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U.S. moves to reclaim human rights mantle

"We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization." -- Franklin Roosevelt

More than 60 years ago, President Roosevelt reminded us that protecting the human rights of others is the only way to protect our own human rights.

Two Double Standards

Today, the Washington Post's lead editorial jumped on Arab states that welcomed Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir to the Doha Arab League summit. The Post observed the Leagues' call for the:

"international community to prosecute those responsible" for alleged 'war crimes' committed by Israel in its recent offensive in Gaza."

As well as the Leagues':

"ardent defense of Sudanese dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir -- who was welcomed to the Doha summit despite an outstanding arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court on multiple war crimes charges."

However, the Post has failed to point out the Obama administrations' own double standard. While U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has strongly endorsed the Court's decision to issue the Bashir arrest warrants, the rest of the Administration has remained silent on the responsibility of other nations to honor those warrants and deliver Bashir to the Court, as well as the United States responsibility to do so. Instead the U.S. has continued to fund those nations, for example sending $1.3 billion to Egypt.

If the United States is to elevate the importance of human rights, as it did yesterday by announcing it will run for the Human Rights Coucil, it should demonstrate its own commitment to holding the world's most heinous criminals accountable for their actions by increasing its cooperation with the ICC.

U.S. Announces Candidacy for Human Rights Council

GlobalSolutions.org is thrilled to hear that the U.S. has officially announced its candidacy for Human Rights Council elections in May. Currently, the HRC is the primary global intergovernmental body able to address human rights issues - the U.S. has never been a member or an active participant. CGS has advocated that the U.S. run for a seat for a long time and we are now looking forward to the elections. The U.S. will compete for the seat with Belgium, Norway and New Zealand. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, echoed our sentiments when she stated:

Those who suffer from abuse and oppression around the world, as well as those who dedicate their lives to advancing human rights, need the Council to be balanced and credible. The U.S. is seeking election to the Council because we believe that working from within, we can make the council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights. We hope to work in partnership with many countries to achieve a more effective Council.

Congressman Howard Berman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee also issued a statement supporting CGS views:

I strongly support the administration's decision to engage with the United Nations Human Rights Council by running for a seat this year. This global forum has become increasingly dysfunctional and politicized, with virtually no guidance from the United States… The time is ripe to take a more positive and active role in challenging the Council and in speaking out about genuine human rights atrocities.

Lack of U.S. Commitment to Darfur

The U.S. is presently not a part of the ICC, so it does not have to follow the jurisdiction of the ICC. Yet, as a world power and a leader in promoting freedom and equality, many would agree that a stronger stance on arresting and persecuting Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir should be taken by the U.S. The U.S. State Department, during a press release on March 30, 2009, made a comment on the concern of such a warm welcome for al-Bashir by the Arab League. The State Dept.

US is Mute While Bashir Travels Freely

According to the New York Times and other media sources indicted Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has visited with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Bashir has not been deterred by the arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court. He visited Eritrea on Monday and is expected to attend an Arab League summit meeting in Qatar next week.

Opening Speech for the 2009 CGS Annual Meeting

The name of our organization, "GlobalSolutions.org" has two concepts built into it: "Citizens" and "Global Solutions." We put a lot of energy into thinking about global solutions. But today I want you to spend some time thinking about the first term, 'Citizens'. We are gathered here today as citizens of states from across the nation: from California to Maine. And we are here as proud citizens of the United States of America. (It's nice to be proud again.) But we are also here as global citizens.

The very definition of citizenship contains the concepts of loyalty and protection. We are loyal to a clan, a state, a nation, and for us the world - and in return for our loyalty we expect that by banding together and working within a common set of rules we will be able to make ourselves and our families more secure. But we are still working all this out at the global level. From our economy, to weapons of mass destruction, pandemics, genocide, to the very environment we exist in - we are not there yet. We are still exploring what the rules are and how we can work together. But we know that it is imperative that we accomplish this task. We are global citizens in a time of turmoil.

Moises Naim, the editor of Foreign Policy magazine said, "The gap between the need for effective collective action at the global level and the ability of the international community to satisfy that need is the most dangerous deficit facing humanity."

An Incredible Conference

Thanks to everyone who came to our 2009 Annual Meeting at Gallaudet University last weekend! We had a great time, applauding the achievements of our supporters during the past year; going over goals for the upcoming year; and looking at some long-range issues that we may want to begin working on.

Congressman Joe Sestak (7th-PA) made time to talk to our supporters about his goals for international engagement on Thursday, answering questions listening to our concerns. Many other Members of Congress arranged for their foreign policy staffers to meet with our members, to discuss the ICC, the Law of the Sea, and CEDAW. On Friday, we had a series of incredible panels, begining with a discussion of nuclear disarmament and peacekeeping. Joe Cirincionne of the Ploughshares Fund, Ann Richard of the International Rescue Committee, Peter Yeo of the U.N. Foundation's Better World Campaign, and our own CEO Don Kraus discussed a variety of policy initiative and fielded questions.

Easily the most animated discussion was the panel on whether the world is ready for an elected United Nations  parliament. Legal expert Andrew Strauss, CGS Minnesota chapter leader Joe Schwartzberg, Faye Leone of the World Federalist Movement, Argentine parliament member Fernando Iglesias and Jeffrey Laurenti of the Century Foundation all debated the advantages and problems of setting up a global assembly.

Partners focus on action for Darfur

Thanks to all our Partners who joined us March 14th for our Partners Call on Darfur. Niemat Ahmadi of SaveDarfur joined us to give us the latest information on the situation there. Unfortunately, President Al-Bashir has disconnected many telephone lines and internet connections, in order to keep information from getting from Darfur to the outside world. Ms. Ahmadi told us about this very worrisome development and urged our Partners to press U.S. officials to take action quickly. She said,

"This is the right time for world leaders to show leadership. What's going on in Darfur is a humanitarian crisis, so it is the responsibility of world leaders to help."

See what Ms. Ahmadi had to say to the UN Security Council.

Goodbye Nethercutt & the BIA Campaign

Senate passage of the Omnibus appropriations bill quietly marked the end of Congressional sanctions on nations that have ratified the International Criminal Court. It also officially ends the Bush administration's Bilateral Immunity Agreement (or Article 98) campaign, clearing the way for greater U.S. cooperation with the Court.

Thank you Representative Lowey, Senator Leahy and your staffs!

Beginning in the summer of 2002, the Bush administration aggressively sought to conclude bilateral immunity agreements with every country in the world. Bilateral immunity agreements (BIAs), also known as "Article 98" agreements, prohibited countries from sending U.S. personnel to the ICC for any reason. This includes U.S. servicemembers, nationals, or employees of the U.S. government (past and present, including non-national contractors). Over 100 nations were pressured into signing these agreements, even though doing so meant violating the commitment they took on when they ratified the ICC treaty. They were forced to put all U.S. citizens on their territory, even mercenaries and common criminals, above the laws that they expected their own citizens and leaders to obey.

In 2002 Congress passed the American Servicemembers Protection Act (ASPA), which hampered U.S. cooperation with the Court and sanctioned nations that ratified it by withholding funding for military financing and education. By January, 2008, at the urging of the Defense Department, these economic sanctions were eliminated.