Human rights

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The strategic aspect of human rights: a tool of hegemony

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/10/2020 - 5:55am in

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Human rights

With America’s fading hegemony, new regional powers with regional hegemonic aspirations are displaying their ideas about human rights; ideas based on their particular historical, cultural, political, and religious experiences. Australia’s criticism of China’s human rights abuses in Xinjian is a mixture … Continue reading →

Western Anger as China, Russia Elected to UN Human Rights Council and Saudi Arabia Rejected

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/10/2020 - 3:32am in

In a secret ballot at the United Nations yesterday, Saudi Arabia was rejected for a position on the body’s 47-country Human Rights Council (HRC). The only country that did not receive the required number of votes from member states, the failure has been seen as a repudiation of the Kingdom’s abysmal human rights record and its decreasing international support.

15 positions were filled yesterday, although most of them were pre-selected. Only the Asia-Pacific region faced an open vote from UN member states. Pakistan received 169 “yes” votes out of a possible 193, Uzbekistan 164, Nepal 150, and China 139. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, received just 90.

Saudi Arabia’s allies in the West had actually been campaigning to halt the election of states that draw Washington’s ire, including China, Russia, and Cuba, trying to organize opposition against those nations, but were ultimately unsuccessful. China received 41 fewer votes than it did in 2016, amid increased global concern over the alleged treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang Province, but ultimately comfortably surpassed the 50 percent threshold for admission.

U.N. Watch, a western NGO that has a history of attacking Washington’s enemies and has condemned the UN for its supposed antisemitic bias over its criticism of Israeli human rights abuses, claimed that “electing these dictatorships as UN judges on human rights is like making a gang of arsonists into the fire brigade.”

The reaction from the U.S. government, which left the HRC in 2018 over its perceived bias against Israel, was similarly angry. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement claiming that the election of countries like China, Russia, Cuba (and Venezuela in 2019) has shown that the institution is now broken beyond repair.

“The United States’ commitment to human rights consists of far more than just words,” Pompeo said, as he boasted of employing sanctions against all those nations. “Our commitments are spelled out clearly in the UN’s Declaration, and in our record of action. The United States is a force for good in the world, and always will be,” he added. Yet earlier this year Pompeo himself said that the U.S. should abandon most of the rights enshrined in the UN Declaration and focus only on property rights and religious freedoms.

 

The spin war

Much of the media today has been in a furor that the “world’s worst abusers” (The Times) like China, Russia, and Cuba are set to join or rejoin the council. The Guardian suggested that the institution’s credibility is at stake. Yet in the talk of human rights violators joining the council, the election of other states with questionable records was never discussed. Bolivia, whose murderous far-right government came to power in a U.S.-backed military coup in November, was also elected, but with no fanfare or condemnation. As was Cameroon, whose dictatorial head of state Paul Biya has been in charge of the country since Gerald Ford was president of the United States. Other states with contentious records included were Narendra Modi’s India, Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines, and the Qatari dictatorship.

UN Media coverage

Both the Guardian, left, and the Times, right, failed to report on other human rights violators being elected to the council

Saudi Arabia was elected twice to the HRC between 2014-2016 and 2017-2019. Its new failure to secure more than 90 votes is a sign of increasing discontent with its policies in Yemen, declared the world’s worst humanitarian disaster by the United Nations, where 24 million people (80 percent of the country) need some form of humanitarian assistance. Yet under pressure from the U.S. government, aid has been cut to just 25 cents per person, per day. The kingdom has played a key role in stymying any international action to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe, using its position at the HRC to block UN inquiries into its own abuses in Yemen.

Internally, the country is often described as the most repressive regime on the planet, with millions of people suffering under slave-like conditions, according to Human Rights Watch. While on the council, it attempted to block a resolution that condemned the use of torture by law enforcement and reaffirms the human rights of LGBT people. Inside Saudi Arabia, homosexuality is still punishable with the death penalty.

Ultimately, while yesterday’s election is the sign of a slightly more multipolar world, the results are unlikely to seriously change the direction of the organization, with the United Nations constantly blocked from taking action unless all of the world’s superpowers allow it.

Feature photo | Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, listens to Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud speaks during their meeting at the State Department, Oct. 14, 2020, in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Western Anger as China, Russia Elected to UN Human Rights Council and Saudi Arabia Rejected appeared first on MintPress News.

Witness K and Bernard Collaery: An Unjust Prosecution Gets Even Worse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/10/2020 - 5:59am in

The prosecution of former ACT Attorney-General, Bernard Collaery, and his client, Witness K, continues to play itself out before the ACT Supreme Court. This is a legal fiasco of the first order. The prosecution should never have commenced. This is … Continue reading →

In Defence of Nomadic “Mere” Hunter-Gatherers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 11/10/2020 - 5:43am in

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Human rights

We increasingly hear people say that traditional Aboriginal societies were “not mere hunter-gatherers”. Unwittingly, this phrase downgrades the mobile foragers who occupied Australia on the eve of colonial occupation of their territory (and for tens of millennia before). The yearning … Continue reading →

UN Venezuela Report Omits US Human Rights Violations

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/10/2020 - 11:05pm in

On September 23, María Eugenia Russián, president of Fundalatin, Venezuela’s oldest human rights organization, testified to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and decried an attempt by a UNHRC fact-finding mission to erase people who were “lynched, burned alive, decapitated and murdered by extremist sectors of the Venezuelan opposition.” This fact-finding mission had published a report a week earlier that generated sensationalist headlines of “crimes against humanity” and painted a bleak picture of the situation in Venezuela.

However, the 400+ page report has been found to contain serious flaws and omissions, leading to charges that it politicizes human rights – a position backed by the Venezuelan government. But it’s not just Venezuela that has taken issue with the report: Argentina’s ambassador to the Organization of American States denounced it as “biased” and noted that “human rights are not an instrument for taking political positions.”

 

A parallel mission and attack on multilateralism

Moreover, even the formation of the fact-finding mission is suspect. Since 2017, Venezuela has been working with a different UN institution, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), to strengthen its capacity to guarantee human rights. This cooperation has led to technical agreements and to visits by the OHCHR to Venezuela.

Yet despite – or perhaps because – of this cooperation, the Lima Group, an ad hoc group of nations dedicated to regime change in Venezuela, maneuvered in the UN Human Rights Council to establish a parallel mission outside of the purview of the OHCHR. In the September 2019 debate prior to the founding of this mission, Russián said that it “seeks to thwart the advances between the Office of the High Commissioner and the Venezuelan state, hindering and duplicating its efforts.” She also made a prescient comment: “[the mission] will generate major headlines but will not contribute to resolving the situation.”

Several Venezuelan human rights organizations, including the Venezuelan Association of Jurists (AVJ), denounced the formation of the mission and the subsequent report as an attack on multilateralism. The AVJ notes that according to UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251, “the promotion and protection of human rights should be based on the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue and aimed at strengthening the capacity of Member States.”

Neither of these principles were adhered to in the report, which means that the fact-finding mission violated the United Nation’s own guidelines. This contrasts severely with the latest update on Venezuela from the OHCHR, which notes that technical cooperation between Venezuela and the UN has led to progress in investigating 93 alleged cases of extrajudicial killings or excessive use of force, as well as the pardoning of 110 prisoners.

 

Flawed methodology, biased sources and egregious omissions

The first thing to note about the report is that the authors are all from countries that support Guaidó. One of them, Francisco Cox, has close ties to the Chilean Foreign Minister (Chile is one of the Latin American countries leading the charge against Venezuela). In an interview with journalist Anya Parampil, Chilean analyst Esteban Silva noted that Cox “is part of an operation against the government of Venezuela.”

Venezuelan human rights organization Sures considers that the report “lacks academic rigor” as the mission did not step foot in Venezuela “and as such never had direct access to the sources it consulted, including the victims, government officials and official records.” Lending credence to the claim of a lack of rigor is the fact that more than 50% of the report’s sources were links to social and digital media, while just 5% were NGOs.

Misión Verdad, an independent group of Venezuelan investigative journalists and analysts, wrote an exposé of the sources used in the report and found that one of these NGOs, COFAVIC (Committee of Relatives of Victims of the Caracazo), receives USAID funds and has ties to Human Rights Watch, which supports regime change and the brutal US sanctions. None of the NGOs the fact-finding mission contacted even mentioned the case of Orlando Figuera, a young Black man burned alive by anti-government protestors, which has arguably been the most infamous violation of human rights in Venezuela in recent years.

If the report were interested in balance, it would have cited or contacted Venezuelan human rights groups that document right-wing violence at protests and the devastating effects of U.S. sanctions. Five such organizations were contacted for this article: Fundalatin, AJV, Sures, Género con Clase (Gender with Class), and the Committee of Victims of the Guarimba and Ongoing Coup (guarimba is the term used for violent opposition protests in 2013, 2014 and 2017). None of them ever heard from the “independent” mission.

While victims like Figuera are ignored, another detailed critique by Misión Verdad documents the repeated “whitewashing” of political actors linked to violence by presenting them as victims. As analyst Joe Emersberger notes, the report’s treatment of opposition figure Leopoldo López ignores the leading role he has played in destabilizing Venezuela since 2002. López’s regime change strategy in 2014, ‘La Salida’, sparked opposition violence that resulted in the decapitation of Elvis Durán; he was riding a motorcycle down a street booby trapped by protestors with barbed wire. López’s name appears 61 times in the report; Durán’s does not appear at all.

As tragic as it is that a UN mission would engage in the erasure of victims of human rights violations perpetrated by government opponents, these are not even the most glaring omissions in the report. There are two ongoing mass violations of the human rights of all Venezuelans: the violent destabilization of the country by foreign and domestic actors, and the brutal U.S. sanctions. For Gisela Jiménez of Género con Clase, an organization that focuses on the rights of women and sexual diversity, currently the biggest challenge to the rights of Venezuelans is “the threat to the right to live in peace.” Russián of Fundalatin dates the biggest violation of human rights to March 2015, when then-President Obama characterized Venezuela as an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to the United States. Since then, she notes, ”the Venezuelan people have been subjected to violations of their right to health and even the right to life, due to the embargo and the obstruction of imports of medicine, food and supplies.”

 

The report in the context of a hybrid war

Beyond the bias and politicization of the report, what perhaps damns it most is how it is being used. The omissions on the impact of coups and sanctions enable regime change operatives such as Elliott Abrams, U.S. special representative for Iran and Venezuela, to cite the report as evidence of crimes against humanity while, in the same breath, threatening to cut off Venezuela’s diesel supplies, which has drawn widespread condemnation from NGOs across the political spectrum for the devastating effect it would have on the Venezuelan people.

The report was similarly used by Senators Marco Rubio and Ben Cardin, who referenced it in a letter to the European Union in which they expressed “deep concern” over EU talks with the Maduro government and urged the EU to not monitor Venezuela’s parliamentary elections. This blatant attempt at interfering in and attempting to delegitimize Venezuela’s elections went uncovered by mainstream media, which focused all of their attention on the UNHCR report.

Furthermore, the timing of the report was also suspect, coming just a week before the 2020 UN General Assembly. Its purpose in this regard is clear: to add fuel to the fire in Venezuela and to shift the spotlight from U.S. allies with their own human rights issues. The timely release allowed Colombian president Duque and Chilean president Piñera to cite it and Venezuela in their general assembly speeches. In Colombia, 64 massacres have taken place this year alone, while the Piñera government in Chile was almost brought down by his government’s excessive use of force against peaceful protestors. Yet it was Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaidó who made the headlines, invoking the report while calling on the international community to exercise its “responsibility to protect” in a YouTube webinar on the sidelines of the General Assembly. The responsibility to protect is a doctrine used as the justification for military aggressions against Libya and Syria, among others.

The fact-finding mission has produced a document that is currently being employed in the furtherance of sanctions, electoral interference and threats of war. To put it another way, the UNHCR report on the human rights of Venezuelans will likely lead to even more suffering for Venezuelans. In the words of Fundalatin President Russián, the threat to the human rights of Venezuelans “becomes graver because of the behavior by powerful states, who in the name of human rights, seek a foreign military intervention in Venezuela.”

Feature photo | Elliot Abrams, special representative for Iran and Venezuela at the State Department, attends a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing, Sept. 24, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Erin Schaff | The New York Times via AP

The post UN Venezuela Report Omits US Human Rights Violations appeared first on MintPress News.

Trump Refuses to Promise a Peaceful Transfer of Power Should He Lose

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 11:44am in

Almost any scenario we can imagine might well lead to armed conflicts in American streets between Trump’s supporters and his opponents on a scale much larger and more violent than anything we’ve seen so far.

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The post Trump Refuses to Promise a Peaceful Transfer of Power Should He Lose appeared first on New Politics.

Hearts on Fire for the 43  

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 11:01am in

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Human rights

On the sixth anniversary of the forced disappearance of the 43 Ayoztinapa college students, a flurry of developments is spurring optimism among long traumatized relatives of the students and their dedicated core of supporters.

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The post Hearts on Fire for the 43   appeared first on New Politics.

Scumbag Starmer Sacks Nadia Whittome Behind Back But Tells Fascist Guido Fawkes

This is another incident which shows the real, intolerant, treacherous face of Starmer’s administration. And it could have come straight out of the Blair playbook. Yesterday Starmer sacked three MPs from their posts as Parliamentary Private Secretaries – Nadia Whittome, Beth Winter and Olivia Blake because they had the conscience and the guts to vote against the government’s Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill 2019-21. The ladies objected to the bill’s provisions that would have exempted British service personnel for prosecutions for torture committed overseas. Starmer, however, had set up a one-line whip demanding that the Labout MPs abstain.

Other MPs from the ‘Corbynite’ wing of the party also had the courage to vote against the bill. They were: Diane Abbott, Apsana Begum, Richard Burgon, Ian Byrne, Jeremy Corbyn, Ian Lavery, Rebecca Long-Bailey, John McDonnell, Kate Osamor, Kate Osborne, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Zarah Sultana, Jon Trickett, and Claudia Webbe. Kudos and respect to all of them.

Lobster has put up a number of articles about the involvement of British armed forces in war crimes and supporting brutal dictatorships. At the moment the British military is giving training to 17 regimes, including the Chinese, that are on a list of thirty which are of concern because of their history of human rights abuses. The SAS was also involved in training the Sri Lankan army in its brutal war against the Tamil Tigers, which included reprisals and atrocities against the civilian Tamil population. A recent book on war crimes by the ‘Keenie Meenies’, a British mercenary company, also notes that, although they’re not formally part of the British army, they too have been used by the British state to give military support to some very unpleasant movements and regimes at arm’s length. Like the Mujahiddin fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan and the Fascist regimes in Central America in the 1980s. Going further back, British armed forces were also responsible for brutal reprisals against Black Kenyans during the Mao Mao rebellion, including torture and mutilation. The victims of the atrocities were only granted compensation after a long legal campaign a few years ago. For details of the atrocities themselves, see the book, Africa’s Secret Gulags.

Mike also points that Starmer’s order that Labour should abstain on the bill, but not vote against it, is similar to Harriet Harman’s order a few years ago that Labour should also abstain on a Tory welfare bill that would further cut benefits and impoverish claimants. It’s all part of the Blairite strategy of trying to appeal to Tory voters at the expense of the people they should really be standing up to protect. But they try to make it seems that they’re also paying attention to their working class and socialist base by abstaining. It’s unconvincing. To me, it recalls Pilate in the Gospels washing his hands and walking off when the Sanhedrin brought Christ before him to be crucified.

What makes Starmer’s decision particularly noxious, however, what adds insult to injury, is the way it was done. Whittome was not told she was sacked but a Labour ‘representative’ – some of us can think of other epithets for this unnamed person – instead went of an briefed Guido Fawkes. That’s the far-right gossip and smear site run by Paul Staines. Staines is an extreme right-wing Tory and libertarian, who’d like to ban the trade unions and other working class organisations, privatise everything, including the NHS, and get rid of the welfare state. When he was a member of the Freedom Association back in the 1980s, the organisation invited the leader of a Fascist death squad from El Salvador as their guest of honour at their annual dinner. Other guests, I think, included members of the South African Conservative party, who were staunch supporters of apartheid. He was also mad keen on the various psychedelics that were coming into the rave scene in the 1990s, including and especially ‘E’. It’s disgusting that anyone in the news should have been told before Whittome herself, but especially a Fascist like Staines and his squalid crew.

And Mike has pointed out on his blog that this is exactly the same tactic the Blairites in the Labour party used to stab him in the back. Mike was suspended for anti-Semitism the evening before he was due to stand as a Labour councillor in the mid-Wales elections. But he only found about it when a reporter from one of the local Welsh papers rang him up to ask him about it. And then some other weasel at the NEC went off and leaked Mike’s details to the Sunset Times, which then ran a feature smearing and libeling him as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Which Mike has never been, and very strongly and utterly condemns, as he has all racism.

But this also brings to mind the negative briefing Blair himself conducted against those MPs, who dared to go ‘off-message’ during his regime. Notable victims included Clare Short, who I think also clashed with him over his definitely unethical foreign policy. If a Labour MP or senior figure dared to contradict one of the Dear Leader’s policies or announcements, Blair and Campbell called the media hacks in for an anonymous briefing in which they or a representative then attacked the dissenting MP.

And now it seems that these old tactics have returned under ‘centrist’ Keir Starmer.

The Labour party is haemorrhaging members because of the way Starmer has turned his back on the great, socialist, genuinely Labour policies that Corbyn and his team were determined to return to. Mike’s pointed out that so far Starmer has broken 9 of his pledges to uphold them. Including his commitment to add 5 per cent tax to the upper right for big earners. That’s the multi-millionaires who have benefited from massive tax breaks, funded by savage benefit cuts to the poor and starving at the bottom of society, and who have squirreled their money away in offshore bank accounts. Including companies like that well-known patriotic group of papers and media, News International. Black members are particularly bitter and disappointed because of Starmer’s scant regard for the Black Lives Matter movement, which he dismissed as a ‘moment’.

Starmer has done nothing against the intriguers, who cost Labour the 2017 and 2019 elections, and who were responsible for the racist bullying of three senior and respected Black Labour MPs. Instead, the intriguers are arming themselves with lawyers and claiming that they have been smeared. And it shows how low Private Eye has fallen that the satirical magazine is uncritically pushing these claims, just as it was an enthusiastic supporter of the anti-Semitism smears against Corbyn and his supporters.

Mike yesterday put up a piece commenting on this grossly shabby action by Starmer, including citing some very excellent tweets from the public. They include people like Tory Fibs, Kelly-Ann Mendoza and Rachel Swindon. But my favourite comment is this from Mark Hebden

Nadia Whittome has essentially been sacked for voting against war crimes.

The Labour Party is the Party of War criminality again then

Yes, just as they were when Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq.

Mike has pointed out that Labour is behind the Tories in the polls, although Starmer himself is actually more popular than Boris. He asks, quite credibly, if this is because the Labour party acts like this to betray its own members.

What comes out of this is that Starmer himself is another intriguing Blairite and that he and his scuzzy advisors really haven’t learnt that not only are such tactics against one’s own unacceptable in themselves, they will also make you unpopular with the public. The press didn’t hold back on using these negative briefings against Blair and Brown when they did it, in order to make them look personally unpleasant and untrustworthy. Which they were.

Starmer is damaging the Labour party. I wish the poll result were the reverse. I wish Labour was surging ahead of the Tories, and it was Starmer behind Boris. It is no more than he deserves.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/09/24/keir-starmers-labour-is-unpopular-because-he-supports-war-crimes-and-sacks-people-who-dont/

The Me Too Movement in Iran: What Is New About It? What Can It Learn From Abolitionist Feminism in U.S.?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 23/09/2020 - 10:31pm in

Thousands of women and some men have started to speak publicly on social media about their experiences of sexual harassment, abuse, assault and rape.

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The post The Me Too Movement in Iran: What Is New About It? What Can It Learn From Abolitionist Feminism in U.S.? appeared first on New Politics.

What happens when we treat aged care residents as “consumers” (Inside Story Sep 14, 2020)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/09/2020 - 5:59am in

Decades of misguided policy sowed the seeds of a human rights disaster. Did the federal government have a plan to protect aged care residents from Covid-19 outbreaks? It’s 12 August 2020 — the third day of the aged care royal … Continue reading →

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