Human rights

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What Ministers should do – Human Rights in the election

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/05/2022 - 4:47am in

Human rights experts have welcomed Labor’s plan to restore merit appointments to the Australian Human Rights Commission, and to appoint a global ambassador for human rights. Nine years of partisan ‘captain’s picks’ by the Coalition government have shredded the Commission’s impartiality and subdued its voice as a champion of the vulnerable. Its funding has also Continue reading »

General Dynamics Calls Critics “Radical Skeptics” for “Undermining” US Foreign Policy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/05/2022 - 3:17am in

RESTON, VIRGINIA (CODEPINK) On May 4th, General Dynamics held its annual shareholder meeting. This meeting took place virtually, possibly in response to last year when shareholders were able to directly engage with the General Dynamics Board and ask how they justify the destruction and death their weapons cause.

CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin was able to use her shareholder question last year to ask CEO Phoebe Novakovic how she justifies making $21 million a year while, years earlier, a 2,000 lb. General Dynamics bomb hit a Yemeni marketplace and killed 97 civilians (including 25 children).

This year’s shareholder meeting was completely online, with only audio broadcasted and no video shared, no chat function, and a question submission box that was disabled halfway through the meeting. This platform allowed General Dynamics to speed through the 24-minute meeting with no pushback, criticism, or engagement from the shareholder attendees – and this approach extended to the proposals section.

During this section, there was a very notable proposal introduced by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, NY requesting that the General Dynamics Board of Directors prepare a human rights report. The proposal points out that General Dynamics’ products and services are used by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, and U.S. government agencies at the U.S.-Mexico border.

As General Dynamics’ weapons are used in war crimes and human rights violations against Yemenis, Palestinians, asylum-seekers, and beyond, this proposal rightfully calls for General Dynamics to develop and provide transparency on their process to address and remedy the “actual and potential human rights impacts associated with high-risk products and services.”

General Dynamics roundly rejected this proposal and unanimously recommended a vote against it. They stated that they already have a “rational and principled” human rights strategy – never mind that their strategy includes no commitment to addressing the human rights impacts of their lethal weapons. As Danaka Katovich lays out in her recent Jacobin Article, a 2019 Amnesty International report found that General Dynamics did not even measure up to its human rights due diligence responsibilities.

General Dynamics added that not only was this proposal unnecessary, but it was also harmful and would “undermine shareholder value” by attempting to “embed radical skepticism toward U.S. foreign policy.” In the shareholder meeting itself, CEO Novakovic stated that “we have supported the U.S. government’s foreign policy, and we will continue to do that – if that is at odds with anyone else’s view, that is something you should take up with your Representative. But that is not appropriate to ask at this meeting.”

General Dynamics’ response to this human rights proposal painted a clear picture: a corporation that is just doing its job by supporting the policies and needs of the U.S. government. However, the lobbying practices of General Dynamics and other top defense contractors paint a different picture.

General Dynamics is part of a proud defense contractor tradition of spending millions of dollars each year on lobbying to shape U.S. policy. And, as Open Secrets points out, this strategy pays off. Weapons manufacturers have spent more than $2.6 billion on lobbying in the past two decades, and have been rewarded with “half of the $14 trillion allocated to the Department of Defense (DOD) during that time.” For every $1 Lockheed Martin spent on lobbying in 2020, they received $5,803 from DOD contracts.

General Dynamics’ claim that their “North Star is the law and policy of the U.S. government” fails to mention that they spend millions annually to shape U.S. law and policy to their benefit. While defense contractors like General Dynamics hide behind the guise of supposedly impenetrable U.S. foreign policy, they have already spent almost $2.9 million on lobbying efforts in the first quarter of this year alone.

It’s time to stop buying the lie that corporate accountability for war crimes and human rights violations is really an attempt to “embed radical skepticism toward U.S. foreign policy.” Defense contractors like General Dynamics may hide behind the veneer of serving the U.S. government, but they ultimately only care about selling weapons and making substantial profits – and they shape our legislation towards that goal. It is against their self-interest to provide transparency around their human rights practices, because the more weapons they sell, the better – and they don’t care who they sell them to.

That is why now is a critical time to focus on pulling money away from these weapon-manufacturing corporate behemoths. Divesting money from weapons manufacturers, whether that is through divesting your church, university, or city budget, not only pulls financial resources from these death-dealing corporations but also demonstrates to them that there are dissenting communities across the U.S. who do not believe their lies about “just doing their jobs.” Pushing your Congressional representative to divest from war by refusing to take campaign contributions from weapons manufacturers is another powerful way to disrupt weapon manufacturers’ manipulation of U.S. policy for their own profit.

Militarized violence across the world in Ukraine, Yemen, Myanmar, Somalia and beyond is overwhelming – and so is the immense profit that weapons manufacturers are making from this violence. But we all have more power than we think, and an important first step for building a demilitarized future is pulling away money – and power – from these weapons manufacturers.

Feature photo | Upriseri

Shea Leibow is passionate about anti-war, anti-imperialist, and climate justice movement-building. They received their bachelor’s degree in the Study of Women & Gender and Environmental Science & Policy from Smith College in 2020. Shea has worked on campaigns related to environmental justice, food access, and nuclear weapons abolition. They also have a background in research, and were a Next Leader with the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies prior to coming to CODEPINK. Shea is based in Chicago, IL and is a National Organizer with the Divest from the War Machine and CODEPINK Congress campaigns.

The post General Dynamics Calls Critics “Radical Skeptics” for “Undermining” US Foreign Policy appeared first on MintPress News.

American history as imagined in liberal political philosophy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 09/05/2022 - 7:59pm in

I was reading a book on migration ethics recently – I may write a review later 1 — and it reminded me how a certain picture of the normal liberal state and its place in the world figures in a lot of political philosophy. Although the normative arguments are supposedly independent of historical facts, history is to be found everywhere, but only in a highly selective version that reflects the dominance of the United States within the discipline and the prominence of prosperous white liberals as both the writers of the important texts and as the readers and gatekeepers. 2 Their assumptions about the world and the US place in it shine through and form a "common ground" that is presupposed in much of this writing.3

In this vision, all the world is America 4 — though not one that corresponds to the actual history of the US — and the rest of the world mostly consists of little proto-Americas that will or should get there in the end (thereby echoing Marx’s dictum that the more developed country shows the less developed one a picture of its own future). This imaginary, but also not-imaginary, state is a sort-of cleaned-up and aspirational version of the actual one, cleansed of embarrassing details that are mere contingencies that detract or distract from what US liberals suppose to be its real essence or telos. Crucially, it is also considered as a basically self-contained entity, where all the important relationships are ones among people on the territory.5 It is an association of free and equal persons that has simply arisen on virgin soil. Both the actual United States and other countries fall short of this model, of course, but with time and good will wrinkles and carbuncles will be removed. 6

Now nobody believes that actual United States is anywhere near where its supposed essence directs it, so proponents of the model have certainly conceded its gross and deep injustice. But I think that what they take that great and deep injustice to be and the necessary mode of its correction, is both revealing and problematic. In brief, the apparently wise and noble vision of "the Founders" is soiled by the great uncorrected "anomaly" (henceforth the Anomaly) of race and the bringing to full citizenship and equality of the United State’s black citizens. In this narrative, then, slavery, the Civil War, Lincoln, Reconstruction, the struggle for civil rights and Martin Luther King all loom large and the central political task is overcoming that legacy of civic exclusion and subordination so that all take their place as full American citizens, recognizing one another as equal members of the Republic.

Corresponding to this is a characterization of White Supremacy (though this term is rarely used explicitly) as the domination of White Americans over Black Americans, with White Supremacy conceived of as being overcome once true civic equality is realized. (On the Left there is a variation of this story in which race is an epiphenomenon of class and in which the Anomaly is overcome once black and white recognize their commonality as American workers.) 7 Anyone who consumes the liberal output of Hollywood will also recognize the narrative in innumerable movies, but Selma is a recent example. The narrative of essential purity contaminated by the Anomaly explains some of the angrily defensive reactions to the New York Times‘s 1619 Project.

Now the narrative isn’t exactly false: the struggles of black Americans for equality are of very great historical importance: those who fought and fight for civil rights were and are heroic. They really did make immense sacrifices against racism and injustice, something that is rather diminished in a narrative that has them as redeeming the essential goodness of the very polity that brutally oppressed them and in large measure continues to do so. The trouble is that the bordered national and historical frame that the narrative is set in leaves so much else out of the picture, most significantly, perhaps, three things: first, the indigenous peoples of the Americas, overwhelmed by the aggressive imperial expansion of the original white settler-colonists; second, the fact that black Americans have another commonality that is tacitly suppressed in the focus on US citizenship, namely with the African diaspora elswhere in the Americas that also results from the Atlantic slave trade; third the fact that White Supremacy was not simply directed at black Americans but also had as its antagonist — and not just in the United States — immigrant workers from China, India and other Asian countries (and more recently from Latin America).

On the first of these, the place of the indigenous peoples of the Americas in the story, there is either silence or the the thought that it was all a long time ago and we can’t unpick it now (and certainly not without causing great injustice in the present). And maybe that’s right, at least to the extent that claims to resources on the part of indigenous populations have to both settle the thorny and contested question of who counts as indigenous,8 and to upset the lives that have been blamelessly built by many in the very places that indigenous people used to hold. Hence various attempts by philosophers to address the supercession of historical injustice. 9 But it is one thing to think that we cannot roll the clock back and quite another to deny the exclusionary claims of past holders of territorial and property rights while asserting very strong claims for oneself against people now characterized as non-citizens and hence as “outsiders” but who may well include descendants of past holders. Anyway, my purpose here is not even to begin to settle these questions of restitution, compensation and the like — which many people have worked on — but to note how little the issue features compared to other intrusions of historical detail into the central texts of liberal political philosophy.

The second omission, in some ways more interesting to me, is that of the black diaspora. It is interesting because of what neglect of it implicitly erases. The Anomaly is that there exists on the territory of the supposedly liberal-democratic state a group of people who have been wrongfully excluded from the civic status of equal citizenship and so the "solution" is to turn them into (or to recognize them as) regular citizens alongside other Americans. Presented like this, the Anomaly is a problem that is purely internal to the liberal democratic state and the "solution" is the re-establishment of a kind of normality that is consonant with the alleged essence of the political community. Perhaps this re-establishment also involves some kind of compensation in recognition of historical injustice, and perhaps it does not, but either way the goal is to bring it about that the hitherto excluded are brought to a position where they have a set of rights and duties towards the other members of that political community that are more extensive to those owed to "outsiders". Indeed, the primacy of these "internal" rights and duties over external ones is presupposed by the assumption that the state or nation is the privileged site of co-operation for all its inhabitants.

However, alongside the commonality that black Americans share with those who live within the state that they inhabit is another history, that of all the descendants of those forcibly brought to the Americas by Europeans, some of whom ended up in the United States, others in Brazil, elsewhere in Latin America or in the Caribbean. That the descendants of the victims of this legacy of forced kidnapping, transportation, rape and murder ought to, in the first instance, be bound by ties of civic equality to the children of their kidnappers and exploiters (and others, of course) rather than to their fellow victims who contingently ended up behind other borders, may have something to recommend it given that we live in a world of bordered national states, but it is surely an argument that deserves to be set out in the open rather than something that disappears behind a theory’s founding assumptions. Too often I have read some white American migration theorist arguing that "we", ie the set of American citizens, ought to protect poor black Americans from labour competitition from immigrants, but why are those poor black Americans part of a "we" that excludes a "they" of whom other descendants of slavery are a part? (Commonality with one’s fellow victims beyond borders is also something that bears on the indigenous case.)

The third omission is the failure to notice that the United States (like other white settler states such as Canada and Australia) has historically pursued policies of racial exclusion to preserve white supremacy that have little to do with the dominance of whites over black Americans. 10 The chief exhibit here is the Chinese Exclusion Act and related measures at the end of the 19th century and the subsequent making explicit by leaders such as Theodore Roosevelt of an approach that saw the United States as part of a group of white countries determined to preserve racial dominance against the threat of labour competition from Asia. These days, if work on migration ethics mentions these measures at all it is as another unjustified "anomaly" that disgraces the constititional liberal state which really ought not to discriminate in matters of immigration. This rather neglects the fact that such measures of racial exclusion were not unjust deviation from the state’s legitimate exercise of the right to control its borders but rather the central motive to getting immigration control started in the first place.11 Moreover, while the focus of racial anxiety has shifted its location somewhat, the central motive behind restrictionism remains the worry that the white core of America may be overwhelmed by the undesirable other: nowadays "Mexican rapists" instead of Chinese labourers and "prostitutes".

The centrality of the Anomaly in the historical imagination of liberal political philosophy and the pretence that White Supremacy would be defeated once civic equality for all, irrespective of race, is realised within the borders of a liberal constitutional state that remains free to restrict immigration obscures much from view that we ought to take seriously if we oppose both inequality and racism. First, there are consequences for the realization of civic equality within the state. Historically, the creation of a national citizenship and pressure to conform the the expectations of what a citizen is like has not worked well for indigenous people and their children. In the present, the equal status of citizens who look and sound like the people that the state is trying to keep out is often compromised as they and their families suffer the consequences of aggressive immigration enforcement.12 But in focusing on equality within the state taken as a discrete unit, as a little world unto itself, the methodological nationalist gaze simply fails to notice that White Supremacy both historically and in the present is maintained by keeping the non-white Other (Chinese labourers then, Central Americans now) on the outside. Liberals caught in an epistemic frame that is limited to citizens within borders can therefore complacently congratulate themselves on their anti-racism, because they favour equal status of all irrespective of race, while upholding in practice a system of white dominance. To my mind the lessons ought to be that we cannot easily separate questions of equality among citizens from the unequal statuses that are produced by nationality and bordering and that in doing political philosophy we cannot easily escape from the contingent unjust histories that have deposited particular people in the places where they now are.

[Many thanks to the friends who gave me feedback on drafts of this post]

  1. It was Michael Blake’s Justice, Migration and Mercy, (Oxford University Press, 2021).?

  2. As as British person I’m aware that we could tell a similar story about Britain, racism, exclusion etc as I refer to here and we could even find examples of historical amnesia and selection in the work of British political philosophers to illustrate the point (perhaps David Miller, and see for example Lorna Finlayson’s "If This Isn’t Racism, What Is? The Politics of the Philosophy of Immigration" Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 94 (1):115-139 (2020)). But US institutions are so dominant within the discipline that it is American historical narratives of self-congratulation, messianism, guilt, anxiety that loom largest.?

  3. Olúfémi O. Táíwò discusses Stalnaker’s notion of common ground as presupposed in conversation in his new Elite Capture (Pluto/Haymarket, 2022). It is "a shared resource that participants in a conversation use to build and perform social interactions." "When we act in social contexts, we treat the information in the common ground as if it were true…." Elite Capture pp 40–41.?

  4. See what I did there??

  5. Most liberal political philosophy therefore resembles the approach that Andreas Wimmer and Nina Glick Shiller have called "methodological nationalism". See e.g. their "Methodological nationalism and beyond: nation-state building, migration and the social sciences", Global Networks 2, 4 (2002) pp. 301–34. In political philosophy, both Alex Sager and Speranta Dumitru have been prominent in challenging the assumption of methodological nationalism. See e.g Alex Sager, "Methodological Nationalism, Migration and Political Theory", Political Studies. 2016;64(1): pp. 42–59 and Speranta Dumitru, "Qu’est-ce que le nationalisme méthodologique : Essai de typologie". Raisons politiques, 54, 9-22.?

  6. The relationship between the liberal state in ideal political philosophy and actual states has, of course, long been a topic of controversy, on which see for example Charles Mills’s classic article "Ideal Theory as Ideology" (in Peggy DesAutels and Margaret Urban Walker, eds., Moral Psychology: Feminist Ethics and Social Theory (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004), pp. 163-81). On the one hand people will say that something like Rawls’s well-ordered society (as an example among others) is a purely philosophical construct to enable the discussion of abstract principles, on the other hand critics have long suggested that Rawls, Dworkin et al are merely parochial rationalizers of something like existing states. Personally, I think that claims of purity are often belied by the intrusion of actual facts into the discourse, most notably facts concerning civil rights but also, for example, Dworkin’s discussions of workfare programmes in his Sovereign Virtue. In our conversations with students, moreover, there’s often an implied "we" and a shared social and political context against which classroom argument takes place. But I also think that the "merely" of the parochial rationalization attack vastly overstates that case. Anyway, here I’m in the business of noticing which bits of reality and history intrude and which don’t, and suggesting that this might be symptomatic of something.?

  7. A proper academic article making the points of this blogpost might look through the works of, say, John Rawls, and note how often the Anomaly, Martin Luther King, Lincoln etc are mentioned compared to the lacunae outlined here and then look at later work by others in journals such as Philosophy and Public Affairs. The answer for Rawls himself is that even the Anomaly gets rather thin engagement, though one can extrapolate from his concerns with topics such as civil disobedience. Later work could include Elizabeth Anderson’s Imperative of Integration (Princeton 2010) and Tommy Shelby’s brilliant Dark Ghettos (Harvard 2016) (which both shows how much can be done to address racial injustice from within a Rawlsian paradigm but also stays firmly rooted within the boundaries of the nation state).?

  8. On which, see Nandita Sharma, Home Rule: National Sovereignty and the Separation of Migrants and Natives (Duke 2020) pp. 46­–50.?

  9. The key reference here is Jeremy Waldron’s "Superseding Historical Injustice", Ethics , Oct., 1992, Vol. 103, No. 1 (Oct., 1992), pp. 4-28. For reasons why past injustices in the acquisition of territory might not necessarily impugn the justice of later holdings see Lea Ypi "A Permissive Theory of Territorial Rights" European Journal of Philosophy 22 (2):288-312 (2014).?

  10. The key text here, which will transform your thinking (guaranteed!) is Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds, Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men’s Countries and the International Challenge of Racial Equality (Cambridge University Press: 2008).?

  11. As Sarah Fine has pointed out, race and discrimination are central to popular discourse on immigration but almost absent from philosophical discussion of it, despite the roots of modern immigration control in the desire to discriminate on grounds of race. See her “Immigration and Discrimination” in Fine and Ypi eds Migration in Political Theory: The Ethics of Movement and Membership (Oxford, 2016).?

  12. See, for example, the work of Amy Reed-Sandoval, such as her Socially Undocumented (Oxford, 2020).?

Our Hypocrisy on War Crimes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/05/2022 - 11:00pm in

Khalid Salman by the graves of his sister and her children, who were among the twenty-four Iraqi civilians killed by US Marines in the 2005 Haditha massacreTown council leader and lawyer Khalid Salman by the graves of his sister and her children, who were among the twenty-four Iraqi civilians killed by US Marines in the 2005 Haditha massacre, Haditha, Iraq, 2011

There is the war, and then there is the war about the war. Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine is being fought in fields and cities, in the air and at sea. It is also, however, being contested through language. Is it a war or a “special military operation”? Is it an unprovoked invasion or a human rights intervention to prevent the genocide of Russian speakers by Ukrainian Nazis? Putin’s great weakness in this linguistic struggle is the unsubtle absurdity of his claims—if he wanted his lies to be believed, he should have established some baseline of credibility. But the weakness of the West, and especially of the United States, lies in what ought to be the biggest strength of its case against Putin: the idea of war crimes. It is this concept that gives legal and moral shape to instinctive revulsion. For the sake both of basic justice and of mobilizing world opinion, it has to be sustained with absolute moral clarity.

The appalling evidence of extrajudicial executions, torture, and indiscriminate shelling of homes, apartment buildings, hospitals, and shelters that has emerged from the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and from the outskirts of Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy gives weight and urgency to the accusation that Putin is a war criminal.* By late April, the UN human rights office had received reports of more than three hundred executions of civilians. There have also been credible reports of sexual violence by Russian troops and of abductions and deportations of civilians. According to Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, by April 21 Russia had committed more than 7,600 recorded war crimes.

Yet the US has been, for far too long, fatally ambivalent about war crimes. Its own history of moral evasiveness threatens to make the accusation that Putin and his forces have committed them systematically in Ukraine seem more like a useful weapon against an enemy than an assertion of universal principle. It also undermines the very institution that might eventually bring Putin and his subordinates to justice: the International Criminal Court (ICC).

There have long been two ways of thinking about the prosecution of war crimes. One is that it is a universal duty. Since human beings have equal rights, violations of those rights must be prosecuted regardless of the nationality or political persuasion of the perpetrators. The other is that the right to identify individuals as war criminals and punish them for their deeds is really just one of the spoils of victory. It is the winner’s prerogative—a political choice rather than a moral imperative.

Even during World War II, and in the midst of a learned discussion about what to do with the Nazi leadership after the war, the American Society of International Law heard from Charles Warren, a former US assistant attorney general and a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian of the Supreme Court, that “the right to punish [war criminals] is not a right conferred upon victorious belligerents by international law, but it flows from the fact of victory.” Warren quoted with approval another eminent American authority, James Wilford Garner, who had written that “it is simply a question of policy and expediency, to be exercised by the victorious belligerent or not.” “In other words,” Warren added, “the question is purely political and military; it should not be treated as a judicial one or as arising from international law.” As the Polish lawyer Manfred Lachs, whose Jewish family had been murdered by the Nazis, wrote in 1945, this idea that the prosecution of war crimes is “a matter of political expediency” would make international law “the servant of politics” and “a flexible instrument in the hands of politicians.”

It is hard to overstate how important it is that the war crimes that have undoubtedly been committed already in Ukraine—and the ones that are grimly certain to be inflicted on innocent people in the coming weeks and months—not be understood as “a flexible instrument in the hands of politicians.” They must not be either shaped around or held hostage by “policy and expediency.” This is a question of justice. Those who have been murdered, tortured, and raped matter as individuals, not as mere exemplars of Putin’s barbarity. The desire to prosecute their killers and abusers stems from the imperative to honor that individuality, to restore insofar as is possible the dignity that was stolen by violence.

But it is also, as it happens, a question of effectiveness. If accusations of Russian war crimes are seen to be instrumental rather than principled, they will dissolve into “whataboutism”: Yes, Putin is terrible, but what about… Instead of seeing a clean distinction between the Western democracies and Russia, much of the world will take refuge in a comfortable relativism. If war crimes are not universal violations, they are merely fingers that can point only in one direction—at whomever we happen to be in conflict with right now. And never, of course, at ourselves.

Even before Putin launched his invasion on February 24, the Biden administration seems to have had a plan to use Russian atrocities as a rallying cry for the democratic world. That day, The New York Times reported that “administration officials are considering how to continue the information war with Russia, highlight potential war crimes and push back on Moscow’s propaganda.” This was not necessarily cynical—Putin’s appalling record of violence against civilians in Chechnya and Syria and plain contempt for international law made it all too likely that his forces would commit such crimes in Ukraine.

But this anticipation of atrocities, and deliberation about how to make use of them, underlines the administration’s perception of the accusation of war crimes as a promising front in the ideological counterattack against Putin. As early as March 10, well before the uncovering of the atrocities at Bucha, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the BBC that Russian actions in Ukraine “constitute war crimes; there are attacks on civilians that cannot be justified…in any way whatsoever.”

A week later, and still a fortnight before the first reports from Bucha, Biden was calling Putin, in unscripted remarks, a “war criminal.” At that point, he in fact seemed a little unsure about the wisdom of making the charge—initially, when asked if he would use the term, he replied “no,” before asking reporters to repeat the question and then replying in the affirmative. Significantly, Biden was responding not to ground-level assaults by Russian troops on civilians but to the shelling of Ukrainian cities. This may perhaps explain his hesitancy: civilian casualties from aerial assaults by drones, rockets, and bombs are a sore subject in recent US military history.

Having crossed the line and made this charge directly, Biden had little choice but to raise the stakes when the terrible images from Bucha were circulated. First, on April 4 he went beyond deeming Putin a criminal by calling specifically for him to face a “war crime trial.” Then on April 12 he pressed the nuclear button of atrocity accusations: genocide. “We’ll let the lawyers decide, internationally, whether or not it qualifies [as genocide], but it sure seems that way to me.” He also referred to an unfolding “genocide half a world away,” clearly meaning in Ukraine.

Biden did so even though his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, had told a press briefing on April 4:

Based on what we have seen so far, we have seen atrocities, we have seen war crimes. We have not yet seen a level of systematic deprivation of life of the Ukrainian people to rise to the level of genocide.

Sullivan stressed that the determination that genocide had been committed required a long process of evidence-gathering. He cited the recently announced ruling by the State Department that assaults on the Rohingyas by the military in Myanmar/Burma constituted genocide. That conclusion was reached in March 2022; the atrocities were committed in 2016 and 2017. The State Department emphasized in its announcement that it followed “a rigorous factual and legal analysis.”

It is obvious that no such analysis preceded Biden’s decision to accuse Putin of genocide. When asked about genocide on April 22, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said, “No, we have not documented patterns that could amount to that.” Biden’s careless use of the term is all the more damaging because, however inadvertently, it echoes Putin’s grotesque claim that Ukraine has been committing genocide against Russian speakers in Donbas.

The problem with all of this is not that Biden is wrong but that it distracts from the ways in which he is right. This overstatement makes it far too easy for those who wish to ignore or justify what the Russians are doing to dismiss the mounting evidence of terrible crimes in Ukraine as exaggerated or as just another battleground in the information war. In appearing overanxious to inject “war criminal” into the international discourse about Putin and making it seem like a predetermined narrative, the US risked undermining the very stark evidence for that conclusion. By inflating that charge into genocide, it substituted rhetoric for rigor and effectively made it impossible for the US to endorse any negotiated settlement for Ukraine that leaves Putin in power: How can you make peace with a perpetrator of genocide? Paradoxically, it also risked the minimization of the actual atrocities: If they do not rise to the level of the ultimate evil, are they “merely” war crimes?

What makes these mistakes by Biden truly detrimental, however, is that the moral standing of the US on war crimes is already so profoundly compromised. The test for anyone insisting on the application of a set of rules is whether they apply those rules to themselves. It matters deeply to the struggle against Putin that the US face its record of having consistently failed to do this.

On November 19, 2005, in the Iraqi town of Haditha, members of the First Division of the US Marines massacred twenty-four Iraqi civilians, including women, children, and elderly people. After a roadside bomb killed one US soldier and badly injured two others, marines took five men from a taxi and executed them in the street. One marine sergeant, Sanick Dela Cruz, later testified that he urinated on one of the bodies. The marines then entered nearby houses and killed the occupants—nine men, three women, and seven children. Most of the victims were murdered by well-aimed shots fired at close range.

The official US press release then falsely claimed that fifteen of the civilians had been killed by the roadside bomb and that the marines and their Iraqi allies had also shot eight “insurgents” who opened fire on them. These claims were shown to be lies four months later, when Tim McGirk published an investigation in Time magazine. When McGirk initially put the evidence—both video and eyewitness testimony—to the marines, he was told, “Well, we think this is all al-Qaeda propaganda.”

This was consistent with what seems to have been a coordinated cover-up. No one in the marines’ chain of command subsequently testified that there was any reason to suspect that a war crime had occurred. Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Chessani, the battalion commander, was later charged with dereliction of duty for failing to properly report and investigate the incident. Those charges were dismissed. Charges against six other marines were dropped, and a seventh was acquitted. Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, who led the squad that perpetrated the killings, was demoted in rank to private and lost pay, but served no time in prison.

In his memoir Call Sign Chaos (2019) the former general James Mattis, who took over as commander of the First Marine Division shortly after this massacre and later served as Donald Trump’s secretary of defense, calls what happened at Haditha a “tragic incident.” It’s clear that Mattis believed that at least some of the marines had run amok:

In the chaos, they developed mental tunnel vision, and some were unable to distinguish genuine threats amid the chaos of the fight…. In the moments they had to react, several Marines had failed, or had tried but were unable, to distinguish who was a threat and who was an innocent. I concluded that several had made tragic mistakes, but others had lost their discipline…. The lack of discipline extended to higher ranks. Specifically, it was a gross oversight not to notice and critically examine a tragic event so far out of the norm. I recommended letters of censure for the division commander—a major general—and two senior colonels.

Mattis nowhere uses phrases or words like “war crime,” “massacre,” “atrocity,” or “cover-up.” He was determined, too, to exonerate the lower-ranking soldiers who participated in the violence at Haditha that day. “You did your best,” he reassured them, “to live up to the standards followed by US fighting men throughout our many wars.”

How does the “tragic incident” at Haditha differ from the murders of civilians by Russian forces in Ukraine? There are some important distinctions. Unlike in Russia now, the US had media organizations sufficiently free and independent to be able to challenge the military’s account of what happened. It had elected politicians who were willing to condemn the atrocity—in 2006, for example, Joe Biden suggested that then defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld should resign because of Haditha. Senior military commanders, including Mattis, were obviously repelled by the atrocity. Putin ostentatiously decorated the Sixty-Fourth Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade for its “mass heroism and courage” after that unit had been accused by Ukraine of committing war crimes in Bucha. There was no such official endorsement of the First Marine Division. These differences matter—false equivalence must be avoided.

Yet uncomfortable truths remain. One of the most prestigious arms of the US military carried out an atrocity in a country invaded by the US in a war of choice. No one in a position of authority did anything about it until Time reported on it. No one at any level of the chain of command, from senior leaders down to the soldiers who did the killings, was held accountable. And such minor punishments as were imposed seem to have had no deterrent effect. In March 2007 marines killed nineteen unarmed civilians and wounded fifty near Jalalabad, in Afghanistan, in an incident that, as The New York Times reported at the time, “bore some striking similarities to the Haditha killings.” Again, none of the marines involved or their commanders received any serious punishment.


American army staffers organizing stacks of German documents to be used as evidence in prosecuting war crimes at the Nuremberg Trial

Charles Alexander/US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C./NARA

American army staffers organizing stacks of German documents to be used as evidence in prosecuting war crimes at the Nuremberg Trial, Nuremberg, Germany, 1945–1946

Perhaps most importantly, nothing that happened in these or other atrocities in Iraq or Afghanistan changed the way that deliberate acts of violence against foreign civilians are presented in official American discourse. The enemy commits war crimes and lies about them. We have “tragic incidents,” “tragic mistakes,” and, at the very worst, a loss of discipline. When bad things are done by American armed forces, they are entirely untypical and momentary responses to the terrible stresses of war. The conditioning that helps make them possible, the deep-seated instinct to cover them up, and the repeated failure to bring perpetrators to justice are not to be understood as systemic problems. Nowhere is American exceptionalism more evident or more troubling than in this compartmentalizing of military atrocities.

The only way to end this kind of double standard is to have a single, supranational criminal court to bring to justice those who violate the laws of war—whoever they are and whatever their alleged motives. This idea has been around since 1872, when it was proposed by Gustave Moynier, one of the founders of the International Committee of the Red Cross. It seemed finally to be taking shape in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust, when a statute for an international criminal court was drafted by a committee of the General Assembly of the UN. This effort was, however, stymied by the USSR and its allies. In the 1990s the combination of the end of the cold war and the hideous atrocities committed during the breakup of Yugoslavia and in Rwanda gave the proposal a renewed impetus. This led to the conference in Rome in June and July 1998, attended by 160 states and dozens of nongovernmental organizations, that finally adopted the charter for the ICC. This statute entered into force in July 2002, and the ICC began to function the following year.

Of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, one (China) opposed the adoption of the ICC’s statute. Two (the United Kingdom and France) supported it and fully accepted its jurisdiction. That leaves two countries that ended up in precisely the same contradictory position: Russia and the US. Both signed the Rome statute—Russia in September 2000, the US three months later. And both then failed to ratify it. Putin, presumably because of international condemnation of war crimes being committed under his leadership in Chechnya, declined to submit it to the Duma in Moscow. George W. Bush effectively withdrew from the ICC in May 2002, following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and his declaration that “our war against terror is only beginning.”

The US then began what Yves Beigbeder, an international lawyer who had served at the Nuremberg Trial in 1946, called “a virulent, worldwide campaign aimed at destroying the legitimacy of the Court, on the grounds of protecting US sovereignty and US nationals.” Against the backdrop of the “war on terror,” Congress approved the American Service-Members’ Protection Act (ASPA) of 2002, designed to insulate US military personnel (including private contractors) from ICC jurisdiction. The ASPA placed numerous restrictions on US interaction with the ICC, including the prohibition of military assistance to countries cooperating with the court. Also in 2002, the US sought (unsuccessfully) a UN Security Council resolution to permanently insulate all US troops and officials involved in UN missions from ICC jurisdiction. In late 2004 Congress approved the Nethercutt Amendment, prohibiting assistance funds, with limited exceptions, to any country that is a party to the Rome statute.

These attacks on the ICC culminated on September 2, 2020, when the Trump administration imposed sweeping sanctions on Fatou Bensouda, a former minister of justice in Gambia, who was then the ICC’s chief prosecutor, and Phakiso Mochochoko, a lawyer and diplomat from Lesotho, who heads a division of the court. The US acted under an executive order that declared their activities a “national emergency.” The emergency was “the ICC’s efforts to investigate US personnel.” Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, denounced the ICC as “a thoroughly broken and corrupted institution.”

A year ago, the Biden administration lifted these sanctions against Bensouda and Mochochoko, saying they were “inappropriate and ineffective.” But the US did not soften its underlying stance, which is that, as Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, put it,

we continue to disagree strongly with the ICC’s actions relating to the Afghanistan and Palestinian situations. We maintain our longstanding objection to the Court’s efforts to assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-States Parties such as the United States and Israel.

In principle, this hostility to the ICC is rooted in the objection that the court is engaged in an intolerable effort to bind the US to a treaty it has not ratified—in effect, to subject the US to laws to which it has not consented. If this were true, it would indeed be an unacceptable and arbitrary state of affairs. But this alleged concern is groundless. The ICC does not claim any jurisdiction over states—it seeks to prosecute individuals.

This distinction was vital to the Nuremberg Tribunal, which stressed that “crimes against international law are committed by men, not by abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced.” Moreover, the US is already a party to the treaties that define the crimes the ICC is empowered to prosecute. The ICC follows the precedents and practices of international criminal tribunals that the US enthusiastically supported and participated in: the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War II, and the courts established in the 1990s to prosecute those responsible for atrocities in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. If the ICC is illegitimate, so were those courts.

The brutal truth is that the US abandoned its commitment to the ICC not for reasons of legal principle but from the same motive that animated Putin. It was engaged in aggressive wars and did not want to risk the possibility that any of its military or political leaders would be prosecuted for crimes that might be committed in the course of fighting them. That expediency rather than principle was guiding US attitudes became completely clear in 2005. The US decided not to block a Security Council resolution referring atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan to the ICC prosecutor. (It abstained on the motion.) It subsequently supported the prosecution at the ICC of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir and the use by the Special Court of Sierra Leone of the ICC facilities in The Hague to try former Liberian president Charles Taylor for crimes committed in Sierra Leone.

This American support was welcome, but it has been almost as damaging to the ICC as the outright hostility of the US had been. It suggested that in the eyes of the US, the only real war crimes were those committed by Africans. To date, the thirty or so cases taken before the ICC all involve individuals from Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mali, or Uganda. This selectivity led the African Union to label the ICC a “neo-colonial court” and urged its members to withdraw their cooperation from its prosecutions. However false the charge, it is easy to see how credible it might seem when the US has alternately endorsed the legitimacy of the ICC in prosecuting Africans and called the same court corrupt and out of control when it explores the possibility of investigating war crimes committed by Americans.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more than forty member states of the ICC, most of them European but also including Japan, Chile, Colombia, and Costa Rica, formally asked the court “to investigate any acts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide alleged to have occurred on the territory of Ukraine from 21 November 2013 onwards.” The ICC prosecutor Karim Khan has begun to do this. Crucially, though Ukraine is not itself a party to the ICC, it had already accepted the court’s jurisdiction in relation to war crimes on its territory, first in 2014 and again in 2015, the second time “for an indefinite duration.”

It is Ukraine’s choice that the ICC be the body that investigates and prosecutes Russian atrocities against its people. This means that if there is to be any prospect of bringing Putin and his accomplices to justice for murder, rape, and torture, it must lie with the ICC. The “war crime trial” that Biden called for on April 4, if it were ever to be possible, could be conducted only at The Hague.

The Biden administration knows this very well. On April 11 Charlie Savage reported in The New York Times that officials are “vigorously debating how much the United States can or should assist an investigation into Russian atrocities in Ukraine by the International Criminal Court.” But the administration is simultaneously spreading a fog of vagueness over this very question. In his April 4 press briefing Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, said, “Obviously, the ICC is one venue where war crimes have been tried in the past, but there have been other examples in other conflicts of other mechanisms being set up.” He promised that “the appropriate venue for accountability” would be decided “in consultation with allies and with partners around the world.” Yet all of those significant allies are members of the ICC, and the most important of them, Ukraine, has specifically given the court the job of trying to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Why continue to avoid this obvious truth? A yawning gap has opened between Biden’s grandiloquent rhetoric about Putin’s criminality on the one side and the deep reluctance of the US to lend its weight to the institution created by the international community to prosecute such transgressions of moral and legal order. It is a chasm in which all kinds of relativism and equivocation can lodge and grow. The longer the US practices evasion and prevarication, the easier it is for Putin to dismiss Western outrage as theatrical and hypocritical, and the more inclined other countries will be to cynicism.

It has been said repeatedly since February 24 that if the democracies are to defeat Putin, they must be prepared to sacrifice some of their comforts. Germany, for example, has to give up Russian natural gas. What the US must give up is the comfort of its exceptionalism on the question of war crimes. It cannot differentiate itself sufficiently from Putin’s tyranny until it accepts without reservation that the standards it applies to him also apply to itself. The way to do that is to join the ICC.

—April 28, 2022

The post Our Hypocrisy on War Crimes appeared first on The New York Review of Books.

Radical Republicans Are Birthing the Nation They Want—and Most Americans Don’t

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/05/2022 - 3:03am in

Outlawing abortion is the outcome of a radical conservative minority. The success of this minority has been entirely driven by megadonors and organizations that create voter turnout through disinformation and motivating extremists. The notion that a cluster of cells that cannot survive outside a human host, one that has no heart, functioning organs, or nervous system, is a “baby” and an “innocent child” that feels pain is a lie. In many ways, it is the modern GOP’s original disinformation campaign....

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As Ramadan Ends, Israeli Provocations Seem Aimed at a Religious War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/05/2022 - 2:40am in

OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM, PALESTINE — On the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, at least 42 Palestinians were injured when Israeli police raided al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in occupied East Jerusalem, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said. With nearly 300 Palestininians injured in the last two weeks at al-Aqsa compound, this year’s Ramadan in Palestine has been marked by bloodshed once again. 

Since the start of Ramadan on April 2, human rights organizations have monitored a significant increase in violence against Palestinians. Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq has documented a worrying trend “in killings, excessive use of force, settler colonial violence, attacks on holy sites and worshippers, and collective punishment measures against Palestinians, including widespread raids, arbitrary arrests, and movement restrictions.” 

According to Al-Haq’s information, the Israeli army has killed 17 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank in April. Since Al-Haq’s publication, Israeli forces fatally shot 18-year-old Ahmad Fathi Masad in the head during a raid on the Jenin refugee camp this week. 

 

Uptick in religious violations

Israeli police raids on al-Aqsa compound have become routine this month, with the PRCS noting the majority of injuries were to the upper areas of the body. Israeli forces have used rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, pepper spray and stun grenades against Palestinian worshippers at al-Aqsa

In recent weeks, Israeli forces have also broken the iconic stained-glass windows of al-Qibli Mosque, the main mosque in the compound, and have attacked Palestinian journalists, children, women and the elderly at the holy site.

Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister for Religious Endowments Sheikh Hatem al-Bakri told MintPress News that Israel’s actions at al-Aqsa compound are in violation of international regulations, UNESCO resolutions and religious traditions. 

In 2016, UNESCO, the UN’s world heritage organization, adopted a resolution decrying Israeli violations at al-Aqsa including restricting access to Muslim worship and storming of the compound by Israeli forces and extremists. 

“Israel is not respecting religious treaties at all, instead using their privilege of power to enact these policies,” al-Bakri said, emphasizing how the Jordanian Ministry of Waqf has full jurisdiction over the holy site. “And because of our weaknesses, we cannot run any military confrontation with Israel. We have to just witness what’s happening.”

Israeli police are not the only ones violating the sanctity of al-Aqsa. This month, the Jewish festival of Passover coincided with Ramadan. Jewish extremists used the holiday season to storm the compound and pray at the site more frequently. On April 17, Israeli forces shut Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron to Muslim worshippers for two days. That following Tuesday, hundreds of Jewish settlers stormed the mosque to perform Talmudic rituals in celebration of Passover. The Israeli army also erected military barricades surrounding the area of the mosque to facilitate the settlers’ movement. The director of the mosque, Ghassan Al-Rajabi, said the closure was a continuation of “Zionist authorities’ attempts to dominate and occupy the mosque.”

In 1994, Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Muslim worshippers at Ibrahimi Mosque during Ramadan. Following the massacre, Israel divided the holy site into Muslim and Jewish sections, with Muslim access cut to 40%.

Last year, Israel authorities initiated excavation works at the mosque in order to install an elevator there. A Palestinian petition against the settler project was rejected by Israel’s Supreme Court on the grounds the elevator’s purpose is to ensure greater disability access. However, Palestinans stress the plan isn’t humanitarian in its purpose, instead giving cover for an attempt to confiscate land and further Judaize the mosque. 

Sheikh al-Bakri, who is also a preacher at Ibrahimi Mosque, said Israel’s tightened security measures around the religious site suggest a more sinister intention. “Israel has been trying to control that site through converting it from a place for worshipers to a military zone,” al-Bakri said. “All of the events that have been happening around that site make us believe that Israel is trying to turn the Muslim praying side into a synagogue.”

April saw an escalation against Palestinian Muslim and Christian worship as well. According to documentation from the Jerusalem Governorate, on April 23 Israeli forces prevented hundreds of Palestinian Christians from reaching the Church of Holy Sepulcher to celebrate the “Holy Fire” ceremony on the eve of Orthodox Easter.

Minister al-Bakri said Israeli violations against some mosques in Jerusalem have occurred this Ramadan, but emphasized the main offenses against Islam have been at the al-Aqsa and Ibrahimi mosques. 

“If Israel is violating these two big sites, then they can violate every site in the country,” al-Bakri said. “And we keep saying that if Israel is violating al-Aqsa, it’s violating every single Palestinian.”

 

Israel seeking a religious war 

As the end of Ramadan nears, Israeli police have banned non-Muslims from entering al-Aqsa compound for the last ten days of Ramadan. According to Jerusalem Governorate statistics, about 3,670 Jewish settlers invaded al-Aqsa Compound during the Passover holiday.

Amid the spike in Jews praying at the site, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid asserted Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo at al-Aqsa Compound. 

“Muslims pray on the Temple Mount [what Israel calls al-Aqsa Compound], non-Muslims only visit. There is no change, there will be no change,” Lapid said during a press conference

Yet Jordan, which has custodianship over the site, disagreed. The Jordanian Foreign Ministry warned in a statement that Israel is taking “targeted steps to change the historical and legal situation in the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif,” specifically condemning Israeli forces for raiding the area and allowing Jews to pray at al-Aqsa Compound. 

Jewish extremists often argue that denying Jewish prayer at al-Aqsa Compound is an obstruction of freedom of worship, given the area is deemed the holiest site in Judaism.  

“Al-Aqsa is only for Muslims,” PA Deputy Governor of Jerusalem Abdullah Siam told MintPress News, in response to accusations of religious discrimination. He suggested the current status quo has pushed Israel to take the site through force. 

Al-Bakri also agreed that al-Aqsa is strictly for Muslim worship. 

But Jewish extremists who spout claims of religious discrimination ignore the stark political element at play, Israeli journalist and activist Haggai Matar said. “[T]here are no equals in Israel-Palestine,” Matar wrote in +972 Magazine. “[I]t is Israel that has created a system of apartheid wherein … Jewish supremacy over Palestinians is guaranteed, maintained, and entrenched by law and by force.”

Just before the start of Ramadan, Israeli parliament member and leader of the far-right Jewish Power Party Itamar Ben-Gvir toured al-Aqsa Compound, escorted by police. This wasn’t his first incursion, and Minister al-Bakri said such provocative, politically-charged tours are how the Israeli government attempts to stabilize its fragile coalition. “Through these practices, [the government is] trying to get political acquisitions,” al-Bakri said. “The government of [Prime Minister] Naftali Bennett is weak, and in order for them to keep going, they have to encourage settlers to do more raids so as to win from that situation.”

Yet ultimately, Israel’s ongoing violations against Muslim worship, al-Bakri said, are “leading the area to a religious war between Islam and Judaism.” “We always say that our main problem is not with Judaism as a religion, but with the occupation,” al-Bakri said. “Although Israel has been using Judaism to shape its occupation.”

 

Ramadan violence on repeat

As they were last year, tensions in Palestine have been at a maximum high during Ramadan. 

In May 2021, violence erupted into a war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic faction governing Gaza. Israel’s 10-day assault on the besieged Gaza Strip left 256 Palestinians dead, including 66 children. Media pundits and experts have feared this Ramadan may reach last year’s deadly levels. 

For Minister al-Bakri, the atmosphere in Palestine is always volatile during Ramadan because Israel encourages a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. “Three months ago, Israel started talking in the media about a potential escalation, while the Palestinians hoped for a quiet month,” al-Bakri said, highlighting the number of Palestinians killed recently as meeting Israeli predictions. “Israel has been preparing the area for a potential problem by repeating these crisis slogans.”

Younes Arar, director of international and public relations and media for the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, suggested the large number of Palestinians flocking to Jerusalem during Ramadan is part of why the holy month is a tense time — emphasizing how the restrictions on freedom of movement add to the provocations. “Israel uses this month to humiliate Palestinians, as much as they can,” Arar said. “Especially at the doors of al-Aqsa Mosque, knowing how much this situation is sensitive for Palestinians.”

Feature photo |

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News.

The post As Ramadan Ends, Israeli Provocations Seem Aimed at a Religious War appeared first on MintPress News.

Political appointments and downgrading the Australian Human Rights Commission

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 01/05/2022 - 4:17am in

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Human rights

The international standards body on human rights has found that the Australian Human Rights Commission should be downgraded in its standing. With all the hollering and scolding of Russian barbarity in Ukraine and Chinese viciousness against the Uighur populace, one could be forgiven for thinking that Australia’s politicians were presiding from the summit of human Continue reading »

Amicus Brief of Professor Brook Baker on the human right principles and TRIPS-compliant interpretation of the compulsory license petition filed by KEI in the Dominican Republic

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/04/2022 - 11:45am in

Last week, Professor Brook Baker filed an Amicus Brief responding to four of the arguments made by Pfizer against the compulsory license requested by KEI in the Dominican Republic to allow the distribution of the generic version of Paxlovid. His brief was officially filed with the patent office. Professor Baker summarizes his brief as follows.

This submission is limited to four general points relevant to the compulsory license petition pending for decision at the Dominican Republic Patent Office relating to Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral, Paxlovid. More particularly, it responds to central arguments put forth by Pfizer in its opposition to the compulsory license petition filed by Knowledge Ecology International (KEI). The first point is that the relevant human rights at stake in this petition are the rights of Dominican Republic people to have expanded, expedited, affordable, and equitable access to nirmatrelvir + ritonavir for outpatient use to prevent disease progression, hospitalization, and even death. The primacy of the people’s right to health is directly contrary to Pfizer’s assertion of a nearly inviolate human right to its intellectual property. However, Pfizer has no enforceable human rights to the patent and data rights it asserts over Paxlovid and to the contrary is violating its human rights duties by filing this opposition. The second point is that even the intellectual property rights that Pfizer does have are constrained ab initio by the possibility of a compulsory license; at the time they filed for a patent application covering Paxlovid, the government’s right to issue a compulsory license for stated purposes was fully authorized in Dominican Republic law. The third point is that Pfizer’s opposition is duplicitous in that its voluntary license with the Medicines Patent Pool and its sublicensees directly allows for countries like the Dominican Republic, excluded from the territorial coverage of the voluntary license and sublicenses, to issue compulsory licenses that would allow generic sublicensees to sell generic nirmatrelvir + ritonavir to them. By filing its 44-page opposition to this compulsory license request, Pfizer recants and undermines the right it freely negotiated with the MPP.

 

The fourth point is perhaps the easiest. Neither the TRIPS Agreement nor that Dominican Republic compulsory licensing law requires a separate executive declaration of the need for and grounds for a compulsory license request on a particular medicine. As clarified by the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, countries have total freedom to decide the “grounds” for compulsory licenses and can do so on stated policy grounds, not merely on the basis of case-by-case advance executive declaration. This understanding of the right to state broad and multiple grounds that justify the issuance of compulsory licenses is codified in the law of virtually every country that issues compulsory licenses. There are particular compulsory licenses rules in the special circumstances where a government faces an emergency or matter of extreme urgency – for example, the elimination of the requirement to engage in negotiations for a voluntary license on reasonable commercial terms – but even in such urgent circumstances a formal executive pronouncement is not a TRIPS requirement. The emergency or urgency can be recognized by the authority that grants the compulsory license. In sum, Pfizer seeks to complicate and undermine widely recognized procedural simplicities by imposing a dual process – first executive declaration on the need for a compulsory license as a gateway barrier and only thereafter and secondarily case-by-case consideration of the actual compulsory license application to be considered, in the case of the Dominican Republic, on broad public interest grounds.

A full copy of the brief filed by Professor Baker is available here in English and Spanish.

The post Amicus Brief of Professor Brook Baker on the human right principles and TRIPS-compliant interpretation of the compulsory license petition filed by KEI in the Dominican Republic appeared first on Knowledge Ecology International.

Jacob Hornberger: Why not joint war crimes trials?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/04/2022 - 4:30am in

The U.S. mainstream media is calling for the criminal prosecution of Russian president Vladimir Putin, as well as Russian military personnel, for war crimes committed as part of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. There is nothing wrong with that. When government officials or military personnel engage in war crimes, they should be prosecuted. What’s weird though Continue reading »

Israel and apartheid

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/04/2022 - 4:19am in

Readers will be aware that earlier this year Amnesty International released a report which made a determination that Israel was an apartheid State. The report was titled ‘Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians, a Cruel System of Domination and a Crime Against Humanity’. The report caused much consternation amongst Israeli supporters. Israel and the lobby dismissed it Continue reading »

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