Posts Tagged ‘interference in internal affairs’

India’s overblown notion of sovereignty: NO to UN advice for Supreme Court

March 5, 2020

The Wire (India) and other news outlets have written about the controversy ‘created’ around the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ intervention (Amicus Brief) in the Indian Supreme Court against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). In response, the Indian government has claimed that no foreign party has “locus standi” on CAA as it pertains to Indian sovereignty.

In a statement on Tuesday, ministry of external affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that India’s permanent mission in Geneva was informed “yesterday evening by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that her Office had filed an Intervention Application in the Supreme Court of India in respect to the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)”. The CAA, passed by the Indian parliament in December 2019, seeks to grant fast-track citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014. The CAA had led to widespread protests in India, starting with northeastern states. The UN human rights commissioner has highlighted several times that CAA would be discriminatory and violates India’s commitments made under international law. The UN stated that the High Commissioner has “has great respect for the Indian Supreme Court’s independence and importance, and in accordance with similar interventions in domestic jurisdictions by the High Commissioner and her predecessors, the amicus curiae  will focus on providing an overview of relevant and applicable international human rights standards and norms to support the Court’s deliberations in the context of its review of the CAA”.

After India was informed about OHCHR’s intention, Kumar asserted CAA was an “internal matter of India and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian Parliament to make laws”. “We strongly believe that no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty,” he added.

That reaction seems rather overblown. The Supreme Court is hearing a total of 143 petitions seeking to examine the constitutional validity of the Citizenship Amendment Act. Foreign governments and nationals have been parties to several legal cases in the Indian court system. (The Supreme Court is currently hearing a petition filed in 2017 against the Indian government’s plan to deport all Rohingya Muslims, estimated to be around 40,000, back to Myanmar. On January 10, UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance E. Tendayi Achiume filed an application seeking to intervene in the ongoing case, which is being heard by a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde. Earlier in the Italian marines case, the Italian ambassador had filed a petition challenging the jurisdiction of the Indian police after the arrests of the marines for the killing of Indian fishermen off the coast of India.)

In her draft application, Bachelet sought to intervene as an amicus curiae “by virtue of her mandate to inter aria protect and promote all human rights and to conduct necessary advocacy in that regard, established pursuant to the United Nations General Assembly resolution 48/141”. She noted that the office of the UN human right chief had filed amicus curiae briefs within proceedings before diverse jurisdictions, including International Criminal Court, US Supreme Court and final appeal courts in Asia and Latin America.

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https://thewire.in/diplomacy/un-human-rights-chief-intervention-application-supreme-court-caa

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/rights-or-wrong-the-hindu-editorial-on-un-rights-body-moving-supreme-court-against-caa/article30984751.ece

Daniel Ravindran; a voice of reason in India’s human rights debate

January 16, 2020

A protest in Srinagar in December 2016.

A protest in Srinagar in December 2016.

With the evolution of international law in the last 100 years, the concept of unrestricted sovereignty has weakened

The human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) following the dilution of Article 370 and the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) have brought renewed international focus on India’s human rights practice. Responding to criticism made by the United Nations agencies and others, the Indian state asserted that both J&K and CAA are entirely internal matters and there cannot be any interference in such sovereign decisions.

What is remarkable about modern international human rights law is its recognition of individuals as subjects. Classic international law governed the conduct between states and did not recognise the rights of individuals. Countries made agreements on the premise that a sovereign state had the exclusive right to take any action it thought fit to deal with its nationals. Such a notion of absolute sovereignty was challenged in 19th century with the emergence of humanitarian intervention to protect minorities living in other states. Later, in 1919, the evolution of labour standards led to the establishment of the International Labour Office (ILO). In 1926, the Slavery Convention adopted by the League of Nations prohibiting slave trade heralded the first human rights treaty based on the principle of dignity of a human being. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 by the United Nations, was the first comprehensive international human rights document. The Universal Declaration has acquired the force of law as part of the customary law of nations. It has provided the basis for binding human rights treaties and non-binding guidelines/principles that constitute a distinct body of law known as international human rights law.

Unsustainable claim

This progress of international law in the last 100 years makes the Indian state’s assertion of its sovereign right unsustainable. The evolution of international human rights law is also about the gradual weakening of the concept of unrestricted sovereignty. The Indian government has ratified several international human rights treaties and submits periodic reports to the respective treaty bodies. By doing so, it has acknowledged the principle that the treatment of its citizens is not entirely an internal matter, and such measures do not enjoy an absolute sovereignty.

The Indian government’s response to concerns about its human rights practice has always been that international scrutiny is unwarranted since the country is the largest democracy in the world with an independent judiciary, free media, and an active civil society. These claims sound less credible after the recent developments in J&K and the passage of the CAA.

Non–discrimination is a fundamental principle of human rights. Discrimination in various forms occurs in all societies, but what is of concern is institutionalised discrimination. Apartheid was pronounced as a crime against humanity since it institutionalised discrimination based on race. Similarly, for the first time in post–Independence India, a religious group has been excluded from the purview of a law dealing with citizenship.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which is the lead agency within the UN system on all aspects related to human rights, has expressed its concern stating that the CAA “is fundamentally discriminatory in nature”. It has also said that “although India’s broader naturalization laws remain in place, these amendments will have a discriminatory effect on people’s access to nationality.”

International human rights law includes safeguards against unwarranted foreign intervention and stresses the exhaustion of domestic remedies before an issue is considered by an international body. The Indian state always assured the international community that the judiciary, mainly its Supreme Court, would provide adequate remedies to victims of human rights violations. However, of late, the faith of the common people in the higher judiciary has been weakened. In the face of serious allegations about human rights violations in J&K, the Supreme Court has “ducked, evaded and adjourned”, as put across by advocate Gautam Bhatia.

Weakening of civil society

While responding to criticism against its human rights practices, the Indian government also refers to the role of free media and civil society in protecting the human rights of vulnerable groups. However, in the context of J&K and the ongoing struggle against the CAA, the media has not come out any better. As for civil society organisations, the government since 2014 has systematically targeted them, including by making it difficult for them to receive funds from foreign donors. Since 2014, the government has cancelled the registration of about 14,000 NGOs under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). It has also mainly targeted its own critics.

Indian and international human rights groups are getting increasingly concerned about the actions of people associated with the ruling party who are engaged in the intimidation of critics, attacks against minorities, and restrictions on the freedoms of artistes. The brazen attack on JNU students on January 5 by armed goons and the total lack of response by the police is emblematic of free reign given to non-state actors in various parts of the country.

The international community is sympathetic to governments that are committed to upholding human rights but lack human and other resources to pursue it. In the case of India, it is not a question of resources but an unwillingness to uphold human rights. The government’s action in J&K, the passage of the CAA, and its response to protests on the CAA demonstrate that the present regime is not fully committed to upholding human rights and does not respect international human rights standards. Of course, it is possible for the Indian government, due to its diplomatic clout, to avoid robust intervention by the UN Human Rights Council and other UN human rights mechanisms. However, it would not be able to avoid scrutiny by the international community, which would complement the struggle of the Indian civil society to reclaim the Indian Constitution and advance human rights.

For transparancy reasons: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/14/who-should-be-the-new-un-rapporteur-for-human-rights-defenders-ravindram-is-my-choice/

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/human-rights-are-not-solely-an-internal-matter/article30537443.ece

Where is the international support for Canada in its row with Saudi Arabia

August 27, 2018

The tension between Saudi Arabia and Canada began when Canada’s Global Affairs Twitter account tweeted this 3 August 2018 statement concerning human rights abuses: Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in , including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful activists.

The excessive response by Saudi Arabia and the various issues at stake have been sufficiently described  in the media (see several links below) but what is most disturbing is what one commentator called “Not a shred of solidarity was on offer anyway: it was all just a dispute between “friends” and “allies.” Weak EU response with obviously no support from the Trump government, has left the Canadian government close to mulling a kind of apology “Canada will of course continue to “speak out,” Trudeau said last Wednesday, but he also said this of Saudi Arabia: “This is a country that has some importance around the world. It is making progress when it comes to human rights.” There is no need for mediation,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. “…Canada has made a mistake and needs to fix it.” Al-Jubeir’s views were then immediately expanded by former Conservative foreign affairs minister John Baird in an interview broadcast by the Saudis’ own Al-Arabiya network.

On 9 August a number of Canadian organizations expressed their support to Canada for its recent position on the detention of women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. “and urged the international community to join Canada in calling for the unequivocal respect of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.”

With Russia and quite of few other countries coming out openly to express solidarity with Saudi Arabia it is time to ask where the like-minded solidarity is and what international NGOs do to support courageous Canada??

[with exception for HRW https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/08/08/saudi-arabia-punishes-canada-criticizing-human-rights-defenders-arrests and AI https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/08/saudi-arabia-international-community-must-speak-up-for-human-rights-defenders-after-canadian-ambassador-expelled/]

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http://www.mediafiledc.com/saudi-canadian-duel-takes-place-on-multiple-platforms/

https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2018/08/11/saudi-arabia-picks-a-pointless-fight-with-canada

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-canada-owes-no-apology-to-the-saudis/

https://www.macleans.ca/politics/worldpolitics/the-trudeau-government-is-losing-its-human-rights-battle-with-the-saudis-and-missing-a-huge-opportunity/

https://interpares.ca/news/joint-statement-canadas-support-women-human-rights-defenders-saudi-arabia

 

How utterly wrong a Chinese newspaper commentary can be…

May 14, 2015

Zhu Junqing, writing in the Shanghai Daily of 13 May 2015, is the prime example of how distorted the Chinese government’s view of the international human rights regime is. Under the title: “U.S. needs to work on own human rights record first before blaming others“, the author quite rightly points to the UN Human Rights Council findings on 11 May and the comments by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, which conclude that there a lot of human right problems remain unresolved in the USA (including excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies, racial, religious and sex discrimination, Guantanamo Bay detention, migrant rights, environmental issues and counterterrorism practices). Also he recalls correctly that the United States is one of the two countries in the world that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and is reluctant on other international instruments.

But then the article draws exactly the wrong conclusion. Instead of appreciating the UN’s courage to tackle a superpower, it call the USA the “ultimate human rights judge” (why??) and concludes that this “self-proclaimed human rights watchdog, needs to examine itself critically and improve its own human rights record before [!] blaming other countries for their violations”. Since “no country is perfect in its human rights record,” as Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying put it, “any country with human rights defects should work hard to resolve its own problems and improve its own human rights record before casting the first stone”.

Yep, that it the solution! Nobody criticizes anybody and we are all happy. The more obvious and consistent solution does not even get mentioned: IF the USA can be criticized, WHY is China so fearful and retaliates regularly against human rights defenders? [e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/china-in-the-un-human-rights-council-manages-to-silence-cao-shunli-as-well-as-ngos/ ].

China’s own extraordinary sensitivity to ‘interference’ of any level into what it considers its domestic affairs is well-known. I touched upon this hot’ topic’ in my own 2011 article “The international human rights movement: not perfect, but a lot better than many governments think” in the book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’ (exceptionally also published in Chinese!): Yuwen Li (ed), Ashgate, 2011, pp 287-304 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4).

Commentary: U.S. needs to work on own human rights record first before blaming others | Shanghai Daily.

China Update: human rights defenders suffer but Ukraine is not (yet) an example

February 26, 2014

On the heels of my post yesterday on Cao Shunli‘s health (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/serious-concern-for-health-of-detained-human-rights-defender-cao-shunli/), exiled, blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng laments that China is cracking down harder than ever on human rights defenders, but says (somewhat unrealistically I should add) that the leadership should brace for a Ukraine-style uprising. “It is possible for the Chinese to have a similar revolution to the one in Ukraine. It could happen any time,” Chen told Nina Larson of AFP on 25 February in Geneva. “There are many, so very man arrests“, mentioning just as an example the arrest late last month of the parents of human rights activist Xue Mingkai, who had spent four years in prison for joining a banned party. While in custody, the father, Xue Fushun, plunged to his death from a window several stories up, in what police said was a suicide.

Frontline Defenders informed us a bit earlier that on 29 January 2014, the verdicts were released in the trials of human rights defenders, Mr Yuan Dong and Ms Hou Xin, both of whom are affiliated with the New Citizens’ Movement and had been facing charges of “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order”. Yuan Dong was sentenced to 18 months in prison, whilst Hou Xin was found guilty but did not receive a sentence.  Yuan Dong and Hou Xin were originally detained, along with  Zhang Baocheng and Ma Xinli, on charges of “illegal assembly” on 31 March 2013 [http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/22993]  after banners with slogans such as “require officials to publicly disclose public assets” were allegedly unfurled during a rally in Xidan Cultural Plaza in Beijing’s Xicheng district. Hou Xin had only been photographically documenting the rally.

Besides the recent sentencing to four years imprisonment of one of the founders of the New Citizens’ Movement, Mr Xu Zhiyong, many more human rights defenders affiliated with the movement remain in detention (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/xu-zhiyongs-closing-statement-to-the-court-a-remarkable-document/)

On the other hand, on 25 February 2014 it was confirmed that Ilham Tohti (feared disappeared) has now been formally arrested on charges of  “splitting the country” and is being held in a detention centre in Xinjiang province. (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/has-uyghur-professor-ilham-tohti-disappeared-in-china/

For the full interview with Chen: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jLVlcgDJvTALGKEGE8kNJd3E43cA?docId=baf85933-271a-42b9-8e34-8210a195cbee

By the way China’s extraordinary sensitivity to ‘interference’ of any level into what it considers its domestic affairs is well-known. I touched upon this hot’ topic’ in my own 2011 article “The international human rights movement: not perfect, but a lot better than many governments think” in the book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’ (exceptionally also published in Chinese!): Yuwen Li (ed), Ashgate, 2011, pp 287-304 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4).

China and its amazing sensitivity on Human Rights Defenders

December 6, 2012

Most of you are aware that a group of 134 Nobel laureates wrote to Chinese Communist Party chief and future president, Xi Jinping, urging him to release Liu, who won the peace prize two years ago (and to release his wife). China of course maintains that Liu is a criminal and decries such criticism as unwarranted interference in its internal affairs. Remarkable is that Mo, the first Chinese national to win the $1.2 million literature prize – in Stockholm to receive the award – refused to express support for Liu, and defended censorship as sometimes necessary, comparing it to security checks at airports. “I have said this prize is about literature. Not for politics,” said the 57-year-old whose adopted pen name Mo Yan means “don’t speak”[!!].

Now the latest twist according to the Financial Times of 6 December 2012 is that China has excluded Norway – as the only European country – from its visa-free regime for visitors.  When asked why Norway was left off the list, Wang Qin, a senior official at the Beijing government travel administration, did not respond directly but said that some countries were not eligible because their citizens or government were “of low-quality” and “badly behaved”.

Chinese-Norwegian ties have been in diplomatic deep freeze ever since imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Immediately afterwards, Beijing suspended negotiations with Oslo over a bilateral free trade agreement and those talks have not yet resumed in spite of the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by a committee of five individuals appointed by the Norwegian parliament and that Government has no say in the selection (although it is true that committee members always are Norwegian nationals). China has refused visas to many Norwegian journalists, scientists and businesspeople and cancelled numerous political and diplomatic meetings. According to the same FT article earlier this year senior Chinese diplomats insisted Norway must “recognise its mistakes and take steps to correct them” and Norwegian exports have been affected.

The continued harsh treatment of Norway is a signal that when it comes to human rights China remains extra-ordinarily sensitive. One can only hope that the other (European) will show that they will be not intimidated and show solidarity with Norway e.g. by refusing the visa free offer unless Norway is included.