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Meeting with Amnesty International

June 29, 2012

As the people smuggling debate continued in Parliament yesterday I met with some Australians working with Amnesty International at the forefront of non-government advocacy on human rights.

Amnesty is a household name and its work over past years has been invaluable in influencing the international community’s response to human rights abuses.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of discussing with Claire Mallinson, Amnesty’s National Director in Australia, what more Australia can do to stem the flow of illegal and unregulated arms.

Next week I will be at a conference in New York to negotiate the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) together with a number of Foreign Ministers and representatives from countries around the world.

According to its organisers, this treaty “is seen as the most important initiative ever regarding conventional arms regulation within the United Nations”.

Significantly, its terms will be legally binding on the international community.

Australia, I am proud to say, has played a prominent role in international efforts to ensure this Treaty is robust and effective.

We believe the treaty should cover a broad range of weapons, including small arms and light weapons and ammunition. It should regulate the key stages of an international arms trade and set high standards for assessing whether or not arms transfers should be authorised.
I will write more on this initiative soon, but in the meantime I’d like to thank Amnesty International and its supporters more broadly for their unending commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.

  1. June 29, 2012 11:25 am

    Dear Senator Carr,

    As you write above, Amnesty is a household name; it has a great deal of power and influence. However, it is not without its serious critics, and perhaps never more so now when it has taken a partisan stand on Syria since the beginning of the crisis there.

    I have met with Amnesty officials in Australia and had quite a lot of phone conversations with the person in charge of the ME desk, Michael Hayworth. I accompanied four Syrian Australians to the Amnesty Melbourne office last December to report on the killings of civilians in Syria by armed men/’rebels’/terrorists. One incident involved the shooting deaths of three young teenage boys on 17 April in Homs. It was a public holiday and they were in a car used as the family car but it had army number plates, hence it is assumed this was the reason they were targeted. All the occupants were killed, including the driver who was the father of two of the boys and the brother-in-law of a good friend of mine. Amnesty apparently won’t report the case because he was an army officer. This apparently makes the boys’ deaths irrelevant and even his killing (he was off-duty at the time). Another story taken to Amnesty was the killing of the young uncle of Samir, a Syrian Australian. His uncle was also killed by militia in April last year. He was a young farmer on his way to a market in Damascus with two other farmers. The three of them were killed. I recorded an interview with Samir, who reported the killing of his uncle to Amnesty. Knowing this story, I believe, helps to illustrate Amnesty’s stand on Syria. The local Amnesty officials were very respectful and welcoming of the reports we took them. However, the London office has chosen not to report them.

    One day books will be written about this shameful period in Amnesty’s history. Let’s hope that people do the research now and realise that ‘sacred cows’ such as Amnesty are made up of flawed individuals who are unwitting cogs in a machine much bigger than themselves. They are so distanced from the suffering of people across the globe that they do not seem to have the imagination to put themselves in the shoes of people who have been victims of a terror forced on their families and their country by outsiders; if they had that imagination, perhaps they would stand up and say “NO”.

    One person who has stood up without knowing a great deal about Syria is Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire. She has released a statement saying “No to War in Syria”.

    It is not necessary to know a lot about Syria to take a principled stand for peace. One simply needs to know the suffering of people in war (remember Guernica), the complexity of the human heart and psyche, the nature and abuses of power, and the insidious power of propaganda.

    I notice in today’s Australian there is an article by Daniel Pipes, “Let them slug it out: Syrian intervention makes no sense”. There is more analysis in Pipes’ article than there is in most presented in the Australian media. However, he shows no regard whatever for the lives of Syrian people; they are expendable as long as ‘we’ in the west or our friends in Israel are safe (for how long, one must ask and at what cost to our souls). He also makes the mistake of assuming in Syria it is a fairly simple matter of Sunni vs Alawi.(Like many western commentators and politicians he avoids any focus on Christians.) The majority of Syrian Sunnis are not Wahhabis or Salafis; they are secular Sunnis who have more in common with their fellow Syrians of whatever religious or ethnic background than they have with the jihadists brought in to destroy their country and kill those who do not join in the mayhem. But this is almost getting off the topic of Amnesty. Except, Amnesty should be telling us all of this and more and condemning the terror, as the Australian government should be.


    Susan Day Dirgham

  2. June 29, 2012 11:28 am

    Looking forward to your statements next week at the UN conference for the Arms Trade Treaty. The world can no longer wait to establish rules defining what is responsible arms trade. Lives are truly in the balance.

  3. metta2uall permalink
    June 30, 2012 6:05 pm

    Great to read that you’re taking such an interest in this – I hope the treaty will be truly effective in reducing the levels of violence around our world.

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