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Amnesty International Is Keeping Dubious Company

British human rights campaigner Moazzam Begg
British human rights campaigner Moazzam Begg
How many human rights groups do you know that fantasize over the murder of the president of the United States?

Anyone thinking that no organization would be so egregious clearly did not reckon on Cageprisoners, the group run by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg.

Cageprisoners claims to "exist solely to raise awareness of the plight of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other detainees held as part of the War on Terror."

In a morally degraded attempt to portray some equivalence between President Barack Obama, a democratically elected leader, and Osama bin Laden, the most notorious mass murderer of the 21st century, Cageprisoners posted a faux-news story set in the future titled "Barack Obama is Dead."

The story consisted of a picture of "American War Criminal" Obama's corpse -- mocked up in the way that the hoax pictures of bin Laden's corpse were immediately after his death.

It outlined how Obama was killed by the Pakistani security forces after a 40-minute operation, how he was cremated after a Christian funeral on board an aircraft carrier and how Michelle Obama had been used as a human shield. You get the idea.

Cageprisoners says it was trying "to highlight the immorality of extrajudicial killings to those who justify and celebrate the assassination of Osama bin Laden."

It approvingly quotes Noam Chomsky, who recently garbled something about how President George W. Bush's crimes "vastly exceed bin Laden," and reassures us that it is "not promoting the killing of Obama."

Moral And Intellectual Breakdown

Once a human rights group has to clarify that it is not technically calling for the assassination of the U.S. president, you'd hope that any organization connected to it would be looking to cut their ties pretty fast.
Moazzam Begg with protesters outside the U.S. Embassy in London on the fifth anniversary of the first transfers to Guantanamo Bay (January 2007).

However, this would be to underestimate the moral and intellectual breakdown of the human rights industry in the United Kingdom.

Cageprisoners remains funded to the tune of 120,000 pounds (about $195,000) by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, run by the pacifist Quakers.

The head of the human rights pressure group Liberty has previously said that Begg is a "wonderful advocate for human rights, and in particular, for human liberty."

Cageprisoners also regularly works with Amnesty International, which describes Begg's outfit as a "leading human rights group."

Begg himself has consistently been given a platform by Amnesty --- and in 2006 even delivered their annual lecture. Earlier this year, the groups made a joint submission to the British government's Detainee Inquiry.

Trained By Al-Qaeda

Before his transformation into a human rights warrior, Begg did not enjoy quite such a glittering career. In fact, he was believed to be a warrior of quite another kind --­ one for the Taliban.

He was accused of fighting with them against the United States in the wake of 9/11, ending up in Tora Bora --­ a remote, mountainous region that served as a stronghold for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and where bin Laden was believed to be based. Begg said he was only there because he was "completely lost."

Designated an enemy combatant at Guantanamo, he signed a confession in which he admits to attending three separate Al-Qaeda terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, where he learned to fire AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades, and use explosive devices; that he "was armed and prepared to fight alongside the Taliban and Al-Qaeda against the U.S."; and that he "recruited members for terrorist camps, knowing that certain trainees could become Al-Qaeda operatives and commit acts of terrorism against the United States."

When Gita Saghal, the former head of Amnesty's Gender Affairs Unit, queried the organization's involvement with Begg, she was fired.
In his memoirs, Begg maintains that in this confession "there still wasn't a crime, certainly not one that I could see." Prior to his time in Guantanamo, Begg studied law at a British university. It doesn't say much about British legal training if its students cannot see how there might be potential legal issues in fighting for a murderous global terrorist organization.

Begg now says that this confession was forced, vehemently denied by the U.S. Department of Justice, which "concluded that the evidence did not support the allegation that [FBI agents] coerced Begg into signing the statement."

Amnesty 'Should Disown' Begg

Yet even what Begg still freely admits should be enough to make any human rights group not want to touch him with a bargepole. He cheerily admits to fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina and attending training camps in Afghanistan in the 1990s, where he says he was "responsible for training Kashmiri refugees in small arms and mountain tactics."

He also admits to sending money to the Jalalabad and Khalden training camps ­-- regarded by everyone other than Begg as elite paramilitary Al-Qaeda training camps.

Yet when Gita Saghal, former head of the Gender Affairs Unit at Amnesty, raised concerns over the organization's alliance with Begg (whom she described as "Britain's most famous supporter of the Taliban"), she was fired.

Amnesty now says that while the Cageprisoners mock-up of Obama was "certainly not" something they would have done and that they had not worked with the group recently, they have "not disowned" Begg.

They should. Begg is, at best, a veteran of the Bosnian jihad who has trained in Afghanistan and donated money to Al-Qaeda training camps.

At worst, he is a former Al-Qaeda operative who fought in a war against the United States after 9/11.

His former detention at Guantanamo does not now make him a champion of liberty. If his organization's writing snuff pieces about President Obama being assassinated does not wake up human rights groups to this, it is hard to know what will.

Robin Simcox is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL