Amnesty 'biases' are essential in helping to protect human rights

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2007, 12:00am

In response to Gregory Pek's letter, 'Biased Amnesty does itself no favours' (May 13), these so-called 'biases' are simply activism that is essential for Amnesty to maintain its influence in protecting human rights around the world.

He uses examples from the 2006 Amnesty International Report. In one, he says it is confusing that Amnesty should be concerned about a Christian group which is notoriously anti-gay having too much influence on the education of teachers. He does not explain the real problem, however.

Amnesty's 2006 report states that 'Hong Kong authorities commission[ed] the Society for Truth and Light, a conservative Christian group which opposes gay rights and 'excessive use' of human rights, to educate school teachers on human rights and anti-discrimination'.

How could Hong Kong's authorities attempt to commission a blatantly biased religious group - one which is against fundamental human rights - to educate teachers on the subject? Without human rights activists, teachers could end up having negative perceptions of homosexuality, which would be especially dangerous when directed at Hong Kong's youngsters.

Also, his question on why governments are always blamed for human rights issues has a clear answer - governments are the only institutions and authorities that are solely responsible for their people. Yes, human rights abuses by religious fundamentalists in Iraq, for instance, do occur. However, it is often the responsibility of governments to hold these extremist groups accountable for their actions, and punish them accordingly. How would governments be held accountable for their actions without groups such as Amnesty International?

His citing of the World Trade Organisation demonstrations in Hong Kong provides an excellent example. Yes, he is correct that South Korean farmers who protested were not completely innocent - they used sticks and homemade signs to attack the police. However, such force should only be used in extreme situations where public safety is at risk.

Michael Paskewitz, Wan Chai