Amnesty International's War on Human Rights
Rain falls noisily on the roof of the Security Bureau and Prisoners' quarters, as hundreds of dirty, rag-covered, hunched-over figures shuffle past the buildings in the cold. A bleak sky overhead reflects the dismal scene below. Suddenly, gunshots pierce the air. Some prisoners turn their heads, while others barely wince at the sound. Numb and starving, they continue on their way to the Assembly area.
Upon arrival, the prisoners are rounded up and forced to watch a public execution. Men, women and children are lined up to witness the violent killing of a woman who has refused to give up her faith in spite of fierce orders from government officials. Some prisoners are forced to stand so close to the victim that they are literally spattered with blood.
When this horrific drama is finished, the prisoners are herded together for "roll call". A child cries in the dark, and rain falls noisily on the roof as thousands of prisoners return to crowded, flea-infested quarters for a brief night's sleep. Another version of the same day will begin when dawn rises over the camp.
Auschwitz in 1944? Well, this particular establishment IS a concentration camp, but the year is 2004, and the brutal regime is North Korea, not Germany.
A literal modern-day holocaust is taking place in communist North Korea, where orphans starve in the streets and thousands of innocent people are confined in a vast modern-day concentration camp system. It's a place where evil rules, where violence is rampant, where some of the worst human rights violations in the world take place.
Yet tragically, the suffering North Korean people were among the millions worldwide that were conveniently shoved to the background in Amnesty International's recently released annual report on human rights worldwide.
One would think that Kim Jong Il's Hitler-esque behavior would incur strong condemnation from the world's leading human rights organization. Maybe even a special section of their annual report would have been dedicated to decrying the evil abuses taking place there – gruesome medical experimentation, forced abortions, rape, executions, and torture. An entire volume would scarcely be enough to denounce the horrors of a dictatorship that has seen fit to abuse, starve, and murder millions of its own citizens. Any human rights organization would want to express in no uncertain terms their shock and abhorrence toward such a government.
But not Amnesty International. Instead of focusing on prisoners in North Korea's concentration camps, refugees in Sudan, imprisoned priests in Vietnam, or rape victims in Pakistan, Amnesty decided to mete out the harshest words – and lengthiest column of criticism – to the United States. That's right. Instead of delivering a scathing rebuke to the world's foremost violators of human rights, Amnesty International decided to throw the book at the U.S.
Swept up in a frenzied political agenda to denounce President Bush and the 'war on terror', Amnesty's report swelled with bitter terminology, calling the U.S. "bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle" in regards to the war in Iraq. Remarkably, Amnesty didn't even need the Abu Ghraib prison scandals to seal their verdict. The prison scandals emerged only about a month ago, and barely influenced the 339-page report.
What Amnesty apparently ignored in their dizzying foray into attack politics, is that where and when human rights abuses do occur by U.S. hands, the perpetrators are brought to justice. Not so in North Korea, Sudan, Columbia, Burma, Vietnam, Chechnya, or numerous other countries where brutal regimes persist unhindered. Vehement criticism needs to take place where there is no justice, not when rule of law is already in place.
Tragically, by focusing on limited incidences of human rights abuse committed at U.S. hands, Amnesty is robbing victims of oppression worldwide of a voice. Apparently, the numerous incidences of rape, torture, and infanticide in North Korea or Sudan aren't nearly important to them as smearing the Bush administration. Amnesty's approach to the tragic plight of child-soldiers in Burma is lackadaisical compared to their fervor for vilifying a nation known as a beacon of liberty. Apparently Amnesty International has determined that undermining U.S. foreign policy is a far more vital task than speaking out for the countless victims of human rights abuses scattered throughout the world.
Using the defense of human rights as a mask for a devious political agenda is inexcusable. As an organization, Amnesty International is running aground. Charting a course of misguided political mudslinging, its influence is marred and its claims unsubstantiated.
Caught up in a frantic mission to deplore and condemn U.S. actions in Iraq, Amnesty has launched their own war. It's a war against human rights worldwide, and the real victims are the children, women, and men confined in hellish North Korea, despair-ridden Sudan, and dozens of other tyrannical nations. They are the ones who have been shoved to the wayside so that Amnesty's political ideals in the U.S can flourish.
Pope John Paul II has rightly said, "Consciences must be educated so that the unbearable violence weighing upon our brothers ceases once and for all, and so that all people mobilize to ensure that everyone's fundamental rights are respected." Amnesty International has given us a poor example of what it means to stand for justice, or to speak out for fundamental rights. As their voice fades into the political maze, let's hope their influence does as well.
Kristin Wright is founder and director of Stand Today – www.standtoday.org – a Christian human rights organization. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.