May 19, 2013 by Gibson Bateman
Not surprisingly, late last month, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) failed to deal with Sri Lanka. As a result, it looks like the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on the island nation will continue as planned this November. United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister David Cameron has recently announced that he will attend CHOGM. A spokesperson also mentioned that Mr. Cameron would be delivering a “tough message” to Mahinda Rajapaksa this November. (Some may be left wondering if it wouldn’t be more effective for Mr. Cameron to deliver his “tough message” from London while one of his subordinates attends CHOGM and does the same).
By virtually every standard – including media freedom, disappearances, the rule of law and land rights – governance in Sri Lanka has become an unmitigated, incontrovertible disaster. In addition to recent reports by Amnesty International, International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch, recent articles by other groups show that the situation in Sri Lanka just keeps getting worse.
May 9, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
As they spoke to a BBC correspondent in their run-down room which they call home in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a man sobbed as his 12-year-old daughter sat close to him. His face, wrinkled before its time, was a picture of utter anguish. It could only be understood by a parent whose child was dying under giant slabs of concrete where nothing could be done.
“If she is dead,” he said, “I just want to bury her with my own hands, so at least in my mind I know that I have finally found my daughter.” Then the despairing man succumbed to his uncontrollable tears.
His daughter Hamida had been working right along his other young daughter who had miraculously escaped the collapse of several factories in the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka on April 24.
May 8, 2013 by Riley Aronson
Currently more than 12 million people around the world are enslaved. Of those, about 9.8 million are victims of sex trafficking, while others are involved in agricultural work, mining, or labor in small factories. This modern slavery unravels economies, incites violence, infringes upon families, undermines the notion of an individual’s inalienable rights, weakens public health, affronts the value of human life, and is one of the fastest growing criminal industries. This debasement to humanity is a worldwide, $32 billion industry and remains prevalent in 177 countries.
Despite numerous organizations, existing international partnerships, and legislation that targets the cessation of human trafficking, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center states that there are approximately 800,000 to 4 million men, women, and children transported across international borders and coerced into labor annually. The time has come to actively work to eradicate this repulsive crime.
President Barack Obama emphasizes that human trafficking “ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime.”
April 22, 2013 by Patrick Hall
Truth commissions are implemented in countries where the judicial system has been tainted by corruption and malfeasance, typically to find ways to defend or justify the perpetrators of human rights abuses. The recent decision to suspend the trial of Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala City illustrates the weakness and susceptibility of Guatemala’s judicial system.
Guatemala’s progression toward truth and reconciliation began during the 1994 Oslo Accords with the formation of the Historical Clarification Commission. The internationally sponsored commission was created to investigate human rights violations that occurred throughout the 36-year conflict. Its resulting evidence, based upon domestic and international documents, illustrated the state’s devastating assault on the country’s rural, primarily Mayan, communities.
After a five-year investigation, the commission found “that human rights violations caused by state repression were repeated, and…were…especially severe from 1978 to 1984.” Moreover, it was found that the bloodiest period of the civil war occurred “between 1981 and 1983,” where the military, commanded by then-President Efraín Ríos Montt, willingly “committed acts of genocide against groups of Mayan people.”
April 13, 2013 by Binoy Kampmark
Talk about the death penalty as it is employed by states has been bubbling away of late. The battle against life continues in terms of how states wish to punish those who do not comply with their promulgated order.
Transgressors, depending on perceived severity of offence, are still up for the chop (or the shot, electric or otherwise). Amnesty International has issued its latest list of bloody reading on the death penalty and which states continue to use it. Disturbing, some countries have decided to renew use in it.
Naturally, the world’s greatest indulger of freedom – the United States – figures alongside one of the deemed rogues of international order – Iran. Extremes meet on the equal plane of policing and punishment. Talk about civilisation and difference on such points is babble. When it comes to treating citizens and guests in a certain way, various governments have form.
March 27, 2013 by The Social Architects
This documentary tells a story of silent agony, trapped screams and repressed mourning. A story of women forced to deny their identity – who are trapped in between a government which sees them as “Tigers,” and a society whose norms they are no longer deemed worthy of.
These women fought bravely alongside men as members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during Sri Lanka’s bloody thirty-year civil war. From protectors and defenders of their families, villages and nation, thousands of female ex-combatants have now returned home to assume more traditional roles as mothers, wives, widows, and teachers – in communities where they are perpetually shunned. Through several powerful voices, “Haunted by Her Yesterdays” allows a few to share their pain and suffering – the wounds that remain unhealed, the scars that are impossible to ignore and the hearts that still burn with pain, passion and grief – for the world to hear. This film is a gripping tale of loss, betrayal and struggle, but –above all else – it is a search for inspiration and a call for action. As the country’s war-torn North and East struggles to rebuild itself, this documentary tells a deeply moving story that has been overlooked for far too long.
February 28, 2013 by Gibson Bateman
Soon another US-sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka will be tabled at the UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC). It’s very unlikely that the recent high-level US delegation that came to Sri Lanka would have announced that a procedural resolution would be backed if Washington wasn’t absolutely positive that it had the votes to get another resolution through the council. The votes for another resolution on Sri Lanka are there; that’s for sure.
India has already come out and announced that it too will support the resolution – taking a bit of drama out of the whole affair. But it’s also quite revealing because it shows how much the administration of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has overplayed its hand. Let us not forget that less than a year ago, Delhi was reminding people that it wouldn’t support any country-specific resolution at the HRC. Now it looks like Delhi will have supported two in a twelve-month span.
Along with the major international organizations like International Crisis Group (ICG) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), there are probably a few Western countries – though not necessarily the US – that are pushing for something stronger than the draft resolution in its current form. In spite the circumstances, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) is still sticking with its (untrue) story – saying that they are doing all they can to implement the LLRC recommendations and comply with the previous HRC resolution. Unfortunately, the problems with the GoSL’s most recent progress report on the LLRC recommendations start on the first page of the first sentence.
January 11, 2013 by Timothy W. Coleman
The decision by the Indonesian government to radically alter its current primary school curriculum by replacing science with classes focused on religion and courses that strengthen nationalism will have a generational impact that may prove to make the country less economically competitive and less attractive to foreign direct investment in the years ahead. The drastic changes in primary school curriculums in Indonesia’s public school system, slated for implementation this summer, could lead to greater persecution of the nation’s Catholic, Buddhist, and Protestant religious minority groups.
With religious violence on the rise and the declining effectiveness of the educational system in Indonesia, reform efforts to address these issues are a logical pursuit. However, the decision to remove science and social sciences classes will likely backfire and create a lost generation, which will lead to economic decline, social instability, and religious radicalization.
January 10, 2013 by Nemat Sadat
Human rights are not revered in Afghanistan. Last November, President Karzai signed off on the execution of 16 prisoners on death row. Despite an international outcry by human rights activists and organizations, Kabul went forward and hanged 14 people on November 20th and 21st. While the death penalty is supported by a majority of Afghans, that does not make it morally righteous. Executions in Afghanistan came to a halt several years ago. But under mounting political pressure, President Karzai has charted a new course in dealing with the rise in communal violence throughout the country.
By resuming the death penalty this week, President Karzai has managed to kill three birds with one stone: appease hardliners, distance himself from perceived outside influence, and demonstrate his relevance to a society that regards him as the ineffectual Viceroy of Kabul.
December 28, 2012 by Gibson Bateman
President Obama is still working on remaking his foreign policy and national security team, but it looks like John Kerry will be the next Secretary of State. Inside Washington, John Kerry has been a leading voice on foreign policy for decades. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for twenty-seven years, John Kerry has built up a vast network of contacts abroad. John Kerry understands the politics of the Middle East. And he has already travelled extensively for the Obama administration – going to places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
December 26, 2012 by Conn M. Hallinan
In March 1990, Time Magazine titled an article “Ripples in The American Lake.” It was not about small waves in that body of water just north of Fort Lewis, Washington. It was talking about the Pacific Ocean, the largest on the planet, embracing over half of humanity and the three largest economies in the world.
Time did not invent the term—it is generally attributed to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, U.S. Pacific commander during WW II—but its casual use by the publication was a reflection of more than 100 years of American policy in this immense area.
December 19, 2012 by Tarun Baid
The word “Terrorism” which was originally coined to describe state action, undertaken to consolidate power or quell dissident movements has evolved over the years. Though the term “state terrorism” still holds currency, today, especially after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the whole notion of terrorism has tilted to an extreme side of the axis. Today terrorism is seen as a phenomena and the violence committed, described as a ‘terrorist act’ is said to be generally perpetrated by loosely organized groups or individuals which at best share a common and fanatical religious ideology.
The common perceptions of terrorism could be described as follows:
1) Terrorism is a means to attain political goals which can not be achieved in a lawful or constitutional manner;
2) Terrorist acts are part of a strategy, used tactically by organized groups;
3) The main motivation is to create fear among ordinary citizens to further a cause.
Addressing terrorism in legal terms is a very complex and challenging task, where differences of opinions and competing concerns coupled with the emergence of new forms of terrorist activities have left many unresolved issues.
December 17, 2012 by Gibson Bateman
During the past year, one of the Obama administration’s biggest moves at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) received relatively little attention inside the Beltway. In March 2012, the United States led a resolution calling on the government of Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which examined the breakdown of the truce between the country’s warring factions, and “to take all necessary additional steps” to “ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans.”
It remains unclear what exactly drove the U.S. resolution, but the Sri Lankan government does not appear to have complied with it. The country continues to receive criticism for its human rights record, as disappearances and extrajudicial killings, among other issues, remain problems. Recent developments like a prison riot in Colombo that left 27 inmates dead and the arrest of several University of Jaffna students are also worrisome.
December 14, 2012 by John Price
My July 2012 commentary “Artistic Endeavor: Can Change the Face of Africa” was about Sundance Institute Theatre Lab’s play premiere “Africa Kills Her Sun”, which I attended. The play was a collaboration of African playwrights and actors, expressing the plight of the Ogoni tribe in Nigeria, under Dictator Sani Abacha’s corrupt regime; human rights abuses, and suppression of free speech. Sundance had brought into focus the injustices in Africa through a social awareness–reaching out to young minds.
December 1, 2012 by Conn M. Hallinan
From the ice-bound passes of the Hindu Kush to the blazing heat of the Karakum Desert, Central Asia is a sub-continent steeped in illusion. For more than two millennia conquerors have been lured by the mirage that it is a gateway to immense wealth: China to the east, India to the south, Persia to the west, and to the north, the riches of the Caspian basin. Greeks, Persians, Arabs, Mongols, British, and Soviets have all come and gone, leaving behind little more than forgotten graveyards and the detritus of war. Americans and our NATO allies are next.
It is a cliché that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires, but a cliché doesn’t mean something is not true, just that it is repeated over and over again until the phrase becomes numbing. It is a tragedy that the US was “numb” to that particular platitude, although we have company. In the past 175 years England has invaded Afghanistan four times.