February 24, 2021

IT’S COME TO THIS: Amnesty Pulls Aleksei Navalny’s ‘Prisoner Of Conscience’ Status Over ‘Hate Speech.’

Amnesty International has reportedly withdrawn its recent designation of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s as a “prisoner of conscience” over his alleged advocacy of violence and discrimination and comments that included hate speech.

Aleksandr Artemyev, the rights watchdog’s media manager for Russia and Eurasia, confirmed the decision to Mediazona on February 23 after the news was first reported by U.S. journalist Aaron Mate.

RFE/RL was unable to independently confirm the reports.

Artemyev wrote that Amnesty, which named Navalny a prisoner of conscience after his arrest in Moscow in January, decided to retract the designation “in light of new information” stemming from “old videos and social media posts in which Navalny made controversial pronouncements.”

The comments attributed to Navalny in the mid-2000s were not specified, but Artemyev said they were made as Navalny’s activism and challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin was gaining momentum and that their reemergence “appears to be another tactic to delegitimize Navalny’s work and criticism and to weaken public outcry about his detention.”

Back in 2003, the late Steven Den Beste compared the ACLU with Amnesty International, after the latter forgot its original mission (remember those “to freedom!” ads that ran on MTV in the 1980s?) over how its members (read: fundraisers) viewed the Iraq War:

It’s not going too far to say that many of Amnesty International’s members have approximately as strongly negative of feelings now about America and George Bush as the ACLU’s members had about the Nazis when the ACLU defended them in Skokie.

The ACLU made the principled decision and weathered the downturn in contributions. When condemnation of Iraq didn’t make AI look as if it was aligning with America, Amnesty International was willing to try to shine a spotlight on the abuses there. But now AI has suddenly gone silent. The abuses against the citizens of Iraq have not stopped; indeed they’ve gotten worse. In addition to ongoing violent repression of Iraq’s civilian population, various Iraqi military and para-military units have been directly violating the Geneva Convention by, for instance, abusing the white flag of truce, and by using protected humanitarian facilities to hold military equipment, and by using “human shields” in combat, and by directly firing at refugees, and in numerous other ways.

And what we’re seeing is that AI seems unwilling to make more than oblique mention of these things, while at the same time explicitly condemning the US for what are at best minor transgressions by comparison. Why is it more important to strongly focus attention on “censorship” while ignoring mass slaughter of refugees?

In retrospect, Conquest’s second law of politics (“Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing”) dictates that it was only a matter of time before the ACLU would similarly lose the thread.

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