Hurst Hannum wants a “radically moderate approach” to human rights

April 20, 2019

Hurst Hannum in his Fletcher School office
Hurst Hannum. Photo: Alonso Nichols
A piece by Taylor McNeil in TuftsNow of 19 April 2019 is about Hurst Hannum and his latest book Rescuing Human Rights: A Radically Moderate Approach (Cambridge University Press). Disclaimer: he and I are old acquaintances but have not seen each other for decades. I agree with much of what he says.

Hannum, a Fletcher School professor of international law, argues for bringing human rights back to the center of law and politics, while at the same time trying to define their role more carefully. Too often, he says, human rights are linked to just about everything, from punishing international crimes to seeking redress for nefarious corporate behavior and environmental degradation. “Human rights have come to mean almost anything to anyone,” Hannum said. “If something means everything, it means nothing. What we risk losing is a much narrower but more universal approach, focusing on the basic rights—civil, political, economic, social, and cultural—that government should be responsible for.

Since the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was set forth as “a common standard of achievement” every country in the world has ratified at least one human rights treaty, and most have ratified a half-dozen or more. Hannum is aware that implementation leaves much to be desired, but said that “continued emphasis on ensuring those rights that a country has already recognized is most likely to be the best way forward.”

….“While the contemporary world may seem bleak, apartheid is gone, authoritarian regimes have largely disappeared from eastern Europe and Latin America, and rights are more widely respected in countries as different as South Korea, Nepal, Tunisia, Taiwan, and Mongolia,” he said. “Many of these changes can be attributed at least in part to greater awareness of and demands for human rights, even though progress is often slow and difficult.” ..

Beginning with the Carter administration in the late 1970s, human rights became a focal point for U.S. foreign policy, “although they were never the only or most important factor in determining policy,” Hannum said. Since the Clinton presidency, the U.S. has focused increasingly on promoting democracy, not human rights per se. Hannum thinks that’s a mistake. “Obviously, democracy and human rights are related—all of the things that go into making a democracy are human rights,” he said. “But since the end of the Cold War, we’ve been pushing democracy as the solution to all problems, and it turns out that it’s not.” 

Unrealistic expectations of what democracy or a free-market economy can achieve “may help to explain the recent success of nationalists and populists, who often define democracy simply as elections, ignoring the essential human rights components of freedom of assembly, association, and expression that give such elections legitimacy,” Hannum said.

He also takes aim at human rights advocates who claim more for human rights than they can deliver—especially those who “confuse human rights with outsiders intervening in all sorts of way to fix other countries,” he said. “Human rights are about persuading governments to institute reforms within their own countries, not about imposing them from the outside.”

While he fully understands the desire to expand human rights efforts to deal more directly with contemporary problems, “we can achieve more if the goals are modest,” Hannum said. Of course, he knows that “Let’s try to achieve moderate success!” is not going to be a popular rallying cry, but he argues that such an approach seems radical these days “only because it seeks to retain the consensus and universality on which human rights are based.”

https://now.tufts.edu/articles/reviving-human-rights


Israel: Deportation of Human Rights Watch’s staff member again on the table

April 18, 2019

The sea-saw surrounding Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch’ office [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/27/human-rights-watch-granted-israeli-work-permit-in-the-end/] continues with an Israeli court on 16 April 2019 upholding the Israeli government’s order to deport Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director. The ruling by the Jerusalem District Court comes in response to a lawsuit filed in May 2018 by the organization, and Shakir challenging the government’s decision to revoke Shakir’s work permit and the constitutionality of a 2017 law barring entry to Israel for people who advocate so-called boycotts of Israel or Israeli settlements.


EU Parliament ‘improves’ proposed Terrorist Content Regulation

April 18, 2019

After my earlier piece about the risks in the draft EU regulation on terrorism content [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/31/ngos-express-fear-that-new-eu-terrorist-content-draft-will-make-things-worse-for-human-rights-defenders/], I am happy to report that some NGOs have welcomed the changes now made in the latest version.

On 17 April 2019 eub2 reports that “EU Parliament deletes the worst threats to freedom of expression proposed in the Terrorist Content Regulation”: Read the rest of this entry »


75 human rights defenders in India will monitor violence against Dalits during India elections

April 18, 2019

Caste violence, dalit

Representational Image. (File | EPS)
Ritwika Mitra  reports on 18 April that seventy-five ‘human rights defenders’ will be monitoring elections during elections in identified ‘sensitive’ constituencies across 20 states to monitor any form of violence against Dalits during the voting process, which takes place over the period 11 April to 19 May 2019.

The National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ) — a coalition of Dalit rights organisations — is coordinating with volunteers the move. “If the volunteers notice any violence during the voting, they will immediately inform the electoral officer and the police. These defenders are trained and to spot any form of atrocity against Dalits…” said V A Ramesh Nathan, general secretary, NDMJ.

The focus would be on Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Gujarat. The list, however, is not comprehensive. The coalition recently monitored the situation in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar during the first phase of the polling season. In Andhra Pradesh, there were cases where Dalits were not being allowed to vote, which were taken up by the volunteers and the issue was resolved, said Kamalchand Kispott, policy and advocacy officer, NDMJ.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2019/apr/18/lok-sabha-elections-2019-75-human-rights-defenders-to-monitor-violence-against-dalits-across-states-1965667.html


Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid receives Brennan Human rights award

April 16, 2019

rutgers file.jpg

In his remarks upon receiving the award, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein discussed the history of international politics and cautioned against nationalization, noting that the human rights violations of today are the conflicts of tomorrow. “I worry, like so many others, that what we are seeing now is the decomposition of the international order,” said Ra’ad Al Hussein. “The rules and institutions that uphold international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and international refugee law are under immense pressure.” He shared that he has faith in the efforts of human rights defenders and the human rights movements around the world, “We cannot depend now on much of the leadership at the highest levels. We have to depend on ourselves and we have to have the courage to speak out and say what needs to be said.


Two women human rights defenders in the Philippines honored with international awards

April 16, 2019

Joanna Patricia Kintanar Cariño (File photo by Noel Godinez/Northern Dispatch)
Filipina human rights defender, Joanna Patricia Kintanar Cariño, has been named as this year’s recipient of Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. Cariño is the founding secretary general and the current advisory council of Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), regional council member of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and chairperson of SELDA-North Luzon, an organization of former political prisoners. For more on the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/gwangju-prize-for-human-rights

Cariño is among the 600 individuals listed in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) so-called terror list, which seeks to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist organizations. Cariño, together with other activists who were included in the list, fought for the removal of their names and in January this year, the DOJ has acted by finally removing the names of scores of activists and human rights defenders in the Cordillera region. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/07/women-human-rights-defenders-day-2017-an-anthology/]

The Foundation recognizes Cariño’s track record as human rights defender from the time of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos up to the present. “She has been illegally arrested, detained and harassed for being tireless and vigorous in the indigenous people’s fight against militarization of their communities,” the Foundation said in their statement.

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Trade union worker France Castro was awarded the Arthur Svensson international Prize for Trade Union Rights [for more on this award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/arthur-svensson-international-prize-for-trade-union-rights]

In its statement, the Svensson Foundation described Castro as a brave leader who defies threats and dangerous condition. “Despite threats and persecution, there are brave people fighting for democracy and human rights. The regime has particularly attacked unionists among teachers and journalists. Some are killed and many imprisoned. Death threats are not uncommon. In recent times, police officers in the Philippines have been running an organized campaign where they are herding and publishing information on unionized teachers,” Svensson Foundation said in a statement referring to the profiling of the public school teachers, particularly the members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) by the Philippine National Police (PNP). Castro was also among those who were detained by the Talaingod police last November 2018, together with former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Lumad teachers, students and administrator, for defending Lumad’s right to education  The Foundation also took notice of Castro’s role in the fight for public school teachers’ rights and welfare.

https://www.bulatlat.com/2019/04/16/progressive-solon-wins-international-award-for-championing-union-rights/


Pulitzer prizes for courageous journalists in Myanmar and Philippines

April 16, 2019


82-year old Father Magnis in Indonesia: tough words for a good purpose

April 16, 2019

An adopted son's passion for Indonesian pluralism
German-born Jesuit Father Franz Magnis Suseno has become an Indonesian citizen and an outspoken champion of democracy and interfaith dialogue in Indonesia. (Photo by Siktus Harson/ucanews.com)
Ryan Dagur painted on 15 April 2019 (in UCA News) a portrait of a remarkable man, the Jesuit priest Franz Magnis Suseno, doesn’t mince his words when promoting democracy and dialogue in Indonesia. “An adopted son’s passion for Indonesian pluralism

Not so long ago, Jesuit priest Father Franz Magnis Suseno ..ruffled a few feathers by.. calling people who are threatening to boycott the polls fools, parasites, and psycho freaks.His scathing comments came in an article about the upcoming Indonesian presidential and legislative elections published by Kompas, the country’s bestselling newspaper.Many criticized him for the remarks, some even sent him letters of protest, but many also supported him. The German-born priest, a professor at the Driyarkara School of Philosophy, has apologized for his choice of words but argued the article was a call for all citizens to care for democracy and prevent the worst individuals from being elected to office.

…..The 82-year-old, born into a noble family and who was once called Count von Magnis, is now widely known as a philosopher, human rights defender, and culturalist, with his main area of expertise being Javanese culture. He has written 41 books on philosophy, political ethics, and Christianity, as well as made countless television appearances.During his time in the country, Father Magnis has witnessed a major shift in Indonesia’s political climate from a 32-year dictatorship under Suharto to the reform era that began in 1998 when the tap of democracy was opened.“It’s my moral obligation to speak up when democracy is threatened,” he said.He says he is optimistic that Indonesia will remain a leading democracy in Southeast Asia, but admitted various threats do concern him, especially what he calls the politicization of religion by hard-line Muslims. “Indonesia will only fall to another authoritarian regime if people continue to use religion in politics,” he said. He said it is dangerous because, for many people, religion is more important than democracy. 
…. Father Magnis has built close friendships with several respected Muslim leaders, including the late Abdurahman Wahid, a highly respected figure, and Indonesia’s fourth president, as well as Nurcholish Majid, an avid defender of pluralism in Indonesia. Holding dialogue with extreme elements is also important, he said, especially when conflict occurs.He has met the now exiled Islamic Defenders Front chief, Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, several times when his organization sought to impose its own ban on worshiping activities in a number of churches in Jakarta. In 2011, Father Magnis met Shihab, to discuss the issue of an American pastor burning a Quran in Florida, which angered Muslims all over the world. Following the discussions, Shihab told his angry followers not to take out their anger on Indonesian Christians. In building a relationship with believers of other faiths, it is important for Christians to be humble and sensible and to avoid belittling acts or gestures. “It’s better to be low profile, rather than something fancy,” he said, adding that this philosophy should be especially applied in poor areas. This was why he called the erection of a 46-meter-high Marian statue in Ambarawa, Central Java in 2015, “inappropriate.” ..
Father Magnis is also critical of Christians who measure the success of their work by the number of people they attract to Christianity because it leads to aggressive Christianization. “Our mission is to bring the goodness of Christ into our society and let people decide whether to join us,” he said.He said Indonesia will remain an Islamic country, and what Christians can do is to help them build a better democratic system, where freedom of religion is upheld and interfaith relations are well established. Father Antonius Benny Sustyo, an outspoken activist priest, said Father Magnis’ openness and willingness to communicate with others are among his finest characteristics. “..Achmad Nurcholish, a Muslim activist said Father Magnis had contributed a lot to the progress of humanity in Indonesia, especially through his writings that have an enriched perspective.
Father Magnis’ endeavors have been duly recognized and have earned him a number of awards.In 2015, he received an award from Indonesian President Joko Widodo for his dedication to education and culture. A year later, in 2016, he won the Matteo Ricci International Prize for his commitment to promoting interreligious dialogue from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan. However, the one that gives him the most pleasure is a so-called “Mud Award”, bestowed on him by communities in East Java whose land and homes were buried by mud caused by the activities of a company belonging to Aburizal Bakrie, a businessman cum politician. It was given in 2007 after the priest refused to accept a Bakrie Award — handed out by Aburizal Bakrie’s family — to show solidarity with people affected by the mud disaster. “I was very happy with that award. I’ll always treasure it,” he said.

Geneva Launch of the World Refugee Council’s Report aiming to transform global system

April 15, 2019

The Global Migration Centre‘s mission is to advance new solutions to address the structural challenges facing the global refugee system. It is forged by an independent group of individuals which include political leaders, policy advisers, academic experts and private sector and civil society representatives from around the world. The Council unveiled its report “A Call to Action: Transforming the Global Refugee System ” in January 2019. It offers bold recommendations to transform the global refugee system with a focus on four key areas: political will, responsibility sharing, financing and accountability. It now hosts the Geneva Launch of the World Refugee Council’s Report.

Wednesday 17 April 2019, 18:30 – 20:00
Auditorium A2| Maison de la paix, Geneva

Speakers: 


International Civil Society Week 2019: call for more NGO voice in the UN

April 14, 2019

The International Civil Society Week 2019 has finished. During the this meeting in Belgrade, that brought together over 850 civil society leaders, activists and concerned citizens from across the world, a large number of contribution were made and I will make reference to some of them in separate posts. Here one of the results:

A World Citizens’ Initiative as an instrument of citizen participation at the United Nations was promoted on 11th April 2019 at a plenary session of the International Civil Society Week 2019 (ICSW). Presenting the idea of a UN World Citizens’ Initiative (UNWCI), Caroline Vernaillen of Democracy International stressed that addressing the UN’s democratic deficit needs to be on the agenda, too. “The UN is a club of representatives of member states. There are no means for ordinary citizens to take influence and this has to change,” she said. The activist from Belgium stated that a UNWCI would help “create a citizen-based global political sphere.

Caroline Vernaillen and Andreas Bummel with CIVICUS’ Secretary-General Lysa John (middle)

According to Vernaillen, the instrument of a UNWCI would allow global citizens to gather support for specific proposals which then would have to be considered and acted upon by the UN General Assembly. She emphasized that a similar instrument already exists in the European Union, the European Citizens Initiative.

CIVICUS, Democracy International and Democracy Without Borders have started preparing an international campaign to promote a UNWCI and participants of the civil society week were invited to join their efforts. The UNWCI campaign is planned to be launched in September or October 2019 when the next session of the UN General Assembly begins.

Joe Mathews, a board member of Democracy International and Co-President of the Global Forum for Direct Democracy, commented on Twitter that a World Citizens’ Initiative was a “powerful new idea” in direct democracy, “open to people everywhere, to attack big problems and check global power.”

The UNWCI campaign will be launched with a view of the 75th anniversary of the UN in 2020. On 11th April 2019, one of the numerous sessions of the civil society week dealt with this topic. Jeffery Huffines of CIVICUS gave an overview of the UN’s preparations of a UN2020 summit (see also this recent article). He urged civil society representatives to engage with this process and proposed that NGOs should think about whether there should be a global civil society forum on the occasion of UN2020.

The new initiative Together First was represented at this session by Giovanna Marques Kuele. She said that the UN needed to become “more democratic, more representative and more transparent.” Together First plans to identify the most important reform proposals and push for them ahead of a UN summit in 2020.

Speaking at the ICSW, the UN’s Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, Fabrizio Hochschild, stated that on the occasion of 2020 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “will call for a global youth driven conversation on what kind of world we want 25 years from now, in 2045.

World Citizens’ Initiative promoted at international civil society week