Sunday, November 29, 2009

What has become of UN Human Rights?

There have been several uses lately of Gandhi's slogan: "Speak truth to power," many of them ludicrously from some of the most powerful people alive. But HERE is a video of an articulate young man speaking truth to power and having his words thrown back in his face by those who simply refuse to acknowledge a reality inconsistent with their blinkered world view.

Thanks to Robert Spencer.


Doughlas Remy said...

Gil, the point of this speaker’s message was that the UN Human Rights Council (formerly the UN Commission on Human Rights) has been selective in its condemnation of human rights violations and that it has shown a strong bias against Israel and in favor of Hamas and Hezbollah. I can’t judge the truth of his claims on the basis of this video, but I would strongly agree with the principle in question—i.e., that the Council’s response to human rights violations such as torture, persecution, and violence against women should never be one of silence and indifference. I would even broaden the principle so that it holds every citizen of Western liberal democracies to the same standards of justice and fairness.

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel wrote, "I swore to never be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides, Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim, silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

We should all take this oath.

I’ve noticed your support of the Bush-Cheney administration over the years, and your obvious dissatisfaction with our current president. I don’t recall your speaking out against those responsible for the prison abuses at Abu-Ghraib and Guantanamo. One of these, of course, is former Vice-President Cheney, who admitted—and then defended—his role in allowing those abuses. I would have expected to hear an outcry from every American at every point in the political spectrum. Instead, the response from the right was.... yes, silence and indifference.

President Obama has ended most of these abuses, but there are reports that the extraordinary renditions are still going on and that prisoners are still being mistreated. Can you join me in congratulating Obama for what he has done but demanding that he do more? And can you join me in demanding that those responsible for the Abu-Ghraib human rights violations be brought to justice?

Doughlas Remy

Doughlas Remy said...

Gil, here’s another story of persecution that appeared in the news today. It is a story about human rights violations in Uganda. I know that you will join me in calling for an international response to this outrage. As the speaker in your linked video says, we must never accept silence and indifference as a response to such egregious violations of basic human rights.

The following is my summary, based on several sources:

The African nation of Uganda has been persecuting its homosexual population for some time. Under current law, homosexuality is punishable by life imprisonment. Now we read that their government is considering legislation that would impose the death penalty on HIV positive men who happen to be gay. The penalty would not apply to HIV-positive heterosexual men.

The proposed law would also criminalize those who know gay men but refuse to report them to authorities. The sentence for such a crime would be three years in prison. Anyone—even a foreigner residing in Uganda—who publicly defends a gay or lesbian person would be subjected to a seven-year prison term.

Jeff Sharlet has been following this story closely because of his interest in a secretive group of fundamentalist Christian lawmakers who are based in Washington D.C. and known as The Family. The Family has a clear anti-gay, anti-abortion-rights, and pro-free-market agenda which they believe they can most effectively promote by cultivating powerful political connections in this country and abroad. Sharlet was recently interviewed on NPR by Terry Gross about his book, “The Family.”

According to Sharlet, the legislator who introduced the bill now under consideration is David Bahati, a member of the Ugandan branch of The Family. Sharlet identifies other key players (e.g., the ethics minister) and concludes that The Family has its fingerprints all over this legislation. President Museveni, he says, is The Family’s “key man” in Uganda.

Doughlas Remy