Is there any controversy surrounding Amnesty International's position on certain issues?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is definitely controversy surrounding Amnesty International’s stands on various issues.  Amnesty is a well-known human rights organization that attracts a great deal of press coverage.  Therefore, when it criticizes a government for its actions or policies, the government and its supporters can become very unhappy.  In addition, there are cases where it is not clear that a certain action by a government constitutes an unreasonable violation of human rights.  In such cases, Amnesty makes judgment calls based on its own attitudes and beliefs.  People who do not share those beliefs can disagree with Amnesty’s positions.  Most of the controversies over Amnesty’s positions are of these two sorts.

As one example of such a controversy, Amnesty is committed to ending capital punishment.  Amnesty does not believe that there are any circumstances in which the death penalty is appropriate.  This is, of course, a very controversial stance.  Here in the United States, for example, there are many people who think that the death penalty is a good thing to have either to deter crime or to mete out justice to people who commit horrific crimes.  Therefore, they take offense to Amnesty’s argument that the death penalty is a violation of human rights.

Amnesty also criticizes a variety of other US government actions that many people think are reasonable.  For example, Amnesty is very strongly against the use of drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists in places like Pakistan.  It is also opposed to the fact that the US has prisoners at Guantanamo Bay who are being held without trials.  It strongly opposed tactics against those prisoners that it said were torture.  All of these are policies with which many in the US agree.

As another example, Amnesty tends to take anti-Israel stands fairly regularly.  It criticizes Israel much more than it criticizes other governments, like that of Syria, which could be considered much worse.  This is partly because Amnesty focuses more on democratic countries where they hope that they can bring about change by changing public opinion.  However, by criticizing Israel so much, Amnesty incurs the anger of supporters of that country.

In these instances, among others, Amnesty International takes stands that are rather controversial.  

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