Mr. Salil Shetty
Secretary General
Amnesty International
London, UK

Dear Mr. Shetty,

Your appointment as Secretary General of Amnesty International follows a major decline in this once prestigious organization’s moral reputation and influence. We therefore strongly urge you to give priority to ending Amnesty’s systemic bias, lack of credibility, and violation of universal principles in many of its activities.

In particular, NGO Monitor notes:

1) The Gita Sahgal incident, in which Amnesty’s leading women’s rights activist was forced to resign after questioning cooperation with an alleged Taliban supporter, Moazzam Begg, and the interim Secretary General Claudio Cordone publically condoned “jihad in self-defense.” Amnesty’s behavior also demonstrated the absence of accountability in the organization’s response to legitimate criticism.

2) Amnesty’s activities related to the Arab-Israel conflict reflect a consistent and intense bias. For example, during and after the Gaza war (December 2008-January 2009), Amnesty issued many unsupported condemnations of Israel’s response to rocket attacks against civilians, including unverifiable and false charges of “war crimes.” Amnesty also led one-sided calls for an arms embargo against Israel, as part of the wider BDS campaign. This focused on Israel ignored illegal arms shipments from Iran and Syria to Hamas, reflecting the disproportionate attention given to Israel by Amnesty.

3) Amnesty has been central in promoting the distortion of international law and false claims made against Israel in the Goldstone report, including intense lobbying the UN and the EU. Similarly, Amnesty called for discriminatory sanctions against Israel in the form of suspending the EU-Israel Association Agreement, and also for politicized “lawfare” cases against Israeli officials in the International Criminal Court.

4) In another reflection of an organizational culture of discrimination, the executive director of Amnesty-Finland, Frank Johansson, referred to Israel in a highly offensive manner, translated as “a scum state”. Similarly, Ben White, author of a publication with the grossly immoral title of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, has been the featured speaker at a number of Amnesty-UK events targeting Israel. Such hate speech is further evidence of an Amnesty agenda which is entirely inconsistent with the claim to support ethical principles and universal human rights.

5) With the exception of Israel and Iran, and to a lesser extent Iraq, Amnesty International does not report on Middle Eastern countries (see NGO Monitor’s review of Amnesty in 2009). This biased agenda ignores systemic human rights violations by the regimes in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Gaza, and many other countries, and violates the core principle of universality in human rights.

6) While Amnesty has conducted an obsessive (and inaccurate and misleading) campaign on the issue of water in the Arab-Israeli conflict, there has not been a sustained campaign on behalf of the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held in Gaza without Red Cross access for more than four years.

NGO Monitor looks forward to your response to these concerns, and to continued dialogue with Amnesty International on these important issues.

Gerald Steinberg
NGO Monitor

NGO Monitor ( is a project of the Amuta for NGO Responsibility. Based in Jerusalem, it was founded to promote critical debate and accountability regarding the political activities of non-governmental organizations that are active in the Arab-Israel conflict zone. NGO Monitor’s reports are quoted frequently in the press, academic publications, by NGO officials and donors, and in governmental and parliamentary discussions.