Amnesty International Term Paper

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Amnesty International or AI is a worldwide, non-governmental organization, which campaigns for internationally recognized human rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards (Amnesty International 2005). In particular, AI campaigns to free all prisoners of conscience, ensure fair and prompt trials of political prisoners, abolish the death penalty, torture and other cruel treatment of prisons, end political killings and forced disappearances, oppose all kinds of human rights abuses and increase awareness of human rights abuses all over the world (Wikipedia 2005). In the pursuit of its goals, AI sends research teams to investigate claims of human rights abuses, publicizes its findings and mobilizes its members to lobby against the abuses by writing to the government officials concerned, protests, demonstrates, organizes fund-raisers, educates the public about the offense and, often, all of these. Working primarily on the local level, Ai notifies each of its more than 7,000 local groups and more than 1 million members, including 300,000 in the U.S. alone, in 150 countries. These members write protest letters to the concerned government officials. Ai observers a neutrality policy called the "country rule," which forbids members from becoming active in their own nation to protect mistreatment and prevent political disloyalties from affecting coverage

AI members come from all shades of cultural, political and religious beliefs but are united by a common goal of working for the promotion of human rights in the world (Amnesty International 2005). It is a democratic, self-governing movement, whose major policy decisions are made by an International Council, composed of representatives from all national sections. Funds come primarily from these national sections and local volunteers, not from governments. Since its founding, AI has defended more than 44,600 prisoners in hundreds of countries and for which it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 (Wikipedia 2005).

The work of AI relates to the ideas and ideals of Machiavelli on how a prince or ruler should govern his people and maintain his power. Machiavelli writes that a ruler should be feared more than loved, but not hated (1992) and should not worry about the infamy of cruelty in his efforts at keeping his people united and loyal to him. He teaches that showing too much mercy often allows disorders to continue and breed killings, which lead to the suffering of the entire population. He also stresses that the good ruler does not have to be trustworthy: rulers of mighty accomplishments are not always worthy of trust but manipulate his people through guile and often surpass those who are loyal to their subjects. His view of the ideal ruler is one who reacts to the situation in such a way as to gain or keep power, which means he should employ the most self-serving methods to accomplish this end. AI is devoted to the mission of promoting the respect for individual human rights all over world by governments. If Machiavelli were living today and applied his thoughts on the work of AI, he might or might not approve or oppose it entirely. His position will depend on which course of action will best serve his self-interests if he were a ruler. But whatever his choice, it will be guided by the primacy of self-interest, which in his opinion, is "so far removed from how one lives," whereby he must choose the alternative that will avoid his ruin and preserve his ends. His pragmatism will lead him to avoid showing goodness in all things because there are many people and conditions in this world that are not good. He will choose to be or not to be good according to the demands of the situation or the moment and how his preservation or self-interest will be served by his choice.

Machiavelli, if he were transparent and living today, would reject the goal and work of the AI. He is after acquiring and maintaining power in a principality by means of good or guile. He will not be concerned with the infamy of cruelty in keeping his subjects united and loyal to him. But AI precisely campaigns against tyranny and oppression and all forms of cruelty by rulers. It wants all prisoners of conscience set free, the fair and prompt trials for political prisoners, the abolition of the death penalty, cruel treatment of prisoners and all political killings and disappearances, and the end of all human rights abuses. Machiavelli would not approve of AI's work if it would take his power and possessions, which he views as natural and ordinary to those who lust after them. He would justify his motivation and method because he observed that those who can do this are praised and those who cannot, but desire to do it, are not praised but blamed (1992). It is his opinion that not everything that looks virtuous is profitable or not everything that is vicious is unprofitable or inappropriate. Most people are taken by appearances, so he advocates putting up an agreeable appearance and keeping his faithful subjects satisfied by being generous to them and not to everyone. The ruler must not disturb his faithful subjects' possessions and keep them fat and pampered in order to preserve their loyalty. On the other hand, the ideal ruler may, in fact, respect human rights as a means to manipulating his subjects or people indirectly to preserve his status. In this case, Machiavelli's ideals may not outwardly clash against the work of AI (1992).

AI's work has, however, been criticized because of selection bias, ideological bias and manipulation by some sectors (Wikipedia 2005). There seem more AI reports on human rights abuses on democratic and more open countries, such as Israel, than in countries like North Korea and Cambodia. AI says that this seeming selection bias only derives from statistics reflected in its reports from countries where the information is more obtainable and where the governments are more open to public pressure. There has also been a reported tendency to over-report, which is called "Moynihan's Law," coined after former UN Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan who complained that the incidence of human rights violations is inversely proportional to the actual ones.

AI has also been.criticized by both the right and the left wings (Wikipedia 2005). The left has argued that the very notion of human rights is derived from individualism, capitalism, colonialism and classical liberalism, which it opposes and then charges that human rights are, in fact, not universal. Conservative critics, on the other hand, have charged AI for leaning towards the left in opposing U.S. foreign policy, as in the cse of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, where there is over-concern on the part of the AI towards human rights violations in Iraq than during the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Other critics have cried against AI's propagating dis-information in a press release before the 1991 Gulf War, wherein it accused Iraqi soldiers of killing scores of civilians, including newborns (Wikipedia 2005). They charged that this press release turned out to be a mere propaganda hoax only used as the introduction to U.S. President Bush's interview with AI director Francis Boyle. The normal double-checking and consultation was cut short to rush for the issue of the press release. AI and its supporters, however, said that such mistakes are rare and propaganda claims are common during war. AI was only an unfortunate and circumstantial conduit for these claims.

Machiavelli would have been disturbed by criticisms of selection bias and by the tendency to over-report human rights violations in certain closed governments. He teaches that the ideal ruler should not be affected by the infamy of cruelty, since the show of overflowing generosity to all in all things would not be profitable to a ruler's preservation of status and the pursuit of his motives or goals. This ruler would want to preserve an appearance or reputation of agreeableness so that he could win or maintain loyal subjects.

Neither would he favor a left-leaning or right-leaning report on human rights abuses, which will affect the image of his principality and his own in the global community. He would not offend either left or right wing, which he would tend to manipulate to subjection or favor. The ideal ruler would not favor extreme ideologies but only the accomplishment of his selfish goals and preservation of power.

That AI sometimes allows itself to be manipulated by some sectors or governments may interest Machiavelli in that he would want to manipulate the AI, too, because manipulation is consistent with his political principles. But, at the same time, he would guard against being on the losing end of the manipulation of AI's reporting.

The reader should recognize the intrinsic disagreement between the mission and objectives of AI and Machiavellian principles. AI is non-government, does not follow or pursue any ideology or culture but is completely devoted to the promotion of human rights all over the world according to the International Declaration of Human Rights and other standards agreed on by nations'…

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