Archive for the ‘By Writer’ Category

United States finally backs the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Yesterday, on December 16, 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States is now supporting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration). After 25 years of development, the Declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007. At that time, 144 countries voted in favor of the Declaration, and only four countries opposed- Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States.

Currently, there are more than 5,000 distinct indigenous peoples, totaling more than 370 million Indigenous persons in the world. The Declaration seeks to safeguard and promote their collective human rights and treaty rights within their respective nation-states.

The preamble of the Declaration affirms that “all doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust.” Moreover, the Declaration recognizes that “indigenous peoples have suffered from historic injustices as a result of their colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, thus preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests.”

Over the past three years, Australia and New Zealand have since announced their support of the Declaration. Canada announced its support of the Declaration on November 12th, 2010. While the United States is indeed the last of the opposing countries to support the rights of indigenous peoples, President Obama’s announcement is nonetheless being welcomed and applauded by the international human rights community and Native American right groups around the country.


Happy Human Rights Day 2010!

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Today, December 10, 2010, marks the 62nd anniversary of the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)! The UDHR is the most widely translated document in the world (375 languages and dialects) and consists of a preamble and 30 articles outlining the rights that apply to all people, regardless of any distinction (race, gender, nationality, religion, class, ability, sexual orientation, etc.) simply by virtue of their membership in the human family. Article One eloquently states the spirit of human rights by proclaiming that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” While the UDHR is a declaration and is not legally binding, the UDHR served as the foundation of the modern human rights movement by inspiring the birth of international human rights law through the passage of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights. Together, all three constitute the International Bill of Rights.

Yet, most importantly, in addition to the development of legal mechanisms, the UDHR inspired local human rights movements for equality, freedom from discrimination, and self-determination around the world. What will you do today to honor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? The 3 million members of Amnesty International are participating in a Global Write-a-Thon, writing letters on behalf of political prisoners. The human rights community in Atlanta is celebrating with an artistic program called “RISE” at the Rialto Center tonight. Others are educating themselves on how their home country ranks in its respect for human rights by reading the Human Rights Risk Atlas (the U.S. ranking may surprise you)…

Getty Images

Getty Images

Aung San Suu Kyi Freed: The Future of Democracy in Burma

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

To the surprise and exaltation of the international human rights community, Burmese pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced Awn Sahn Sue Chee) was released from house arrest on November 13th. Suu Kyi’s arrest, which secluded her for 15 of the last 21 years, failed to diminish her influence as a prisoner of conscience who has courageously advocated democratization through Gandhian non-violence. Aung San Suu Kyi was originally sentenced in 1989 for her failure to leave Burma (Republic of the Union of Myanmar) after her participation in the 8-8-88 Uprising and leadership role in the forming of the National League for Democracy. Her newfound freedom is generating hope as to what this might signify for other prisoners of conscience, as well as skepticism regarding the ruling military junta’s release of Suu Kyi only a week after holding what many observers claimed to be a highly fraudulent election- and the first election since 1990. Since her release, however, Suu Kyi met with U.N. officials on November 27, and was reunited with her youngest son Kim Aris after ten years of separation.

Aung San Suu Kyi

UN Report: Migrants Suffer Worst Racism in the World

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

On Monday, Githu Muigai, the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance, gave a press conference in which he presented the findings of an investigative report on racism and human rights. In his remarks on the findings of the study, Muigai said “If I have found any specific group of people to be the subject of the most insidious contemporary forms of racial discrimination, those are migrants.” Moreover, he stated, “In many parts of the world today, immigrants bear the brunt of xenophobic intolerance – and this is true of the United States, and it is of Europe, and it is of many parts of the world.”

While Mr. Muigai clearly states that countries must enforce laws regarding the flow of migrants into their borders, he also iterates “Migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, regardless of their migration status, are entitled to have all their human rights protected by the state where they live without discrimination.” The solution, he states, requires the global community to “develop systems, structures, and policies in an international legal environment in which we can address the legitimate concerns of the receiving states while being able to safeguard the fundamental humanity, in my judgment, of the immigrants.”

Great articles in the Washington Post and Reuters highlight the content of this report, and specifically, its significance in reflecting upon immigration laws in the United States, such as Arizona’s recent immigration policies, which do not meet basic international human rights standards.

U.N. Special Investigator Githu Muigai

U.N. Special Rapporteur Githu Muigai

Matters of Life and Death: Women Count for Peace

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

1325plus10_WomenCount4Peace_208x140This week, ten years ago, the United Nations passed a landmark resolution on women, peace, and security. Known as UNSCR 1325, the resolution addresses the  ways conflict impacts women and it acknowledges the critical role women play in peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peace building.

Here in the United States, our day-to-day lives look very different than that of life in countries like the DRC and Afghanistan—where women are brutalized on a daily basis in the midst of armed conflict. However, that doesn’t mean we’re not impacted by war and responsible for peace. In recognition of this, yesterday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enumerated several concrete, precedent-setting commitments by the U.S., including $17 million to address sexual and gender-based violence in the DRC and the development of a domestic National Action Plan to accelerate implementation of UNSCR 1325 here in the United States. If these commitments materialize, the U.S. will join 23 other countries who have developed national-level strategies to ensure that women are effectively represented in the full range of peace-building and reconstruction efforts; that they are protected against sexual violence; and that they are the focus of conflict prevention, relief and reconciliation efforts.

As Clinton said in her speech to the U.N., “It’s not as though we are doing a favor for ourselves and them [women] by including women in the work of peace. This is a necessary global security imperative. Including women in the work of peace advances our national security interests, promotes political stability, economic growth, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Just as in the economic sphere, we cannot exclude the talents of half the population, neither when it comes to matters of life and death can we afford to ignore, marginalize, and dismiss the very direct contributions that women can and have made.”

Shine a Light: 50 Years of Activism

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Nearly fifty years ago, in 1961, Peter Benenson wrote an article, “The Forgotten Prisoners” in the London Observer, in response to the arrest of two Portuguese students for making a toast to freedom in Lisbon. Thousands of people responded to his article, and soon after, Amnesty International was formed. In 1977, Amnesty International won the Nobel Peace Prize for its influential campaign against torture, and is now regarded as the standard setting organization for the global human rights movement as a whole. In addition to serving as the oldest human rights organization amidst more than 350 such organizations today, Amnesty International conducts comprehensive research on an array of human rights issues across the globe and currently has more than 2.8 million members worldwide.

In recognition of this fifty year anniversary, Amnesty International USA is hosting its annual Southern regional conference this weekend in Atlanta, entitled “Shine a Light: Fifty Years of Activism.” Similar conferences are being held across the United States throughout the fall.

Shine a Light

What Do Human Rights Mean to You?

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

onedayonearthRespect for human rights are essential to nearly every social priority, including the right to life, health, education, free speech and much, much more. What rights do you enjoy on a daily basis because you are human? What rights are you denied? …  The ability to freely express yourself? To vote? To go to school? To live where you want regardless of your ethnic group or religion? To freely express your gender or sexual orientation?

On October 10, 2010 (10.10.10) citizens across the globe are recording the human experience over a 24-hour period. The goal of this participatory media event is to showcase the diversity, conflict, tragedy, and triumph that occur in one day. Human Rights Watch is calling on individuals to join this event by reflecting on what human rights mean to them and to society in general. Can you visually document the basic human rights that you enjoy on a daily basis, or the human rights that are being denied to you and to others? The recent awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo illustrates that one person speaking out about human rights does make a difference. Add your voice to the call for human rights for all.

Nobel Peace Prize Committee, Are You Ready?

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

As Editor, it is a pleasure to welcome Yingying Jiang from Hong Kong, and present her first contribution to Human Rights Angle. -lesoltis

Every year as the Nobel Prize Committee prepares to announce its decision, the human rights community in China holds its breath and awaits in suppressed excitement, hoping that this time, the Committee will finally give the prize to Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), China’s most prominent dissident and human rights activist. The Committee announces its decision on October 8th this year.

Liu Xiaobo is currently sitting in a jail cell serving an 11-year sentence in China’s northeastern Liaoning Province. The crime? For drafting and distributing Charter 08, a manifesto signed by 10,000 people calling for bold reforms promoting democracy and human rights in China. This is not the first time Mr. Liu has been in jail, however. After playing a leading role in the pro-democracy movement in 1989, which later suffered a bloody government crackdown, he was sent to a labor camp for three years in 1996.

No Chinese citizen has ever been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As China is on the rise to become the world’s superpower, what exactly will be its effect on the world? In recent years, it has been in disputes over territory and resources with almost every country it borders, the latest being a row with Japan over a group of deserted islands in the East China Sea. As China becomes more powerful, it will expand its sphere of influence. The problem is not about raising a fuss with one’s neighbors, it is about a government’s encouragement of nationalism and its victimhood among ordinary people, in order to bolster its grip of power over the nation. This does not bode well for the rest of the world. But there are critical voices in China, questioning the government’s treatment of minorities and its human rights records. But what becomes of those voices? They’re censored and those who dare to utter them, such as Liu Xiaobo, are punished and carted off to prison.

Peace and human rights are intimately linked. Instead of “containing China,” other nations must commit themselves to firmly standing up for those Chinese citizens like Liu Xiaobo who brave imprisonment and torture to speak out for human rights. So, Nobel Peace Prize Committee, are you ready?


2010 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award Winner

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Yesterday, September 23, 2010, Mr. Abel Barrera Hernández was publicly announced as the winner of the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for his tireless efforts to protect the rights of peasants and indigenous peoples in Guerrero, Mexico and his commitment to end human rights abuses resulting from military impunity and narco-violence.

A press release from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights outlines how Mr. Barrera and his colleagues at the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Mountain work under “constant threat to protect the rights of peasants and indigenous peoples against forced disappearances, rape, arbitrary detentions, intimidation, dispossession of lands and illegal interrogations, and to improve their access to healthcare, legal representation and education.”

The award will be presented to Mr. Barrera by Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. in November. Mr. Barrera joins 41 other RFK human rights laureates representing 24 countries. Recipients in recent years include the Coalition of Immokalee Workers from the United States, Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Abdallah from Sudan, and most recently, Magodonga Mahlangu and Women of Zimbabwe Arise.

Mr. Abel Barrera Hernández, right

Mr. Abel Barrera Hernández, right

Your Chance to Show That Peace Is Possible

Monday, September 20th, 2010

peacedayWhat will you be doing on Tuesday, September 21st? How about intentionally turning off the television when a show depicting murder or any other form of violence comes on? Or taking the time to resolve a conflict with a co-worker? What would it look like if you declared a “no bickering” day in your household? And what if troops in Afghanistan, rebels in DRC, and armed criminals in the US ceased hostilities for the day? According to UN Resolution 55/282, this and more is what we should all be doing on September 21st — the International Day of Peace. It is a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, “an invitation to all nations and people to honor a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the day.” In 2007, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this about Peace Day, “I call for a day of global ceasefire: A 24-hour respite from the fear and insecurity that plague so many places. I urge all countries and all combatants to honor a cessation of hostilities. I urge them to ponder the high price that we all pay because of conflict. I urge them to vigorously pursue ways to make this temporary ceasefire permanent.” Peace Day is an opportunity to make peace in our own relationships as well as to impact the larger conflicts of our time. To learn more, watch this UN Peace Day Global Broadcast. And to get ideas of simple things you can do to show that peace is possible go to: