This year, on International Human Rights Day (December 10), the failures of this moral framework and the gaps between the rhetoric and the reality are even more painful than in the past.
Amnesty International, which is often considered to be the primary embodiment of human rights principles in the world, provides a distressing case study. On many counts, this powerful organization, with chapters throughout the world, including Israel, high media visibility, and a budget measured in hundreds of millions of dollars, is broken and discredited.
A few years ago, Gita Sahgal, who was in charge of Amnesty’s gender unit, was pushed out after she objected to the organization’s alliance with Islamists. Sahgal told journalists about the “atmosphere of terror” inside Amnesty which suppressed debate and cowed staffers “into accepting the prevailing line.”
In addition, Amnesty’s lack of credibility in accusations and allegations of human rights violations and war crimes is increasingly visible. In 2015, the organization associated itself with a flashy project known as “forensic architecture” based on pseudo-scientific methodologies…However, the Gaza Platform provides no real evidence, relying exclusively on publications by Palestinian NGOs which themselves have no credibility, no independent verification capabilities, and often contradictory allegations. Information that is essential for the establishment of war crimes allegations – such as the location of enemy forces and military targets, nature of combat, and intelligence available to commanders at the time of the fighting – is entirely absent. And the “Gaza Platform” based on “forensic architecture” fails to mention more than 4,000 rocket attacks from Gaza. (This exercise in propaganda was funded by a European Research Council grant.)
For all of these reasons, one would expect that this organization’s credibility among political leaders, diplomats, and journalists, would be low and dropping further. But the “halo effect” that has protected this and other groups claiming to promote human rights, and the officials continue to be welcomed into parliaments and foreign offices as if they had something useful to contribute. Amnesty’s moral and financial corruption are ignored, as are the failures and lack of credibility.
All of this contributes to the dismal state of human rights. As a result, instead of celebrating the successes of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, enacted on December 10 1948 in the shadow of the Holocaust, this day is a reminder of dismal failure.