Posts Tagged ‘Robert Kennedy Human Rights’

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: RFK

April 3, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of the coming weeks. Here the one by Kerry Kennedy of

 

 

 

 

…Nearly 52 years later, it is just as imperative that we take to heart his message to “remember those who live with us,” that our societal response to the coronavirus pandemic be tethered to the same strong sense of equity and social justice of which my father spoke.

In the midst of this global pandemic, that means:

Remembering the most vulnerable—those without a stable or permanent home, those with disabilities, and those without a safety net who have no ability to work from the shelter of their homes or take time off, by ensuring that everyone has access to adequate, affordable healthcare. Those of us who can afford to stock our pantries with reserves must not hoard, instead ensuring that local food depositories and soup kitchens are sufficiently funded and supplied.

Remembering the prisoners—who are unable to practice social distancing to prevent the spread of illness. At Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, we echo the increasing calls to release people being detained pretrial and in immigration detention, starting with the most vulnerable, to ease spread of the virus in crowded, unjust lockups. Jail and immigration detention should never equate to death sentences, and we hope that the current public health crisis will help us see with new eyes how these systems of mass human caging are and have always been so incredibly cruel, dangerous, violent, and unnecessary.

Remembering the truth tellers—as national governments increasingly declare states of emergency to bolster their responses to the pandemic and save lives, we must keep a watchful eye, given the rise of authoritarianism, to ensure that civic space is protected. Governments around the world have made a practice of using such states of emergency to curtail the legitimate activity of human rights defenders. These actions, such as China’s mandate that citizens carry cell phones so they can be constantly tracked, followed by Israel’s announcement that its citizens must do the same, must comply with international law mandating timeliness and sunset clauses, proportionality and nondiscrimination.

Remembering the first responders—our public health officials, the workers stocking the shelves of our grocery stores, and all others who are ensuring that our basic needs are met are putting their lives on the line. The government must do its utmost to make sure that these human rights defenders are armed with necessary resources and protections, including economic security, to stem the outbreak and stay safe.

International human rights law offers us a blueprint for action, reminding us that all citizens of the world have inalienable rights—no matter their race, gender, background, income level, or sexual orientation.

….We are all facing this unprecedented crisis together.see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/27/covid-19-spread-leads-to-reactions-and-messages-of-solidarity/

https://rfkhumanrights.org/news/coronavirus-statement

Most human rights NGOs welcome change in US policy on Cuba but some diehards hold out

December 18, 2014

President Obama’s announcement to normalize relations with Cuba has led to a range of reactions. Most of the world (the UN General Assembly has called for an end to the US embargo for years – in October 2014, 188 of the 192 member countries voted for a resolution condemning the policy) and certainly most of the human rights movement, including in the US itself, has welcomed the long-overdue move:

E.g. Human Rights Watch and RFK Human Rights have come with positive comments:

“It’s been clear for years that US efforts to promote change in Cuba through bans on trade and travel have been a costly and misguided failure. Rather than isolating Cuba, the embargo has isolated the United States, alienating governments that might otherwise speak out about the human rights situation on the island.” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of HRW on 18 December. [the statement of HRW added: Nevertheless, the Cuban government continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic human rights. Arbitrary arrests and short-term detention have increased dramatically in recent years and routinely prevent human rights defenders, independent journalists, and others from gathering or moving about freely. Detention is often used pre-emptively to prevent people from participating in peaceful marches or meetings to discuss politics. Detainees are often beaten, threatened, and held incommunicado for hours or days.] The embargo has imposed indiscriminate hardship on Cubans, but done nothing to end abuses,” Vivanco said. “The Obama administration should make human rights a focus of its Cuba policy but look for more effective ways – including working with other democracies in the region – to press the Cuban government to respect fundamental rights.

On 17 December, Kerry Kennedy and Santiago A. Canton, on behalf of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, welcomed the announcement saying that the change in policy will lead to an opening of dialogue at all levels between the United States and Cuba, including on the issue of protecting and advancing human rights.

Still, some chose to disagree:

The Washington Times reports that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was one of many Republicans to criticize President Obama’s move on Wednesday to open up diplomatic relations with Cuba, saying the move undermines the “quest for a free and democratic Cuba“…..Mr. Bush, who announced Tuesday he was actively exploring a bid for the presidency in 2016, said he’s “delighted” that American Alan Gross was freed after five years in prison, but said it was “unfortunate” that the United States chose to released three convicted spies as part of the deal. …Earlier this month, Mr. Bush said the U.S. should consider strengthening its embargo against Cuba at the annual luncheon of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC as he pledged support for the group, a strong defender of the policy.

In the Hudson Reporter (Hudson County is home to thousands of Cuban emigrants and refugees) Congressman Albio Sires stated: “What should be a joyous moment to celebrate the overdue homecoming of Alan Gross today has been marred by the actions undertaken by the administration to secure his release”.. “The president’s announcement today detailing plans for a loosening of sanctions and initiating discussions to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba is naïve and disrespectful to the millions of Cubans that have lived under the Castros’ repressive regime; and the thousands of human rights defenders that have fought tirelessly and at times with their lives to bring about democratic change to Cuba.  Moreover, “while I may welcome the release of over 50 political prisoners, little has been said for the countless others that remain inside a Cuban prison or the fact that the same 50 plus prisoners freed today could very well be imprisoned again tomorrow for exercising the same human rights of free speech that unjustly placed them inside prison the first time.”

US/Cuba: Obama’s New Approach to Cuba | Human Rights Watch.

http://rfkcenter.org/robert-f-kennedy-human-rights-welcomes-president-obamas-announcement-of-a-change-in-united-states-policy-towards-cuba 

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/17/jeb-bush-obamas-cuba-move-latest-foreign-policy-mi/

http://www.hudsonreporter.com/view/full_story/26253357/article-Mixed-reactions-to-news-of-Pres–Obama-s-change-of-policy-on-Cuba?instance=top_story