Human Rights and Amnesty

Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al (AI) is a world­wide move­ment of peo­ple who cam­paign for inter­na­tion­al­ly rec­og­nized human rights. It is one of the fore­most insti­tu­tions, rec­og­nized world­wide, towards the fight for indi­vid­ual human rights.

Why is it called “Amnesty”? The def­i­n­i­tion of “Amnesty” is: “A gen­er­al par­don grant­ed by a gov­ern­ment, espe­cial­ly for polit­i­cal offens­es”, or as a verb, “To grant a gen­er­al par­don to.”

Think about it. Why should human rights orig­i­nate from a par­don? Isn’t a right, a right? Does it have to be par­doned and then grant­ed?

No. Human indi­vid­ual rights are invi­o­lable, they can­not be ‘grant­ed’ or ‘par­doned’. Then why is the world’s fore­most human rights activist orga­ni­za­tion called “Amnesty”?

The answer, as often is the case, is eco­nom­i­cal, my friends. Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al is fund­ed by the Vat­i­can. Remem­ber Orig­i­nal Sin? Accord­ing to the Chris­t­ian doc­trine, human rights can orig­i­nate only if God ‘par­dons’ man, hence the word “Amnesty”.

Isn’t this a log­i­cal para­dox? Yes, it is. So what does Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al think about abor­tion?

So far, it has been “neu­tral” on the top­ic. Now, some­one inside Amnesty has had a ratio­nal light bulb moment, and they’ve decid­ed that Amnesty will sup­port abor­tion in cas­es of rape or incest. The Vat­i­can is up in arms, as expect­ed.

Human Rights and Catholi­cism? You must be jok­ing! But, we aren’t. This is the truth. Sigh.

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  • won­der­ful, won­der­ful post!
    I nev­er cared to go deep into the word amnesty, and it is good that i hap­pened to pon­der over to your blog.

    I com­plete­ly agree with you on this post. Human rights should be com­plete­ly invi­o­lable. Though some­time back as a Chris­t­ian, even I was anti-abor­tions. But now as a pan­the­ist, I hold very dif­fer­ent view­points.

  • Narziss: Thanks for vis­it­ing and the com­pli­ment! I think if you spend enough time on my blog, I’ll turn you to an athe­ist! 🙂

  • I’m going to make explic­it of what I thought you hint­ed.
    Human rights are supreme, uni­ver­sal, above any­thing else. An orga­ni­za­tion that takes dik­tats from anoth­er orga­ni­za­tion that believes only God is supreme, can­not be expect­ed to be the uphold­er of human rights.

  • I’ll quote Ram­bod­ic: you said it baby!

  • As in many, even most, instances in the real world, it is all about the mon­ey. If a doc­tor takes con­sult­ing fees from a device or drug com­pa­ny and writes on their own prod­uct, he will stretch creduli­ty if he says good things about it and main­tain that he was being objec­tive and true to his work (review of the device/drug). Sim­i­lar­ly, if Amnesty is in bed with X, you can def­i­nite­ly take it as a fait accom­pli that they will be less than objec­tive, and even crooked, about things that involve reli­gious ‘rights’.
    Good one, Mahen­dra!
    ASIDE: I have (as MMP said about me in Self Cen­ter) a slight con­cern for you: your Freudi­an slip is sort of becom­ing your default mode. So far, the world has called me Ram­bodoc. You are call­ing me Ram­bodic?!

  • Fait accom­pli: They can’t accom­plish much in human rights if they believe in fate!

    No no, this was not that sort of a slip. This was inspi­ra­tion from Pre­rna! 🙂

  • Nev­er make such affir­ma­tive state­ments, my friend. And nev­er under­es­ti­mate the expe­ri­ences of oth­ers.

    I have spent the last 5 years of my life research­ing and adapt­ing all kinds of dif­fer­ent philoso­phies, under­stand­ing the great depths of them. I was born a Hin­du, I became a pas­sion­ate Athe­ist, then an Agnos­tic; after which I was a pas­sion­ate Chris­t­ian. And now I am a Pan­the­ist.

    FYI, Pan­the­ism is NOT a reli­gion. It is a philo­soph­i­cal and log­i­cal belief sys­tem. And the “god” of pan­the­ism is not define in any­way close to the “god” of any oth­er reli­gion!

  • Narziss: I didn’t mean to under­es­ti­mate or offend you or you to take me seri­ous­ly. I was just jok­ing. You have the full free­dom and right to believe and choose your own phi­los­o­phy as you deem fit.

  • Very inter­est­ing post. Just thought I should clar­i­fy a cou­ple points, though. My under­stand­ing is that Amnesty is not, in fact, affil­i­at­ed with the Catholic Church or the Vait­can. It was found­ed by a lay Catholic, and the rea­son the name Amnesty was cho­sen is that the orig­i­nal focus of the orga­ni­za­tion was on free­ing polit­i­cal pris­on­ers (obtain­ing amnesty for them). Still, in a broad­er con­text of human rights and reli­gion, and non­prof­it fund­ing, I do think you bring up some impor­tant points. Please let me know if you’d like links with the Amnesty info–I’m not sure if your com­ment app will cut them out or not.

  • Sneak­sleep: thank you very much for shed­ding more light on the issue. Yes, I con­cede that the Vat­i­can does not offi­cial­ly fund AI. But the Catholic Church has been a “long time ally” and strong sup­port­er of AI, and many of AI’s mem­bers are Catholic.

    Regard­ing roots of the name “Amnesty”, you’re prob­a­bly right. But when the orga­ni­za­tion decid­ed on focus­ing on human rights in gen­er­al, and not just polit­i­cal pris­on­ers, it should have cho­sen a bet­ter, more rep­re­sen­ta­tive title. Did the Catholic upbring­ing of many of its mem­bers play a role? I’m not sure.

    Any­how I’m glad they’re sup­port­ing abor­tion at least in cas­es of crimes against women!

    Once again, thanks for vis­it­ing and shar­ing.

    PS: feel free to include links in the com­ments. Just that if there are 2 or more links, the com­ment will come to me for mod­er­a­tion.

  • Hi again (and thanks for stop­ping by my blog). Here’s a link to the most rel­e­vant part of the FAQ on Amnesty’s site: http://web.amnesty.org/pages/aboutai-faq-eng#6

    I agree that there have been many Catholic mem­bers of Amnesty over the years, and that has undoubt­ed­ly had some influ­ence on some of the organization’s deci­sions (giv­en the demo­c­ra­t­ic process they use to set priorities)–though that influ­ence clear­ly wasn’t enough to stop the new pol­i­cy on abor­tion from going into effect. As for the name, I sup­pose it could have been Catholic influ­ence that led to keep­ing it even after the human rights goals were expand­ed, but the prag­ma­tist in me thinks it had much more to to with brand­ing.

  • mahen­dra — do you think as a whole Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al has a “catholic view” because of this? Are they doing a lot of good, or do you think even in that there is always a pos­si­bil­i­ty of an ulte­ri­or motive and so real­ly we can’t give them any cred­it until this con­nec­tion is removed?

    On the oth­er hand, if not, are we split­ting hairs and per­haps being too ide­al­is­tic? If one must eval­u­ate every orga­ni­za­tion AND every indi­vid­ual by all their col­lec­tive actions and inten­tions — then we will find no one is per­fect. Many of us speak “talk the talk”, we rarely walk it.

    I guess I am sort of ambiva­lent here. I am will­ing in gen­er­al to give orga­ni­za­tions cred­it usu­al­ly if they tru­ly did help things become bet­ter in sit­u­a­tions (even in caus­es fund­ed by reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions). But they do only if they are also allowed to do reli­gious ser­mons and con­ver­sions to the peo­ple they are help­ing — that would cross the line and no longer fall into advance­ment of pure human rights. But then are they real­ly that dif­fer­ent from gov­ern­ment aid 🙂 ?

  • Sneak­sleep: Regard­ing the name, we can only the­o­rize. I would love if your prama­tist con­jec­ture is true, but what makes me a pes­simist in this regard is the over­all con­ser­v­a­tivist move­ment grip­ping the west­ern world.

    Arun: When I wrote the post, I was under the impres­sion that the Vat­i­can is offi­cial­ly fund­ing AI. Sneak­sleep cor­rect­ed my per­cep­tions. The hair-split­ting was nev­er about whether in gen­er­al AI is doing a lot of good or not.

    In my post, I also want­ed to make the dis­tinc­tion that Priyank made explic­it, that human rights are invi­o­lable, and can­not be grant­ed. I will still stand by that hair-split­ting! 🙂

    I think I’m whole­heart­ed­ly with your stance regard­ing giv­ing cred­it to orga­ni­za­tions. It is dif­fi­cult for any group of peo­ple to come togeth­er and do some real good, and as long as they don’t impinge on oth­er human rights, they must be applaud­ed!

  • I com­plete­ly agree with Priyank and you, Mahen­dra, that human rights are intrin­sic to humans and they do not need to be grant­ed to us by any orga­ni­za­tion, gov­ern­ment, or deity. They are our birthright. Gov­ern­ments etc. that do not rec­og­nize our rights, or that vio­late them, are act­ing crim­i­nal­ly.

  • man­hen­dra: I cer­tain­ly agree that human rights are intrin­sic and is not some­thing that is grant­ed.

    Not as a counter to any­thing that has been said: I won­der if there is uni­ver­sal agree­ment to the def­i­n­i­tion “human rights” — like men­tioned in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights? And when I mean uni­ver­sal, I do not mean “gen­er­al con­sen­sus” — I mean uni­ver­sal as in intrin­sic, invi­o­lable etc. etc. It says “the basic rights and free­doms to which all humans are enti­tled, often held to include the right to life and lib­er­ty, free­dom of thought and expres­sion, and equal­i­ty before the law.” If so, doesn’t it have non-absolute (i.e. uncer­tain and dynam­ic — not find­ing the right word here) terms? For exam­ple — “Free­dom of thought”, “Free­dom of expres­sion” and “Law”.

    I mean most of us feel that human rights are intrin­sic as a uni­ver­sal­ly applic­a­ble thing — but do all of us share the same idea of human rights? If not, what does that mean? Con­sid­er a sim­ple thing: The law says I can­not enter your free, demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­try with­out a visa and pass­port, and can­not stay beyond a cer­tain time. Now how exact­ly is it uphold­ing my basic, intrin­sic right as a human?

  • Arun: thanks for rais­ing these ques­tions. The term “human rights” does not have “uni­ver­sal agree­ment” or “gen­er­al con­sen­sus” not because the con­cept has “non-absolute” terms, but because the con­cept does not have a uni­ver­sal def­i­n­i­tion, based upon a ratio­nal epis­te­mol­o­gy, to which all mankind agrees.

    The ratio­nal def­i­n­i­tion of human rights does indeed have absolute terms, includ­ing free­dom of thought and expres­sion.

    Human rights are indeed intrin­sic and are uni­ver­sal­ly applic­a­ble, but not all humans share the same def­i­n­i­tion of it. So, the ques­tion, what does it mean, has to have a con­text. If it is a ratio­nal philo­soph­i­cal con­text, there are clear answers. If it is based on the cur­rent human con­text, the answer depends upon who are you talk­ing about?

    Regard­ing the spe­cif­ic exam­ple you cite regard­ing not being able to enter a free, demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­try with­out a visa, which intrin­sic human right are you refer­ring to? You can­not enter your neighbor’s house with­out his per­mis­sion. Just like you pro­tect your home from out­siders, a demo­c­ra­t­ic country’s peo­ple pro­tect its coun­try from out­siders, with a cer­tain for­eign pol­i­cy regard­ing who should enter, and how, and for what. As a human, you do not have the right to enter and gain the ben­e­fits of liv­ing in a for­eign land, just by the fact of being human.

    I apol­o­gize if I’m not get­ting your point.

  • mahen­dra — My point is if it has non-absolute, and dynam­ic aspects in its def­i­n­i­tion, then how can it be intrin­sic, invi­o­lable and nev­er some­thing “that is grant­ed”. I would think then it must be above cre­ations of indi­vid­ual humans or soc­i­ties e.g. coun­tries, par­tic­u­lar­ly stuff which can change across gen­er­a­tions. For exam­ple, when you are born to this world — did you agree to all the bor­ders of all the coun­ties in the world? Why cant I set­tle in some remote cor­ner in Mon­tana where no one else is liv­ing? Con­verse­ly aren’t you *grant­ed* cit­i­zen­ship and thus the rights that go along?

    So my point (if any!) is that many aspects of human rights are indeed grant­ed.

    Btw, don’t wor­ry if you didn’t get my point, I am not sure I got it myself ;). I was just “Think­ing out aloud” — I was not mak­ing an argu­ment on some­thing I was sure of. So it prob­a­bly has enough holes.

  • Arun: I made a mis­take in my com­ment above that I’ve cor­rect­ed. I should’ve said “The ratio­nal def­i­n­i­tion of human rights does indeed have absolute terms”. Apolo­gies for that. I main­tain that human rights are intrin­sic, invi­o­lable, and not ‘grant­ed’.

    Com­ing back to the point of “cit­i­zen­ship” and bor­der of coun­tries, etc.: in the ratio­nal def­i­n­i­tion of human rights, just by being born in one place, one doesn’t get any “right to prop­er­ty”, or any right to access or enter any­one else’s prop­er­ty. Cit­i­zen­ship is not a human right. In fact, far in the future, there may be a coun­try that grants “pro­ba­tion­ary cit­i­zen­ship” to every­one born there. Only when the pro­ba­tion­ary cit­i­zen reach­es adult­hood (at what­ev­er age may be spec­i­fied as adult­hood then, it’s cur­rent­ly 18 in most coun­tries), he will go through an eval­u­a­tion process, much like the ‘green card’ pro­cess­ing of the US. If the indi­vid­ual pass­es, he will be grant­ed cit­i­zen­ship. If he shows Left­ist ten­den­cies, he will be expelled from the coun­try! 🙂

    I don’t think there is any vio­la­tion of human rights in the above sce­nario.

    Regard­ing liv­ing in a remote area of Mon­tana where no one else is liv­ing: that land belongs to the US Gov­ern­ment. Human rights do not give you the right to squat over another’s prop­er­ty.

    But if I get your gen­er­al drift, that many aspects of rights are grant­ed, yes. There are many rights grant­ed to cit­i­zens, and they dif­fer from coun­try to coun­try, depend­ing upon its con­sti­tu­tion­al and legal frame­work. But these rights (that are in addi­tion to, and over and above, human rights), are not what we refer to as “human rights”. I think this is where your doubts are com­ing from. Such rights are indeed “grant­ed”.

    It is anoth­er mat­ter alto­geth­er, that there are many coun­tries whose laws under­cut human rights!

  • Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al is fun. They’re every­where and they’re doing every­thing. Just like Green­peace and oth­er “found­ed by humans for humans” organ­i­sa­tions.

    Human rights should be con­trolled in some cas­es. There should be no par­dons for those who have killed, raped or who have done some­thing real­ly bad with­out any or very stu­pid rea­son. This, of course, doesn’t include Vendet­ta.

    And Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al should be can­celled.