Human Rights: A Dirty Word

Why do Amnesty International and Liberty give human rights a bad name?


Human rights have become a dirty word for many people. Giving succour to terrorists, criminals and illegal immigrants instead of caring for the rest of us. Who’s fault is that?

Hi. I’m Leon Hawthorne. We’re talking about human rights organisations and what they have done for the perception of that concept in the general populace.

Amnesty International just released its annual report on human rights around the world. For libertarians like me, who believe in political, personal and economic freedom, Amnesty should be a shining beacon on the hill, campaigning for the protection of rights and dignity of people everywhere.

Liberty is another example of a human rights organisation that should win my total support.

Sadly, that is not the case. Both these organisations have adopted a socialist interpretation of human rights that means their definition of these rights and their recommendations for ameliorating abuses is invariably a hyperbolic criticism of western governments.

In reference to the refugee crisis, Amnesty condemns the British government for not giving asylum to Syrian children currently residing in that well-known, war-torn country, France.

The headline to the forward to the annual report says this:

“2016 saw the idea of human dignity and equality, the very notion of a human family, coming under vigorous and relentless assault from powerful narratives of blame, fear and scapegoating…”

A reference to Donald Trump.

Now, Trump can answer for himself. I’m not here to defend him. But is he really the biggest human rights violator of 2016? Is campaigning to build a border wall or to enforce existing immigration laws comparable to… you know… burning people alive on You Tube… or kidnapping and raping hundreds of school girls… or chopping off heads in front of crowds at football stadia?

It’s all about proportion and balance. And these human rights activists seem to reserve a special degree of venom for relatively minor abuses in the west, while the good work they do investigating other regimes is given a low prominence.

Liberty’s former chief, Shami Chakrabati is now a Labour peer. Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt are also high profile almuni of Liberty who have risen through the ranks of the Labour Party.

And therein lies the problem. This link between human rights and socialist politics, which means Liberty and Amnesty have a left wing bias in how they do their work.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Libertarians are also on the political right in think tanks like the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs. But they have retreated into talking mostly about economic liberty, leaving personal and political rights to those on the left.

You see: the left tends to place undue prominence on the state, both in terms of the state being the prime violator of human rights; and state actions being the primary solution to human rights violations.

Yes, the state is important, but it is not singularly important.

If you look at Amnesty’s analysis of the civil war in Syria. It spends more time detailing actions by state actors – Russia, Assad – than it does on the actions of Islamic State. It seems to begrudgingly admit: yeah, well, IS tortured and executed a few people too.

Now, I am not defending the state actors. But I think I would have greater human rights living in Russia or under Assad than I would living under Islamic State.

Surely, terrorist groups like Islamic State are among the biggest violator of human rights in the 21st century.

Why is there no Amnesty campaign calling for an end to radical Islam?

When do we see a Liberty spokesman on TV talking about the abuse of women’s rights or gay rights by conservative Islamic groups, or indeed by other religious groups?

They talk about investigating former British soldiers in Northern Ireland for war crimes. When do they talk about prosecuting former IRA terrorists? Didn’t they commit war crimes?

You see: there’s a left wing bias and too much focus on actions by governments.

Human rights do not belong to the left.

Anmesty and Liberty should be equally staffed and supported by libertarians on the right and left. Instead, this domination by socialists means they jump on every hippie bandwagon, often making themselves sound soft on terrorism; and diminishing belief in human rights among ordinary people.

I’m Leon Hawthorne. Thanks for watching.

Published by videobite2021

Journalist, broadcaster, media executive, academic, author.