Our Response to President Vladimir Putin’s New York Times Op-Ed

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin (Photo Credit: Mikhail Kireev/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images).

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin (Photo Credit: Mikhail Kireev/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images).

In his New York Times opinion piece regarding Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin argues against the recently proposed U.S. military strike on Syria. Amnesty International neither condemns nor condones armed intervention in Syria. However, some of President Putin’s arguments obscure Russia’s own role in blocking a resolution to the human rights crisis in Syria.

President Putin also claims that Syria's internal conflict is 'fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition,' but fails to mention that his own government has been a major arms supplier to the Syrian government.

Russian diplomats have repeatedly blocked international law from being enforced by blocking the U.N. Security Council from adopting measures to holding human rights violators accountable in Syria. Together with China, the Russian government has wielded its veto on multiple occasions to stop meaningful global action, which would include imposing an arms embargo on the Syrian government and referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. In addition, no arms transfer should be made to an armed opposition group where there is a substantial risk of the group committing serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

President Putin also claims that Syria’s internal conflict is “fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition,” but fails to mention that his own government has been a major arms supplier to the Syrian government. The vast majority of the human rights abuses documented by Amnesty International have been committed by the state’s armed forces and pro-government shabiha militias. Abuses have also been committed by armed opposition groups.

Finally, President Putin ignored the Syrian government’s crackdown on human rights advocates inside Syria. Human rights defenders inside Syria are subject to harassment, arbitrary arrest, and detention. The Syrian government has even blocked the U.N.-mandated Commission of Inquiry from entering the country.

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15 thoughts on “Our Response to President Vladimir Putin’s New York Times Op-Ed

  1. Russia is seeking to have influence for that region at any cost. They wanted also Greece and Cyprus for more aggressive MONEY laundering! They are still the Evil Empire!

  2. I remember when Amnesty was a human rights group and not a lobby arm for US foreign policy- it was good then

  3. U.S. weapons reaching Syrian rebels….. WASHINGTON POST…
    The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.


    • The Syrian government has engaged in a policy of deliberately targeting civilian populations, which amounts to crimes against humanity. Some Syrian opposition groups have engaged in war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law.

      Our call for a ban on weapons to the Syrian government is based on an evaluation of their behavior. Our call for risk assessment and vetting before any country gives any opposition groups weapons is based on our evaluation of the behaviors of different opposition groups.

  4. Nonetheless, his statements that the "exceptionalism" declared by the current US President and practiced by virtually all in modern history, is not one that is intended nor has it promote peace. Furthermore the unilateral attacks on many coutries by our government here in the USA, including but not limited to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Grenada, Iraq, Lybia were all violation of the UN Charter and international law as is the threat to attack Syria. But I'm sure those at Amensty International are well aware of these facts. What is disappointing is its apparent partisan position in favor of the country that has played the greatest role in creating division, conflict, destruction and chaos in the Middle East, the USA. And all for the profit.

  5. I'm usually in favor of Amnesty International but on this one they have gone past their portfolio of advocating for the release of political prisoners and have entered into the realm of foreign affairs on the wrong track. Russia and China use their veto power at the Security Council exactly as the USA does: to prevent certain actions from being taken against their ally states. Amnesty needs to stop arguing as if this is a "Russia" problem and begin arguing for either (1) removing or at least radically altering the veto power at the Secruity Council so the USA couldn't veto sanctions against Israel or (2) argue for strengthening the enforcement power of the International Criminal Court which is not under the UN control.

  6. 33 years of monthly support to AI and I have never been more disappointed. This press release or whatever we call that blog entry has nothing to do with human rights. It's a knee jerk attempt to discredit Putin, and shut down the conversation about the wisdom of intervention in the Syrian civil war. In the old days we gathered once a month with the minister to write letters to Assad's old man, then to Assad, then to various Soviet leaders and so on up through the years. AI was about human rights, communication, building trust, common meaning and not getting sucked into the great geopolitical game—first called colonialism, then the cold war, and now called nation building or globalization.

    I read Putin's OpEd and was impressed by the tone and the content. Lots to think about there. The tone of the AI's response is so self-righteous it made me wonder why they had issued it at all. How did it advance the conversation and the creation of common meaning? What purpose did it serve other than to shut down one side of the conversation and fan the flames of intervention?

    In addition much of the AI response appears to be cribbed from Human Rights Watch's similarly self-righteous response. HRW has always been a little more in-tune with the establishment. Getting involved with nation building and globalization fits their fundraising strategy which is to go after the super rich for mega donations and then lobby nation states and geopolitical entities to put pressure on other nation states and geopolitical entities (No communities of actual people writing letters and building relationships, just the politicos doin' good by doin' good!). AI, with all those small donors and letter writers like me, tried to be more independent–focusing on human rights, letter writing campaigns, quietly building trust between people of different political persuasions at home and abroad, and avoiding the “great game” and nation building.

    There is something profound going on in this discussion of Syria. The hawks (left and right) are selling but no one is buying. Intervention and nation building have been oversold and appear to be tanking.

    Putin wrote a good article, let the man speak, listen to the conversation, and make a positive contribution. The West is not an angel. Nation building has been more than a little bloody and dehumanizing. The world and it's people are tired and bruised. They needs a trustworthy organization helping them discover the value of human rights, not another political think tank blogging self-righteously into a very violent future.

    • Thank you for supporting and being a part of Amnesty International over the years. I'm sorry that you are disappointed by our critique of President Putin's piece, but it needs to be said that Russia has blocked UN Security Council action on Syria. President Putin's opinion piece obscures this fact, even if it is well written.

      We are equally critical of the U.S. government when it comes to U.S. vetoes of security council resolutions. Here's an example:

      Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories:
      US veto effectively gives Israel "green light" to expand illegal settlements http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE15/015/

      Thanks again for all your involvement and support over the years.

      Sunjeev Bery

  7. I find this response a bit mean spirited. Making a gesture of peace and co-operation and making a plea for peace and non violence is not a declaration of innocence. If you want to attack people for arms dealing and human rights abuses, then I think you should attack people when they are arguing for arms dealing and violence, not when they are arguing against those things

    • The problem is that the crisis in Syria has grown much worse in part because the Russian and Chinese governments have both blocked the UN Security Council from taking action on our core 6 priorities:

      I generally like to be genteel and diplomatic, but this is a time for bluntness. Over 100,000 Syrians are dead, 6+ million have been displaced, and the Russian government has blocked meaningful international action when non-military proposals have come up at the UN Security Council. President Putin's opinion piece may have a warm and friendly tone, but it is the posture of the Russian government at the UN Security Council that is contributing to the crisis in Syria.

  8. Americans should first accept the jurisdiction of International Criminal Court, before suggesting referring situations in other countries to this UN body.