women Human Rights Defenders organised by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) in collaboration with the WHRD IC last 27 – 30 June 2009.
In the present context of ‘constructive engagement’ with the Taliban, AI bears the burden of closely scrutinising that its partners do not use its platform to condone fundamentalist groups that are accountable for gross violations of women’s human rights, the rights of minorities and indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population in Afghanistan. Amidst the growing tendency of privileging religion and culture at the expense of women’s human rights, we must be vigilant not to undermine the extensive work we have done in exposing religious fundamentalisms and draw attention to the lack of mechanisms for accountability of non-state actors such as powerful fundamentalist forces, which have further empowered religious extremists groups such as the Taliban.
The language of human rights defenders introduced in the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders clearly stipulates that defenders of human rights must espouse the principles of universality of human rights and non-violence. It also invokes that “everyone who, as a result of his or her profession can affect the human dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of others should respect those rights and freedoms and comply with relevant national and international standards”. (Article 11) Individuals also have an important role and a responsibility in contributing to the promotion of the right of everyone to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Defenders and other human rights instruments can be fully realized. (Article 18)
Considering the credibility of AI as an international human rights organization, its positioning bestows political legitimacy on those it gives its platform to speak. As such, we call upon AI to review the criteria by which it provides such a platform and to publicly affirm its commitment to refrain from giving legitimacy to individuals and organisations that espouse political beliefs and actions that undermine and negate the universal principles of non-discrimination and respect for gender equality. AI has to help clarify the distinction between defending the right of all people to be free from all forms of human rights abuse including freedom from torture and arbitrary arrest and detention, , and providing them with legitimacy by inviting them to share public platforms with us.
We have worked with AI as one of the members of the WHRD IC on several occasions to raise concerns of human rights defenders and have supported its campaigns, particularly on Stop Violence against Women. We join AI in its commitment to the universality of human rights. So given the complexity of this issue, what is needed is an open debate, not a censoring or closure of discussion on this important concern. It is an opportunity for AI to engage with the Coalition and other stakeholders to confront the critical issues raised above and in the process be transparent and disclose its procedures and criteria for giving someone as controversial as Moazzam Begg a political platform.
Endorsed by the following members of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition:
Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
Baobab for Women’s Human Rights
Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL)
Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights (UAF)
Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML)
Archives"Press Room" Home March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008 November 2008 October 2008 September 2008 August 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 April 2008 March 2008 February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 July 2006 June 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 April 2005 March 2005 November 2004 October 2004 April 2004 March 2004 January 2004 December 2003 October 2003 September 2003 June 2003 April 2003 January 2003 September 2002 June 2002 January 2002 November 2001 October 2001 September 2001 August 2001 January 2001
Kat Noel, Website & Media Coordinator
PHONE: +1 212 627 0444
MADRE & Our Partners Make News
Haiti: the neoliberal model imposed on the country is failing its citizens (The Guardian, February 5, 2014)
Human rights group slams Iraq over treatment of women in prison (Miami Herald, February 2, 2014)
New Ways to Evaluate Impact (Stanford Social Innovation Review, January 24, 2014)
Poverty, Homelessness and Gender Violence Remains High Four Years After Earthquake (Uprising Radio , January 17, 2014)
Empowering Haiti's rape survivors (CNN, January 14, 2014)