The Global Citizen: April 2012
There are staggering human rights violations happening right now. You won't find it in breaking news headlines or discussion boards because this is a routine kind of human rights violation. Every day there are girls who are kidnapped and forced against their will into brothels, married off at age 14 because their family cannot afford school, or killed because they receive less medical treatment because it must be saved for the males in the family. This is gender discrimination and it happens in all forms around the world. Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas Kristof and Sherryl WuDunn give a passionate argument as to why this is the most important and glaring global issue that needs immediate and aggressive attention in their book Half the Sky.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir addressed a party rally in Khartoum last week, vowing to never compromise with the “poisonous insects” of South Sudan, using frightening rhetoric reminiscent of the Rwanda genocide.
Although neither Sudan, nor South Sudan, have declared war on the other, Sudan littered its neighbor with eight bombs following these hateful words. This violence has all been attributed to the disputed borders between the long-rivaling neighbors and unresolved issues over nearby oil reserves. Since April 10, when South Sudan took control of the oil-rich town of Heglig, the two nations have been, as many describe, on the brink of war.
Prompted by the recent violence that erupted, the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing yesterday to examine the current conflict and discuss possible policy options the United States and other nations should explore in order to avoid an all-out war in the region.
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the last trial of a major figure for the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Taylor was convicted of aiding rebels in the Revolutionary United Front in neighboring Sierra Leone in exchange for blood diamonds, but was found innocent of having direct control over forces.
It is a landmark victory, as it is the first conviction of a former national leader for grave crimes since Karl Doenitz, who briefly ruled Nazi Germany after Hitler, was convicted at Nuremberg. This verdict lays the groundwork for holding fair trials of other heads of state accused of atrocities, such as Sudan's Omar Al-Bashir and Syria's Bashar Al-Assad.
As international law has developed over time, there has been a dramatic increase in the world community’s acceptance of the prosecution of tyrannical leaders. From the U.N.’s request for an investigation into the Libyan conflict to Syrian protesters calling for Assad to stand trial at the International Criminal Court, it is encouraging that international courts are now regarded as a major tool to end the impunity of war criminals and to provide justice for their victims.
Taylor will be sentenced on May 30th to prison in Great Britain.
This week the United States and the European Union have lifted certain sanctions on Burma. Yet since Aung San Suu Kyi and her pro-democracy party swept elections earlier this year in a historical triumph for Burma (the country also known as Myanmar), political friction has arisen.
Aung San Suu Kyi wished to replace words in the oath from "safeguard the constitution" to "respect the constitution," but was denied by the ruling party. In protest, Suu Kyi and other members of her party refused to take their seats in the opening of Parliament, which sent a troubling message that Burma had not quite completed the democratic reforms after decades of military rule.
The United States and the European Union had previously put an arms embargo on Burma, including bans on investment, financial services, and a ban on most Burmese imports. According to BBC News, the U.S. and E.U. are now taking steps to ease sanctions, including "targeted lifting of investment and financial services bans." The United States will also relax the visa ban to allow officials to travel to the United States, yet sanctions will remain on individuals and institutions that "oppose reform."
Suspending these sanctions shows that the U.S. and E.U. are confident that Burma is taking the right steps towards democracy. Yet as political strife has recently arisen, both entities are staying cautious, which is evident with the embargo on arms sales that remains.
President Obama spoke this morning at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. to observe a Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust and announce the launch of a new Atrocities Prevention Board. Obama was introduced by author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. Both speakers gave moving testimony on the horrors of the Holocaust and how we can achieve the promise to "never again" allow such atrocities to occur.
Obama spoke to the need to more formally intervene to prevent mass atrocities and genocide, saying "national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your own people." He said that "never again is a challenge to us all," adding that "remembrance without action changes nothing."
The President used the speech to outline several key actions the administration is taking to truly achieve the goal of "never again." Chief among these was the issuance of an executive order that allows for U.S. officials to impose sanctions against foreign nationals found to have used new technologies, including cell phone tracking and Internet monitoring, to help carry out grave human rights abuses. These sanctions will hopefully help address the repression of regimes, particularly Iran and Syria, who have used the internet to control and censor democracy and human rights activists.
Today, Citizens for Global Solutions issued a press release, congratulating the Obama administration for rolling out the Atrocity Prevention Board today at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. CEO Don Kraus noted, "This address was the most substantive speech I have ever heard a President give on genocide prevention."
Click here to read the release in full.
President Obama released a statement over the weekend to the citizens of Sudan and South Sudan. South Sudan, nearing its one-year anniversary of independence from Sudan in June, has been disputing borders and control of important oil-rich regions with Sudan for several months. In recent weeks, disputes have turned increasingly violent.
President Obama's message was clear, that "conflict is not inevitable," and there is still time to lay down weapons and come back to the negotiating table. He called on Sudan "to halt all military actions, including aerial bombardments; give aid workers unfettered access to people in need; and end support for armed groups." He also requested that South Sudan "end its support for armed groups inside Sudan and cease its military actions across the border."
Watch the video and share:
When Iran is discussed in conversation, it's typically associated with two phrases: military action or nuclear proliferation. While obviously these are important issues to discuss, especially in light of the current nuclear negotiations between Iran and the six world powers, there seems to be another issue which is continually overlooked. According to the 2010 United Nation Report on Iranian human rights, written by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Iranian government is guilty of, "excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests and detentions, unfair trials and possible torture and ill-treatment of opposition activists in relation to the post-election unrest in 2009." While the events in 2009 were terrible acts for a government to inflict upon its own people, these atrocities have not stopped since 2010 and existed for decades. These issues were recently discussed in an event hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an event which honored the sacrifice of Iranian journalist and film critic Siamak Pourzand.
Genocide is one of the most difficult issues for peace activists to address. Many people who are ardent pacifists will make an exception to their anti-war stance if genocide is occurring. Whether we are trying to prevent or stop genocide, intervention is necessary. But what kind of intervention: diplomatic, economic, military, educational? Should the intervention emerge from within a country's sovereign borders, or should it be imposed by an external power? And what role can nonviolence play in stopping or preventing genocide?
Nonviolence is not complacency or inaction, or giving into corrupt leaders to appease them. The term nonviolence comes from the Sanskrit word ahimsa and refers to action that does no harm and is intended to show reverence and respect for life.
Peace educator Michael Nagler, in his book The Search for a Nonviolent Future, explains that nonviolence can be obstructive or constructive. It is obstructive when activists resist injustice and refuse to cooperate with evil. It is constructive when they work to build collaborative relationships, cooperating with that which promotes the greater good. Prior to and during WW II, individuals and organizations operating underground, offered resistance to Nazi efforts to rounding up Jewish citizens.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Court (ICC), met yesterday with Libyan officials who reiterated their refusal to hand over Saif Gaddafi to the ICC.
Saif, along with his late father Muammar Gaddafi and Gaddafi's former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi, have been charged by the Court with crimes against humanity following an investigation last spring after the U.N. Security Council referred the situation in Libya to the ICC. The new Libyan government had previously pledged to work with the ICC and hand over the indictees so they could face trial in The Hague. Since then, however, Libya had pushed to keep Saif in Libya and try him there, while the ICC had insisted he be turned over to the Court.
But Prosecutor Ocampo sounded a different note yesterday after meeting with Libyan leaders, stating ""They believe they can do it, it's not my call. The decision here is for the judges, not for me." Despite the fact that the ICC should have jurisdiction in the Saif Gaddafi case due to the Security Council referral, Ocampo added that "The legal system here is okay... The fact that we are discussing how to do justice - if the Libyans do it or the ICC does it - shows that the case is moving. One year ago it was a mess, today we are discussing legal issues, we are organizing, everything is different."
We'll continue to keep you updated on the Saif Gaddafi situation as events unfold.
- Arms Control (22)
- Become a Member (3)
- Become a Member (1)
- Capitol Hill (164)
- CGS Political Action Committee (PAC) (17)
- Chapters (4)
- Civilian Protection (133)
- Climate Change (94)
- Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) (2)
- Congressional Report Card (7)
- Current Campaigns (8)
- Election News & Analysis (101)
- Fellows (2)
- Gender Based Violence (26)
- Genocide Prevention (113)
- Get Involved (68)
- Home (12)
- Human Rights (223)
- Human Rights Council (31)
- International Criminal Court (167)
- International Criminal Justice (51)
- Law & Justice (211)
- Law of the Sea Treaty (55)
- Nuclear Disarmament (81)
- Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) (2)
- Other (33)
- PAC: 2010 Election Endorsements (3)
- Partners for Global Change (2)
- Peacekeeping (104)
- Prevent War (181)
- Rights of the Child Treaty (10)
- Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) (19)
- Support Us (14)
- Take Action (24)
- Tax Deductible Giving (2)
- UN Funding (71)
- UN Reform & Revitalization (43)
- United Nations (321)
- usaforicc.org (1)
- WFI (5)
- Women's Rights Treaty (CEDAW) (47)