Posts Tagged ‘populism’

For human rights “winter is coming”

August 24, 2017

CREDIT: HBO

Even if you haven’t seen Game of Thrones, you know the iconic, sinister saying. In the TV show, it is muttered meaningfully as a warning not only that after a long summer a harsh winter is ahead, but that winter brings with it an existential threat to the world—an army of the dead. This threat makes all the vicious scheming, treachery and feuding look insignificant and petty.

As a human rights defender watching leaders around the world scapegoating and dividing to score political points, I can’t help thinking that winter may be coming for all of us—a dark future where protection of human rights won’t mean much anymore.

The “summer” was long and fruitful. Seventy years ago the world came together in 1948 and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stated for the first time that human rights must be protected across “all peoples and all nations.”

This unprecedented commitment to protect human rights everywhere was made by the survivors of a long night of horror that humanity had just endured. They joined forces to ensure that the gas chambers, the extermination of the entire peoples, and the suffering of civilian population at such scale never happen again.

Since then, people around the world have claimed remarkable victories: securing rights for women and LGBT communities, standing up to abusive governments, removing seemingly indestructible totalitarian regimes and bringing heads of states to account. People have created a society that would be unrecognizable to those who emerged from the darkest moments in human history determined that it should never be repeated.

Yet now it seems that we are going back in time. I have no illusions that the past 70 years were rosy. We human rights defenders have been like the brothers of the Night’s Watch, a bit closer to the chilly winds, warning, sounding the alarm and guarding against the worst abuses. The basic principle that kept the winds of winter at bay, that all governments must respect certain universal rights, has never felt more threatened than it does today. The inhabitants of Westeros may act as if summer will last for ever, but we cannot afford to do the same.

We are no longer fending off attacks on the rights of individuals or communities. We are no longer dealing with a few rogue governments while relying on others as allies. We are up against the assault on the entire system of human rights protection. Like Jon Snow, we must rally everyone together for our own existential fight.

This creeping assault did not start yesterday. Within just a few recent years, xenophobia, misogyny, and dehumanisation of “others” have become the slogans that brought victories to politicians who blatantly exploited their electorates’ sense of insecurity and disenfranchisement. But not only that, it has increasingly become a call for action, leading to discrimination, hate crimes, violence and deaths, as we have just seen in Charlottesville.

Vaguely defined “security concerns” are being used as justification for deviation from human rights, such as the prohibitions of torture and summary executions, in countries as different as the United States, Russia, Egypt, Nigeria, Turkey, and the Philippines.

States like Russia and China, which have consistently challenged the very notion of universality of human rights, have become emboldened and manage to increasingly dominate or stall the debate at the international level.

What is worse, countries like the United States or the United Kingdom, who have been, at least in rhetoric, the champions of human rights, have dramatically changed their positions. Like Cersei Lannister, they unashamedly pursue narrow self-interests, and in doing so pedal despicable arguments that human rights should be sacrificed for national interest.

Their position makes it all too easy for other states, with less established traditions of democracy and respect for human rights, to follow this path.

There is no denying it – the system of human rights protection built in the aftermath of some of darkest times in modern history, is descending into the dusk again. And, to use another sinister Game of Thrones quote, the night, when it comes, will be “dark and full or terrors.” Anyone who hopes to stay untouched by being far from the frontlines of this battle, has simply forgotten the previous “winters” too quickly.

The only way to protect our core common human values against such powerful forces, is to unite and act: to resist the attempts to divide us along any lines; to bring our own governments to account—to speak out, loudly and persistently, using all available means of communication, from megaphones to social media, against assault on our rights and the rights of others; to open our hearts and homes to those in need of protection; and to show our support and solidarity with every individual or community facing injustice or persecution.

In the world of Game of Thrones, a long, cold winter is quickly descending. But for human rights it does not have to be that way. If together we keep the candle of the human rights protection alight, darkness will retreat.

Source: For human rights, winter is coming | HuffPost

Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, speaks very freely at the United Nations Association of the USA

June 21, 2017

In a little-noted speech at the Leadership Summit of the United Nations Association of the USA (Washington, D.C., 12 June 2017) Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, tackles populism and does not mince his words.  After viewing a Chaeli video [see e.g. https://www.worldofchildren.org/honoree/michaela-chaeli-mycroft/] to illustrate the message that “we can all make a difference for human rights. Every day, everywhere, at school or the workplace, commuting, or on holiday. It starts with each of us taking concrete steps to exercise our rights and our responsibility to protect and defend the rights of others“, Gilmour describes how after 3 decades of progress for human rights we have come up against a serious backlash, one that takes many forms but all of them counter to the values of rights, freedoms and tolerance. The text is worth reproducing as a whole: Read the rest of this entry »

New Secretary-General at Human Rights Council tells human rights defenders: “And I am on your side”

February 28, 2017

On 27 February 2017 the new Secretary General, António Guterres, addressed for the first time the UN Human Rights Council. For 10 years, he was the “other” High Commissioner (for Refugees), just down the road from the Palais des Nations where he was speaking. Some of his remarks are quoted here (from SG/SM/18456-HRC/25), especially the last paragraph dedicated to  human rights defenders and journalists: Read the rest of this entry »

2017 (10): need to ‘reset’ for human rights movement

February 24, 2017

This is the last post in my “2017 series“.

Amnesty International (AI) on Tuesday 21 February 2017 released its Annual Report 2016/17. It contains a summary of an international human rights survey that discusses the role “rhetoric of fear, blame and hate” have played in rolling back human rights around the world. AI analyzed major political leaders that identify as anti-establishment, such as US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan, arguing that their rhetoric has led to dangerous impacts on policy. AI’s conclusion is for individuals to come together and push governments to respect human rights, stating, “we cannot rely on governments to protect our freedoms, and so we have to stand up ourselves.” AI said that inspiration should be found in the “civil rights activists in the USA, anti-apartheid activists in South Africa,” or things as recent as the International Women’s March and pro-democracy protests in Gambia. Beyond localized efforts, AI said that “global solidarity is crucial if we are to protect each other from those governments quick to portray dissent as a threat to national security and economic development.”

Last month the 2017 World Report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that a surge in populist leaders in Europe and the US threatens human rights while inviting autocratic abuse in other nations [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/20/2017-3-hrw-reminds-world-of-continuing-repression-of-minorities-and-their-defenders/].

In September UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein unleashed a scathing criticism of Western “demagogues,” accusing them of spreading populist xenophobia and racism.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/14/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-states-may-shut-my-office-out-but-they-will-not-shut-us-up/]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/26/2017-6-predictions-on-trump-and-the-un-prophets-or-cassandras/

Source: JURIST – Amnesty: global politics threatening human rights

The Dictator Hunter works from home

February 21, 2017

This blog tries to stick as much as possible to the core issue of human rights defenders and leaves general activism (even when inspired by human rights concerns) to other blogs. Now I want to make an exception for a personal Call for Action issued on 12 February 2017 by my good friend and well-known human rights defender, Reed Brody [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reed-brody/], who has earned his nickname The Dictator Hunter:

He passionately feels that we should all do more to stop Trump (and his admirers in Europe). Here the full text:

A letter from America to my friends abroad

Many of you are watching events in the United States and asking what is going on – and what you can do. 

Yes, this is the most dangerous moment for the US and for the world in my lifetime. A US president with total disregard for the foundations of a constitutional democracy – checks and balances, the independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press, the protection of minorities, reasoned debate – has near-complete control over the official levers of power: the executive branch (including the CIA, FBI, NSA), both houses of Congress, and perhaps soon the judiciary. 

On the other hand, I have never witnessed in my country the kind of mobilization we are seeing today. The nationwide Women’s Marches were the largest demonstrations in US history, but it was only the beginning. Each day brings new acts of resistance. When the “Muslim ban” was announced (a crude and cruel measure only designed to stoke fear and portray the president as the people’s protector), people spontaneously flooded the airports around the country, New York taxi drivers went on strike. When Uber tried to profit from the strike, 200,000 customers deleted their Uber accounts. Bodegas in New York closed to protest the ban. All around the country, citizens are packing elected officials’ town hall meetings, flooding Congress with petitions, postcards, and phone calls. The premier legal organization challenging Trump’s actions, the American Civil Liberties Union, raised $24 million in the days following the Ban. This week, 1,200 people crowded into my neighborhood synagogue to organize the next stages of the resistance in Brooklyn, and the same thing is happening all over the country. Everything is political. Sports. Oscars. Consumer choices. Companies are being forced to take stands, and many of them, particularly in high-tech and globalized industries, are opposing the president. 

It’s important to remember that WE are the majority. We are also the large majority in the places that matter most to the economy – New York, California, Washington DC, in almost all the nation’s cities.

This epic battle for the soul of my country is just beginning. The outcome is uncertain. The next terrorist attack, and the one after, will surely test us even more.

Ultimately it will be Americans who decide the fate of the US but there are many ways you can help.

-Protest, protest protest! People marched around the world marched with us on January 21, but it can’t stop there. The more organized protests at US embassies and symbols of US power the better. 

– Don’t give Trump the respect he doesn’t deserve. This week, the speaker of the House of Commons said that he would oppose having Trump address Parliament. Over 1.8 million Brits have signed a petition against any Trump visit. When Trump visits the UK, or anywhere, let him know how the people of the world feel. 

-Demand that your leaders stand up to Trump. Angela Merkel reminded Trump of the US’s obligations under the Refugee Convention. François Hollande has been outspoken. (Unlike Spain’s Rajoy who offered to be an “intermediary” for Trump in Europe and Latin America). 

-Like Canada’s Justin Trudeau, leaders should publicly welcome all people from all countries and specifically assure nationals of the 7 “banned” countries that they will be allowed in.

-Ask your country to rebuke Trump’s measures which violate international law such as the Muslim ban in international fora such as the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. The ACLU and other groups are already challenging these actions before the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights.

-Remind non-US companies that they also have obligations, as US law professors did when they wrote to European air carriers https://www-cdn.law.stanford.edu/…/Stanford-Law-Professors-… to ensure the rights of travelers. 

-Academics, experts, companies and even countries can join litigation in the US with “amicus curaie,” or “friends of the court” briefs. The legal attack on the Muslim ban has been joined https://lawfareblog.com/litigation-documents-resources-rela… by hundreds of technology companies, professors, cities and states, but it would be important for foreign voices to be heard on this and (probably) forthcoming cases.

-Boycott Trump products. Like a third-word kleptocratic dictator (and I know a thing or two) Trump is openly mixing the public and the private. Hit him where it hurts – his brand, his ego and his pocketbook. Phone numbers of his hotels are here  https://twitter.com/billmckibb…/…/829412430157602816/photo/1 A list with retailers that do business with the Trump family and whose boycott is sought by #GrabYourWallet ( as in Grab her Pussy) here
https://grabyourwallet.org/Boycott%20These%20Companies.html

-Join the over 5 million people who have signed Avaaz’s Global Open Letter to Donald Trump. https://secure.avaaz.org/cam…/…/president_trump_letter_loc/…

-Watch the daily TV show Democracy Now on the internet – it’s where progressives in the US get their news and connect to all the struggles here and abroad. https://www.democracynow.org/

Even if you live abroad, you can join and give your support to the groups that are defending our liberties like the Center for Constitutional Rights, Planned Parenthood, Democracy Now, the ACLU. The Nation’s Katha Politt lists some groups here https://www.thenation.com/…/you-might-not-be-in-the-mood-t…/ Here is a longer list http://www.advocate.com/…/24-trump-fighting-charities-need-… – 

-If the travel ban, or some version of it, is reinstated, we will need volunteers and volunteer lawyers at airports around the world to help stranded travelers and to communicate with volunteers at US airports .

Trump (“Only America first”) doesn’t care about what the rest of the world thinks, but the US political and economic establishment on whose acquiescence he depends does care. Make clear that a racist islamophobic US government will not enjoy the same status and goodwill. 

Most important, don’t let what happened in the US happen in your country!! Trump “won” the US election (just as Brexit prevailed) by building the fear of foreigners and because too many people (white working class) did not see the political system as working for them. The Democratic Party essentially imposed a candidate who many saw as the embodiment of an out-of-touch elite. The same thing now threatens to happen in France, the Netherlands and elsewhere. Please don’t let it. We need you to make a better world together.

In Solidarity

Reed Brody
reedbrody@gmail.com
twitter @reedbrody