The garbage orchestra from Paraguay

« The world sends us garbage – we send back music ». That’s the motto of Favio Chavez. He opened a music school in Cateura on the outskirts of the Paraguayan capital Asunción. There’s no money for instruments – but no shortage of refuse in the neighbourhood.

Gomez turns the garbage into violins, guitars, cellos and other musical instruments. The orchestra he started has had invitations to perform around the world. A documentary film about the project called « Landfill Harmonic » has received backing from crowd funding.

Cateura exists virtually on top of a landfill site where residents make their livings recycling and selling other people’s rubbish.

Situated along the banks of the Paraguay River, 1,500 tons of waste is dumped in the area each day.
But despite the critical levels of pollution and the threat to their health residents of Cateura manage to find the most positive of uses for the rubbish.

Inspired to do something to help the inpoverished families, Chávez began using the trash in the landfill to create instruments for the children.

« One day it occurred to me to teach music to the children of the recyclers and use my personal instruments, » explains 36 year-old Chávez, who worked as an ecological technician at the landfill.

« But it got to the point that there were too many students and not enough supply. So that’s when I decided to experiment and try to actually create a few. »

Goodbye Madiba

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NELSON ROLIHLAHLA MANDELA (18 JULY 1918 – 5 DECEMBER 2013)

mandela_2_0

The great Mandela gone:

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Invictus, William Ernest Henley

This poem played an important role in Nelson Mandela’s life during his imprisonment in Robben Island, Republic of South Africa.

World Congress Against the Death Penalty

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ARAB WORLD IN PROGRESS

Death-penalty

In the inaugural conference of the 5th Congress which took place in Madrid (12-15 July 2013), the Iraqi minister of Justice asserted:

«The death penalty (in Iraq) applies only for serious crimes, as acts of terrorism and violent crimes. »

But for Nasser Abood who tops the Iraq Coalition Against the Death Penalty, these arguments do not stand:

« After China and Iran, Iraq is the third country (in the area) to run the death penalty. The problem is that most people who are sentenced to death are innocent but have confessed under constraint of torture and violence. In addition there is discrimination in implementing the death penalty for religious reasons, while militias’ activities of those who govern the country, go unpunished. The Iraqi government applies capital punishment to adjust political accounts or on behalf of religious faith. It is easy to focus into others responsibility for acts of terrorism (…) who might be convicted at all costs. »

Nasser Abood points out that five people were executed although innocent. He feels very lonely and without political support:

«Unfortunately, the government does not support the abolition of the death penalty. »

At northeast, in the Iraqi Kurdistan, the situation seems different. In Erbil, Mustapha Chouaf, coordinator of the Coalition of Kurdistan against the death penalty, a moratorium on executions is real. The last execution took place three years ago:

«When we speak of Iraq we should actually speak of two distinct geographical entities: Iraqi Kurdistan and Iraq. In Iraqi Kurdistan the death penalty does not apply, not so in the rest of Iraq. For example, in Iraqi Kurdistan, there are people incarcerated over 18 years, but they are not executed. There is awareness that Kurdistan should stop executions permanently. In Iraq, where the number of executions of persons who committed terrorist attacks has multiplied, the number of these attacks has been increasing. Executions did not reduce violence. So the death penalty is useless. »

Mustapha Chouaf has proposed to parliament of Iraqi Kurdistan a project to commute death sentences to 20 years imprisonment penalties. Over time, he would like to apply the abolition to all crimes by law. In the region the reluctance to such proposal is important while politicians hide behind the arguments of public opinion pressure or religious arguments. And it is Jordan who wants to be an example –as explains Mohhammad Altaraune, Judge of the High Criminal Court in Amman, and who also leads the Arab Coalition Against the Death Penalty:

«The last execution took place three years ago, when death penalty was abolished for ten rules, and, in cooperation with Parliament and civil society, we hope to abolish it for verified crimes as well. There is no reluctance from community if people are aware of the importance of resisting to the death penalty. »

Except Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Yemen, with the largest number of death penalty executions in the region –not to talk of Syria at war–, the remaining states in the region spot a moratorium, but they remain very reluctant to take a conclusive step towards the death penalty abolition –including Egypt and Lebanon.

Business and Human Rights, a difficult bridal

After six years in office the UN Special Representative for Business and Human Rights, Professor John Ruggie, acknowledges that he has made ​​progress in his job since his appointment in 2005, but he has been mainly driven by many NGOs that accused for decades the companies’ manners in some countries, particularly international businesses. Carlos Lopez, a senior legal advisor to the International Commission of Jurists, an NGO based in Geneva, reports that national and international corporations – and the states from which they originate – are opposed to excessively restrictive obligations or texts.

These firms consider that these rules could affect their ability to compete against other companies from China, India or Russia, which have different standards. But precisely a hundred years ago, the International Labour Organisation was created to establish standards that everyone would agree to meet.

It goes now beyond the rights of workers. Some suggest e.g. a set of standards, such as the right to a healthy environment. But businesses and their respective states do not want to hear about it. They say we must leave the markets go without putting rules that may impede business operations. Otherwise, facing too many binding rules (eg. taxes), they are afraid they will make less profit. There’s the rub.

A country where standards should urgently be implemented is the Democratic Republic of Congo. Navanethem Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has repeatedly criticized the serious violations of human rights in the region, breaches connected to the mining activities and the extraction of natural resources, which are often contracted with transnational industries.

Many armed groups control these areas and they do it for economic reasons. They want to make a lucrative profit because these regions are rich in minerals. It is very well described in the meddling report to the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights. It is precisely in these pockets controlled by armed groups that mining is organized. They manage resource exploitation in situations of terrible abuse that could be defined as international crimes. In addition, international companies and companies located in other countries buy these minerals and are therefore involved in transactions. So there are different levels of involvement of foreign companies. And the international community does little to change that.

Yet the situation in DRC is closely followed by the Security Council. It has established codes of conduct and asks corporations to pay particular attention to the fact that minerals mined in the DRC do not benefit armed groups and do not help fueling the conflict. Companies should have clearer objectives in terms of respect for human rights. It should set more rules to ensure that the entire chain, all activities in any way, do not violate human rights. And that in addition they do not contribute to ensure that others do so.

Last June John Ruggie’s mandate ended. The first Special Representative of the UN for Business and Human Rights has succeeded anyway adopting common principles. However, he did not want that these principles were binding. Thus, only the goodwill shall prevail. That is a bit thin in the competitive world of these often lawlessness areas where victims have often no remedy at law.

The Horn of Africa, a recurring scenario of drought and famine

Refugees from Somalia have to walk for days to reach Dadaab camp

The Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya are grappling with the arrival of thousands of people fleeing drought and fighting in neighboring Somalia. Many, especially children, fail to survive the long journey.

Some 2,000 people have been arriving every day in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps from Somalia, Ethiopia and drought-stricken areas in Kenya. Many walk for weeks to get there. Young children, in particular, often don’t survive the long journey or succumb to exhaustion and severe malnutrition even after reaching the camps. The Dadaab camps are currently home to some 350,000 people.

Crop failure, droughts and floods are not the only causes of hunger. Corruption, mismanagement and bad governance are mainly to blame for catastrophes such as the current famine in the Horn of Africa.

Every day, between 1,000 and 2,000 refugees from Somalia come to the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya. They are fleeing from hunger – and from a nation which isn’t a country at all. The situation is so chaotic in southern Somalia, that it’s even dangerous for aid workers to go there. Rebel groups are spreading fear and terror among the population, blocking desperately needed food aid and making any possible help from the outside world impossible.

Add to this the extreme drought. The result is that many who are already living at the poverty level and below are robbed of their last chance to survive. The food scarcity is causing prices to soar. Whoever can’t pay them starves. Millet is a very important foodstuff in Somalia and is twice as expensive as it was just a short time ago. The people don’t have any choices anymore.

Democracy can battle hunger

But there’s no government to blame for the catastrophe in Somalia. The country is a classic example of a failed state. There is neither a government nor an administration. In these cases, hunger crises are practically inevitable.

The Indian economist and Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen proved that acute famine hardly occurs anymore in democracies. However, chronic hunger can prevail under democratically elected governments, as well. This means many people remain undernourished, but they don’t die in large numbers as a result.

Over a billion people worldwide are starving. This leads to a high level of childhood mortality, physical and mental handicaps and hopeless poverty.

Ethiopia can’t battle the problem

The catastrophe currently raging in the Horn of Africa is not daily hunger, though, but rather a famine of biblical dimensions. There are people starving to death during their flight, children who often don’t survive the weeks-long march to the Kenyan refugee camps in Dadaab, or who die shortly after arriving because they are already too weakened to survive.

They come from Somalia or Ethiopia, where the government is also in a desperate battle against hunger.

Ethiopia has invested enormously in the agrarian sector in the past 10 years. Every year, the number of starving has sunk by one to one-and-a-half percent, but beginning at a very high level.

However, the measures aren’t enough. Ethiopia belongs to the poorest countries in the world. The rapid growth in population makes it difficult to expand the agricultural sector sufficiently and ensure food security. A devastating drought like the one right now cannot be thwarted by investments in rural development. Those people who have lost their land or animals due to the drought can only resort to fleeing.

Promises need to be fulfilled

In the long-term, consistent investments in agriculture and poverty reduction is the only thing which could prevent hunger catastrophes like this one. And these need to be investments that are transparent and sustainable – without the funds seeping away through corruption and nepotism. All that, without leaving Africa back in the hands of agribusiness or predatory countries that acquire African land for monocultures and speculation on cereals (China, South Korea); by facilitating and promoting the capitalization of small-scale agricultural projects, local and traditional (encouraging microfinance at all possible levels to generate self-sustaining economies that will fuel food self-sufficiency) — instead of capital investments seeking a return on investment in the short-term.

African Union’s so-called Maputo agreement is welcomed for sure. In 2003, African countries pledged to invest 10 percent of their entire budget into agriculture. Unfortunately, Kenya for example, where the drought is threatening hundreds of thousands of people, has not kept this promise. Additional funds or food reserves need to be put aside for acute crises like this one. Or the international donor community has to be asked for help. But this additional aid by the international community has flowed fairly sparsely – despite all the promises. And it is by far not enough to battle a catastrophe of this degree. UN agencies have a mandate by the governments to help these people, but not the necessary funds.

Many aid organizations are already warning of the next famine: in South Sudan, which has just become independent. The UN’s youngest member nation is marked by a shortage of funds, lacking government competence and growing corruption. The downward spiral continues to turn.

Related Posts: The Horn of Africa – An everlasting battleground

War of words

While we wait for history to judge the decision of the Security Council, words place themselves as judges.

The war in Libya is not virtual but very real. Then the outcome depends a lot on the war of words. Prudence dictates to wait for a positive outcome (with a free Libya at the end of the tunnel) or a disastrous issue instead (with a Muammar el-Qaddafi stronger and more upset than ever) for the decision of the UN Security Council to be judged in the light of history And while we wait for the history words place themselves as judgeswords used to judge what is happening in Libya.

The purpose of resolution 1973 of the Security Council was to protect the Libyan people against the tyrant, but as this reality bothers the tyrant he relieves all sorts of conceivable semantic tricks to transvesty reality and attempt to pass for a victim. Seeing is believing. Muammar el-Qaddafi vows to protect his people against the foreign invader when in fact it is about protecting the very people from the aggression of the tyrant. The crasser is the lie the more likely it is to pass through as true. And it would be a mistake to trifle with it because although the colonel’s propaganda is particularly rough and fallacious, his misinformation affects those whom such propaganda is flattering given their self-interest or ideological reasons. Such as in the case of some countries, headed by China (whom Muammar el-Qaddafi has promised concessions in the Libyan oil if they look the other way – thus allowing him to get out of trouble), as in the case of other regimes - Arab or not - who have no desire for the UN interfering in their affairs to ensure compliance or not with human rights in their respective countries.

But there is a category even more revolting: that of narrow-minded and dumb ideologists  for which any intervention involving Western countries is imperialist by nature. These zealous advocates suffer from true migraines because if, by any chance, Westerners were not a horde of unkind and greedy people, then the imposture  would not fit into their lowbrow straitjacket. It has to be particularly indigestible for them to witness how Western and Arab countries assume jointly undeniable risks to save Libyan rebels – including those who are shouting “Allahu Akbar “. The more if you believe upside down in the war of civilizations and that you deem the intervention hides, as usual, other unlawful and guilt-producing interests.

What then is the alternative to doing nothing?
Muammar el-Qaddafi counts on that unfortunately widespread – ominous approach. That’s why it is essential to avoid falling into the trap by describing this coalition as a typical western one and try on the contrary to associate the largest possible number of Arab countries. It was not easy to reach an agreement and this alliance will not last long, we know that. As soon as the first air strikes took place, the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, started disassociating oneself. In fact, this former Mubarak minister, greeted by some Egyptians for his hostility to Israel and his support to the revolution, has just one thing in mind: to become the next president of Egypt. And in this case, Mr. Amr Moussa wanted to bet on all winning horses to seduce western countries by giving support to the resolution draft, but without having to accommodate and assume the consequences in the eyes of the Arab citizens in general and in Egyptians’  in particular. The dude in fact bet on Russian and Chinese veto power. But it was not so. Hence his current confusion and hardship, especially having regard to the Egyptian people sensitivity, whose solidarity with the suffering of the Libyan people is more than obvious. The opportunism of Mr. Amr Moussa is currently blamed by Egyptians: he wanted to flatter the people and adulate their demons. He got the wrong war and marched out of step as Libya’s events have nothing to do with the war in Iraq: rebels yell in Benghazi without blushing: “Merci la France, Thak U America” (which for sure would not last long, we know that): indeed, many who now criticize the military intervention would make a great fuss if the United Nations had been passive not facing the massacres of Muammar el-Qaddafi. If the UN would have done so, now Benghazi would have fallen into the hands of the tyrant, the people would have been crushed and probably the Arab spring would have come to an end.

While we wait for history to judge the decision of the Security Council words place themselves as judges.

The war in Libya is not virtual but very real. Then the outcome depends a lot on the war of words. Prudence dictates to wait for a positive outcome (with a free Libya at the end of the tunnel) or else a disastrous issue (with a Colonel Gaddafi stronger and more upset than ever) for the decision of the Security Council of UN to be judged in the light of history And while we wait for the history words set themselves up as judges, words used to judge what is happening in Libya.

The purpose of resolution 1973 of the Security Council was to protect the Libyan people against the tyrant, but as this reality bothers the tyrant he relieves all sorts of conceivable semantic tricks to transvesting reality and attempt to pass for a victim. Seeing is believing. Colonel Gaddafi vows to protect his people against the foreign invader when in fact it is about protecting the very people from the aggression of the tyrant. The crasser is the lie the more likely it is to pass through as true. And it would be a mistake to trifle with it because although the colonel’s propaganda is particularly rough and fallacious, his misinformation affects those whom such propaganda is flattering given their self-interest or ideological reasons. Such as in the case of some countries, headed by China (whom Gaddafi has promised concessions in the Libyan oil if they look the other way – thus allowing him to get out of trouble), as is the case of other regimes - Arab or otherwise - who have no desire for the UN interfering in their affairs to ensure compliance or not tof human rights in their respective countries.

But there is a category even more awful: the narrow-minded and dumb ideologues for which any intervention involving Western countries is imperialist by nature. They suffer from true migraines because the opposing would not fit into their intellectual straitjacket. It should be particularly indigestible for them seeing how Western and Arab countries assume jointly undeniable risks to save Libyan rebels – including those who are shouting Allahu Akbar “. Even more if one believes in the war of civilizations upside down and says that the intervention hides other unlawful interests.

What then is the alternative to doing nothing?
And the colonel Qaddafi counts on that unfortunately widespread – ominous approach. That’s why it is essential to avoid falling into the trap by describing this coalition as western one and try on the contrary to associate the largest possible number of Arab countries. It was not easy to reach an agreement and this alliance will not last long, we know that. As soon as the first air strikes took place, the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, started disassociating oneself. In fact, this former Mubarak minister, greeted by some Egyptians for his hostility to Israel and his support to the revolution, has just one thing in mind: to become the next president of Egypt. And in this case, Mr. Amr Moussa wanted to bet on all winning horses to seduce western countries by giving support to the resolution draft, but without having to accommodate and assume the consequences in the eyes of the Arab citizen in general and Egyptians in particular. The dude in fact bet on Russian and Chinese veto power. But it was not so. Hence his current confusion and hardship, especially having regard to the Egyptian people sensitivity, whose solidarity with the suffering of the Libyan people is more than obvious. The opportunism of Mr. Amr Moussa is currently blamed by Egyptians: he wanted to flatter the people and adulate their demons. He got the wrong war and marched out of step as Libya’s events have nothing to do with the war in Iraq: rebels yell in Benghazi without blushing: “Merci la France, Merci l’Amérique “ (which not last long, we know that): indeed, many who now criticize the military intervention would make a great fuss if the United Nations had been passive not facing the massacres of Gaddafi. At present Benghazi would have fallen into the hands of the tyrant, the people would have been crushed and probably the Arab spring would have come to an end.

Libya, the international community and the responsibility to protect

The situation in Libya requires the international community to get involved early. In such cases, the problem of sovereignty must give way to the responsibility to protect. The international community cannot accept that the government of Muammar el-Qaddafi keeps on insisting that these are facts that relate only to Libyan domestic policy, then to be managed in terms of domestic policy.

The international community’s response must be fast, firm and effective. The history of Rwanda in 1994, Srebrenica and Darfur does not allow us to be very optimistic about the effectiveness of the international community when responding to emergency situations. But we must try it. A special meeting on Libya took place at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday February 25. The next day, the Security Council of United Nations met in New York in this regard. This last resort has ultimately a role and in particular the International Criminal Court – once the ICC is entitled to act at the request of the executive organ of the UN.

The fact that the Security Council of United Nations recognizes that the Libyan issue is of its concern, portends a significant point. At most if the Council just requested the ICC to take hand in the matter. Libya is not a State Party to the Rome Statute (1). Conversely, the Security Council can always promote preliminary investigations: in the case of Darfur, the Council established an investigation committee headed by Italian jurist Antonio Cassese (2). The work of the commission allowed the ICC to be aware and to have jurisdiction on the atrocities committed in the Darfur region.

Such a committee would be useful in elucidating the events in Libya and would be a quick reaction faster to materialize in situ. Its presence and implementation would largely stem the state of violence and abuses that run on the ground at the moment. There are precedents.

So, can the UN act effectively? What can be done?

Both much and little. Because the United Nations are States. The ones that might be fully involved and committed. There has been progress lately, yet the UN machine still remains slow-moving today. The Security Council meets permanently and the Human Rights Council can be in session urgently. Obviously a watchdog having a streamlined executive resolving power would be more effective, but the reality of the current international relations does not allow a real quick response in dealing with such concerns.

Since Monday 28 February, the Human Rights Council shall be meeting for 3 weeks. Surely Libya shall be at the center of the debate. Last Friday, during the Council special session, while the Libyan seat remained empty in the morning, the second secretary at the Libyan embassy in the UN announced in the afternoon, amidst loud applause, that from that moment the Libyan delegation in Geneva represented « the free people of Libya. »

________

(1)  The treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). Adopted in Rome on July 17, 1998, and that 139 countries have now ratified.

(2) Antonio Cassese was the first President of the International Criminal Court for the Former Yugoslavia. He is Professor of International Law at the University of Florence and Editor in Chief of the Journal of International Criminal Justice

Related Posts:

· The ‘Responsibility to Protect’ in the spotlight

Universal Periodic Review, A Lukewarm Success

Updated March 2, 2011

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US report booklets are displayed on a table during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on United States of America of the Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, November 5, 2010. © PressTV

Late February the 7th meeting session on Universal Periodic came to a close in Geneva. UPR is a mechanism introduced in 2006 — and first started early 2008 — that might allow scrutinizing the overall human rights situation in the 192 UN member countries during four years. 112 countries have been examined so far. This seventh session assessed in detail states as El Salvador, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq – Iran and Egypt especially generated the most reactions. Two years gone after this mechanism kick off, what conclusions can we draw?

The presentation takes about 2 or 3 hours by country. Previously, each country under review presents the measures that have been launched to improve the inland situation of human rights, while other states put forward their questions and offer their recommendations: that is what the UPR is. In fact states examine each other – but when this instrument first started, many NGOs feared that the states concerned do not act condescending each other.

For Julie de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, after two years the balance is ultimately positive:

“For us, this is a useful tool because it allows open debate on the human rights situation in a country, despite being an assessment between states (…) NGOs have the opportunity to enforce the discussion in presenting documents which provide support for the review, and otherwise enable us to make allegations on countries participating in the review (…) Thus, proposals of the NGOs have been accepted in the final recommendations.”

Eric Tistounet, Secretary of the UN Human Rights Council, makes a fairly positive assessment despite the initial reluctance:

“We shared the initial fears with NGOs. As High Commissioner our vision (…) is that peer review has given a more effective result than if it had been carried out by experts. Another positive point was the attendance of all participants. At first we feared an audience of only 60 or 70%, which is usual, ie normally countries cooperate within the system. This time all were there, including micro-states and states without delegation in Geneva. That allowed us to realize our influence over a majority of states, which we have been able to run in a non-controversial or political mood. “

For Julie de Rivero it is also essential that discussions raised during the UPR have to be undertaken at a national level – and here it is where international and domestic NGOs are involved to attempt influencing political decisions. In the case of Egypt and Iran both rejected criticism during the session. Iran has categorically rejected all criticism and has not supported favorably the request for inspection by independent experts on torture and freedom of expression, although the authorities had promised to do so earlier.

“It’s just an opportunity for a state to face up its commitments and promises (…) It is clear that there is no enthusiasm on the part of Iran – more reason to maintain the pressure.”

The downside, as a result of each session, is post monitoring. After examining, each state returns home with lots of recommendations (between 150 and 200, on average), and this is where the mechanism has shown its limits. Eric Tistounet, from the UN Human Rights Council:

“The recommendations can not be in the air (…) It is necessary to implement a proper monitoring system so that the main recommendations come into effect at least. Knowing what kind of action or how it will work is the next project. “

112 states have been examined to date. 80 remain from now till late 2011. At the 8th meeting in May Guinea, Haiti, Kenya, Belarus, Turkey and Spain will be examined among many other countries.

Sources: The Universal Periodic Review Mechanism (HRW) / Véronique Gaymard, RFI – Chronique des droits de l’homme, Paris, march 2010 / Universal Periodic Review – Seventh session meeting highlights

Related Posts:

· U.S. faces criticism from HR abusers at Universal Periodic Review

Revolts put focus on Arab civil society

Youth revolts in Tunisia and Egypt could spread throughout the Maghreb and the Arab World as the discontented masses take to the streets.

Street clamor is not exactly the same in Egypt as in Tunisia

In Tunisia, a popular insurrection knocked down a dictator for the first time in Arab history. In the meantime, the largest protests in decades have broken out in Egypt. Could Morocco and Algeria be next?

Tunisia’s revolution generated tremors not just in Egypt. Throughout the Maghreb, authoritarian regimes like those in Morocco and Algeria have a difficult time addressing the frustration and despair of their young populations. Could the revolutionary example set in Tunisia take root among its neighbors?

The revolution arose on mid December when a desperate, unemployed computer scientist named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in the small town of Sidi Bouzid. Bouazizi’s death symbolized the despair of a generation, triggering a series of general protests that ultimately swept longtime dictator President Ben Ali from power.

“We have 13 percent unemployment but the figures in the interior of the country are significantly higher, sometimes upwards of 70 percent,” said Adelwahab El Hani, a Tunisian human rights lawyer from Sidi Bouzid. “80,000 Tunisians have just finished up with their studies and they need jobs. That’s an enormous challenge for the government.”

Extreme imbalances and poor human rights records
One Tunisian student said it was like the top cover had shot off of a pressure cooker. He wasn’t just alluding to his homeland, but to the entire Maghreb. In Morocco, half the population is under 25 years old and 40 percent of them do not have a steady job. Young graduates are especially hard hit. The grumbling from the streets has become audible. Sure, there are limited political freedoms, woman’s rights, a parliament and a government – but no genuine open democracy. The military and secret police are omnipresent. The social imbalances are extreme.

“Motives for these kinds of revolts are all over the Maghreb,” said Francis Ghiles, from the Center for International Studies in Barcelona. “The elites in Morocco live the high life, but that doesn’t guarantee social stability. The pie can’t just belong to the rich. When there’s no redistribution of wealth, when the upper class parades around arrogantly, then there will be revolt someday.”

In Algeria it has already reached that point. This massive land is a social barrel of gunpowder. In January there were wounded during protests against high grocery prices. In many Algerian cities, the young expressed their rage in a flurry of stones, tear gas grenades and Molotov cocktails.

Algeria’s government promised to take decisive action, but the country is politically stagnant. Longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is supported by a corrupt clique of military officers and secret police. Three-fourths of Algerians are under 30. Most of them do not have jobs, lodging or perspective. All this despite the fact that the state strongboxes are full with money from oil and gas exports.

Algeria “has accumulated 150 billion euros in foreign exchange,” Ghiles said. “The problem is not a lack of money, but a clientele economy. It’s a casino. There’s no order, no plan, no perspective. And on top of that the government is autistic. Those in power just don’t listen, they don’t see the problems of their people, or they simply just don’t want to see.”

But now they have to see. A growing number of desperate, well-educated young people are extinguishing themselves in gasoline and lighting themselves on fire: In Egypt, in Yemen, in Mauretania and also in Algeria. Just like Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia, whose final act of self-determination set a whole country in flames.

Domino effect
Ghiles believes that the so called “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia is a historic event that has shaken the entire Maghreb. However, he does not believe that it will set off a domino effect which collapses other authoritarian regimes throughout the region. The Moroccan King Mohammed VI has a broad power base and his role as the highest religious leader of the Moroccan people lends him additional legitimacy.

In Algeria the middle class, which played a critical role in Tunisia, has largely disappeared. There has been social turmoil for years, but the regime has never been seriously threatened. The military and secret police are so tightly connected with the halls of power and the oil and natural gas industries that they have too much to lose in a revolution.

In glaring contrast to Tunisia, the Algerian army would gun down demonstrators. And nobody wants a new civil war in Algeria – the last one cost 200,000 lives. Even if the states of the Maghreb do not fall like dominoes, Tunisia serves as a warning. When these kinds of events repeat themselves, like recently in Algeria or a few years ago in Morocco, or even in Tunisia or Egypt, then governments have to draw some conclusions. If they don’t do that, then the pressure cook will explode – just somewhat later.
________
Francis Ghiles, The Maghreb refuses to share, Le Monde Diplomatique, Feb. 2010; El Coste del No-Maghreb, IEMed and ToledoPax, Madrid, May 2006 and Barcelona, Nov. 2007.

Slavery still exists in our globalized world

Discrimination is a pivotal part of slavery practices because it allows people to disengage their humanity and justify or tolerate the violation of other people’s human rights.

Despite living in an age capable of achieving great technological dreams, the same old slavery (the buying and abduction of persons for private use) remains unchanged in some countries. While the most prestigious organization fighting against this evil scourge, Anti-Slavery International, was born at the time of ancient slavery, when the boats were traveling packed with human flesh. The NGO goes on fighting … The latest news could not be more pessimistic. One of the greatest abolitionist fighters, the Mauritanian Biram Dah Ould Abeid, is being tried along with five other activists from the organization he’s heading, the Initiative de Résurgence du Mouvement Abolitionniste en Mauritanie.

Prosecution inquires for a million ouguiya (2,700 euros, in a country where 25% of the population lives with less than one euro a day) and three years in prison, on grounds of a demonstration where he allegedly assaulted a police officer. At the time of arrest demonstrators were engaged against slavery of two Haratin girls, ethnicity that has suffered for centuries. In fact, slavery in Mauritania is hereditary (100% of actual slaves come from former slaves) and although it is prohibited since 2007, activists put it at over 20% of the population. Fatimata Mbaye lawyer, human rights icon, president of the Association Mauritanienne des Droits de l’Homme and three times imprisoned, speaks of systematic practice. And this is how this friendly Islamic Republic, theoretical ground of the struggle against jihadist phenomenon operating in the area, allows its white castes continue enslaving black Africans, as they have done for centuries. In this regard, the trial of Biram is highly significant. Biram’s public message is clear: the Government is more interested in prosecuting the anti-slavery than suing those pro-slavery.

But Mauritania is not the only case and Anti-Slavery is blunt: there are millions of slaves in the world. Sudan takes the cake, along with Emirates, Pakistan, Haiti and Mauritania itself – but in the form of unpaid work— the practice extends to many other countries.

Consequently, Biram’s trial is a tragedy. However, I express my frustration. Who cares in our well-off countries? Mauritania is so far from our mental map that it does not awaken  any inner gloom. Yet, these harsh facts should really break us if we were citizens of this world, and not just residents in our small inner planet.

Convention against Enforced Disappearances comes finally into force

On 23rd December 2010, almost four years after its adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance eventually reached the 20th ratification by Iraq which was necessary for its entry into force. Later on Brazil also ratified this treaty, which the Convention enters into force with 21 member states.

“This is an historical date”, said Mary Aileen D. Bacalso Chair of the Asian Federation Against Disappearances (AFAD) and focal person of the ICAED (1), which gathers associations of families of the disappeared together with human rights NGOs.

“The Convention represents by itself an achievement of associations of relatives of disappeared people and NGOs from all over the world. Its adoption was first requested by families of victims of disappeared people from Latin America, back in the eighties. It took more than 30 years to the international community to adopt this legal tool, which fills an immense and intolerable gap: the lack of an international treaty to prevent and suppress enforced disappearance. Contrary to what many people think, enforced disappearance is not a practice of the past nor is it limited to a few regions of the world. All the continents have experienced or are experiencing this criminal practice. People are disappearing in many parts of the world. In such light, the Convention will be an effective tool for the international community in its struggle against this scourge”.

Everyone remembers the mothers of Plaza de Mayo whose we’re still hearing about today. In the late 70’s they paraded on the main square in Buenos Aires at the worst moment of the Argentine dictatorship, when thousands of people disappeared. They brandished pictures of their sons, their daughters by asking “¿Dónde están?” (“Where are they?”)

It is these and other organizations of families of the disappeared who rally together in support of this convention to stop these practices. Olivier de Frouville (2), member of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances:

This is the culmination of a long and arduous process that began in the late ’70s with the action of the families of the disappeared in Latin America next to United Nations to first identify the practice of enforced disappearances as such and achieve (…) bannishing them.

For several months, 19 states had already ratified the convention. All was needed was one more country to sign so the treaty comes into force. Iraq was the 20th country that ratified this international treaty and consequently it allowed the instrument coming into force December 23, 2010. Besides, according to Olivier Frouville:

There are undoubtedly pressures, but also the interest of the new Iraqi regime (…) to shed light on violations of human rights that took place during the former regime (of Saddam Hussein).

Iraq is indeed one of the countries where it was found the highest number of disappearances. The Committee on Enforced Disappearances has identified that country as a one with the largest number of cases reported and demonstrated.

Neither China nor Russia nor the United States have ratified the Convention. In contrast, many Latin American countries have done so. Some African countries like Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria, as well. Very few Asian and very few European countries. It’s a shame. Especially since the disappearances involve European countries: they have affected them in the past, especially through the colonial wars, and they still affect them through practices related to the fight against terrorism, particularly secret detentions and extraordinary renditions that are practiced by the United States with the complicity of a number of European countries.

The Convention provides for the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance as well as the right for the relatives of the disappeared persons to know the truth. The Convention contains several provisions concerning prevention, investigation and sanctioning of this crime, as well as the rights of victims and their relatives and the wrongful removal of children born during their captivity. The Convention further sets forth the obligation of international cooperation, both in the suppression of the practice and in dealing with humanitarian aspects related to the crime. The Convention establishes a Committee on Enforced Disappearances, which will be charged with important and innovative functions of monitoring and protection at the international level.

Enforced disappearance is considered a continuing crime. Families of victims can now use this convention to require that light be shed on the fate of their missing.

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(1) International coalition against Enforced Disappearances

(2) Olivier de Frouville is professor of law at the University of Montpellier 1 and member of the Academy of European Law of Human Rights.

Development, Democracy and Human Security

An approach to the concerns on democracy promotion.

There is a great debate about the principles that should guide promotion of democracy abroad.  There are sensitivities involved in promoting democracy and we should be mindful of how its democracy assistance is perceived in recipient countries.  Others should raise the importance of democratic assistance to Western interests and values.

Many analysts see democracy promotion as a key foreign policy responsibility and suggest that Western states should focus on a holistic approach with a specific focus on developing civil society and establishing long-term goals. Western countries need to be accountable for their actions abroad. They can best promote democracy by leading by example.

Other analysts note that Western countries should only engage in democracy promotion activities when invited by other states, arguing that democracy must take root from within.  Still others felt that democracy promotion was best left to NGOs with indirect support from Western governments.

Significant elements of democratic governance

There is a wide variety of elements of democratic governance.  Some think that developed countries should focus on civic education of children (particularly girls) and youth while others think the establishment of democratic institutions and rule of law are of greater importance.

There is a great debate on what should come first: democracy or development – yet, no consensus is formed. Views diverge on whether economic development is sufficient to bring democracy to other countries.  Many specialists suggest that a market economy is not a precondition or impetus for democratization. Some others focus on the need for an empowered civil society, human rights and free media as essential elements of democratic governance.

How developed countries can promote Democracy

Following along from the discussion of guiding principles above, one should agree that democracy is best cultivated using a bottom-up approach:  hence, the important distinction between democracy promotion and imposition.

In this light, West can promote democracy through its participation in international or regional forums (i.e. by sharing best practices).  In that way, EU missions abroad could support democracy promotion by engaging citizens who had previously lived in the EU.

Developed countries could assist with enhancing the elements of democratic governance.  For example, contributing to dynamism of civil society, supporting the logistics of a free media, encouraging forums of assembly, giving support to international exposure of grassroots democratic struggles, promoting human rights and generally providing consultation and support for countries who request it.

Barriers such as conflict and state fragility, poverty and authoritarian regimes are often interlinked.  Western countries can work to increase transparency and accountability through their efforts to strengthen corporate social responsibility, meet an Official Development Assistance (ODA) level of 0.7% of GDP and restrict financial support to countries with authoritarian regimes (Note that some countries just focus their resources on one region of the world.)

Other analysts mention that it could best assist democracy by focusing at home and implementing, for example, a proportional representation electoral system.

© Department of Political Science, Duke University (1)

Main obstacles to democracy promotion

The state, whether authoritarian or exaggeratedly bureaucratic, is the main obstacle to democracy promotion.  In these situations, it is highly recommended to support the community-based democratic initiatives and a strong focus on the mobilization of civil society and a strong middle class.

Lessons learned from South Africa

In this regard, it is interesting to note the South African experience. According to the South African Institute for Security Studies, four critical elements are particularly important to strengthening democracy:

1. Fairness of elections and electoral processes;
2. Freedom to form and participate in an opposition party;
3. Adherence to limits on time served in office as outlined by constitutions; and,
4. Independence of the judiciary.

Another remarkable action is the relative success of US NGO involvement in the colour revolutions (2) that occurred in three countries of the former Soviet Union.  But note that although this method was an example of productive outside intervention, it may not be appropriate in other areas of the world.

Sources:

· David Held, Models of Democracy, Polity and Stanford University Press, 1987.
· New Institute for Multiparty Democracy (IMD).
· openDemocracy.
· Rights & Democracy.
· Samantha Power, Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Take a view on her very interesting approach at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUUOO5cCNVg.
· Wikipedia.

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(1) This graphic is world imports in 2002, Colors reflect the level of democracy (blue) or autocracy (tan) in each of these countries (based on the POLITY IV indicators). What is most notable about this cartogram is the disappearance of the African continent: Africa is almost invisible in terms of global trade patterns, a continuing point of contention in (barely) ongoing global trade negotiations.

(2) Participants in the colour revolutions have mostly used nonviolent resistance to protest against governments seen as corrupt and/or authoritarian, and to advocate democracy. These movements all adopted a specific colour or flower as their symbol. The colour revolutions are notable for the important role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and particularly student activists in organizing creative non-violent resistance. So far these movements have been successful in Serbia (especially the Bulldozer Revolution of 2000), in Georgia’s Rose Revolution (2003), in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (2004), and (though more violent than the previous ones) in Kyrgyzstan’s Tulip Revolution (2005). Each time massive street protests followed disputed elections and led to the resignation or overthrow of leaders considered by their opponents to be authoritarian.

The seamy side of American diplomacy and China’s true face

The Wikileaks list seems interminable. American diplomats spy on the United Nations Secretary General and on other senior UN officials, to the extent of learning their credit card numbers. The Gulf monarchies are pressing Washington to start a war against Tehran before Iran becomes a nuclear power and brings them to their knees. Turkey’s moderate Islamist government faces continued resistance from secular army officers, and a secret Islamist plan is feared. Beijing orders a cyber-attack on Google at the end of 2009, while planning to ditch its long-time Stalinist ally in North Korea in return for hegemony over a unified Korean peninsula. Pakistan discreetly supports terrorist groups, while its nuclear arsenal grows. To do business in Morocco you have to pass on a cut to the royal house, which maintains its army in a deplorable state. Saudi Arabia is the main source of financing for Islamist terrorism.

The list extends to every continent. The emotional stability of the president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, is a worry to many; when her husband was alive she passed official business on to him. Cuban-Venezuelan relations are so close that Cuban spies operate freely on Venezuelan soil. The Cubans also treated the Bolivian president for a serious nose tumor. The German coalition government is limping along due to the chancellor’s timid, reserved personality. The French president, the most pro-American since De Gaulle, has a despotic streak. The Spanish prosecutor’s office played a questionable role in the inquiry into torture at Guantánamo…

Further material may yet emerge from the State Department papers, which renowned newspapers (1) have been publishing having had access to the massive leak mounted by the Wikileaks organization. Significantly, its founder is wanted by Interpol, and his website is being boycotted by servers and service providers.

The publication of the diplomatic cables has stirred international opinion and surprised some governments, who often adduce false arguments to downplay or discredit this news bomb. The security of individual sources has been assured by eliminating names and data that might endanger them. The media that have published the revelations have acted within the limits sketched out by the US Supreme Court in the Pentagon Papers case (2), opting for freedom of information and the citizen’s right to know.

There is no historical precedent for this in term of scope, as it affects so many conflicts throughout the world. The revelations show a seamy side of the political world, about which we all had well-grounded suspicions, but no clear certainty. We are, in a sense, freer now than we were before.

China shows its true face

If the Chinese government was hoping to snuff out the international repercussions of yesterday’s presentation in Oslo of the Nobel Peace Prize to the dissident Liu Xiaobo, the results of its attempt turned out quite differently. The Beijing regime sentenced him to 11 years in prison as a deterrent to all other dissidents, as has been revealed by the US State Department cables by WikiLeaks. And once Liu Xiaobo had been designated a Nobel winner, China managed to reduce the numbers of foreign state representatives at the ceremony after a forceful campaign of diplomatic threats, at the risk of exposing the limitations of the country’s political system in full view.

All this, added to the campaign of slander and harassment against the Nobel winner, his family and friends, seriously damages China’s international reputation.

The status of emerging power has turned China into an inescapable force in the world. With this award for Liu, Beijing had the chance to prolong the current situation in which all the leading powers, with the United States at the forefront, choose to minimize their demands in terms of human rights given the necessity of reaching understanding with a country considered so crucial to the shaping of the world’s future. After such a display of bad temper on the part of Beijing, maintaining the delicate balance somewhere between cynicism and realism becomes that much harder.

Among the steps it has taken in reaction to the Norwegian committee’s decision, China decided to create an alternative to the Nobel, the Confucius Peace Prize. The aim of this distinction is to reinforce the singularity of China’s attitude toward internationally accepted principles, such as the need to respect human rights and political and civil liberties.

China to award Confucius peace prize

This is yet another mistake. The reasoning behind the Confucius Prize is identical to that which is employed by other authoritarian regimes when they are denounced for human rights violations. China is therefore aligning itself with such nations.

Dealing with the situation created by China with its reaction to the Nobel for Liu Xiaobo will not be an easy task for the international community. Cynicism and realism cannot be so easily combined from now on. And in the same way that China has been forced to show its true face, so too now must all the governments which maintain an ever-more intense relationship with the emerging power.

So, does traditional diplomacy have any contemporary relevance yet?

Related posts:
Should we be afraid of China?
WikiLeaks reveals essentials of the ‘dirty war’ in Iraq

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(1) WikiLeaks turned over all of the classified U.S. State Department cables it obtained to Le Monde in France, El Pais in Spain, The Guardian in Britain and Der Spiegel in Germany. The Guardian shared the material with The New York Times, and the five news organizations have worked together to plan the timing of their reports.

(2) The Pentagon Papers was a top-secret United States Department of Defense history of the United States’ political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The papers were first brought to the attention of the public on the front page of the New York Times in 1971. A 1996 article in the New York Times said that the Pentagon Papers “demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance”. In the summer of 1971, David Ellsberg, a Harvard graduate and former Marine, brought out 7,000 pages of secret notes on the war in Vietnam. The Nixon administration had no mercy with Ellsberg, spied him, harassed him, attacked him. Ellsberg won his trial in 1973. Also did The New York Times — which published excerpts of the Pentagon Papers.
New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971), was a United States Supreme Court per curiam decision. The ruling made it possible for the New York Times and Washington Post newspapers to publish the then-classified Pentagon Papers without risk of government censure.
President Richard Nixon had claimed executive authority to force the Times to suspend publication of classified information in its possession. The question before the court was whether the constitutional freedom of the press, guaranteed by the First Amendment, was subordinate to a claimed need of the executive branch of government to maintain the secrecy of information. The Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment did protect the right of the New York Times’ to print the materials.

Aung San Suu Kyi faces her destiny

Freed at present, the Burmese opponent seems to be bound hand and foot. According to the international press, it is far too early to declare victory.

Aung San Suu Kyi even released and celebrated by activists of her party, remains the bete noire of the military regime in Burma. (Soe Than Win / AFP)

Aung San Suu Kyi, released Saturday after seven years under house arrest in a minute-by-minute operation described by the Guardian, has come back to work Monday morning at her party’s headquarters, the National League for Democracy (NLD officially dissolved by the junta). Sunday, Burmese dissident had held her first political speech since 2003. Burma’s Nobel peace laureate (1991) has called on the opposition to merge, telling her supporters that she would take time to listen to her fellow citizens before deciding on a strategy. Because we know that for the past fifteen years, her leeway against the military junta in power is narrow actually.

“So what is her political future?” seems wondering the Bangkok Post in its editorial: If she wants to launch a protest movement and “challenge her enemies in the new government, she needs to urgently consolidate the opposition forces. Now that the new political landscape in which Burma becomes a little more civilianised is providing the rightful context for Mrs Suu Kyi to play a role, she must take this opportunity to work with numerous factions in the opposition and the ethnic minorities. But it will not be an easy task.”  Because of her long years under house arrest, Mrs Suu Kyi has little experience political dealings: “She has never directly participated in politics and has been idolised as the icon of democracy and the face of Burma’s struggle against dictatorship. Her angelic image has sustained the anti-military junta movements inside and outside Burma.” But this isolation “has come at a heavy price. It has made her more “divine”, thus separating her from the political reality.”

Her party singularly lacks of activists who can make the link between pro-democracy personalities and the electorate base. Thus, she is exposed to a threat: “she will be locked in a subtle, yet intensifying, competition among opposition forces. The continued fragmentation of the opposition would in turn strengthen the power interests of the new regime.” For the exile journal The Irrawaddy, these personalities may even try to sabotage her return to politics [...]. The battle that awaits opponent is complex: “how to rebuild and reinvent herself in the new Burmese political environment?”

Besides, Libération asks: “Freedom, so what?”, pointing that Mrs Aung San Suu Kyi “will have to learn again to know her country” where, as “female symbol” in the words of La Repubblica. “Daughter of the hero of independence, General Aung San, [she] is the bête noire of the military junta,” brings Radio Canada. And it will not probably be enough that the Lady of Rangoon calls Burma’s generals for dialogue “, writes Le Devoir in Montreal. “Behind this joy oh so legitimate,” says L’Express, emerge “power relations which remain very tense.”

This “icon of freedom can do nothing against the junta. Her freedom is a sham. Her release is a [marketing] operation. By maintaining the suspense until the last minute, the Burmese junta has made a huge publicity for the event, ensuring the headlines of international media.” (Slate). Anyway, the military do not think much of the international opinion, even if they may have calculated that her release overshadow the electoral masquerade. In addition, Mrs. Suu Kyi is weak enough to be kept away from public life.

Same analysis backed by Eurotopics: “The main concern of the generals who have ruled the country for 50 years is an end to the unpleasant foreign sanctions.”And above all, “the junta wants to test whether the opposition is strong and whether it can manage to divide it into those who play along with the new parliament’s game and those who could potentially be isolated. But this game of poker is an unequal contest, for the generals can imprison the freshly released dissident whenever they want.”

If The New York Times called it junta’s latest “ruse” and FrankFurter Allgemeine “a gift in exchange for her political abstinence”, El País says she has “hands cut off,” that is to say, she is literally muzzled in a context where it is still far “from the darkness to the light.” Even so, if the opponent said on Sunday (Le Soir, in Brussels), “she would be willing to meet General Than Shwe, the junta’s strongman,” we know well that he “royally hates her [...] and is similarly reluctant to pronounce her name.”

Dialogue is not looking promising…. The New Light of Myanmar, the dictatorship official press organ, indeed barely mentions the events of the weekend.

Related Posts:
· A Shout to Nothing
· The Burmese Junta Steps Back from Aung San Suu Kyi’s Unconditional Release

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Lament for a woman and frivolity of the chorus of nations

“They’ll kill me for being a woman in a country that can do what it wants with women” (Sakineh Ashtiani)

We knew they were going to kill her. When the government of Iran announced it had halted the stoning, the Nobel Prize Shirin Ebadi said: “I do not trust them. They’ll execute her.” And so it was; the Iranian regime confirmed she wouldn’t be stoned, just  hanged. Given that Sakineh Ashtiani was asking not to be stoned in front of their children, the ruling is a step forward.

Of course the regime has assembled a legal corpus to sustain the conviction, but the chronicle of tragedy gives us a measure of the devious perversity of this tyranny. Sakineh is an Iranian Azeri of Azerbaijan hardly speaking Persian. When sentenced to death, she did not even understand the Arabic word used by the Iranian penal code for stoning: Rajam. Her jailers told her she had been sentenced to die under the rocks. Throughout the process, her lawyer was persecuted, harassed and  prevented from being with Sakineh and finally, after many risks for his family, he was able to flee from Iran. Five hours on foot through the mountains and the rest on horseback, to get Turkey, where Amnesty International helped him to obtain asylum in Norway.

In an interview with Bernard-Henry Levy, Sakineh’s lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei defined her as follows: “she’s just a woman, a simple woman, just a woman.” The court that sentenced her to death found no evidence at all, but three out of the five members were radical clerics that condemned her, through their “intimate conviction”, as an adulteress. As Sakineh said: “they will kill me for being a woman in a country that believes it can do what it wants with women.” After an international campaign to save her life, the system charged her with murder (and forced her to confess). Everything else is well known. Gallows will be her fate.

In the prison in Tabriz, two more women await stoning. Azar Baghri is 24 years old, 10 of which in prison. Married at 14, she was accused of adultery and since then she’s waiting to be stoned. For fun, her jailers have done two stoning shams. Maryam Ghobaranzadeh, 25, dreams only to be hanged instead of stoned. She was 6 months pregnant and forced to abort … In Iran women are considered sexually mature at the age of 9 and can therefore be married and adulterous. Nobody knows how many have been stoned to death without having been made it public. The courageous Iranian dissidence speaks of many.

I know this article will not have any effect, just a shout. But it serves at least as a reminder that not everyone is accomplice to the silence which Iran is covering its crimes. This silence is resounding in Europe, not in vain we are not interested in unprofitable victims: Iran does not fit into the phobias of political correctness. Nor its victims. Many countries, organizations or individuals are accomplices to the barbarism that characterizes the government in that country — a country of ancient culture, now led by a pack of male fanatics. The same government of macho fanatics who criticized the U.S. during the 9th session of the UPR in Geneva on 5 November!

By the way, what about Teresa Lewis, the woman mentally retarded who was put to death last October in Virginia? Isn’t there as well a deafening silence? (See the article by Anna North Is Teresa Lewis’s Execution A Gender Issue?)

The very problem is that there is no real respect for women, neither in our western latitudes, nor in many Arab countries where women have their rights, their freedom, their dignity, violated –just for being women.

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