Swots of the world unite: read the Amnesty Report 2010
I’m not sure it’s entirely fashionable to say so these days, but I’m a big fan of reading. Reading books.
When I’m not “building networks on social media”, in my spare time I like to plough through off-puttingly large novels, the tougher the read the better. Weirdly enough I pride myself on finishing anything I start. About 25 years ago I began Robert Musil’s three-volume The Man Without Qualities (which is “very long, very slow”, according to the Guardian) and struggled with it for months before giving up. No longer! Now I stolidly work through things such as Proust’s entire output like my life depends on it. My current book ….? I’ll tell you at the end of this blog post. Keep on reading!
Anyway, my cover-to-cover habit is severely challenged by a new book I’ve acquired: Amnesty International Report 2010. OK, not exactly a novel, but it’s an important 420-page publication – the kind that sort of demands to be read as thoroughly as possible, starting with Afghanistan and ending with Zimbabwe. Link here.
The book spans the events of 2009 (which I briefly summarised in an end-of-year-post in December) but does so in unflinching detail across 159 countries. Do you recall the main human rights events in Guinea-Bissau last year? In case not, check out pages 158-60 of Report 2010 to read about how the military interfered with the governance of the country, including how at 1am on 1 April 2009 four soldiers went to the home of a judge called Francisco Jose Fadul and beat him with the butts of their guns (he ended up in intensive care) after he publicly criticised the armed forces for political killings.
Dip in to the pages on (say) Sri Lanka, Iran or Nicaragua and you’ll find the same mix of brisk summary and disturbing detail.
Alright, I admit it, no-one is going to read this book all the way through (not even me), but a lot of people ought to be absorbing a few pages here and there. People like William Hague and his colleagues at the Foreign Office, for example. As Kate Allen points out over on Comment is Free, if Hague and company are going to build a foreign policy that this country can be proud of they will certainly need Report 2010 on their desks.
OK, so I know it’s bad form to give away storylines but … what the hell. Report 2010’s main theme is how developments in international justice are steadily changing the world. Twelve years ago the world was shocked when former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet was arrested on human rights grounds in London, but now it’s next to normal: we’ve got Liberia’s Charles Taylor on trial, Sudan’s Omar Bashir indicted by the International Criminal Court and numerous war criminals before tribunals at The Hague, in Cambodia and elsewhere.
The Amnesty publication is not claiming that this is the story of how international justice prevailed and everyone became answerable for their human rights crimes. Far from it. But this has been the direction of travel, and if some of the world’s major powers (China, Russia, India, the USA) can be persuaded to get behind this process, then the next chapter in this saga will be better still.
Oh, and for those who’ve made it down to here, this is what I’m currently reading: Simone de Beauvoir’s Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter. Judging by the first 75 pages, I reckon the notoriously big-brained feminist might have devoured the Amnesty report in a sitting.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.