The annual meeting which will now take place in Malmö, will determine if the Swedish Section of Amnesty International should ultimately be a full grass-roots democratic movement, or if it shall continue being a Human Rights organization where only the Board of Directors decides what those human rights are about and concerning whom.
This contribution in The Professors’ Blog by Dr. Leif Elinder, a known Swedish human-rights advocate, gives further background on the rejection by the Board of Directors of Amnesty Sweden of a variety of proposals from the grass-roots. These proposals were presented on behalf of the following human-right issues:1) Guantanamo prisoners, 2) Julian Assange, risk of extradition to the US, 3) Asylum for Edward Snowden.
/ Prof. Ferrada de Noli
A democratic Amnesty should support whistleblowers
By Dr. Leif Elinder, Amnesty member
On 10-11 the Swedish section of Amnesty International (for brevity, hereafter called Amnesty Sweden) holds its annual meeting in the city of Malmö. The annual meeting is the highest decision-making body, where Amnesty-International delegates decide by majority vote which proposals will be approved. Therefore this is an important meeting, which profiles Amnesty International’s policy in its continue fight for human rights.
Ahead of this year’s meeting four proposals have been presented; these proposals have in common that the Board has recommended rejection. Three of these proposals concern the Guantanamo detaining centre and the whistleblowers issue. Let’s start with these.
At the annual meeting in 2012 it was passed a proposal that Amnesty should work towards the goal that Sweden shall offer safe haven for all the Guantanamo prisoners who cannot be tried in a civilian court. Noteworthy, the Board of Amnesty Sweden rejected the proposal on the reasoning that “the Swedish Government believes that the Guantanamo detainees are the problem of the US”. Despite this opposition from the Board, the delegates to the annual meeting adopted the proposal anyway.
However, in the executive plan worked out afterwards by the Board, they changed what it was agreed by the majority of delegates at the 2012 annual meeting. Concretely, the board changed the formulation “offer safe haven for all the Guantánamo prisoners “, for the formulation “at least one prisoner … over the next two years.” In other words, a “generous help offered by Amnesty Sweden which in fact it would take three hundred years to implement!
The situation of Julian Assange in what Amnesty Sweden is concern, is not much brighter that the Guantanamo issue above.
In the Julian Assange case, the proposals presented at the Annual meeting meant that Amnesty Sweden should work for that the Swedish Government issues guarantees on that he will not be extradited to the US.
The reasons put forward was that Assange must be regarded as a political prisoner, and that Sweden, which is also bound by the European Convention, prohibits deportation to countries which apply the inhumane punishments.
The proposal was fully consistent with what was highlighted by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International.
Nevertheless, the proposal on behalf of the Assange-guarantees was rejected by the Board of Amnesty Sweden because the legal adviser argued, “It would violate the Swedish Constitution”.
If the reason adduced by the Board’s legal adviser were true, it would be a weighty reason for the proposal would be rejected. But in fact, that’s not true.
The situation of Edward Snowden was highlighted yet in another proposal. Delegates wished that Amnesty Sweden worked for Sweden grant political asylum to Snowden. Snowden has a temporary asylum status in Russia, while the US has practically forced him to remain there. Partly, the US has revoked the validity of his passport, and partly has exercised pressure on other countries for that they would not grant asylum to Snowden.
From the US, former Senator Gordon Humphrey asked the Swedish people through an appeal he published in the Professors’ Blog , that they should support upon the government the initiative that Sweden grants asylum to Snowden.
Humphrey believes that Snowden through his revelations risked his own freedom but, above all, he has done the world a great service. Humphrey finishes its appeal to the Government of Sweden: “Sweden is the ideal country for asylum. Your country has an established reputation for upholding the rule of law and human rights. At the same time as you are kindly disposed to the United States, Sweden is principled and independent in its foreign policy “.
Also the Swedish Board rejected this proposal that Amnesty should work for the asylum of Snowden in Sweden.
The Board lost in the vote on Guantanamo bid in the annual meeting of 2012, even thou the Board managed to change the executive lines of the implementation of the resolution passed. Nowadays, probably anticipating further setbacks in the voting of the proposals to be done in the upcoming 2014 annual meeting, the Board has introduced a new voting procedure called “Advocacy-stations”
Advocacy stations provides a number of information centres in the Assembly room, where interested delegates before the vote may ask the questions to get more information. However, the average delegate cannot consult more than half of the stations. This can result that uninformed delegates vote – for safety’s sake – the proposal put forward by the Board of Directors. This makes it difficult for proposals presented by single delegates to win majority support for their cause, no matter how factual and important it is. The loser is not just individual proposals from delegates, but also the democratic process as such.
Yet a fourth proposal wishes to appoint an independent Audit Committee, which will examine the Board’s responsibility with regard to how they handled the 2012 annual meeting decision on the Guantanamo prisoners. This proposal concerns the behaviour of the Board and the “legal adviser”, who submitted inaccurate information upon the plenum of delegates before the critical vote on the Assange guarantees issue.
Not unexpectedly, the Board urged that this last proposal should be dismissed.
At the annual meeting which will now take place in Malmö will be determined if Amnesty should decide if ultimately should be a full grass-roots democratic movement, or if it shall continue being a top-managed organization.
Submitted 2 May 2014. Translation, M. Ferrada de Noli