Diplomacy of Conscience

Diplomacy of Conscience: Amnesty International and Changing Human Rights Norms

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 196
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  • Book Info
    Diplomacy of Conscience
    Book Description:

    A small group founded Amnesty International in 1961 to translate human rights principles into action.Diplomacy of Conscienceprovides a rich account of how the organization pioneered a combination of popular pressure and expert knowledge to advance global human rights. To an extent unmatched by predecessors and copied by successors, Amnesty International has employed worldwide publicity campaigns based on fact-finding and moral pressure to urge governments to improve human rights practices. Less well known is Amnesty International's significant impact on international law. It has helped forge the international community's repertoire of official responses to the most severe human rights violations, supplementing moral concern with expertise and conceptual vision.

    Diplomacy of Consciencetraces Amnesty International's efforts to strengthen both popular human rights awareness and international law against torture, disappearances, and political killings. Drawing on primary interviews and archival research, Ann Marie Clark posits that Amnesty International's strenuously cultivated objectivity gave the group political independence and allowed it to be critical of all governments violating human rights. Its capacity to investigate abuses and interpret them according to international standards helped it foster consistency and coherence in new human rights law.

    Generalizing from this study, Clark builds a theory of the autonomous role of nongovernmental actors in the emergence of international norms pitting moral imperatives against state sovereignty. Her work is of substantial historical and theoretical relevance to those interested in how norms take shape in international society, as well as anyone studying the increasing visibility of nongovernmental organizations on the international scene.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2422-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-2)
    (pp. 3-20)

    A SMALL COLLECTION of individuals founded Amnesty International (AI) in 1961 to translate human rights principles into practical action. They invited others to join them in calling for the release of people in many countries who were in prison for expressing their beliefs. Amnesty International became intimately acquainted with the suffering of individual people killed, tortured, or imprisoned for political reasons, and gradually began to work for better general human rights protection through laws and public pressure at the international level.

    Governments have jealously guarded their sovereignty. As Amnesty International started its work for better human rights law, it acted...

  6. Chapter Two HOW NORMS GROW
    (pp. 21-36)

    AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL challenged governments to change their behavior, against their sovereign prerogatives. It also has prodded the United Nations to back up idealistic statements of principle with legal norms specifying acceptable and unacceptable member behavior. Amnesty has been able to maintain its challenge to governments precisely because of its status as a bystander with few resources except its principles, objectivity, and information. Those qualities also make AI an interesting, and unusual, international actor. The previous chapter emphasized Amnesty International’s origins and its historical role. The attributes that make it unusual also endow AI, and other NGOs that have followed in...

  7. Chapter Three TORTURE
    (pp. 37-69)

    IN ITS FIRST FEW YEARS, Amnesty International sought relief and release for prisoners of conscience on a case-by-case basis through its volunteer adoption groups. However, for AI leaders and members, familiarity with individual cases of political imprisonment drove home the need for stronger, preventative international norms concerning prisoner treatment. The frequency of torture in such cases was particularly troubling. AI recognized the need to try to shape state behavior at a general level, through norms, as well as in specific cases. To that end, the organization devised a series of practical actions to promote the emergence of new norms to...

  8. Chapter Four DISAPPEARANCES
    (pp. 70-100)

    WHEN DISAPPEARANCES began as a technique of state-sponsored repression in the 1960s, the phenomenon straddled known categories of human rights violations without really fitting into any. The word “disappearance” was a newly coined term for what seemed to be a new governmental tactic. International law did not articulate the idea that a government would kidnap its own people, do them further harm during detention, kill them, and dispose of their bodies—all in secret and without official acknowledgment. But that is what began to happen in Latin America and other regions of the world, beginning in the 1960s and intensifying...

    (pp. 101-123)

    AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL has occasionally reinterpreted its mandate to address new forms of human rights, but always with special consideration reserved for its original focus on prisoners. The abuses discussed in previous chapters—political imprisonment, torture, and disappearances—fell on a continuum of ways thatprisonerscould be mistreated by governments. Victims of political killings, on the other hand, might never even have been held in custody. Therefore, political killings provided another unique challenge to AI’s focus, mission, and structure—and to existing international norms.

    Until the mid-to-late 1970s, the international community had not confronted the broad realm of government behavior...

    (pp. 124-142)

    WHEN QUESTIONS pertaining to human rights norms are considered at the United Nations, Amnesty can be found in the workroom if NGOs are permitted, and outside in the hall if they are not. While NGO activities have been subject to varying constraints over the years, consultative arrangements have permitted NGOs to observe the public business of the UN, distribute reports, submit written statements on UN agenda items, make oral statements or “interventions,” receive UN documents, use UN library facilities, and become involved in work on international legal instruments.¹ These opportunities are now exercised routinely, but many result from Amnesty’s work...

    (pp. 143-144)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 145-168)
    (pp. 169-176)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 177-183)