Colorado Coalition for Human Rights
The Colorado Coalition for Human Rights Blog was created in 2005 by a political science graduate student at the University of Colorado at Denver. This blog seeks to bring information about human rights issues to students, professors and the general public and provide a forum in which information about human rights issues around the world can be shared collectively. For more information please email thayes264 @ hotmail . com
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
From the Washington Post today, "Zimbabwe's parliament voted Tuesday to give President Robert Mugabe new constitutional powers to seize farmland and to restrict travel by government opponents in a country whose government is already regarded as among the most repressive in Africa." To read the full article, click here. For more background information on Zimbabwe, read the profile at Human Rights Watch.
Monday, August 29, 2005
An interesting article in today's New York Times about one of Haiti's poorest slums, Cite Soleil (click here to read the article). According to the article, Cite Solei receiveses little help from international aid groups and government services because it is largely controlled by street gangs. National elections are scheduled for November 13th, but violence and poverty have plagued the area as gangs have even fought with UN peacekeeping troops. Many residents of Cite Soleil support former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, so it will be interesting to see how the United States and France react if his party does well in the elections. For recent news stories about Haiti check out information from Amnesty International by clicking here. Also of interest is the Haiti Support Group.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
It looks as though the Iraqi Constitution will be put to the voters as the Shiite Muslim-led government closed negotiations today and planned to put the final version of the draft before the National Assembly and voters in a referendum (click here to read more). However, the Sunni's and other groups aren't happy with the draft constitution. Right now it remains unclear whether the constitution will succeed or not, but for a good summary of why the draft constitution is dividing the country check out this article by the Economist. Many have questioned whether the draft constitution contains the necessary elements that guarantee human rights and whether a constitution based on Islamic Law can provide for women's rights (see Paul Stempel's post at ICHR).
To view many of the key provisions in the draft constitution click here.
Friday, August 26, 2005
The ACLU announced on Thursday that the FBI is using its power under the Patriot Act to demand library records in Conneticut as part of a terrorism investigation. The library and ACLU plan to challenge the request, but the details of the lawsuit are not allowed to be released. This is the first confimed instance that the FBI has used its power to view library records since the adoption of the Patriot Act.
While Israel recently completed removing 21 settlements from the Gaza Strip, the country now is planning on seizing a small strip of Palestinian land in the West Bank for the construction of the separation barrier. In addition to seizing land for the barrier, Ariel Sharon plans to extend some West Bank settlements. Most recent news reports have only talked about Israel's "historic" Gaza pullout while leaving out the fact that Israel still plans extending settlements. For more information on the Israel-Palestine conflict check out the UN page on the question of Palestine.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Perhaps one of the most important cases the Supreme Court has yet to hear will be Hamden v. Rumsfeld. The case involves Salim Ahmed Hamdan the former driver of Osama Bin Ladin who was captured in Afghanistan and taken to Guantanamo and is now being tried in a military tribunal. In these military tribunals, the defendant has no right to be present at his trial. Unsworn statements, rather than live testimony, can be presented as evidence against him. The presumption of innocence can be taken away from him at any time; so can his right not to testify to avoid self-incrimination. If Hamdan is convicted, he can be sentenced to death.
This case was recently sent to the D.C. federal court of appeals and was decided against Hamdan unanimously. Interestingly enough, one of the three members of the court of appeals was John Roberts, President Bush' nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. The decision (which you can read by clicking here) says that the defendant, and therefore the other Guantanamo detainees, have no right to petition for release under the Geneva Conventions. While it was safe to assume that Roberts would agree with the Bush administration on many issues, it is now almost certain that he will agree with the administration's posistion in the war on terror. I would be interested to know what others think about Roberts decision in this case and how O'Connor would have ruled.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
As an update to one of my previous posts about change at the United Nations, the Washington Post reports that the US is seeking significant change at the UN. In less than a month world officials are scheduled to meet in New York for a summit on poverty and UN reform. According to the article, "The United States has only recently introduced more than 750 amendments that would eliminate new pledges of foreign aid to impoverished nations, scrap provisions that call for action to halt climate change and urge nuclear powers to make greater progress in dismantling their nuclear arms. At the same time, the administration is urging members of the United Nations to strengthen language in the 29-page document that would underscore the importance of taking tougher action against terrorism, promoting human rights and democracy, and halting the spread of the world's deadliest weapons." It seems very contradictory to me that the US can call for the spread of human rights and democracy while at the same time opposing increased foreign aid to impoverished nations.
The Washington Post has an amazing story about 15 Guantanamo Bay prisoners who are still being imprisoned despite being cleared of terrorist charges. In the story, Chinese Detainees Are Men Without a Country Robin Wright reports that the Bush administration is still trying to find a country to send the 15 Muslim men after 20 other countries have refused to grant them asylum. The US will not release them to China due to fears that they will be tortured. The Bush administration has also refused to allow the men to come to the United States.
Perhaps the most horrifying part of the story is that these men are still being treated like criminals and one was "chained to the floor" in a "box with no windows," according to the lawyer representing them.
Update 12-13-05: Click here to read an article about the Supreme Court agreeing to hear the case.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Ethiopia "Nears" Genocide
According to Genocide Watch, Ethiopia is on the verge of full fledged genocide. This article reads: The Ethiopian military has committed widespread murder, rape and torture against the Anuak population in the remote southwestern region of Gambella since December 2003.
Check out this link to Genocide Watch to learn about the definition of genocide, the stages of genocide, and more.
I'm curious what others think about the best way to define genocide. Should we set the threshold low, so that genocide can be declared at the earliest possible point of an ethnically charged massacre? Would that result in too much outside interference with countries' internal affairs? Personally, I have some resistance to the idea that we have to sit back and wait for Ethiopia's situation to reach the "stage" of genocide before anything can be done within the strictures of international law. At some point pre-genocide gains enough steam to make definitional genocide a fait accompli. Why not step in then? Why not even earlier? We punish inchoate crimes all the time: conspiracy, eg. But these are open questions....
Paul - Iowa Coalition for Human Rights
Friday, August 19, 2005
According to an article in the Washington Post, Chinese police in the northern province of Shaanxi have arrested one of the country's leading property rights activists, Feng Bingxian, who is also involved in a major class action lawsuit against the Chinese government's seizure of oil fields. The case in which Bingxian is involved is one of the largest class-action lawsuits ever filed against the Chinese government and involves around 60,000 people. Chinese police have refused to discuss the charges against Bingxian, and have also arrested others involved in the case. For more information on China's stellar human rights record, please check out the Amnesty International profile of China. Also of interest is the Beijing Olympics Watch put out by Human Rights Watch.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
I wanted to recommend a great website that covers human rights issues as well as many other interesting topics. The website is to the Dialogue Radio and Television Program which broadcasts from the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C. The website explains that Dialogue, "...is an award-winning weekly radio program that explores the world of ideas through weekly, half-hour conversations with renowned public figures, scholars, journalists, and authors. Since 1988, Dialogue has offered its listeners informed discussion on important ideas and issues in national and international affairs, history, and culture – providing commentary that goes beyond the superficial analysis presented in many of today's talk shows." The host of the program spent seven years in Brazil, first in the Peace Corps and then in the Foreign Service, and is an extremely smart guy.
On the website you can listen to past radio programs and watch some of the recent television broadcasts. Check it out some time for an in depth focus on a multitude of issues.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
An article in the New York Times from Wednesday the 13th of August details how investigators in Colombia are uncovering hundreds of bodies killed by right-wing paramilitary groups in the 1990's. In "Colombia Unearthing Plight of Its Disappeared" reporter John Forero writes that while some of those responsible are facing charges, many of the masterminds are using the new Justice and Peace Law, which allows them reduced punishment if they disarm. For more information about Colombia's approach to disarming the paramilitaries in the country as well as information about those that have "disappeared" in Colombia please check out this Human Rights Watch article and report.
Needed Change at the UN?
In the May/June version of Foreign Affairs, current UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan argues that the UN must undergo many changes to meet changing world problems. In "In Larger Freedom": Decision Time at the UN Annan argues that for increased cooperation at between countries using the UN as a vehicle to collectively solve many of the world's problems-from terrorism to poverty to AIDS. The Secretary-General argues that each problem is interconnected, and that states working together can have a far greater impact on solving these problems. Annan's argument differs greatly from many of the neo-cons in the Bush administration, who are for a more unilateral approach in foreign policy. With Bush's recent appointment of John Bolton as UN ambassador it will be interesting to see how the differing ideologies play out.
This article is especially interesting because there will be a UN Summit this coming September, and many of his proposed changes will be discussed. Whether the UN changes to meet all of the world's challenges or only moves to meet US demands to combat terrorism will be an important struggle for the future of the UN and world community.
Friday, August 12, 2005
As leaders of the G8 recently agreed to raise aid levels and cancel the debt of Africa's poorest nations, global poverty remains a huge obstacle to human rights. An interesting perspective on how the world can combat global poverty comes from Professor Jeffery Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and author of An End to Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. Sachs wrote an article in Foreign Affairs in March of this year about how the American public (and public officials) believes the country gives significantly more development aid than it actually does. In the "Development Challenge" Sachs gives the example of American aid to sub-Saharan Africa as he writes:
The case of sub-Saharan Africa-the poorest region of the world- shows how dangerously skewed U.S. aid priorities are. The prevailing image in the United States is that Washington gives Africa vast sums of money, which corrupt officials there then fritter away or stash in offshore accounts. But this image, fueled by inaccurate stereotypes, badly misconstrues the truth. In fact, in 2003, the United States gave $4.7 billion to sub-Saharan Africa in net bilateral ODA. Of that sum, $0.2 billion went to a handful of middle-income countries, especially South Africa. Of the remaining $4.5 billion, $1.5 billion was apportioned for emergency aid and $0.3 billion for non-emergency food aid. Another $1.3 billion was designated for debt forgiveness grants, and $1.4 billion went to technical assistance. This distribution left only $118 million for U.S. in-country operations and direct support
for programs run by African governments and communities-just 18 cents for each of the nearly 650 million people in low-income sub-Saharan Africa. This figure represents the total U.S. bilateral support, beyond aid in the form of technical cooperation, for investments in health, education, roads, power, water and sanitation, and democratic institutions in the region that year.
Sachs then offers solutions to increase developmental assistance to combat poverty, which he argues would increase our security in addition to helping those in poverty around the world. The above links provide good information about global poverty as well as lectures and talks by Professor Sachs.
For more information on global poverty and the UN Millennium Project click here.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
A recent article in the New York Times describes human rights abuses in Nepal. In 2002 King Gyanendra took power from the elected government and imposed emergency rule last February. Under emergecy rule many civil liberties were taken away and many members of political parties were arrested. During the past two years, the largest number of new cases of disappeared persons reported to the United Nations have come from Nepal. These abuses have Congress reconsidering giving Nepal more military aid, although the Bush administration has the power to override this decision if they determine there is a national security imperative for the country to receive the aid. For more information about rights abuses in Nepal check out the Human Rights Watch country profile of Nepal.
I found an interesting information source on the USA Patriot Act. The website is titled Patriot Debates and contains updated information about the Patriot Act as well as debates and commentary on various parts of the Act. This is especially interesting since many of the provisions of the original Act are set to expire at the end of this year, unless Congress renews them.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
What happened to due process?
Jose Padilla otherwise known as the "dirty bomber" is still being held without ever being charged by the US government. Padilla (an American citizen) was arrested in Chicago's O'Hare Airport and designated an enemy combatant for his plot to detonate a dirty bomb. Although Padilla remains in a military brig in South Carolina, he has yet to be charged with a crime. Padilla may be a terrorist and a traitor and deserve severe punishment, but he has not been given the opportunity to try to prove his innocence in a court of law, a gross deprivation of due process. For more information read this CATO institute article. For updates in this case, which has reached the Supreme Court and will do so again, please check out chargepadilla.org. For a related article about the military trials of Guantánamo detainees click here.
The debate over this case reminds me of a famous scene from "A Man for All Seasons," when Sir Thomas More refuses to arrest one of his servants who is spying for Thomas Cromwell. The scence unfolds as the servant leaves...
Wife: Arrest him!
More: For what?
Wife: He's dangerous!
Roper: For all we know he's a spy!
Daughter: Father, that man's bad!
More: There's no law against that!
Roper: There is, God's law!
More: Then let God arrest him!
Wife: While you talk he's gone!
More: And go he should, if he were the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?
This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down (and you're just the man to do it!), do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?
Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
Saturday, August 06, 2005
I just read a great book by John Perkins called Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Perkins, a former chief economist at a Boston consulting firm, says he was an "economic hit man" for 10 years., His main job was to convince foreign countries to go along with huge loans for infrastructure development and to make sure these projects were contracted by US corporations. Perkins claims these loans were structured so that the country would be unable to pay the money back under the original terms, leaving them constantly in debt to the US and World Bank. The book is a quick and interesting read for those who are interested.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
For those interested in learning more about the situation in Darfur, please check out the Save Darfur Website. This website contains information about the history of the conflict as well as updates of the current situation and how you can help improve it.
The estimated death toll has reached 400,000 as of the date of this posting and is climbing as the genocide continues. Nicholas Kristof wrote an excellent op-ed, All ears for Tom Cruise, all eyes on Brad Pitt, about the failure of the media to adequatly cover the conflict.