Archive for the 'Amnesty International' Category

If this is the Tories’ idea of protecting children, I’d hate to see their idea of not protecting them

It’s funny how the Tories will talk the good talk of defending children when it suits their ideologically narrow world view only to turn around and actively exploit even more vulnerable children by having them guard our military assets and killing machines.  It’s of course, not ‘ha ha’ funny, but rather more on the sardonic side.  If this is what protecting children means to the Conservatives, I’d hate to see their definition of not protecting the children.

An excerpt from an article by Thomas Walkom in today’s Toronto Star:

“Back in 2002, Canada signed on to an international treaty aimed at rehabilitating child soldiers.

In fact, Canada was the first to ratify the so-called Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty that requires signatories to give special consideration to captured enemy fighters under the age of 18.

The treaty says they are to be segregated from adult combatants. As well, those who capture children must make every effort to reintegrate them into society.

[…]

Amir Attaran, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, and Andy Knight, a University of Alberta political scientist, make the case that, in Afghanistan, Canada is running afoul of the very treaty it once championed.

I first heard the pair on CBC Radio’s The Current. Yesterday, I phoned them up. Attaran, who has been a vocal critic of Canada’s detention policy in Afghanistan, points out that government documents released in a court case last fall show that Canadian troops in Kandahar indeed capture child fighters, only to turn them over to Afghan security forces for what is usually a brutal interrogation.

That, he says, is a clear violation of Canada’s international obligations and – depending on how the children are treated by the Afghans – almost certainly a crime under Canadian law.

Citing press reports, Knight told me that there is also some suggestion of Afghan teenagers being used, with NATO co-operation, to guard military facilities.

A national defence spokesman told me yesterday that the Canadian Forces hand over suspected child insurgents to the Afghan authorities who incarcerate them in a juvenile wing at Kandahar’s main prison.

But the two human rights experts say this isn’t sufficient. They say that when Canadian troops capture children, they should hand them over to UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. It operates a rehabilitation centre in the country for former child soldiers and so far has successfully demobilized 7,400.

Confidential documents released as part of a court case brought against the government by Amnesty International point out that Ottawa is well aware of the UNICEF project. Yet none of the minors captured (and thanks to the ongoing federal court case, we know there have been at least three) has ended up there.

[…]

“Canada was once at the top of the heap in this regard,” says Attaran. “Now we’re keeping company with those at the bottom.”

As a Marxist, I’m obviously not prone to quoting from the Bible, however one quote does spring to mind:  It’s the Biblical definition of the hypocrite outlined in Matthew 7:4:

“cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then
thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

Kettle calls the teapot black: Bush calls Cuba “criminal”

Yesterday, U.S. President George W. Bush took Orwellian audacity to a new level by calling the Cuban government “criminal.”

In a speech, Bush stated that “America will have no part in giving oxygen to a criminal regime victimizing its own people…. The operative word in our future dealings with Cuba is not ‘stability’. The operative word is ‘freedom’.” (source)

To the surprise of no one, the fact that this statement was akin to the kettle calling the teapot black was lost on the members of both the United States and the Canadian press.

So, just to re-cap:

U.S.: One of the few countries left in the world which still executes children. Moreover, “The country which has carried out more documented executions of child offenders than any other since 1990 is the USA.” (source)
Cuba: Has executed zero children. Official government policy believes executing children to be not only illegal but also offensive. (ibid)

U.S.: Engaged in two wars of aggression in the past 6 years (Afghanistan offered to give up Osama bin Laden, but the U.S. refused, saying that war was preferable – source). Moreover, the U.S. has historically either directly or indirectly overthrown democratically-elected governments or given material support to brutal dictators in: Guatemala, Cuba, Chile, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia, Pakistan, Columbia, Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, The Philippines, South Africa and Democratic Republic of Congo just to name a few.
Cuba: Engaged in zero wars of aggression. Ever. (But did try unsuccessfully to overthrow the U.S.-backed Congolese dictatorship over 40 years ago).

U.S.: Has imposed crushing economic sanctions on the people of Cuba since the 1960s which Amnesty international notes has greatly contributed to the suffering of the Cuban people and economy (source).
Cuba: Was the first country to offer medical aid to the United States following the Katrina disaster in New Orleans. Cuba offered more than 1000 doctors and over 26 tons of medical supplies (source). Incidentally, the U.S. government refused the assistance because FEMA was doing a “heck of a job”.

U.S.: Prison system widely considered to be in violation of singed international treaties on basic human rights of dignity. Also imprisons prisoners of conscience. (source)
Cuba: No “supermax” facilities. Extremely ill and infirm criminals permitted to leave prison for house arrest on humanitarian grounds. Cuba also imprisons prisoners of conscience similar to the United States’s practice. (source)criminal-us-colonies-1775-a.png

Just about the only thing Cuba can be accused of is overthrowing the U.S.-backed dictator Batista in 1959.

But then again, if violent revolution is grounds for being labelled a “criminal” then the British would have a fair case for imposing a “freedom fund” on the United States until it overthrows the “criminal” U.S. government which, after all, arose out of the “criminal” government set up by the 13 Colonies.

Now THAT I’d pay to see (that is, of course, assuming U.K. Prime Minister Brown could first extricate himself from his predecessor’s position firmly inside George W. Bush’s colon. A big assumption, I know).

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Who’s afraid of human rights? Conservatives apparently

amnesty-international.pngI recently came across Sam Carson’s fantastic posts (available here) on the 2007 Amnesty International Report (available here).  If you haven’t taken a look, it’s well worth the read.

In his post (actually it’s a series of posts) Sam draws attention to the sad criticism of Amnesty International by right-wing figures and organizations such as Alan Dershowitz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and the U.S.-based Capital Research Center.

I’ve always found Dershowitz et al‘s claims that Amnesty International is biassed to be disingenuous at best and I think Sam’s done a great job bringing this issue to the fore.

Specifically, the intellectually dishonest position of Dershowitz et al needs to have a better airing amongst true progressives so that the absurdity of the right’s claims that Amnesty International is a “political organization” with a bone to pick against the US and is biassed against them by focussing on their human rights abuses — can be once and for all discredited.

This task of discrediting the right-wing’s claims that Amnesty International focusses unduly on the US should be fairly to demonstrate for anybody who has ever read AI’s reports for three reasons.

First, even if there was more material on human rights abuses in the US and the West, this does not negate the validity of actual findings of their reports.  I don’t think anybody (even Dershowitz) goes so far as to claim that AI just makes this stuff up.  So complaining that AI is a political tool with an axe to grind against the US is a little bit like a child who steals a chocolate bar from the corner store, gets caught and then complains that he got spanked when the boy down the street has done worse.  The fact that the boy down the street has done worse has no impact whatsoever on whether or not the first child deserved what he got.

Second, the way Amnesty International has ALWAYS structured their reports — and, come to think about it, the way virtually all NGO reports are structured — is to lead with and emphasize places with the newest and biggest developments in human rights abuses and then, understandably, merely update information on already well-documented, long-standing human rights abuses like those in China or Columbia for instance. 

So since the US is the one creating most of the new and interesting ways to infringe upon human rights since 2002, what the hell do they expect??

Lastly, as Noam Chomsky is fond of saying, ‘whenever you hear something said with great confidence, it’s always a good idea to check first and see whether it is true’.  So, to recap, the claim by the right is that there is undue focus on the United States by Amnesty International and that the US is used as a ‘political punching bag’ by what constitutes an ultimately partisan organization.

If we take a look at the main body of the report (the country by country report) we see the following breakdown in the pages devoted to some key countries.  Out of 242 total pages, Afghanistan takes up about 2 pages, Algeria approximately 3 pages, Bosnia and Herzegovina about 3 pages, China around 3 pages, and the United States — which supposedly has so much undue focus — is tied with Columbia in taking up approximately 4 pages each.

Wow, I guess Amnesty International must really have an axe to grind against the US, eh?

(Oh, and if you think that maybe America is focussed on unduly in other countries’ reports, you’re wrong again.  The word “US” is mentioned approx. 150 times in the 242 page report — excluding the section devoted to the United States — but the vast majority of these occurances are attributable to either the phrase “US-led invasion of Iraq” or to occurances of figures for currency [GDP, foreign aid etc.] which are always given in US dollars.)

So who’s afraid of human rights?  It appears the answer is the United States, Russia, China, the Congo and the Taliban and conservatives.

Well, I guess they keep good company.


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