The United Nations has called on the U.S. and others to put an end to secret detention policies and human rights abuses in their “war on terrorism”, IDN reports. Read more
From the Brookings Institution Up Front Blog: In a pair of speeches that bookended the largely neglected International Human Rights Day on December 10, President Obama and Secretary Clinton set forth a sophisticated, nuanced and, most importantly, pragmatic message on democracy and human rights. In a nutshell, the policy is: “remain true to core American principles of human freedom and dignity, restore U.S. credibility on human rights, demand that rules be followed, but above all, stay flexible in how to apply these values to realities on the ground.”
As a former Clinton administration policy advisor on democracy and human rights, I can certainly appreciate the fine line policymakers need to walk in this domain of foreign policy. As we saw during the years of the last Bush administration, a brash approach to democracy promotion can backfire, particularly when our government’s own record on protecting human rights falls so blatantly short of the standards to which we hold others. And as we saw in the first several months of this administration, a timid or ambiguous approach can embolden autocrats to dig their heels in further; it also has encouraged critics to attack the White House for abandoning human rights dissidents and for engaging in shameful exercises of self-flagellation, allegedly weakening our moral standing around the world. [...]
From the New York Times:
The Obama administration on Monday laid out a human rights agenda that recognized the limits of American authority: emphasizing the need for change within countries, defending engagement with adversaries like Myanmar and Iran and asserting that differences with big countries like China and Russia are best hashed out behind closed doors.
“We must be pragmatic and agile in pursuit of our human rights agenda, not compromising on our principles, but doing what is most likely to make them real,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a wide-ranging address at Georgetown University.
Mrs. Clinton’s remarks came a week after President Obama, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, warned that there would be consequences for countries that brutalize their own people. Together, the speeches appeared to be an attempt to answer critics who say the Obama administration has not staked out a forceful position on human rights. [...]
Mrs. Clinton also defended the administration’s reluctance to publicly chide China and Russia for human rights abuses, given the range of other strategic interests the United States has with both countries. Public opprobrium, she implied, was better left for small countries. [...]
Human-rights groups harshly criticized Mrs. Clinton for sidelining human rights issues on her first visit to China last February. Other critics have voiced frustration with the administration’s policy toward Sudan, an approach that they say offers more incentives than prods to a government whose leader has been charged with crimes against humanity because of the genocide in Darfur.
Last Thursday, a group of human rights advocates met with Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, to express their concerns.
On Monday, Mrs. Clinton said, “We must continue to press for solutions in Sudan where ongoing tensions threaten to add to the devastation wrought by genocide in Darfur.” She insisted that the administration would seek to protect ethnic minorities in Tibet and the Xinjiang region in China, as well as people who signed Charter 08, a manifesto that calls for democratic reform in China.
From the Guardian:
One of China’s leading dissidents has been charged with “inciting subversion”, and faces a possible 15-year jail sentence, amid growing international outrage over his detention and forthcoming trial.
Liu Xiaobo was one of 300 democratic activists in China to author a bold call for constitutional reform last December. The manifesto was published under the name Charter 08, and called for greater freedom of expression, multi-party elections and independent courts. Seen as a figurehead for the movement, Liu was taken into detention shortly before the document was published online. Then, in June, he was formally arrested on suspicion of incitement to subvert state power.
In the latest development – which came on International Human Rights Day, a year and a day after the charter’s publication – officials told Liu’s lawyer they would charge him. He will almost certainly be convicted and sentenced to jail, say experts, probably within weeks.
“The timing is not coincidental,” said Joshua Rosenzweig of the Dui Hua Foundation, which supports political prisoners. “It draws attention away from commemorating the document and says: ‘Look, you want to talk about Charter 08? This is what it gets you.’?” [...]
Ireland’s abortion law is being challenged in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Read more
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay writes in UN Dispatch, on the occasion of Human Rights Day, 9 December 2009:
Old and new forms of discrimination and intolerance continue to divide communities all over the world. Sentiments of xenophobia are on the rise. They are often manipulated for demagogic purposes or even for sinister political agendas. Day after day, their corrosive effects undermine the rights of countless victims. This is why today on Human Rights Day, the United Nations is urging everyone everywhere in the world to embrace diversity and end discrimination. [...] Read more
The United States pushed Monday for more scrutiny of human rights conditions in North Korea, telling the U.N. Human Rights Council that it is now impossible to verify claims of abuses in the isolated communist state. Read more
News roundup on the Swiss minaret ban. Read more
Panel discussion on “Opposing grave human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity” (co-organized by the Permanent Missions of Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden)
Thursday, 10 December 2009, from 1.15 to 2.30 p.m. in the Economic and Social Council Chamber.
[All are invited to attend. For further information, please contact Ms. Lisa Edblom, Permanent Mission of Sweden (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; tel. 1 (646) 652-3677; or Ms. Sara Perle (e-mail email@example.com; tel. 1 (212) 430-6015).]
Special event on “Race, poverty and power” (on the occasion of Human Rights Day 2009 on the theme “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”) (organized by the New York Office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)
Thursday, 10 December 2009, from 1.15 to 2.30 p.m. in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.
[All are invited to attend. For further information, please visit the following Web site: www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/HumanRightsDay2009.aspx; or contact
the New York Office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (tel. 1 (212) 963-5931).]