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Letter: Human rights groups are not always what they seem

Sir: Robert Fisk is quite right to highlight the violations of human rights in Egypt ('Egyptian group accuses government of torture', 22 December); however, his remark that the Egyptian Organisation of Human Rights (EOHR), which catalogued these abuses, does not favour Islamic fundamentalists because it has also condemned the killing of policemen and foreigners, undermines a potentially complex political situation. The EOHR may be a credible human rights group, but the fact remains that the movement for the protection of human rights in Third World countries has been hijacked by men of violence.

Over the past few years, the number of human rights organisations has grown by leaps and bounds, especially in countries that are facing an armed rebellion or terrorism. Some of these organisations are genuine and are doing wonderful work, but many were set up by the terrorists' sympathisers. These fake organisations highlight the violations of human rights by security forces with great ferocity, but mention the atrocities committed by terrorists only in passing. The issue of human rights has provided the terrorists, secessionists and other radical groups with a new mechanism to legitimise their violent campaign in the West.

Regretfully, Western human rights groups have also chosen to ignore the difference between a fake and a genuine organisation. It is not uncommon to see the presence of Amnesty International or Asia Watch in various meetings and seminars organised by members of radical groups. Perhaps that is the reason why Western human rights groups, notwithstanding their good intentions and hard work, have so far failed to gain credibility and public support in Third World countries.

Yours faithfully,


Gants Hill, Essex

23 December