Archive for Human Rights

¿Cuba Libre?

You tell me:

Here is what the U.S. Agency for International Development, which takes its foreign policy guidance from the White House and the State Department, has to say about Cuba:

Cuba is a totalitarian state which relies on repressive methods to maintain control. Criticism of national leaders or the political system can lead to imprisonment. Members of the security forces harass and physically assault human rights and pro-democracy advocates, dissidents, detainees, and prisoners. The Cuban Government does not allow independent monitoring of prison conditions by international or national human rights groups and continues to refuse access to detainees by international humanitarian organizations (U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011).…

The Cuban Government routinely denies its citizens freedom of association and does not recognize independent associations. The Cuban Constitution prohibits any political organization that is not officially recognized. As a result, grassroots community efforts which operate in a democratic manner are extremely limited (U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011)….

The Cuban Government owns and the Communist Party controls all print and broadcast media outlets. News and information programming is nearly uniform across all outlets, and the law prohibits distribution of printed material from foreign sources considered “counterrevolutionary” or critical of the government. Foreign newspapers or magazines are generally unavailable, and distribution of material with political content, interpreted broadly to include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is not allowed and can result in harassment and even detention.

The Cuban Government controls nearly all internet access, with the exception of extremely limited facilities, where foreigners and citizens are allowed to buy Internet access cards for use at hotel business centers, where the price of Internet access is beyond the means of most citizens. Authorities review the browsing history of authorized users, review and censor e-mail, employ Internet search filters, and block access to Web sites considered objectionable (U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011).

Under the arrangement Obama has crafted, Cuba is required to do not a damn thing about reforming any of this. In “exchange,” the United States of America gives Cuba full diplomatic recognition. Plus, Obama tells the world’s other despots that a windfall from Uncle Sam could be awaiting them, too, if they abduct American citizens and hold them for ransom.

It’s true that we have diplomatic relations with just about everybody—North Korea being the only notable exception. But Havana doesn’t sound a whole hell of a lot freer. Pyonyang with an extra ration of fried plantains. Beijing with palm trees.

Cuba’s current sugardaddy, Venezuela, is in its own circle of Hell. If there was ever a time to squeeze Cuba for human rights concessions, this was that time. I guess human rights are just another first-world, colonial imposition on the indigenous proletariat of the world, and Obama says [bleep] that noise. Besides, Major League Baseball could do with a few more power pitchers and right-handed bats.

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Other UN Initiatives You May Have Missed

While those who haven’t fallen asleep are hailing the UN’s climate deal (show of hands…anyone…?), here’s one that slipped through the cracks:

The president of Sudan has claimed victory over the International Criminal Court after it ended its probe into allegations of war crimes in Darfur.

The ICC charged Omar al-Bashir in 2009 for crimes in the region dating back to 2003, but he refused to recognise the authority of the court in The Hague.

He said the court had failed in its attempts to “humiliate” Sudan.

Announcing the suspension on Friday, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda blamed it on lack of action by the UN.

She called for a “dramatic shift” in the UN Security Council’s approach, saying inaction was emboldening the perpetrators of war crimes in Darfur to continue their brutality, particularly against women and girls.

Turn that frown upside-down, Fatou. The woman and girls may still be “brutalized”, but “this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow”.

What’s that? Darfur is landlocked? They couldn’t care less about the oceans? Awfully selfish of them. No wonder the UN turned its back.

Human Rights Watch said that Mr Bashir had got the wrong message from the decision to suspend the case.

“Rather than the prosecutor (Fatou Bensouda) holding up her hands in defeat, I think she threw the challenge down to the Security Council itself, that they, the Council, need to step up to the plate and assist her in the arrest and surrender of Omar al-Bashir and other accused, for fair trial at the ICC,” Human Rights Watch spokesman Richard Dicker told the BBC.

Sudan says it has carried out its own investigation and has found no proof that anyone was raped.

Given our own news on the subject lately, we Americans can relate.

A little about the climate deal (very little):

United Nations members have reached an agreement on how countries should tackle climate change.

Environmental groups have criticised the deal as a weak and ineffectual compromise, saying it weakens international climate rules.

It ended in a compromise that some participants believe keeps the world on track to reach a new global treaty by the end of next year.

Good. Everyone flew airplanes into Lima, Peru, spent lots of money and wasted lots of time, agreed to do not much of anything, and then flew home. All to be repeated next year. Most international confabs are wastes of time, money, and energy—few so ironically.

As for the “brutalization” of the women and girls of Darfur, see above comment.

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The Silence of the Lambs Lettuce

Nice Greek salad!

You heartless bastard:

Morning Edition’s Steve Inskeep spoke to reporter Richard Marosi about his 18-month investigation in Mexico. Wednesday’s story in the series follows Ricardo Martinez, a farmworker who tried, unsuccessfully, to leave a labor camp.

According to Marosi, the farmworkers are “the invisible people of Mexico, the poorest, the most discriminated.” That’s what makes them so vulnerable to abuse in farm labor camps.

The camps are in remote regions of west and northwest Mexico, and attached to the megafarms that produce millions of pounds of tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers and other vegetables, much of them bound for the U.S.

“They live in rooms six-by-eight generally, and shed-like housing, sometimes no furniture. They sleep on scraps of cardboard,” Marosi says.

The workers are forced to buy food from the company stores where the prices are heavily inflated. Even making $8 to $12 dollars a day, which is more than they might make at home, they can’t keep up with the high costs.

“A lot of these places, they illegally withhold the wages of the workers; they’re there on three-month contracts, they’re not paid until the end,” he says. That means they don’t even have the money to catch a bus and escape the farm.

And America is supposed to live in eternal shame over slavery? These serfs are imprisoned in the full light of day in the 21st Century.

And whom do we blame?

Marosi says a lot of the blame lies with firms who project an image of social responsibility or tote their many badges of certifications from labor groups. In reality, they are not actually enforcing their standards.

Mexico doesn’t have a government to enforce the law? Did anyone tell President Obama? What would Octavio Paz and Frida Kahlo say about this human rights catastrophe?

Me, I blame the people whose insatiable demand creates this appalling situation: vegetarians. They may think that cucumber salad with tomato wedges in private is harmless. Yet how many more must suffer for their selfish needs?

I’ll have a bacon cheeseburger, my good man, and very much hold the pickle and the lettuce.

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Random Thoughts While Waiting for Obama to Bring Down the Hebrew Hammer on Israel

So, The US is considering sanctions against Israel.

I think. Sort of.

ED HENRY, FOX NEWS: There were reports that the administration is considering sanctioning Israel over the settlements issue. I wonder if you could say true or false.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE: Well, uh, I’ve been informed of some of these reports. What I can tell you is that I’m not going to talk about any sort of internal deliberations inside the administration and certainly not inside the White House. But I will say something that I have said many times before, which is that Israel is a close and strategic partner of the United States. And I don’t need to remind you…zzzzzzz

What? Huh? Sorry, where was he?

That being said, we have also been crystal clear about our view of settlement activity. That view has not changed. We believe that settlements are illegitimate, and we have deep concerns about highly contentious planning and construction activities that the Israeli government is…

And if you order now, you’ll get a second Swiffer at no extra cost!

Again, sorry. Just wanted to see what else was on.

HENRY: So very clearly you are not denying that sanctions are on the table against even an ally?

EARNEST: I am very clearly not denying we have strong concerns about that settlement activity that’s underway in Israel. But it has not and will not affect the…

Rondo to Olynik for three…got it!

Just checking the Celtics. Where were we?

HENRY: But how can you be telling Congress don’t issue more sanctions against Iran at the same time you’re considering sanctions against an ally in Israel?

EARNEST: Again, I’m not going to comment on those reports about our discussions as it relates to Israel.

HENRY: But you are talking about sanctions. You’re leaving that door wide open here.

EARNEST: I’m not saying I’m not willing to talk about those conversations.

HENRY: So you’re not considering sanctions?

EARNEST: I’m not saying I’m not willing to talk about those kinds of conversations. But what I am saying is that we have been clear about what our strategy is against Iran….

Oy. Can we just bail now?

Anyway, while we’re talking about illegitimate activities in Middle Eastern countries, perhaps we can start here:

Two Saudi women activists have been detained for nearly a week for defying the kingdom’s ban on women driving, family members and an activist said Sunday.

The kingdom’s hard-line interpretation of Islam, known as Wahabbism, holds that allowing women to drive encourages licentiousness. No such ban exists in the rest of the Muslim world, including Saudi Arabia’s conservative Gulf neighbors.

That sure sounds like a War on Women to me. What are we, Switzerland?

How about another country that has Obama’s ear (for which they need both hands!):

In March, King Abdullah II reappointed Abdullah Ensour as prime minister. Authorities stepped up attacks on independent media, censoring over 260 websites that refused to comply with new government registration requirements.

Freedom of Expression and Belief

Jordanian law criminalizes speech deemed critical of the king, government officials, and institutions, as well as Islam and speech considered defamatory of others. In 2013, the authorities failed to amend the penal code to bring it into compliance with constitutional free speech guarantees strengthened in 2011, and continued to prosecute individuals on charges such as “insulting an official body,” using vaguely worded penal code articles that place impermissible restrictions on free expression.

On September 17, police arrested Nidhal al-Fara`nah and Amjad Mu`ala, respectively publisher and editor of the Jafra News website, after it posted a third-party YouTube video that authorities deemed insulting to the brother of Qatar’s ruler. Prosecutors charged both men with “disturbing relations with a foreign state” before the State Security Court, whose judges include serving military officers.

Jordan, a Palestinian state in all but name, is significantly more repressive than Israel. But do we hear about sanctions?

Oh yeah, what about Qatar?

Migrants continue to experience serious rights violations, including forced labor and arbitrary restrictions on the right to leave Qatar, which expose them to exploitation and abuse by employers.

Forced labor: does that mean slavery?

Workers typically pay exorbitant recruitment fees and employers regularly take control of their passports when they arrive in Qatar. The kafala (sponsorship) system ties a migrant worker’s legal residence to his or her employer, or sponsor. Migrant workers commonly complain that employers fail to pay their wages on time if at all, but are barred from changing jobs without their sponsoring employer’s consent other than in exceptional cases and with express permission of the Interior Ministry. Adding to their vulnerability, they must obtain an exit visa from their sponsor in order to leave Qatar. Migrant workers are prohibited from unionizing or engaging in strikes, although they make up 99 percent of the private sector workforce.

Sounds like it.

In February, an appeal court reduced to 15 years the life imprisonment sentence imposed on poet Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, a Qatari national, in November 2012, by a court in Doha. The court convicted him of incitement to overthrow the regime after he recited poems critical of Qatar’s then-emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. In June 2013, the emir abdicated, handing power to his son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

Who’s a hell of a guy, I hear. Speaking of guys:

Provisions of Law No. 22 of 2006, Qatar’s first codified law to address issues of family and personal status law, discriminate against women. Article 36 states that two men must witness marital contracts, which are concluded by male matrimonial guardians. Article 57 prevents husbands from hurting their wives physically or morally, but article 58 states that it is a wife’s responsibility to look after the household and to obey her husband. Marital rape is not a crime.

So far, we’re not sanctioning Iran for trying to build an A-bomb; we’re not sanctioning Jordan for rampant censorship and repression; and we’re not sanctioning Qatar for slavery and the decriminalization of marital rape.

But we are sanctioning Israel.

This is fun!

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) continues to crack down on freedom of expression and association. The authorities are arbitrarily detaining scores of individuals they suspect of links to domestic and international Islamist groups. A court convicted 69 dissidents in July after a manifestly unfair trial, in which evidence emerged of systematic torture at state security facilities. The UAE made no reforms to a system that facilitates the forced labor of migrant workers.

More slavery!

Saud Kulaib, an Emirati national, spent five months in incommunicado detention between December 29 and May 27. In addition to enduring solitary confinement, extremes of temperature, and sleep deprivation, he told family members and other inmates that officers beat him, sliced his hand open with a razor blade, threatened to pull out his fingernails, and told him that his wife was in detention and on hunger strike.

Who else has been a bad boy?

Borders controlled by Iraq’s central government remained closed to Syrians fleeing civil war, while as of November, nearly 206,600 Syrians fled to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)-controlled area.

In December 2012, thousands of Iraqis took part in demonstrations in mostly Sunni areas, demanding reform of the Anti-Terrorism Law and the release of illegally held detainees. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced in January 2013 that he had created special committees to oversee reforms, including freeing prisoners and limiting courts’ use of secret informant testimony. At time of writing, there was little indication that the government had implemented reforms. Security forces instead used violence against protesters, culminating in an attack on a demonstration in Hawija in April, which killed 51 protesters. Authorities failed to hold anyone accountable.

I’d like to see Israel get away with that! Not really, just a figure of speech.

Are we done? Not hardly:

Kuwait continues to exclude thousands of stateless people, known as Bidun, from full citizenship, despite their longstanding roots in Kuwaiti territory.

The government has aggressively cracked down on free speech, often resorting to a law forbidding any offense to the ruler (emir).

Kuwait has no laws prohibiting domestic violence, sexual harassment, or marital rape. In addition, Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaiti men cannot give their spouses or children Kuwaiti citizenship. Kuwaiti law does not let women marry a partner of their choice if their father will not grant permission.

In May, the Kuwaiti authorities announced that Saudi Arabian women would not be provided with drivers’ licenses while in Kuwait without the permission of their male guardians.

The United States, in its 2013 US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report, classified Kuwait as Tier 3—among the most problematic countries—for the seventh year in a row. The report cited Kuwait’s failure to report any arrests, prosecutions, convictions, or sentences of traffickers for either forced labor or sex trafficking, and weak victim protection measures.

Even more slavery—and sex trafficking! Do Kuwaitis know how to party, or what? No wonder Saddam wanted a piece of the…action. (What did you think I was going to write?)

We haven’t exhausted the region, but it’s doubtful we’ll be able to top that. And I’m sure we’ll get around to tsk-tsking them as soon as we ding Israel for putting a spare bedroom over the garage.

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Istanbull

Aggie linked yesterday to Bret Stephens’s brilliant column on what Obama got wrong (world’s longest book), which I read on my phone in the pre-dawn hours from the road, trying not to shout “[bleep] yeah!” at every irrefutable point.

I want to highlight one of them:

Next example: Turkey. In 2009 Mr. Obama decided to elevate Turkey and its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as his core partner in the Middle East. “On issue after issue we share common goals,” he told the Turkish parliament in April 2009. In 2012 he said that he and Mr. Erdogan had developed “bonds of trust.”

Yet in 2009 it was already clear that Mr. Erdogan was orchestrating huge show trials against his political opponents based on outlandish charges. By 2010 it was clear that he was an avowed supporter of Hamas, not to mention a vocal anti-Semite. In 2012 the Committee to Protect Journalists noted that Turkey had more journalists in prison than China and Iran put together.

Bet you didn’t know that.

And I bet you didn’t know this:

Three leading free speech groups have today sent an open letter to President Erdogan on the eve of his first address to the UN General Assembly as head of state, raising their concerns about the protection of freedom of expression in Turkey.

English PEN, ARTICLE 19 and Reporters Without Borders have called on President Erdogan to promote a culture that is favourable to freedom of expression.

23 September 2014

Dear President Erdo?an

We are writing to express our concerns about the threats and intimidation towards the journalist Ceylan Ye?insu. As you will be aware, Ms Ye?insu is a reporter for the New York Times based in Turkey and wrote an article about the recruitment of Turkish citizens by the Islamic State (ISIS) on 15 September. This was an important article in the public interest, an example of high quality and responsible investigative journalism that offers insight into ISIS at a critical time.

We were therefore dismayed to learn that following the article’s publication, Ceylan Ye?insu has been personally targeted by elements of the media sympathetic to the ruling AKP and on social media, with threats that pose a serious risk to her own safety. We were also gravely concerned to read reports that you yourself denounced the article as ‘shameless, immoral, treason’.

This is not an isolated incident. There is now a worrying trend of publicly smearing the reputation of journalists in Turkey, including threats to their lives.

Is this one of the “common goals” Obama says we share? Considering the way Obama treats any journalist with an independent mind (or how he would if there were such a creature), perhaps so. We’re hardly more supportive of Israel than Islamist Turkey.

More on those “bonds of trust”:

After years of publicly restraining himself regarding Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told US Secretary of State John Kerry that the words of the leader of Washington’s close NATO ally were anti-Semitic.

According to the paper, the crowd frequently interrupted Erdogan’s speech by chanting “Down with Israel.”

“They always curse at Hitler, but they now even exceed him in barbarism. Some Americans ask why Mr. Prime Minister [Erdogan] makes such comparisons with Hitler. What’s that to you? You’re America, what’s Hitler got to do with you,” he said.

We killed his mother[bleeping] ass, Dogorgan, that’s what. Ignorant sheisskopf. More on the subject if you have the stomach.

Back to the human rights crowd:

The right to freedom of expression is enshrined in the 1982 Turkish Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as in a number of international treaties to which Turkey is a state party, including Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 10 of the ECHR.

We ask you to use your influence as President of Turkey to foster a culture where freedom of expression can flourish and where Turkey’s talented community of writers, journalists and publishers can exercise their right to freedom of expression freely and without fear of intimidation.

Blah, blah, blah. Shut up. Appealing to fascists like Dogorgan and Putin (and I could go on) is a waste of time. Waste yours if you like. Include me out.

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Islamists in the ICU

Has anybody here
Seen my old friend Ismail?

The Israel Security Agency (ISA, or Shin Bet) has published a report on Hamas’s use of public buildings as cover for operational activity.

The ISA said that interrogation of captives taken in Operation Protective Edge gave a “somewhat disturbing” picture of Hamas’s use of civilians and public buildings to carry out military activity, “out of an assumption that Israel will avoid hitting them.”

Two captives from Bayt Lahya, Afif Jarah and Amad Jarah, said that an attack tunnel from a Bedouin village was dug from a point adjacent to a kindergarten. In case of a successful operation to abduct an Israeli, the abductee was to be brought to the kindergarten and taken elsewhere from there.

Muhammad Kadra of Khan Yunis told interrogators that “everybody knows” that the Hamas leadership in Gaza under Ismail Haniyeh is hiding out inside Shifa Hospital, apparently in an area that is out of bounds to ordinary civilians.

Where do you expect him to hide? Khaled Mashaal has already claimed the hiding spot behind the ladies’ skirts.

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How It’s Done

Hamass shows Israel that if you want the job of killing Gazans done right, you’ve got to do it yourself:

Hamas’ public executions of at least 25 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have sparked debate in the West Bank. Those executed, including at least two women, are accused of providing information which allowed Israel to carry out targeted killings of several senior Hamas officials.

Hamas officials continued to defend the mass killings through the Palestine Information Center, a Hamas-affiliated website, reporting that “the collaborators sold out their religion, sold out their people and their country for a cheap price in order to benefit the enemy which resulted in tens of Palestinians killed, homes demolished and led to the failure of some operations of the resistance.”

But the Arab occupiers of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza are at least conflicted over summary executions:

In the West Bank, there were mixed reactions to the killings. Tayib Abdelrahim, the Secretary General of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s office told the Ma’an news agency that the executions were carried out without due process.

“The executions were done in cold blood and according to ‘Hamas law,’ meaning that whoever is not with Hamas is against it,” he added.

Palestinian analyst Abdelmajeed Sweilem offered a rationale, calling the executions a “spontaneous reaction” to the Israeli assassinations.

“What Hamas did is just plain wrong. I don’t think a democratic person with ethics would agree with such a practice,” he told The Media Line. “Hamas had no legal right to take matters into its own hands. The death penalty requires the signature of the Palestinian President, as stated in the Palestinian Basic Law.”

Ah, yes, “Palestinian Basic Law”. Three words have never been more at conflict in any language.

Lest there be any doubt about executions in Islam (after James Foley and Daniel Pearl, how could there be?):

But some religious authorities in the West Bank defended the executions, and said the accused could have received a fair trial.

“In Islam, a fair trial could be finished within one or two hours,” Sheikh Abu Ali, an expert on Islamic law told The Media Line. “If the information enables the enemy to target specific Palestinians, leading to their execution by Israel, the death penalty could be permissible. In this case, dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed in the Israeli air strikes that targeted the Hamas leaders.

“In Islam, when any Muslim man or woman who informs the enemy of the location of Mujahedeen (resistance fighters) or senior leaders that the enemy wants to kill or bomb, he or she becomes a partner to the crime of killing and according to Islamic law, must be given the death penalty.”

Take that, US justice system—not years, hours! How’s that for a speedy trial? Here’s your hood, what’s your hurry?

Political analyst Abdelmajeed Sweilem says the Hamas executions will reflect negatively on the Palestinians and the unity government. [No!]

Al Masri, who has long been an advocate of the two-state solution, agreed that the unity government is critical to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“The most important thing is to keep the reconciliation going, to get our independence and remove the occupation. I have been working on it for seven years. Thank God it’s working.”

Just keep telling yourself that, Al.

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Hamas Executes Tunnel Builders

In order to protect the secrecy of the locations

The tunnelers, many of whom constructed the tunnels over the course of months, would dig for 8-12 hours a day, and received a monthly wage of $150-$300, according to the blog.

Sources in Gaza told the website that Hamas took a series of precautions to prevent information from reaching Israel. The terror organization would reportedly blindfold the excavators en route to the sites and back, to prevent them from recognizing the locations. The tunnels were strictly supervised by Hamas members, and civilians were kept far from the sites.

M., a former tunnel digger and Israeli collaborator, told the website that Hamas would strip search the workers to ensure they had no recording devices or cameras hidden on them.

“The people we met had their faces covered; no one knew them by their real names, it was all codes and first names. They didn’t want to take the risk that some of the diggers were collaborating with Israel,” he said.

A tunnel, within a civilian home, found by Golani soldiers in the northern Gaza Strip (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit/ Flash 90)
A tunnel entrance, within a civilian home, found by Golani soldiers in the northern Gaza Strip (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit/ Flash 90)

After the tunnels were completed, dozens were reportedly executed to prevent intelligence leaks to Israel.

“Anyone they suspected might transfer information to Israel on the tunnels was killed by the military wing,” a different source said. “They were very cruel.”

In 2012, a Journal of Palestine Studies article claimed 160 Palestinian children were killed while working on Hamas’s tunnel system.

The digging of tunnels began four years ago and has demanded 40 percent of Hamas’s budget, The Times of Israel has learned.

Tunnel diggers have been using electric or pneumatic jackhammers, advancing 4-5 meters a day. The tunnels found were reportedly mostly dug 18-25 meters (60-82 feet) underground, though one was discovered at a depth of 35 meters (115 feet). “That’s like a 10-story building underground,” one expert said.

So, let’s see: They executed both adults and children who were hired (forced?) to build the terror tunnels. They used 40% of the aid provided by the west to carry this out. And the Left thinks that Israel is somehow the bad guy?

– Aggie

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With Two Political Prisoners You Get Egg Roll

It’s not often I praise the Obama administration, much less its State Department.

It won’t become a habit, trust me:

The street holding the Chinese embassy in Washington DC could be renamed after a noted Chinese dissident.

An amendment attached to a state department budget bill would make the embassy’s address 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza.

Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is serving an 11-year sentence for subversion in China.

The Chinese foreign ministry has called the proposed change of address – which now requires Congress approval – “nothing more than a sheer farce”.

“Some people from the United States have used so-called human rights and the Liu Xiaobo case to engage in this meaningless sensationalism,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

Choke on it, China.

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While I Have Your Attention…

Speaking of the UN (as we were below, last night):

Testimony before the UN Human Rights Council, delivered by UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer, 18 June 2014, during the Interactive Dialogue with the UNHRC Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

In November 2011, well into Syria’s atrocities, UNESCO elected the Syrian regime—unanimously—to its human rights committee.

I ask the commission: what message did the UN send, when—up until only a few months ago—it allowed the Assad regime to sit as a judge of petitions submitted by human rights victims from around the world?

But Mr. President, it didn’t stop there. On February 20th of this year, as Syria’s Juhayna news trumpeted with glee, that country, that mass murdering regime, was “unanimously re-elected as Rapporteur of the UN Special Committee on Decolonization.”

In fact, as we meet, that committee—with Syria as its Rapporteur—is in session this week in New York, debating the future of Gibraltar, the Falklands, Bermuda, French Polynesia and New Caledonia.

So while Assad’s forces starve Palestinians to death in Yarmouk, his representative sits on a UN podium telling democracies like Britain, France, the U.S. and New Zealand how to treat their populations—all in exercise of his UN-elected mandate to end the “subjugation, domination and exploitation of peoples.”

But Mr. President, it didn’t stop there. In March, this Council undermined its own credibility on Syrian human rights, by adopting a resolution entitled “Human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan” — a resolution drafted by Syria itself.

The U.S. delegate commented at the time: “To consider such a resolution—while the Syrian regime continues to slaughter its own citizens by the tens of thousands—exemplifies absurdity.”

It’s rare that diplomats use plain language, but “exemplifies absurdity” comes pretty close to describing the United Nations. It also exemplifies cruelty, corruption, venality, racism, hypocrisy, and five out of the Seven Deadly Sins.

We will now let the subject of the UN slip back into the septic tank whence it came.

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DysfUNctional

I used to write more about the shabby character of the UN. I don’t know, I guess I got tired. It never seemed to be a big hit with any of the readers, judging from the lack of comments.

But just for old times’ sake:

Mr. President,

The members of this [Human Rights] Council have been mandated by the international community to protect victims of human rights violations around the world.

Is the Council living up to its mandate?

Let us consider the most fundamental of all human rights—the right to life—by examining what has happened in the world, over the past 12 months:

July 2013, Turkey: Doctors report that in the Gezi Park protests, police killed 5 people, wounded 8,163 and used chemical riot control weapons against more than 10,000.

August, Egypt: Authorities crush the sit-in held by supporters of deposed president Morsi, killing 1,000 people.

September, Iran: One month after President Rouhani’s inauguration, amid promises of human rights reforms, Iranian officials ignore UN appeals, and hang a record 50 individuals.

Did the council respond with any resolutions, urgent debates, or inquiries to determine the facts, and hold perpetrators accountable? No. Its response was silence.

October, Afghanistan: Terrorists bomb a minibus, killing 14 women and a child who were on their way to celebrate a wedding.

November, Libya: Militia kill 31 during protests in Tripoli, injuring 235.

December, South Sudan: BBC reports mass ethnic killings, including 200 shot by security forces.

January, Pakistan: 236 civilians killed by terrorist attacks.

This Council’s response? Silence.

February, Ukraine: Police kill 75 protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square.

March, China: Activist Cao Shunli, who was arrested for trying to travel to Geneva and participate this Council, mysteriously dies in prison.

April, Iraq: 750 Iraqis killed, 1,541 injured by terrorism.

May, Venezuela: Troops arrest 243 student protesters and kill one of their own, bringing the death toll to 42 since the start of the opposition protests.

Finally, June — a few weeks ago – in Nigeria: Boko Haram massacres 200 civilians while still holding the 276 school girls it abducted in April…

The UN’s response? Hung heads? Pleas for forgiveness? Promises to do better?

How about…?

At this point Mr. Neuer’s testimony was interrupted by points of order claiming that the content was outside of the agenda item, and requesting the Chair to stop him from speaking. Venezuela said Neuer was “out of order,” echoed by Cuba, China, Iran, Pakistan, and Egypt, the latter saying that the subject matter of the speech was “inappropriate.” Mr. Neuer’s right to speak was, however, defended by representatives of the U.S., France, Ireland, Canada, Norway, and Britain. The Chair read out the relevant rules of procedure, and gave the floor back to UN Watch.

Mr. President, if it “inappropriate” to speak about the urgent need to take action for victims of human rights violations around the world, then why are we here?

Our readers are wondering the same thing, Mr. Neuer.

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Emance in Your Pants

If slavery is so bad—and I mean it is bad, no question—but since it’s so bad—the worst—why is there so much of it?

Niger:

A man has been sentenced to four years in jail in Niger in the first ever conviction for slavery in the country.

The pressure group Anti-Slavery International told the BBC the 63-year-old man was convicted of having what is known as a “fifth wife”.

Men in Niger are allowed to have four wives under a local interpretation of Islamic law.

With a “fifth wife”, no marriage takes place and the woman is treated solely as property.

Niger officially banned slavery in 2003 but anti-slavery organisations say thousands of people still live in subjugation.

Presumably all of those people are women. Which reminds us of the 276 Nigerian girls who still haven’t been “brought back”. Surely their fates as bartered brides amounts to slavery.

Mali:

The recent occupation of northern Mali by separatist and Islamist groups left people of slave descent, many of whom are still in slavery, extremely vulnerable, but Anti-Slavery partners Temedt can play a vital role in re-establishing stability.

Lebanon:

Widespread abuse of Nepalese migrant domestic workers in Lebanon is rooted in a continuum of vulnerabilities that is a direct consequence of the systems in place in both home and destination countries says new report by Anti-Slavery International.

Qatar:

The exploitation and forced labour of migrant workers in Qatar in the run up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup continues as new evidence of widespread abuse comes to light. An extensive report by Amnesty International and a recent visit by International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) delegation to Qatar confirmed an alarming situation faced by migrant workers there.

Uzbekistan:

The Uzbek government again systematically forced children and adults to pick cotton and farmers to produce state-established quotas of cotton in one of the largest state sponsored systems of forced labor in the world, states the “Review of the 2013 Cotton Harvest in Uzbekistan,” released today by the Cotton Campaign.

England(!):

Anti-Slavery International and ECPAT UK are pleased that the Court of Criminal Appeal has today sent out a clear message that no one should be prosecuted for crimes committed as a consequence of being trafficked.

The Court has quashed four convictions of people trafficked into the UK for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers. Three of them were Vietnamese children forced to work in cannabis factories. The fourth was a woman in her thirties from Uganda who was trafficked for sexual exploitation who was prosecuted on the charge of using a false passport.

These are terrible, terrible stories. Very disturbing. I think they call for a hashtag.

#freedredscott #slaverysucks #slaverysux #fourwivesaremorethanenoughthankyouverymuch

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