Suzanne Nossel Discusses Tactics Repressive Governments Use to Discredit Movements When Leaders Prove Imperfect

Suzanne Nossel (’97), CEO of PEN America, published an article on Foreign Policy discussing Amnesty International’s decision to strip Alexei Navalny of the title “prisoner of conscience” and how “canceling” dissidents who fail to meet an expectation of moral perfection serves repressive regimes and damages human rights movements (“Romanticizing Dissidents Plays Into the Hands of Repressive Governments,” Apr. 1). “[A]lthough human rights campaigns are often waged in the name of individual dissidents, their stakes are much larger—implicating the rights of all freedom-seekers, ethnic minorities, ideological heretics, journalists, or, indeed, any citizen who dares defy their government. . . . By applying a litmus test of ideological worthiness or making saintliness a precondition for ‘prisoner of conscience’ status, human rights organizations give in to the very thing they are bound to oppose: selective enforcement of transcendent norms and protections. . . . A principled and unswerving commitment by human rights groups to stand with those whom repressive governments would not only silence but smear is essential to snuffing out these governments’ latest attempts at suppressing dissent.”