Amnesty International may face a criminal investigation in Ireland after it refused to return money donated by a fund backed by George Soros.
The Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) told Amnesty to pay back €137,000 from the Open Societies Foundation as the grant contravenes electoral law.
The Soros-backed group gave the money to help Amnesty International Ireland in its campaign to overturn the Eighth Amendment, which protects the right to life of the unborn child. However, the 1997 Electoral Act forbids donations of over €100 from overseas groups for “electoral purposes”.
Amnesty said the ruling contradicts previous correspondence between them, and claimed Sipo had originally told them the payment did not break the law.
Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty in Ireland, said they would not return the money, claiming: “This amounts to the targeting of organisations purely for their work on human rights and equality issues.”
He also said the ruling “overlooks the fact that Amnesty International is completely independent of any political ideology, economic interest or religion” and even accused Sipo being manipulated by pro-life activists.
“Despite Sipo’s own concerns about the vagueness of the act it is now using this to unfairly apply the law to Amnesty’s work,” O’Gorman said.
However, Cora Sherlock of the Irish Pro Life Campaign accused Amnesty of acting like it is above the law.
“Today’s statement from Amnesty is nothing more than a public relations exercise to disguise the fact that they have been receiving vast sums of money from abroad to fund their campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment,” she said.
“Amnesty are behaving like they are above the law and are hiding behind the term ‘human rights’ as a justification for everything they do.
“It is important to recall that the Open Society Foundation stated when giving the money to Amnesty that it was to assist the coordination of groups in Ireland with a view to repealing the 8th Amendment and taking away legal protection for the baby in the womb.
“The involvement of this US based organisation in the Irish abortion debate represents a gross interference in our democracy and in safeguarding the right to life. Amnesty should immediately return the money and stop trying to portray itself as a victim in all of this.”