An important step forward was registered by the presence at the Feb. 19 conference of Amnesty International’s Piers Bannister, author of Amnesty’s just released report, “A Life in the Balance: The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.”
“What can Amnesty bring to the conference,” said Bannister, “that you haven’t already achieved yourself? … I’d like to go into one thing:
“Amnesty gets vilified in these matters. Look at what happened when we released our report two days ago. The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and Maureen Faulkner [widow of the police officer Mumia was falsely convicted of murdering] retaliated…
“I took that as a huge compliment. They attacked us by charging that our effort was a waste of our resources, that we were misguided. But they did not attack our accuracy. The FOP said he’s still guilty. What a fine analysis and rebuttal of the report that was!
“What can we really, really bring? We bring a modicum of international solidarity, which you’ve already got, but we strengthen that. But I feel that what we really bring, as we have seen time and time again, is the fact that United States politicians cannot escape Amnesty’s reputation.
“President Bush in 1990 stood and held up an Amnesty report on Iraq and said this report had made Barbara (his wife) cry-this man is so cheesy-it made Barbara cry, and it brought tears to his eyes. ‘This is why we are going to invade Iraq,’ he said in effect.
“We’ve seen President Clinton recently quote Amnesty International facts on China. We have seen politicians in the United States too numerous to mention bring in Amnesty International information when it suits them, when it’s Libya, when it’s Iran, when it’s Iraq, when it’s China, when it’s the countries they disapprove of.
“I say to you, take this report and shove it down their throats. Let us say to them you cannot pick and choose. There is one standard for all governments. You have been found by the organization to be in violation of international standards. What are you going to do about it? Either Amnesty has credibility or we don’t. You need to stand by this report. Shove it back down their throats.”