Suspendering av den brasilianska sektionen - brev från Bo Lindblom Underlag till styrelsemöte 1-2 juni 2000

      Hanna Roberts, ordförande i svenska sektionen av Amnesty International
      Carl Söderbergh, generalsekreterare
      Samtliga ledamöter i styrelsen for svenska Amnesty
      Ordförande i eventuellt berört utskott
                                            Laholm, 2000-05-20
      Utöver våra egna bekymmer har vi ett gemensamt ansvar for skötseln av den internationella rörelsen. Medlemskårens och sektionernas inflytande garanteras inte bara av att rådsmötet (ICM) vä1jer internationell styrelse (IEC), det finns dessutom en Membership Appeals Committee (MAC), till vilken sektionerna ska kunna vända sig om de vill överklaga ett beslut av IEC.
      I samband med nedläggningen av indiska sektionen riktade MAC kritik på flera punkter mot hur frågan hade handlagts av internationella sekretariatet (IS) och IEC, även om kommittén stödde beslutet om nedläggning. MAC lämnade konkreta förslag till förbättrade rutiner. Det ord som användes för avstängningen av indiska sektionen var de-recognition, ungefär av-erkännande. I sådana fall har sektionen rätt att begära överprövning av MAC.
      1 december 1999 beslutade IS / IEC att suspendera den brasilianska sektionen. Det meddelades då också att detta inte kunde prövas av MAC, eftersom det i denna kommittés arbetsregler inte står något om suspendering. Den uppgiften är korrekt. Dessvärre står det inte heller något om suspendering i stadgarna eller arbetsreglerna. Då detta påpekats har IEC endast svarat att suspendering använts också i tidigare fall. Min tolkning ar att IEC för att undvika varje form av överprövning har valt en metod som saknar allt stadgemässigt stöd och som uppenbart strider mot andan i det beslut som togs då ICM tillsatte MAC.
      Tillsammans med Carios Idoeta, min tidigare medarbetare i MAC och medlem i brasilianska sektionen, har jag följt utvecklingen av det här ärendet vecka för vecka. Jag har fått ta del av korrespondensen mellan berörda parter. Jag vill härmed intyga att uppgifterna i bifogade "Urgent Action” överensstämmer med redovisningen i brev och andra dokument som jag har tagit del av. Jag tillhör inte längre MAC, men jag har som enskild medlem hövligt anhållit om en förklaring från Mahmoud Ben Romdhane, IEC:s ordförande, beträffande det valda förfarandet. Han lovade svara så snart han fått en förklaring till varför jag sände en kopia av brevet till svenska styrelsen. Jag förklarade det, men han har fortfarande inte svarat.
      Jag anhåller att svenska sektionen genom sin styrelse agerar i den här frågan förslagsvis genom att försöka utreda med vilken rätt IEC tillgriper en metod som inte har stöd i stadgar eller arbetsregler.
      Med vänliga hälsningar,

Bo Lindblom Byvägen 32 31295 Laholm

              UNFAIR TRIAL
              Brazilian Section of Amnesty International - SBAI
          “Art. X: Everyone is entitled to full equality to a fair and public heanng by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
          Art. Xl. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.”
          Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On December 18, 1999, a delegation from the International Executive Committee (IEC) and the
International Secretariat (IS) of Amnesty International, namely Mary Gray (international treasurer), Hans Landolt (IEC representative for Latin America), Vince del Buono (deputy secretary-general) and Sergio Zamorano (head of the Americas Development Team-EDA) verbally informed the Executive Committee (CE) of the Brazilian Section of Amnesty International (SEAl) that its section status had been “suspended” (an in-house administrative measure, not even envisaged in Al's international statutes, and not legally binding). A regime of force was therefore established at the Brazilian Section of Al. Management of the administrative apparatus was given over to the IS, and an “intervenor” and his assistant replaced the directors and coordinators who had been democratically elected by the AGM of June 1999. No minutes, notification or other document makes any mention of the decision, and nobody knows whether the IEC decision was made in accordance with the minimum quorum requirement.

The foreign delegation's visit allegedly aimed both at looking into possible irregularities reported by former consultant Regina Beatriz de Andrade Vargas - dismissed in October 1999 - in the Fund Raising Program (PAF), the Portuguese Language Program (PLP) and the Human Rights Education Program (PEDH), and at assessing the situation of SEAl then. The Executive Committee, by a consensus decision made by its members and a representative of the Financial Control Committee, ended up concluding that no irregularities had occurred in the PAF or the PLP, based on the audits and surveys carried out. As regards the PEDH. the CE took all the measures required by the IEC, among which the performance of a specific audit that found nothing worth mentioning. In no occasion did the local directors and program coordinators object to any investigation of the facts, or fail to cooperate with the IEC in this respect; on the contrary, they put themselves at their entire disposal to start up projects of integration and mutual cooperation to foster the development of Amnesty International in Brazil.

Oddly enough, two days after the “intervention”, on December20, 1999, the IEC released a “Communique to the groups and members”, unsigned , in which the show of force performed here is referred to very en passant and, a hypocritical remark says; “The International Executive Committee would like to thank the Executive Committee of the Brazilian Section for its work in a trying time.” In addition, incredible as this may sound when coming from a movement such as Amnesty International that fights the world over against attitudes of the same nature, no charges were made public that would warrant the “intervention” and nobody was ever entitled to question its relevance. A typical “ Chinese trial”, which endangers the dignity and credibility of Al's work and the democracy of the organization (only two months later, on February 21, a second communique briefly commented on the “lack of information, transparency and accountability” regarding some of the section's programs).

This, however, was but the beginning of a series of insensible actions taken by the IEC in the country. Informed that SEAl's Executive Committee would appeal to the Membership Appeals Committee (MAC) -a body whose purpose is precisely to serve as a court of appeals against the decisions of the International Executive Committee - IEC's president Mahmoud Ben Romdhane dared to say that the only case in which an appeal would apply was if the section had been deprived, but not suspended as was the case!

The following was the answer of a former MAC coordinator, an experienced member of a large section, when asked by a SBAI founder to give his opinion about the issue: “The suspension looks like a trick to dodge the MAC ... I find no foundation for this procedure in either the statutes or the ICM decisions, and the MAC doesn't need the EC authorization to interfere. The difference in treatment given to a rich and a poor section is unexplained. The choice for suspending the status was clearly rejected by the 1985 1CM (Res. 50). What the IEC is now trying to present as a milder solution is in fact an impudent circumvention of the applicable provisions, which foresee advance notice to the section, a 90-day term for its reply, informing the other sections and the possibility of appealing to the MAC. The suspension went exactly the opposite way: came immediately into force, provided the reasons two months later, passed no information to the other sections and tried to rule out the possibility of appeal to the MAC.”

Illegally taking over SBAI offices, using employees, Brazilian and foreign, paid to work full time, and relying on lavish financial resources, the IEC set off on an infamous slander campaign against SBAI's current and former directors, with its representatives flying all over Brazil to announce half-truths and to bring to the fore puny administrative issues with the unequivocal intent of playing militants off against their directors. With the same purpose, it relied on the initial support of three local members, who were in permanent contact with the IS and the IEC, which not only turned a blind eye to this misconduct but also internally engaged in it. No “listening to the other side”, looking into the drivers of management decisions, or taking the past into consideration nor even the invaluable services rendered to Al by the “defendants”
Incredible as it may seem, the defendants were never informed, verbally or explicitly, of the real charges brought against them, much less were they called upon to produce any kind of explanation or defense, as expressly required by article 61 of SEAl's statutes: 'Any of the penalties to be applied must be based in an infraction of the provisions of this statute, being assured the ample right of defense in any case”.

Not sufficing the authoritarian, anti-democratic and unethical position it adopted in the country, the IEC started to screen the electronic communication between SBAI members and the International Secretariat and EDAI in Madrid, so as to avoid disclosure to the world of the facts occurring in Brazil. In its intent to rewrite the story from the perspective that best suited its own interests (see General Information), the International Executive Committee has shown that it is necessary to consider more carefully the quality of the democracy prevailing within Amnesty International.

After preparing the ground, the EC set out to convince the groups of the need to summon an extraordinary general meeting to rid SEAl of its “bad members” - accused, investigated, tried and found guilty without ever being given the slightest right of defense. However, despite its great clout, the International Executive Committee did not stop its illegal actions, certainly fearful that its lies would be unveiled: to rely on broad support at a meeting, thanks to the previous massive preaching it engaged in and the “state of siege” imposed, the IEC validated groups which were almost closed or at least non-active, did not invite all the groups and failed to invite the coordinators who were being accused as well as members who could question such decisions. To play it safe, the IEC chose to continue manipulating people and facts, and thus avoid surprises (its dexterity was such that it managed to cause part of the militants in a human rights movement to start believing, against the very principles they fight for, that the ends justify the means).

Recently, after SBAI's Executive Committee took recourse to the law to put an end to the IEC's arbitrary actions (a repossession action for the Porto Alegre office and a declaratory action of nullity of the general assembly were proposed, as well as provisional remedies for the production of documentation and accountability), a document dated 24 March, issued by a large São Paulo-based law firm and addressed to Amnesty International, at the attention of staff member Sergio Zamorano, was found at the Porto Alegre office. It reads; “The purpose of the forthcoming EGM is to regularize the intervention of December 1999 by the IEC in the administration of SBAI and to replace its current members of the CE (...) Therefore, should the IEC now interfere in the future of SEAl as an affiliated entity, it must adjust its actions to the Brazilian legal environment. Due to the fact that the EC cannot directly interfere in the decisions of the EGM, it must concentrate on an intelligence work in order to convince SBAI members to vote in the meeting of 15.4.00 in alignment with the IEC positions on the administrative and other problems affecting

In other words, the IEC not only knew that they had perpetrated an irregular intervention, but had also determined beforehand what should be decided in the meeting that some groups were to call “spontaneously” on 06 April.

In a fax dated January 18, 2000, sent to the same law firm, John Anthony O'Flynn (also known as Sean O'Flynn), an Irish citizen appointed as the IEC representative in Brazil, requested some sort of legal backup to the arbitrary actions of the IEC in the country. We quote: “My problem now is that I need to run the Brazilian Section, which is a civil association, legally under the control of the Executive Committee.”

Large sums of money that should be allocated toward protecting and promoting human rights have been frittered away by the CEI on legal fees and expenses, only to try and give a legal appearance to its blatantly illegal behavior.

Recently, crowning the string of irregularities and unethical actions perpetrated by the EC against the Brazilian Section of Amnesty International, John Anthony O'Flynn claimed at court that the building located at rua Jacinto Gomes n0 573, in Porto Alegre, rather than housing SBAI's administrative office - a publicly known fact, internally and externally, locally and internationally - served as “his own commercial office, which he temporarily allowed SBAI to use, as a mere concession or permission,” with the clear intention of deceiving Brazilian courts. This action alone would suffice to prove the IEC's disregard of ethics, but other actions preceded this one, namely, the unauthorized movement of SBAI's bank account, the allocation of hefty sums to activities aimed at enticing members, the rigging of a “general assembly” (even the chairman of the meeting, Celso Garbarz, had been chosen beforehand) etc.

It was not surprising, in this context, that vice-president Pedro Montenegro, an activist known internationally, voicing the due indignation of CE members, made it clear at the December 18, 1999 meeting that he had been arrested and beaten by human rights opposers before but never had he suffered so serious a violation as when the IEC delegation announced the suspension of SBAI's section status.


In 1995, at the ICM held in Slovenia, a proposal to foster the development of Amnesty International in the so-called Third World was approved, attaching priority to ten countries, among which Brazil. The RCI also approved a proposal to exempt these countries from the Amnesty International rule that prohibits members to work on cases occurring in their own countries - which imposes limitations on the engagement of Latin American activists - and allow them at least to collect publicly disclosed information and send it to the Research Team of the International Secretariat in London.

In early 1996, the SBAI board and the EDA initiated contacts to debate a program to foster the development of Amnesty International in the country. Engaging in this debate were IEC members and participants of the research and development teams of the International Secretariat (IS). The main speakers in the process were Regina Vargas, representing SBAI, Sergio Zamorano, acting on behalf of EDA, and Celso Garbarz, then the IEC member in charge of Latin America. At the 96/97 meetings, several issues were raised but never dealt with in earnest by the CEI.

Therefore, the proposal for development advanced by the EDA and by Celso Garbarz was target to much criticism, since its ineffectiveness was empirically proved. In the last decade, Amnesty International injected tens of thousands of dollars in the region, with little practical results. The model imposed, rather than boost, has caused the stagnation of Amnesty International development in Latin America. In Brazil, the money invested to train multiplying agents has gone to waste, as these agents tend to drop out of the organization, disappointed at its course.

In the area of research, in which people are yet more sensitive, SBAI criticism was regarded nearly as an offense. IS researchers did not even bother to tell the SBAI board when they were coming to Brazil. Brazilian directors ended up learning about their visit in the papers, and, when asked by reporters about the purpose of their mission, simply had nothing to reply. Even more disturbing, however, was the issue of the reliability in gathering information, since more often than not the researchers would be content to listen to only one side of the story, or one of the parties to a conflict, despite SBAI's board many warnings. And, after their departure, it was invariably on SBAI that the awkward task of explaining the reason for such behavior.

SBAI's ideology can only be that of human rights, without partisanships of any kind,

In addition to this confrontation with IS's two Departments, the SBAI board felt deceived when the IEC signaled the allocation of resources about ten times short of what had been originally mentioned by Zamorano and Garbarz for the “priority country” project - even lower than the current domestic budget for recurrent expenses - a sum that obviously would not suffice to fuel the development of the section. The disagreement grew to such proportions that at the August 1997 general assembly convened by SBAI in Curitiba to deal with the issue, Zamorano and Garbarz were publicly challenged on their clumsy management of the process, which arose some animosity towards board members of SEAl at that time.

In October of the same year, after a meeting held in Mexico, the CEI sent a letter to SBAI threatening to withdraw Brazil from the list of priority countries. According to information later provided by Celso Garbarz to the board of SBAI, the IEC reaction had been triggered by a strong-worded report against SBAI

submitted by Sergio Zamorano; when asked about it, Zamorano gave assurances that the author was Celso Garbarz himself. Regardless of who the author may be, if this report really existed it was never brought before the S SABI, testifying to a lack of ethics by those supposed to preserve it.

Confronted with the terms spelled out in the CEI letter, the SBAI National Board (DN), by a unanimous vote of its then eleven members (Ana Maria Ribas, Anderson Damasceno, Carios Alberto Idoeta, Carlos Alceu Machado, Márcio Gontijo, Monica Sydow Hummel, Patricia Rouguet, Paulo Cesar da Silva Goettems, Paulo Pedron, Ricardo Brisolla Balestreri and Vera Regina Paoli Monteiro), decided to give up the “high priority” status bestowed on Brazil, after a meeting in São Paulo held from December 5 through 7,1997. In addition, the DN drew up a letter reporting the situation and authorized the SBAI delegates chosen to attend the ICM in South Africa in the following week to distribute it to all other sections there.

Two parts of the aforementioned five-page letter follow below (the complete text is available to those interested);

“Several times we have pointed out to the IEC, besides the incompetence in the “high priority country” process, the arrogance with which the section has been treated by the research staff whenever we frankly presented our concerns regarding attitudes or documents that we deemed to be seriously harmful to Al's main asset: its impartiality.'

“Scarce has been the willingness to face the dialog or the creative confrontation. The answer to the open criticism we have proposed has been many times the silence or the backstage criticism, suggesting a lack of humbleness and transparency not compatible with the high principles of a wonderful movement like ours.

In a highly tense atmosphere, according to reports later provided by the SBAI delegation, the EC proposed that the distribution of the letter be suspended in exchange for further appreciation of SBAI's claims, on the grounds that the content of the letter might cause severe political damage to the international movement, an argument which ended up being accepted.

A commendable change has ever since taken place in the area of research, and as an example should be mentioned the high quality of the last report on the Brazilian penitentiary system, released in June 1999. As to the area of development, though, no advancements were noteworthy, given the prevailing indisposition between the section's CE and the staff member, who apparently kept the IEC's support.

(It is the members of the smaller sections who most plainly feel that the IEC does not actually control the IS, where there is corporativism and reportedly a labor agreement prevents employees from being dismissed, even those proven incompetent. It is not by chance, therefore, that in the quarrels involving voluntaries from small sections and IS staff members, the IEC usually tends to support the latter).

Finally, it was later found out that two SBAI delegates to the ICM of August 1999 left for Portugal with preconceived positions. Celso Garbarz and Regina Vargas ended up capitulating before the IEC and recognizing, though tacitly, the section's supposed mistakes and incompetence, without previously engaging in a minimal and essential debate with the membership about these rather important issues.

It is possible that the IEC's recent attitude regarding the SBAI is a sort of retaliation against a small section which dared to rebel against some misdemeanors, establishing a precedent that might help changing the face of Amnesty International. Being so, current and former directors of SBAI will have contributed to dismantle an archaic structure and to consolidate a human rights movement that always observes, in its own home, the respect for justice and transparency as it demands from the governments.


Send letters, fax or e-mail messages, in English, Spanish or Portuguese;

Requesting that the Membership Appeals Committee (MAC) receives and judges on the appeal filed by the Executive Committee of the Brazilian Section of Amnesty International against the penalty of “suspension” of the section status imposed by the International Executive Committee, in obvious violation of national and international statutes, the adversary system and the right to defense, running counter the most fundamental principle of human rights protection advocated by Amnesty International worldwide and, according to its own views, to be extended even to the vilest of criminals.
      Urging the International Executive Committee to respect SBAI's internal democracy and enforce
      within the organization the rules contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which so
      often Amnesty International requires governments to observe:
          Art. X: Everyone is entitled to full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
          Art. Xl: Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense”


Membership Appeal Committee
1 Easton Street
London WOiX 8DJ
United Kingdom
Fax: + (44) (171) 956-1157
e-mail: [email protected]

International Executive Committee
1 Easton Street
London WOiX 8DJ
United Kingdom
Fax: + (44) (171) 956-1157
e-mail: [email protected] or [email protected]
To: President Mahmoud Ben Romdhane


“The State felt compelled to make use of the Armed Forces to preserve the institutions.”
(Brazilian military personnel justifying, in April 2000, the coup d'etat of 1964)

Márcio Gontijo, President; Pedro Luis Rocha Montenegro, Vice President; Rosa Maria Gross de Almeida,
Director of Human Rights Education; Paulo César Pedron, Director of Communication; Ricardo Brisolla
Balestreri, former President and founder of SBAI; Carlos Alberto Idoeta, former President and founder of
SBAI; Monica Sydow Hummel, former President; Carlos Alceu Machado, former Vice President; Anderson
Damasceno, former Finance Director; Paulo Cesar Goettems, former Director for Development; Ana Maria
Ribas, former National Director.