Shetty Urges Further Amnesty
“The Western powers cannot be selective with human rights,” Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty said at a lecture at Harvard Law School on Thursday.
Shetty called for a fight against the double standard in upholding human rights in countries ranging from the U.S. to Italy to Egypt and Iran.
The U.S. interest in Saudi Arabian oil and ignorance of the country’s civilian treatment is an example of the “double standard,” a phenomenon in which governments fight against some human rights violations while ignoring others, Shetty said.
After his speech, Shetty—who serves as Amnesty International’s chief political advisor, strategist, and spokesperson—said that he encourages Harvard students to inform themselves on these humanitarian issues and unite to take action.
“Last year’s [world events] have shown us that when ordinary people come together, they can make extraordinary change happen,” he said.
“Students need to know that they are not alone, and they are not helpless.”
While his talk focused on the international realm, Shetty said that Harvard students could also look for these violations in their local politics.
One such “embarrassing” violation that Shetty suggested students could protest was the U.S. death penalty.
“You can make errors in the way in which you sentence people. It is a one way ticket,” he said. “The other big executioners are Saudi Arabia, China, Belarus, and Iran. Do you think that the United States should be in this company?”
Shetty also focused on the advance of human rights in developing countries such as China, South Africa, and Brazil.
“Without human rights, true long-term stability can never be achieved,” he said. “That is a lesson that governments seem very reluctant to learn.”
HLS student Marcus J. Eldridge echoed Shetty’s sentiments.
“Is China strategizing to have a role that is commensurate with their economic clout?” he asked. “As their internal governance evolves, how will they behave on the intellectual stage with regards to human rights?”
Despite the violations that have not been ameliorated, Shetty is hopeful for the future of other developing nations.
“I’m generally optimistic about the way that the world is moving,” he said. “It won’t be easy, and we won’t suddenly jump to perfection. No developing country emerged without a struggle.”
—Staff writer Alyza Sebenius can be reached at email@example.com.