The human rights activism of Amnesty International originated in the midst of the Cold War and was initiated with the explicit intention to transcend the ideological conflict. For this purpose, the organization developed a ‘politics of impartiality’ based on the balancing of criticism between the different political blocs and distance between activists and the prisoners they rallied for. The politicized and fluctuating ideological landscape in which Amnesty operated and the emergence of human rights activism in Eastern Europe challenged this policy, especially in the 1970s. Eastern European human rights activists provided much needed information on a crucial region in Amnesty’s politics of ‘balance’. But the closer the cooperation became, the more Amnesty’s rules came under pressure; in particular its principle of distance. When activists first in the Soviet Union and later in Poland tried to establish Amnesty structures in their respective countries, the gap between the organization’s nominally universal rules and its practice in Eastern Europe became visible.
The research for this book and the publication itself were enabled by support by the Study Group Human Rights, funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation.
Not a Movement of Dissidents will be available from May 2019 on and is published by Wallstein Verlag.
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This research in the media
Donau (July 2019)
H-Soz-Kult (January 2020)