Is Amnesty International "politically biased"?

In this thread – “Why deprive Gitmo detainees legal protection” – – WRT to the idea of Amnesty International inspecting the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay (they’re not allowed to, of course; only the International Red Cross is), DrDeth commented:

To which I responded:

DrDeth replied:

So here it is. My position is that Amnesty International (; is exactly what it claims to be: A pro-human-rights organization that impartially investigates and condemns state abuses of human rights, regardless of what state commits them or for what purpose. At various times they have documented human rights violations by the old Soviet Union and its allies, by Third World dictatorships, and by all the countries Bush has lumped together in the “Axis of Evil.” If they also turn their ire on the United States, doesn’t that validate their impartiality? What would be the nature of their “political bias”?

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld apparently doesn’t agree, otherwise he wouldn’t

[quote them as a reputable source of information]

Runmsfeld wouldn’t quote AI if they were politically biased.

Would he?

Sure…but they are fairly selective in how they weight their reports WRT how they publicize human rights violations…what they emphasize and what/who they emphasize and what/who they don’t. If one thinks about a place like Gitmo…and some of the hell holes in places like North Korea or various African nations, there really is no comparison. Yet…look at HOW they presented their allegations about Gitmo (i.e. the whole Gulag thing)…and how they presented violations in North Korea and various African Hell Holes™ (as well as myriad other nations who have human right violations today). Sure, North Korea et al are on the list…but if we tortured every single person at Gitmo to death and then pissed on their smoking bodies we couldn’t hold a candle to what some of these places are doing…yet, look at the emphasis on the US’s crimes.

I’m not saying the US shouldn’t be held to a higher standard (I actually think we should), nor am I saying that what the US is doing at Gitmo is wrong (it IS wrong how we are doing what we are doing by keeping those folks in limbo)…but you’d have to be blind not to see SOME political agenda in HOW AI presents their reports and what they emphasize…and what they don’t.

I expect to get reamed for this stance in the next post…


BTW, sometimes that ‘politically biased’ reporting has worked in the US’s favor…especially during the cold war. So, its definitely a two way street.


Biased against torturers maybe.

Pressure groups need to make headlines and cause a bit of controversy if they mean to wield any influence. A nice soberly present report with no eye at all on newsworthiness would be quietly filed under “who gives a crap” by the US administration and ignored by the media.

Then why isn’t North Korea’s camp 22 the ‘gulag of our times’? It seems to be a REAL gulag after all. Again, it shows a bias…and a POLITICAL bias at that.

Yes…exactly my point. They are emphasizing something to get press and to make a statement. Thus my answer to the OP…they are showing political bias in order to point out what THEY feel is important, so it doesn’t get “quietly filed under “who gives a crap” by the US administration and ignored by the media”.


So, what’s your point? If AI holds the U.S. to a “higher standard” than it does Communist countries or Third World dictatorships, what political bias or political agenda does that represent?

The Secretary General of Amnesty International is Irene Kahn.
A muslim woman who said the Spanish law violated human rights when they arrested Tayseer Allouni, suspected of having close connections with Al-Qaeda.

No, I agree. Don’t get me wrong, I admire AI for what they do at times. But they seem to bend over backwards to make the USA out in bad light, and gloss over some of the worst.

My WAG is that they do this in order to have some “cred” in 3rd World nations.

But I don’t trust them. When they show some anti-USA evil dictator doing something nasty, I will beleive them, and even cite them, as they do report that side also. Just not with as much glee.

My quote "AI is so politcally biased, I wouldn’t allow it to inspect my bathroom… :stuck_out_tongue: " did have that smiley do note. Thus, it was exagerated.

Of course it shows a bias. By selectively emphasizing in your reports this, but not emphasizing in those same reports that, you are showing a bias…and as this is in the political realm, that makes it a POLITICAL bias, no? Which is what you asked ("Is Amnesty International “politically biased”? answer: yes).

As to WHAT their bias is, I couldn’t say really. Its not a blatant anti-US bias…at least not historically, though it seems to be one at the moment. But you just asked if AI had a political bias…and I think its pretty clear they do have one, though as I said, it shifts depending on what THEY think is important to emphasize at the moment. You’ll be hard pressed though to say they are completely neutral when they call Gitmo a ‘gulag’ but they don’t say North Korea is the next Nazi Germans (gas chambers and all that), or call their camps the next Sobibor or Treblinka…no?


That’d be a fair point if AI never criticised North Korea.

IMHO its a fair point in the context of the OP. Looked at objectively there really is no comparison between what the US is doing at Gitmo and what the NK’s (or other hell hole nations around the world) do every day. Yet look at the emphasis AI shows to Gitmo (i.e. the inflamatory ‘gulag of our time’ reference)…and the lack of emphasis they show about NK (I’ve seen no similarly inflamator language calling the NK’s the ‘nazi’s of our time’ or the ‘new Stalinists of our times’, etc etc). Certainly NK is on their hit list (as well as most if not all of the hell hole nations out there)…but the bias is in how they present the two, the context they use, and what they publicize. It shows political bias pretty clearly…which is what the OP is asking for, not for whether or not the US should be held to higher standards than NK (they should be).


I think the emphasis was purely to get the report noticed. Admittedly I haven’t read it but I don’t think they were in actual fact suggesting Guantanamo represented the world’s worst human rights abuses happening today. It seems their strategy is to keep Guantanamo in the public consciousness and continue embarrassing the US government. Seems to be working as I’ve heard some US politicians suggest the camp should close (Not that I give AI all the credit. Far from it).

Not sure we’re really disagreeing much here.

Post #6 above.

The point is they could just have used inflammatory, headline grabbing rhetoric about a hundred other places; they don’t. If they were being purely objective, their rhetoric would match closely to the scale of HR abuses: it doesn’t.

You’re making a simple error, assuming what is picked up by the mass media is representative of what they’re reporting. Right now on the headlines are about America, Myanmar, the UK, China, Iran, Libya, Nepal and Guatemala. Selective? :dubious: Just because the American media ignores seven of those is not AI’s fault.

And it seems perfectly logical to me that focusses on American issues - and that deals with Isreal & Palestine and with Turkey.

The reference to “gulag” is not actually from the text of the Amnesty International report.

Amnesty International is very vocal on NK, here is just one report. Page after page of condemnation.

Amnesty Report: North Korea: Starved of Rights

Including harrowing testimony

So someone described facilties where people are tortured and sometimes beaten to death and a system of rendering suspects into the hands of other torturing authorities as a ‘gulag’? Boo effing hoo.

AI and the international community expects a helluva lot better from the the USA and its people and if the hyperbole of a press statement stings, then perhaps citizens should address the abuse not attack the messenger.

I strongly agree with BrainGlutton’s description:

This is, of course, a political stance. Human rights is a politicial issue. It’s impossible to take any kind of meaningful stance against human rights abuse and remain apolitical.

AI is concerned with results. Sometimes (quite often, I suspect), there might be better hope of results by pushing the lesser offenders.

UK is very far from the worst human rights abusing country in the world, but a UK topic is on AI’s front page right now.

On the front page, AI describes violence against women as “the greatest human rights scandal of our times”. This is another example of a clearly political stance. On the main page of the “Stop violence against women” campaign, they are criticising Spain right now. Not Afghanistan, not Saudi Arabia. Spain.

Reasonable people may disagree about AI’s phrasing or emphasis in specific cases. But I have yet to see a remotely convincing argument that gives me reason to suspect their dedication to human rights, their integrity, or their willingness to criticise anyone, anytime, when deserved.

Yeah…but thats not the question the OP asked.

Excellent point and clearly demonstrating ‘bias’…and a clear political agenda.

Another good example.

Yet they used no similarly inflamatory language to describe NK, though by any reasonable standard of measurement there really is no comparison. Again…it shows a political bias and an agenda.

Yes…I expect better of the US as well. The fact they used hyperbole and exaggeration to make an impact, once again shows…wait for it…political bias. Which is what the OP was asking about. Appreciate you guys helping out, guess we can shut this puppy down as answered…no?

IIRC it was in their 2004 Human Rights Report…wasn’t it? Isn’t this an official statement by AI’s Secretary General?

I never denied that AI had reports on these other countries…in fact, I said the same thing several times. I’m saying that how they emphasize what they report, and of course how they release additional tidbits to the press, shows they clearly have a bias and an agenda. Maybe their bias is first world vs third world, where they focus more on first world problems and less on third world, even though by and large third world problems are a lot worse from a human suffering perspective. I’m not sure. But clearly they DO have a bias…otherwise they would have simply put the US’s transgressions at Gitmo in their report without further comment…and they would have prioritized it as lower down on the human suffering scale than many other examples, even in our own region.

Well, that would be a good point, except it was a statement by AI’s Sec General about the whole ‘gulag’ thing…and he didn’t say ‘its the gulag of the America’s’, right? He said ‘gulag of our time’…which sort of crosses regional barriers IMO. Did AI’s Sec General (or anyone else) make a similar press statement calling NK ‘the Nazi Death Camps of our time’ or something similar and I just missed it? No? Then its pretty clear there is a bias there…at least with respect to what the OP actually asked. YMMV.