Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Drought threatens Afghanistan while the International community stands aside

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) recently warned that the onset of drought in many of Afghanistan’s provinces spells further deterioration of health conditions. The UN agency appealed for an added $3.8 million dollars in order to fight against the spread of disease and malnutrition, likely to be exacerbated by the drought as well as the persistent conflict. This was the second request for additional funding as there was no commitment made by the international community in response to the last appeal.

Afghanistan’s child health indicators, measured by infant and maternal mortality rates and the mortality rate for children under five, rank among the worst in the world. Despite collaboration among UN agencies such as UNICEF, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the humanitarian aid efforts must be bulwarked in order to meet the needs of the dispossessed populations, while Afghanistan rebuilds its infrastructures and sets up the necessary systems for sustainable development.

For full article, click here.

Vietnam included on enemies of the Internet list

Vietnam is one of thirteen countries denounced by Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based press freedom group, for systematic censorship of online content. A 24-hour cyberspace demonstration ending on Wednesday was aimed at raising public awareness about countries that censor and block any material online critical of their governments. These same countries hold so-called dissent journalists prisoners for opposing the existing political structures in their countries, according to the group’s report.

For full article, click here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

USCIRF urges government to keep CPC status for Viet Nam

In a letter addressed to Secretary Rice, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has urged that the State Department continue to recognize Viet Nam as a country of particular concern (CPC). The USCIRF is a bipartisan federal agency that has stressed that given the Religious Freedom Act of 1998, Viet Nam should continue to be designated as a CPC. According to the USCIRF, little has changed since the State Department’s designation of CPC status, with continued detentions of religious prisoners and forced renunciations. Despite some releases, more have been detained, many are under house arrest, and many released remain under constant surveillance. The USCIRF is urging Secretary Rice to keep Viet Nam listed as a CPC, and worries removing this designation could remove much of the incentive that could force the Vietnamese government to change its policies.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

U.N. details atrocities committed against women

In a November 2nd Op-Ed article, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert likens the scope of the violence committed against women globally to a world war. Herbert, addressing the recent publication of a United Nations report that highlights the extent of the problem worldwide, questions the tepid reaction to the report in the media and highlights the need for greater financial support for women’s rights advocates in developing nations.

According to the U.N. report, massive numbers of women around the world continue to be targeted in acts of unspeakable cruelty. In Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, hundreds of women have been killed in recent years by men who did not expect to be punished for their crimes. In India, bride burnings constitute a significant portion of the thousands of female homicides carried out each year. In Ethiopia, men kidnap and rape as a way of obtaining wives. In conflict zones like Darfur, the crisis is exaserbated, with levels of violence against women spiking.

Intimate partners are the most common perpetrators of these crimes, and this is true even in developed countries like the United States, where a recent study indicates that nearly 80% of all young female homicide victims were murdered by an individual close to them.

Herbert urges his readers to recognize the extent of this crisis and treat the U.N. report as the call to action that it is.

The full article can be accessed through the New York TimesSelect, here

Guilty Verdict and Death Sentence for Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein is guilty of crimes against humanity and will be executed by hanging, the Iraqi court established to try him for brutalities committed under his rule decreed on Sunday.

The Iraqi High Tribunal’s verdict followed the Dujail case, in which Hussein was accused of killing 148 Shiite men and boys. Hussein has been tried on separate charges for killing tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurds using chemical weapons during the Anfal campaign.

In spite of numerous flaws that marred the trial, for victims who survived Hussein’s atrocities and relatives of those who died gruesome deaths at his hands, justice has at long last been served.

“I’ve waited for this day for a long time,” one man, whose brother was found in a mass grave, told the New York Times. “I feel sad for my brother. But now I feel satisfied that his blood didn’t go for nothing.”

“The verdict issued against the head of the defunct regime does not represent a verdict against an individual but against a dark era unparallel in the history of Iraq,” Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said.

LCHR President Kathryn Cameron Porter launched a campaign for the establishment of an international criminal court to bring Hussein to justice prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and has worked to raise awareness of human rights abuses by his regime. A staunch defender of ethnic minorities, particularly the Kurds, Porter said, “The Kurds have suffered unspeakable torture under Saddam Hussein. Now the world knows about their ordeal, and the Iraqi people have chosen to hold the man behind their suffering accountable for his crimes against humanity. While every widow whose husband was murdered by the regime, every Halabja survivor whose lungs were permanently scarred by chemical gas, and every Iraqi touched in some way by the violence of this brutal dictator will continue to grieve for what they have lost, I hope that each one can also find closure at the conclusion of the trial.”

The director of London-based organization the Iraqi Association, Jabbar Hasan, added in a press release, “It’s the first time ever in the history of the Middle East to see a dictator to be judged directly by his own people…. Questioning the fairness underestimates the weight of the rule of law that Iraqis desperately need.”

More news and views about the Hussein verdict appear below.

Christian Science Monitor calls Hussein death sentence “positive step for Iraqi justice”
Iraqi reactions to the verdict reflect persistent sectarian divisions cultivated by Hussein’s regime. Hearing the Iraqi High Tribunal’s decision, Shiites and Kurds, who were targeted for persecution by the former dictator, flocked to the streets in jubilant celebration. Sunnis, meanwhile, reacted angrily at what many saw as a political trial controlled by Americans. According to the piece, “The result…is a positive step for Iraqi justice, but one that reveals a deep and continuing weakness in the rule of law.”

Despite popular approval for the verdict, the tribunal has not been without deficiencies, including the inexperience of lawyers and judges involved in the case, and little reference to lessons learned from other international tribunals, or to non-U.S. experts.

Regardless of its imperfections, the verdict is likely to be deemed by the Iraqi people as justice served. State officials, including Prime Minister al-Maliki and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, consider the verdict a clear springboard for building a stable and prosperous Iraq.

For the full article, click here.

President Bush declares verdict “milestone”
President Bush called the trial “a milestone in the Iraqi people’s efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law” and “a major achievement for Iraq’s young democracy and its constitutional government” according to a White House press release. Hussein’s trial by due process, the President said, is a legal right that had been denied to the Iraqi people by the former regime and represents a clear marker on the path to building a society “that delivers equal justice and protects all its citizens.”

For the President’s full statement, click here.

New York Times editorial – serious doubts about fairness of trial
The future of Iraq’s fragile democracy and peace initiatives is not bolstered by outcome of the trial, according to a New York Times editorial. The country remains further divided due to Shiite and Kurdish appropriation of the trial for their own political gain. Political maneuvering by those seeking to influence the outcome and procedural mishandlings cast serious doubt over the fairness of the trial. The editorial does not deny that “Saddam Hussein’s horrendous crimes deserve exemplary punishment,” however, it puts forth an urgent plea to the appeals court charged with reviewing the verdict to take the necessary steps to compensate for procedural deficiencies, especially, by ruling to defer the death sentence to allow for the completion of Hussein’s second trial.

For the full editorial, click here.

Detroit Free Press: Verdict won’t stop violence
An analysis piece published by the Detroit Free Press reports that Iraq’s sectarian violence is not likely to be mitigated by Hussein’s death sentence. According to the article, “the verdict is just a symbol of the deeper, underlying problems” and Hussein’s fate is not linked to the growing violence in Iraq. At most, the death of Saddam Hussein by hanging could turn him into a martyr for Sunnis who are “alarmed at the prospect of Shiite domination.” In the absence of an effective system of law and government, the violence is likely to go on based on sectarian hatred and the struggle for power in Iraq.

For the full article, click here.

BBC News discusses trial’s legal ramifications
Sunday’s verdict in the trial of Saddam Hussein will have important legal ramifications in the realm of international law, according to a BBC News analysis. The fact that the trial was carried out by Iraqis is key, as international parties led the way in many of the previous tribunals in cases against tyrannical leaders. Additionally, in establishing the consequence of the chain of command, the trial set a precedent for future cases where rulers attempt to wash their hands of the actions of their underlings.

For the full article, click here

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights seeks suspension of executions in Iraq
United Nations High Commisioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has urged the Iraqi government to issue a moratorium on executions, the UN’s website reported. Arbour also called on Iraqi officials to respect the defendants’ right to appeal, stressing that ensuring the right to a fair trial for human rights offenders would be an important step in the country’s efforts to shore up its justice system.

For the full article, click here

Amnesty International “deplores” Hussein death sentence
Amnesty International (AI) condemned the decision to execute Saddam Hussein. In addition to criticizing the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT) for issuing the death penalty in the case, the organization called the trial “deeply flawed and unfair” and cited problems ranging from insufficient protection of defense attorneys and witnesses to the denial of counsel to Hussein until a year after his capture.

Malcolm Smart, director of the organization’s Middle East and North Africa Program, said the case was “an opportunity missed” for Iraq to re-establish the right to a fair trial, and AI called on SICT to seek international judicial intervention for the appeals phase of the trial in an effort to rectify past errors.

For the full article, click here

Trial results well-founded, says Washington Post editorial
Hussein’s trial, despite its tumultuous proceedings, culminated in a just delivery of a death sentence against “a tyrant who never hesitated when ordering the summary murder of tens of thousands of Iraqis.” Iraq’s process of recovery from years of state-sponsored brutalities is nevertheless hampered by the rising insurgency movement and the collapse of lawful order. Shiite militias, some embedded in government security forces, are responsible for the abduction, torture and murder of members of the Sunni population, even as Shiites celebrate the end of such practices under the former regime. The Sunni insurgency continues, and Arab countries are likely to view the verdict as an act of vengeance carried out by the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government rather than an execution of justice. The Washington Post concludes that despite flaws in the judicial process against Saddam, “the result was imperfect, to be sure, but also well-founded.”

For the full editorial, click here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ban Ki-moon and the UN's role in safeguarding human rights

One issue for which the United Nations has come under constant criticism is the organization’s near ineptitude in enforcing the espousal of human rights by all countries around the world. In this regard, Ban Ki-moon stands to inherit the reform project of the outgoing secretary general, Kofi Annan, to enhance the UN’s moral authority on human rights issues. During his tenure, Annan attempted to revive the virtually defunct Human Rights Commission through establishing a reformed, better funded Human Rights Council, with wider powers and more stringent membership requirements. However, American opposition and political maneuvering by a large proportion of the members of the General Assembly resulted in the adulteration of Annan’s original programmatic vision for the Human Rights Council. It remains to be seen whether Ban Ki-moon will be able to step up his influence as secretary general in order to compel states to adhere to their human rights responsibilities.

For full article, click here.

Ahmad Chalabi on Iraq

Speaking from his lavish London apartment, the United States’ erstwhile protégé for democracy in Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi, charged the US forces’ prolonged occupation of Iraq as liable for the country’s current state of mayhem. In his interview with the New York Times, Chalabi reportedly said that Iraqis are naturally better equipped to rebuild and stabilize their country. He further maintained that had the Americans stepped out of the way to let an Iraqi government to assume responsibility for restoring the state’s institutional capabilities, such as the civil service and military and intelligence faculties, Iraqi forces would have contained the budding insurgency and the country’s development projects would have been more effectively implemented.

For full article, click here.