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Category: Human Rights

Ben Ferencz: a life dedicated to “world peace through world law”

Defendants during the Nuremberg Trials
 “60 MINUTES” on Sunday evenings is a very popular weekly TV news programs.  The second segment of the May 7, 2017 program focused on Ben Ferencz, a prosecutor for the Nuremberg Trials after World War II.  In those trials Nazi leaders were convicted for the killing of millions of Jews and others in what became known as "the Holocaust.”  Fortunately you can see Leslie Stahl’s wonderful interview of Ben again and again at  <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/what-the-last-nuremberg-prosecutor-alive-wants-the-world-to-know/>.
 
An important part of the interview comes near the end when Ferencz clearly makes the point that war turns generally good people into murderers.  His goal during much of his 97 years has been to end war by means of the use of law.   The disaster of wars exists because the world of nation-states with unlimited national sovereignty still lacks a system of law and government at the global level.
 

Syria: Chemical Weapon Use, Destruction of Children, The Ethical Vacuum

Syrian children in a doorway (UN photo)

The Association of World Citizens calls for the re-affirmation of humanitarian international law. It is a call to the soldiers and militia members in armed conflicts to refuse orders to violate humanitarian international law by refusing to use weapons outlawed by international treaties such as chemical weapons, land mines,  cluster munitions or any weapon to attack civilians, especially children and women. We must defend all who use their individual conscience to refuse to follow orders to violate humanitarian international law.

At the heart of this growing phenomenon of mass violence and social disintegration is a crisis of values.  Perhaps the most fundamental loss a society can suffer is the collapse of its own value system.  Many societies exposed to protracted conflicts have seen their community values radically undermined if not shattered altogether.  This has given rise to an ethical vacuum, a setting in which international standards are ignored with impunity and where local value systems have lost their sway.  Olara Otunnu, then Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Report to U.N. General Assembly, 1998

The attack on Khan Sheikhoon in Idib Province of Syria on 4 April 2017 raises at least two essential issues concerning humanitarian international law and the protection of children in times of armed conflict.

There is No Need for War in Syria

Lucy Law Webster

Ever since President Obama drew a red line to prevent further use of poison gas by Bashar al-Assad to murder Syrian citizens, I have advocated action to enforce the treaty against the use of such weapons.  The U.S. Congress refused to review and endorse Obama's call for action because Russia and other supporters of Assad said they would remove the remaining poison gas from Syria and take it to Russia. However, they did not actually fulfill this commitment. This lack of action was wrong, morally and legally.

Now, we can move forward—carefully.  Let us take creative notice of the fact that Russia and Iran have been acting as the protectors of the use of poison gas.  Let us state that clearly.  Let us, the United States of America, stand for international law and justice for people worldwide.  Let us continue to mend relationships with Arab leaders who also support law and justice.  Let us continue our efforts to defeat ISIS and its violence against the people of Syria, Iraq and other nations, but let us note that this is above all a war of ideas.  It is basically a war for human rights and a struggle for a peaceful world.

​Why Not 'A Global Anthem,' Donald Trump? Who Does 'Represent the World,' Steve Bannon?

Flags of the United Nations Member States (Photo courtesy of UN)

In his speeches before both CPAC and the U.S. Congress, President Trump described with pinpoint accuracy the sovereign state system of today. But might we see a global anthem tomorrow, and a world flag, and even a United Earth?  This posting is a short version of Tad’s longer article posted on AlterNet on March 10, 2017.  Click here to read his full article and join in the discussion taking place there.

“We will serve the citizens of the United States of America, believe me,” said President Donald Trump at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 24th. “There is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, or a global flag.” Four days later, in his first speech before a joint session of Congress, he continued, “My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.”

But someday, is it possible that people around the world might actually sing a global anthem together? And hoist a global flag? And dwell together as citizens of a United Earth?

Our world grows smaller and more interconnected every day. No grand historical development is more defining of the modern age. Can we imagine the same feelings of camaraderie, kindred spiritedness, and tribal solidarity about our single human community? Can our loyalty to the world as a whole — as it does for many for one’s nation -- make our blood rush a little more quickly through our veins? Might our allegiance to our nations be accompanied by an allegiance to humanity?

​Robert Muller (11 Mar 1923 – 20 Sep 2010): Crossing Frontiers for Reconciliation

Robert Muller (1923-2010). Personal photo from Association of World Citizens
“The time has come for the implementation of a spiritual vision of the world’s affairs. The entire planet must elevate itself into the spiritual, cosmic throbbing of the universe.”— Robert Muller
Robert Muller, whose birth anniversary we mark on 11 March, was the former Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Service of the United Nations, and, after his retirement, he served as Honorary President of the Association of World Citizens. He was brought up in Alsace-Lorraine still marked by the results of the First World War.   As a young man, he joined the French Resistance movement during the Second World War when Alsace-Lorraine had been re-annexed by Germany. At the end of the War, he earned a Doctorate in Law and Economics at the University of Strasbourg. Strasbourg was to become the city symbolic of French-German reconciliation and is today home of the European Parliament.

Determined to work for peace having seen the destructive impact of war, he joined the United Nations Secretariat in 1948 where he worked primarily on economic and social issues. For many years, he was the Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. His work with ECOSOC brought him into close contact with NGOs whose work he always encouraged

CGS Marches for Women of the World…And for One World

Women for the Human Race...Not a New Arms Race

CGS was a robust participant in the historic Women's March on Washington on January 21st, the day after the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th American president. 

CGS, of course, is a nonpartisan organization. But as President-Elect, Mr. Trump indicated that he intended to increase the American nuclear arsenal "until the world comes to its senses," and even tweeted the words, "Let it be an arms race." 

Few things could be more contrary to the CGS vision of enduring world peace through enforceable world law. In the short term, we know that a renewed nuclear arms race will diminish American national security and everyone else's as well. In the long term, our goal of something like a world republic would bring an end forever to perpetual arms competition, the forever arms race, Thomas Hobbes's permanent "war of all against all." Our dream is that China and America will interact tomorrow, in a Federal Republic of Earth, in much the same way that California and Texas relate today within the political community that is the United States of America. Californians and Texans can be quite different! But California and Texas don't fight wars. And they don't spend billions of dollars on weapons of death, every single year, on and on into the dim mists of perpetuity, to "deter" the other from starting one. 

So CGS joined a coalition at the Women's March spearheaded by our friends at Women's Action for New Directions. We helped to craft the slogan adopted by this coalition: "Women for the Human Race, Not a New Arms Race."   https://m.facebook.com/events/283920202010752/

Mercosur Suspends Venezuela’s Membership

Venezuela, Human Rights, Mercosur, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uraguay

Mercosur didn’t waste any time. The South American trade group warned that it would suspend Venezuela’s membership if it didn’t improve human rights and immigration conditions by December 1st. On December 2nd, Mercosur did in fact suspend Venezuela, according to the AP Press. The move came after the country failed to meet the standards it agreed to comply with upon joining in 2012.

However, despite the unanimous decision from Mercosur’s four founding members—Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay—the Venezuela government plans to fight back. President Nicolas Maduro has already threatened to take the matter to international authorities, stating that the decision was “a coup d’état." Yet the country is unlikely to receive much sympathy in a world that is quickly veering toward the right.

When Venezuela joined Mercosur, South America was dominated by left-wing governments. But much has changed since 2012—Argentina and Brazil elected centrist leaders, and the country’s regional influence has declined since it began cutting back on oil shipments. And without the support of its neighbors, Venezuela is vulnerable to further punitive action from other nations. The Organization of American States has already debated suspending the country from the hemispheric body due to its growing authoritarianism, and some U.S. Congress members have suggested imposing economic sanctions.

Venezuela crashes the party

January 11: National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Enslaved Sex Worker Helps DHS Take Down Her Captors (photo from www.dhs.gov)

January 11, 2017 is a special day.  Not because of the numeric coincidence of 1-11-17.  But because of the large number of human beings who remain victims of human trafficking, one of the most degrading, harmful and illegal injustices known on earth, and we have to be reminded of it. 

In 2007, the U.S. Senate designated January 11 as the National Human Trafficking Awareness Day --  making it the 10th year the world has virtually ignored it.  If we knew the real costs of this global injustice we would not need to be reminded.  This crime is not just costly.  It has deadly and potentially catastrophic consequences for us all.

The Senate marked this day not just to generate awareness, but to generate action. Now they need to take it.  Remind them with a phone call, email, tweet, hand written letter, or personal visit.  Why?  Because the only thing that remains missing is the political will to end it.  The political will to create a global structure and system with the means to dismantle trafficking networks and assist survivors in rebuilding their lives, and sometimes their nation.

There are three fundamental ‘self-evident truths’ that will persist in our new ‘post-truth’ era when dealing with nearly any global problem.

Immigration, Detention, Control

UN Photo of Syrian Refugees at a camp in Jordan

If I were another on the road, I wouldn't have looked back. I'd have said what one traveler says to another: Hello stranger, wake up your guitar!  Let's postpone our tomorrow to lengthen our road and widen our space, so that we may be rescued from our story together.
             -- 
Mahmoud Darwish, Palestinian poet.   

By creating special observance days, the United Nations tries to promote international awareness and action on specific issues. Thus 6 February is International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation and 20 March is International Day of Happiness.  2 May highlights an issue we do not think about often: World Tuna Day. 18 December has been designated as the International Migrants Day, but even without a special day, migrants and refugees have become world-wide issues leading to political debate, especially in Europe and the USA.

migr01Asylum seekers and immigrants with low level of education  are often seen as a “burden”, not only for “Fortress Europe” but also for first reception countries. Thus, today's borders function as a filter, separating the “wanted” - that is, migrants who can be used - from the “unwanted”. The filter serves to separate those that get in from those who are pushed back.

435 Campaign for Global Justice: US Global Justice Corps

Floor of US House of Representatives

Don’t just vote….Petition for Justice.  

“Don’t boo!  Vote!” President Obama retorted after a crowd reacted to promises of the GOP Presidential Nominee leading up to the 2016 election.  Although voting is an important first step for citizens, it is not the only step we can take to have an impact on our politics and our lives.  It matters greatly what we do as citizens between elections.  Educating our elected officials, regardless of our opinion of them, can make an enormous and lasting difference.

‘We the people’ have the right (dare I say duty) to petition our elected officials on what we see is needed.  And, we can do it every day of the year between elections.  This means that a small group of committed souls with loving persistence can regularly educate their policy makers.  The policy makers can be swayed using accurate, detailed and locally relevant information on why it is in their own best interest (and the interest of his/her constituents) to support or lead on a specific policy issue.  This is how our government is supposed to work. Too often ‘we the people’ leave policy makers to the influence of paid corporate lobbyists.