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NGO-Monitor, a Jerusalem-based NGO that monitors the activities of global activist organizations, has found much at fault with Amnesty. For example, while Amnesty claims it does not take donations from governments or political parties, NGO-Monitor noted, in 2008, the campaigners received a four-year grant from the British government’s Department for International Development (DFID in excess £3 million, including more than £840,000 in 2011 alone.
Amnesty has also received funds from the European Commission, as well as from the government of Netherlands, the U.S., and Norway. In 2009, NGO-Monitor cites, Amnesty received €2.5 million (approximately 1 percent of its donations) from government entities. The British government was the third largest donor (at €800,000). Amnesty also received government funding in 2008 (€1million), 2007 (€1 million), and 2006 (€2 million). (Also, under British laws, as a charity, Amnesty is exempt from paying any taxes).
Naftali Balanson, the managing editor of NGO-Monitor told IB Times that Amnesty’s promotional materials obfuscate this issue, as its guidebook categorically states that Amnesty “neither asks for nor accepts direct donations from governments.” Similarly, on its website, Amnesty International claims: ”We neither seek nor accept any funds for human rights research from governments or political parties.”
“This misleading appearance of independence is an integral part of Amnesty’s international credibility,” Balanson said. NGO-Monitor also takes issue with Salil Shetty’s salary. Conceding that Shetty’s annual take-home pay of $300,000 is not outrageous for NGO chiefs – indeed Kenneth Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch, rakes in $400,000 per year, for instance.
But Balanson notes that “this salary [still] places them among the top earners globally and certainly calls into question why someone who prioritizes economic, social, and cultural rights earns magnitudes more than the people on whose behalf Amnesty claims to represent.”
Balanson further stated that the “highly irregular” payouts to Khan and Gilmore caused ‘”great damage” to the organization. Indeed, an independent and confidential report by Dame Anne Owers (formerly Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons) criticized both the settlements reached with Khan and Gilmore and Amnesty International’s management.
“Owers found that the sums paid were, in both cases, higher than what had been reported by Amnesty, and Amnesty paid Kahn’s legal fees,” Balanson said. She called the payouts “seriously excessive” and “wholly inappropriate,” citing that only about one-half of the payments reflected contractual obligations.
Moreover, as a group dedicated to fair practices and corporate responsibility, it is imperative for organizations like Amnesty to exhibit complete transparency. “Certainly, as Amnesty’s budget rivals that of many large corporations [Amnesty’s 2011 Report and Financial Statement they note that its “incoming resources” totaled more than £51 million], it should practice full transparency regarding its finances,” Balanson added.
Balanson pointed to yet another embarrassment for Amnesty. In early 2010, a staff-member named Gita Sahgal was suspended after she condemned Amnesty for its links to and defense of Moazzam Begg, a prominent supporter of the Taliban in Britain.
“As a former Guantanamo detainee, it was legitimate to hear his experiences, but as a supporter of the Taliban it was absolutely wrong to legitimize him as a partner,” Sahgal told British media. “The importance of the human rights movement maintaining an objective distance from groups and ideas that are committed to systematic discrimination and fundamentally undermine the universality of human rights.”
Thus, Balanson noted, a strike by Amnesty employees was simply another chapter in this ongoing saga, “When an organization that claims to focus on economic and social rights is seen to be violating these rights regarding its own workers, it will not be taken seriously for long by a skeptical public,” he said.