Amnesty Ireland rejects equal rights for all

I agree with Iseult White that Amnesty Ireland should not seek to deny media and political representation to people promoting the sex-based rights of women and LGB people. Nor should they caricature people with one sincere belief as arbiters of truth and virtue, and people with another sincere belief as toxic bigots and haters.

In the real world, reasonable and ethical people promote the sex-based rights of women and LGB people, the gender-based rights of transgender people, and the protection of children. And a democratic pluralist society must sometimes balance competing claims of human rights.

Amnesty Ireland should instead oppose calls for the media and politicians to censor and disenfranchise people who peacefully express their beliefs on issues of public concern. It should support equally everybody’s rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

These rights include freedom of thought, conscience, belief, opinion, and expression, which includes seeking, receiving and imparting information and ideas through any media, and the right to take part in government directly or through freely chosen representatives.

These rights extend to people with whom we strongly disagree. As an example, when I campaigned against IRA and loyalist terrorism, I also opposed Section 31 that prevented Sinn Fein and the UDA from promoting their political aims democratically.

People have a right to express ideas that offend, shock, or disturb us, once they are not inciting crime or being defamatory. We should engage with the content of ideas we disagree with, not accuse the people who express them of being foreign or motivated by hate.

The Venice Commission for Democracy through Law says that persuasion through open debate, as opposed to ban or repression, is the best way to preserve fundamental values and achieve mutual understanding and respect.

Amnesty Ireland, as a human rights organisation, should return to defending the equal right of everyone to express their different beliefs, and should lobby the government to legally balance competing claims consistently with human rights principles.

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