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Human Rights and HUMAN WRONGS

 

As part of its effort to bring human rights into the academic arena, the University of Massachusetts Boston Human Rights Working Group seeks: opinion pieces, photos, artwork, or poetry dealing with human rights issues for its weekly Human Rights and Human Wrong column.  Human Rights and Human Wrongs is the title of the UMBHRWG's  weekly column in The Mass Media.  The Mass Media is the student newspaper at UMass Boston.  Contributions should be sent to umbhrwg@hotmail.com or the University of Massachusetts Boston Human Rights Working Group (UMBHRWG) c/o The Mass Media, McCormack 00621, UMB, 100 Morrisey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125.  The UMBHRWG is composed of UMB students, faculty, staff, and human rights activists from the wider community.  Its goal is to establish a human rights center and undergraduate degree granting human rights program at UMB.  If you are interested in human rights issues you are encouraged to join us. 

 

Use the tables below to locate a specific column or scroll down to view them in chronological order.

 

Table 1

TOPICS

Human Rights and Human Wrongs Columns listed by TOPIC

TOPIC

COLUMN TITLES

9/11

Afghan fallout,    Collateral damage    U.S. retaliation against terror,  The Crime of Silence,   Torture Terrorists?,   Striking Coincidence

Afghanistan

 Afghan fallout,   Collateral damage             

Argentina

Argentina’s human rights community and the current crisis,

Bilingual Education

The Unz assault on Massachusetts,   Language Policy is a Human Rights Issue

Collateral Damage

Collateral damage,   U.S. retaliation against terror

Crime of Silence

The Crime of Silence

Education and Human Rights

Torture Terrorists?   The Unz assault on Massachusetts ,   Language Policy is a Human Rights Issue

Homeless

 

Human Rights Definition

Human rights and you

Human Rights Education

Torture Terrorists?   The Unz assault on Massachusetts ,   Language Policy is a Human Rights Issue

Human Rights Needs You

Human rights and you

Human Rights Program

Torture Terrorists?

Hunger

Hunger,

Hussein, Saddam

Wyatt Warp and the monster in our midst

International Criminal Court

Collateral damage,   Slobodan Milosevic…,  The Crime of Silence

Iraq

Iraq from a human rights perspective,  Wyatt Warp and the monster in our midst

Israel

Report from Ramallah,  Israel accused of war crimes

Mideast

Report from Ramallah

Milosevic

Slobodan Milosevic…,

Nuclear Weapons

Seven minutes to midnight,

Palestine

Report from Ramallah

Punishment

What good are truth and justice?    Torture Terrorists?

Saddam Hussein

Wyatt Warp and the monster in our midst

Torture

Torture terrorists?

Truth and Reconciliation

What good are truth and justice?

The United States

Human rights quiz, The troubling new face of America 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Afghan fallout,  Human Rights Needs You,  Slobodan Milosevic…,  Torute terrorists?

War on Terrorism

Afghan fallout,    Collateral damage            

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Seven minutes to midnight,

Women's rights

Women and human rights,   Are women human?,  Amina Lawal—To Sign or Not to Sign

Yugoslavia

Slobodan Milosevic…, 

 


Table 2

By Date

Human Rights and Human Wrongs Columns

DAY

YR

COLUMN TITLE

September 25

2003

AMINA LAWAL—TO SIGN OR NOT TO SIGN

September 11

2003

A STRIKING COINCIDENCE

April 17

2003

RUN FOR RIGHTS

April 10

2003

BUM FIGHTS: HUMOR IN BEING HOMELESS?

April 3

2003

A LOVE LETTER TO UMB

March 27

2003

BIRTH OF A NATION

March 6

2003

BUTTERFLIES IN SPACE

February 27

2003

RESOLUTION AGAINST THE WAR

February 13

2003

ALTERNATIVES TO WAR

December 12

2002

ARE WOMEN HUMAN?

December 5

2002 

HUMAN RIGHTS AND YOU

December 5?

2002

THE TROUBLING FACE OF AMERICA

November 21?

2002

WOMEN AND HUMAN RIGHTS

November 14

2002

ISRAEL ACCUSED OF WAR CRIMES

November 7

2002

WYATT EARP AND THE MONSTER IN OUR MIDST

April 18

2002

U.S. RETALIATION AGAINST TERROR

October 25

2002

HUMAN RIGHT QUIZ

October 18?

2002

IRAQ FROM A HUMAN RIGHTS PERSPECTIVE

September 26?

2002

LANGUAGE POLICY IS A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE

September 19?

2002

WINNING BY DECEPTION

April 1

2002

CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION AND THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF ISRAEL

March 28

2002

REPORT FROM RAMALLAH

March 21?

2002

HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMAN RESPONSIBILLITIES

March 14?

2002

WHAT GOOD ARE TRUTH AND JUSTICE

March 7

2002

SEVEN MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT

February 28

2002

HUNGER

February 21

2002

SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC, THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT AND YOU

February 14

2002

AFGHAN FALLOUT

February 7

2002

ARGENTINA’S HUMAN RIGHTS COMMUNITY AND THE CURRENT CRISIS

January 31

2002

COLLATERAL DAMAGE

January 31,

2002

IN SUPPORT OF HUMAN RIGHTS AT UMASS BOSTON (Editorial)

January 31

2002

HUMAN RIGHTS PROPOSAL WINS CHANCELLOR'S ENDORSEMENT

November 15

2001

TORTURE TERRORISTS?

November 8

2001

HUMAN RIGHTS AT UMASS BOSTON (2)

November 8

2001

HUMAN RIGHTS WORKING GROUP PROPOSAL

May 17

2001  

HUMAN RIGHTS AT UMASS BOSTON (1)

April 19

2001

THE SUNSHINE GRABBER

April 19

2001

"ENCOURAGING" (mass media editorial supporting human rights working group)

?

?

THE CRIME OF SILENCE

 

AMINA LAWAL—TO SIGN OR NOT TO SIGN

by Rita Arditti

 

Amina Lawal is a poor Muslim woman in her early thirties, sentenced to death by stoning in March 2002 by a lower Sharia court, in the Katsina state of northern Nigeria, allegedly because of adultery. Married at age 14, she was divorced and at a later stage she became pregnant and had a baby daughter. 

 

Currently in some states of northern Nigeria, new  Sharia-based penal codes, which apply only to Muslims,  have been introduced. According to these laws pregnancy out of marriage amounts to adultery.  The man supposedly responsible for the pregnancy denied having sex with Amina and charges against him were dropped. For him to be prosecuted he must confess or 4 other men must testify that they witnessed the adultery.

 

Until recently, Muslim laws in Nigeria were not enacted as written statutes but in 1999 some states starting passing a series of new Sharia Acts.  Ayesha Imam, Founding director of BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights in Nigeria and a leading scholar and activist of women’s legal rights in Africa for over twenty years, has this to say about these laws:

 

 “The politics of the situations in which these new Acts were passed has had the unfortunate consequence of serious shortcomings in their drafting, content and implementation.  Even more unfortunately, those politics have also produced claims that the new Sharia acts of 1999-2002 incorporate perfectly a universal God-given code, and that to raise any issues of possible defects (and therefore the possibility of removing those defects) is unIslamic, anti-Sharia and tantamount to apostacy-in short a politics of intimidation and threat.  However, the falsity of allegations like these are clear, when examining the nature of Muslim laws.” 1

 

On August 27 a hearing of Ms Lawal’s case took place at the Sharia Court of Appeal  in Katsina, under tight security, and the results of the appeal will be determined on September 25, 2003. Her case has attracted considerable international attention and petitions to the President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, and the Minister of Justice, Kanu Godwin Agabi, have been circulated and gathered millions of signatures asking that the death penalty be suspended. 

 

I have signed several of these petitions in the past and have encouraged others to do so. At a recent seminar that I led on Women and Human Rights, we closed the seminar by lining up at the computer to sign a petition on behalf of Amina Lawal. I have recently found, though, and much to my chagrin, that I have been misinformed about the possible effects of these petitions.

 

The situation of Amina Lawal and the best strategy to save her life have not been presented and discussed in their full complexity by some of the organizations circulating the petitions. On May 2003 BAOBAB posted a letter on the Internet asking people to stop the international Amina Lawal protest letter campaigns. 2   The reasons for this request are many and varied, like the fact that many of the letters in circulation are inaccurate and may even damage Amina Lawal’s situation because of the backlash they create. In a similar case some time ago, a sentence of flogging was carried out illegally and with no notice deliberately to defy international pressure.  The Governor in question snickered over how many letters he had received and boasted of resisting “these letters from infidels.” 

 

A clear example of letters being inaccurate was a letter stating that Amina Lawal was set to be stoned on August 27, 2003 (the date of her appeal) and that the Nigerian Supreme Court had upheld the sentence. The letter claimed that the case was being followed by the Spanish branch of Amnesty International. In the May 2003 letter mentioned above, BAOBAB clarified that Ms Lawal’s appeal is now before the Katsina State Sharia Court of Appeal and that if the appeal does not succeed, Ms Lawal would then appeal to the (Nigerian Federal) Sharia Court of Appeal. If this is still unsuccessful the case would go to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. 

 

In other words, there is no imminent threat of executing the sentence and the appeal process has not been exhausted.  Moreover, BAOBAB has never lost an appeal process and they have not yet needed to go up to the Federal Sharia Court of Appeal. It is the lower courts that are the most conservative and repressive. Also, none of the sentences of stoning to death in other cases have been carried out: either the appeals were successful or the cases are still on appeal.  When petitions with inaccurate information are circulated they damage the credibility of local activists whom everyone assumes have provided the information to the international networks.

 

Another problem with some of the letters is that often the international media presents Islam as being incompatible with human rights and this helps foster racism and support right-wing and conservative elements in the West. The petitions may be seen as fostering those attitudes also.

 

Condemning a whole faith because of the behavior of some extremist factions does not help local progressive movements and gives license to these factions which can seriously threaten the life and safety of the victims and those who support them. Vigilante groups are a problem currently in Nigeria and can act quickly when they feel they have an excuse to do so. They have been responsible for hideous crimes and extra-judicial executions. Western criticisms may provide such an excuse.

 

BAOBAB does not deny the importance of international campaigns, when appropriate. But as they wrote in their May 2003 communication:

 

 “…using international protest appeals as the automatic response reduces its usefulness as an advocacy tool. We feel that this is not the time for an international letter writing campaign, but we are concerned that should the situation change, and we then need international pressure and ask for international support, the moral energy and indignation of the world may already have been spent-resulting in campaign fatigue (been there, done that already).” 

 

 

BAOBAB strongly encourages support to local initiatives, structures, and mechanisms. Winning appeals in the Sharia court, which is the strategy that they are pursuing, strengthens the local groups and sends the message that people have a right to appeal, and that they can challenge injustices successfully. It also makes clear that the convictions should not have been made in the first place. A successful appeal is more powerful than a pardon because a pardon means that the person was guilty but the state is willing to forgive them. A successful appeal helps prevent future injustices and encourages others to enter into the appeal process.

 

In an even more recent letter BAOBAB notes that:

 

“The response of many people here (even those sympathetic to Ms Lawal) has frequently been to ask why are people in the USA and the UK apparently so concerned over the life of one Muslim woman in Nigeria, when they are killing large numbers of Muslim men, women and children regularly and are directly responsible for the horrors of war and its aftermath of infrastructure breakdown, food shortages and disease, nuclear poisoning from lack of attention to patrolling known nuclear sites, in Iraq, etc. etc., We try to make the point that there is a difference between the USA state and the people, but it is hard in the face of inaccurate and insensitive petitions like these issued not by the state but by individuals.” 3

 

BAOBAB asks for international solidarity and respect of the wishes of the local activists involved with the issues on the ground.  Not only BAOBAB but also other local human rights organizations in Nigeria have asked that the international letter campaigns be stopped.  And that those interested in supporting cases like the Amina Lawal case get in touch with them to discuss strategies of solidarity and support. 

 

BAOBAB welcomes resources, in terms of expertise, exchanges of information, knowledge of similar situations, and money to support the victims and to pay for the expenses of the appeal process.   Finally, they have asked to circulate and discuss their message widely among other activists and organizations so that their position be well known and understood.

 

This article is but a short summary of some of the things that I learned in my explorations on the Internet and from recollections of an excellent interview with Ayesha Imam by Terri Gross that I heard on National Public Radio last year.4 This has been an eye-opener and an opportunity to increase my sensitivity and understanding of how to work on international issues in the future and also to be able to offer solidarity and support to Amina Lawal from a more informed position.

 

I now feel that caution and in-depth research will be my first concerns before I leap into action when I learn about situations in countries and cultures with which I am unfamiliar.  I am not signing any more petitions for now.  Instead I have sent money to BAOBAB and asked them to keep me informed of their work. 

 

Please let others know of this situation so that we can build an authentic solidarity movement that respects and honors the work of those on the frontlines of human rights struggles. If you also want to send money to BAOBAB you can send a check/or international money order made out to:

 

BAOBAB/WLUML5 -AME Legal Defence Fund (supports the immediate costs, victims and appeals process); and/or

 

BAOBAB/WLUML-AME Rights Advocacy Fund (supports the long-term work in enabling the critique of the rights in Muslim laws, as in customary and secular laws. And the work on the reconstruction of rights in law and practice); and/or

 

 BAOBAB/WLUML-AME Core Funding (enables flexibility in usage-it must still be accounted for and reported on)

 

Donations should be sent to:  BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, PO Box 73630, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria, PMB 134 or BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, 1333A North Avenue, New Rochelle, NY 10804, USA or BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, PO Box 28445, London N19 5JT, UK

 

1.          From Ayesha Imam’s acceptance speech of the John Humphrey Freedom Award to her and BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights on December 9, 2002. Go to www.hrea.org, and write “Ayesha Imam” in the Search box for the complete text.

2.          Please Stop the International Amina Lawal Protest Letter Campaigns” www.whrnet.org/docs/action-03-05-07.html

3.          www.wluml.org, write “Amina Lawal” in the Search box and see article “News and Views Nigeria: Amina Lawal appeal date-27 August 2003”

1.          You can listen to the interview by going to www.freshair.npr.org, December 5, 2002 program.

2.          WLUML stands for Women Living Under Muslim Laws, an international solidarity network.  For more information go to their webpage: www.wluml.org

 

 

 

 

 

A STRIKING COINCIDENCE

by Paul Cantor

 

Norway's Prime Minister called it "an act of terror which the world has never seen before."   He was talking about September 11, 2001.   He might have been talking about September 11, 1973.

 

Thirty years ago La Moneda, the former mint where the socialist and democratically elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende, had his office, was destroyed in a coordinated air and ground attack and Allende was killed.  Some claim he committed suicide.  Others say he was shot by military putschists and cite as evidence comments he made in a series of short, stirring radio addresses while under assault. "I am not a martyr," he said, "but those who refuse to recognize the will of the majority of Chileans should know I shall defend the government because that is the mandate I have been given by the people. I shall remain in La Moneda even at the cost of my life."

 

The coup, Allende charged, demonstrated foreign capitalists linked to reactionary elements within Chile would stop at nothing in defense of their profits and privileges. "Nonsense," replied the Nixon administration in the United States.  "Allende was overthrown due to his own incompetence.  His own mismanagement led to a clamor for his ouster which compelled the military to intervene." 

 

Evidence, however, confirmed that the Nixon administration, in alliance with multinational corporations which viewed Allende as a threat to their interests plotted with reactionary Chileans to overthrow him.  "It is not a part of American history that we're proud of," Secretary of State Colin Powell remarked recently.

 

Among the principal agents involved in preparing the ground for the coup were the Anaconda and Kennecott Copper companies that owned the copper mines on which Chile depended for 80 percent of its foreign exchange, the International Telephone and Telegraph Company which also had substantial interests in the country, and President Nixon's National Security advisor, Henry Kissinger.   "Covert Action in Chile: 1963-1973," published by the United States Senate in 1975 is a compelling account of their conspiracy.  It is available on the web at http://foia.state.gov/Reports/ChurchReport.asp.

 

After Allende's overthrow, a military junta led by Augusto Pinochet arrested, tortured and killed thousands of Allende's supporters; abolished the Congress; banned trade unions and political parties; took control of the media and universities; burned books, and outlawed popular music.  Then with U.S. government support and under the guidance of free market economists trained at the University of Chicago, it privatized property Allende had nationalized, opened the economy to foreign competition and investment, and presided over a massive redistribution of income from the poor to the rich.  When Pinochet was finally forced out of office and democracy restored to Chile in 1990, 44% of Chileans lived below the poverty line.  On October 16, 1998, while visiting London, Pinochet was arrested on a warrant issued by a Spanish judge charging him with crimes against humanity.  Eventually, for health reasons, he was allowed to return to Chile, but the effort to bring him to trial for human rights abuses continues as the 30th anniversary of the coup which toppled the Allende government approaches.

 

Of course Mohamed Atta and the other Al Qaeda operatives who hijacked passenger jets and used them to bring down the World Trade Center's twin towers and one wing of the Pentagon weren't thinking of what happened in Chile when they chose September 11 for their mission.  But the coincidence that their attack on America in 2001 and the coup in Chile in 1973 took place on the same day leads us to ask, "Is there anything to be learned from considering them in tandem?"  Strikingly, the answer is, "yes."

 

What 9/11/01 gave the United States is a new rationale for overthrowing governments, not the moral authority to do so.  In Chile, Henry Kissinger maintains, our government was preventing the spread of communism and promoting democracy.  In Afghanistan and Iraq, President Bush claims, we are combating terrorism and promoting democracy.  That is the way they would have us see it.  It is what former Senator J. William Fulbright called the "tendency to equate power with virtue" or, in short, "the arrogance of power."  Most realize, however, that our policymakers' motives are not always as pure they proclaim. 

 

Why do people object to the United States assuming the role of world policeman in the wake of 9/11/01?"  "Because they recall 9/11/73," is one answer.  "Why do they question our government's motives in Iraq?"   "Because they know that the Bush administration has close ties with business firms hoping to profit one way or another from Iraq's oil, because they remember we helped overthrow the democratically elected government of Chile, and because they recall Allende's caveat about capitalists," the cognoscenti respond. "But Iraq is not about oil," our policymakers say.  "Sure, and Chile was not about copper," the skeptics retort.  "Still we got rid of Saddam Hussein," the Bush administration boasts.  "Yes, and in the process marginalized the United Nations, undermined respect for international law, killed thousands of Iraqi civilians, and neither advanced the cause of democracy nor diminished the threat of terrorism," diplomats and scholars respond.   "What can we learn from 9/11?" people ask.  "Which 9/11?" is the appropriate answer. 

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RUN FOR RIGHTS

By Bonnie McManus

 

On April 27th runners from around the world will participate in the James Joyce Ramble, a 10K road race in Dedham, MA. 

 

When one thinks of road races, the popular impression is of a mass of serious runners who are competing for money, prizes, or to qualify for championships.  The James Joyce Ramble is that and more.  It is an event with a mission of fostering human rights and celebrating literacy. 

 

For the past twenty years runners and spectators have joined together to support the James Joyce Foundation and Amnesty International in raising awareness for human rights violations, most specifically those perpetrated against artists, writers and free thinkers throughout the world.  The mission of the Ramble is to raise public consciousness about these injustices, and hopefully inspire support for Amnesty International and other human rights organizations.

 

Each year the Ramble is run in support of unjustly imprisoned individuals or groups. Previous races were run in support of Wei Jingsheng, a leading voice for human rights in China, and Czech President Vaclav Havel, among many others.  Last year the Ramble was run in honor of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal journalist murdered by Pakistani nationalists on January 27, 2002.  This year it is being run on behalf of a group of businessmen in the Maldives who were jailed for launching an Internet newspaper. 

 

While the mission of the race is to educate people about human rights violations and inspire them to do something to end such violations, the ramble is also a celebration of literacy and literary achievement.  Along the course actors dress in period clothing, and read from selected works of James Joyce.  At the conclusion of the race, there is a forum on international human rights violations.   In addition, post-race festivities include food, music, and various booths with information about other human rights groups.

 

I have run the Ramble five times-and each year the event is more inspiring and rewarding. I highly encourage people to participate either as runners (all levels are present), or as supporters.  For more information about the event go to www.ramble.org.

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Bum Fights: Humor in Being Homeless?

By Bryan Gangemi

 

“Bums” – We see them everyday – Downtown Crossing, Harvard Square, Central Square, Kenmore Square. How do people see the homeless?

 

Unfortunately, many people view them as an irritating group of social parasites constantly pestering others. You can see the discomfort on many people’s faces when they are in their presence. We have all overheard discussions on how disgusting, drunk, lazy, and filthy they are.

 

Some people take the “repulsive characteristics” the homeless have and reshape them to serve as a form of entertainment. What incoherent nonsense will come out of their mouths? Which types of bizarre behavior will they perform next? For the past year, I have been overhearing conversations throughout the city about an independent video called, “Bumfights”. The buzz going around caught my curiosity - what was the appeal with this video? At first, I assumed it was a spin off of MTV’s “Jackass” – nothing more than a group of risk takers voluntarily performing random acts of stupidity. Looking further into it, I discovered the true nature of “Bumfights” and the role it plays in perpetuating a blatantly hateful and condescending view of the homeless.    

           

If you go to www.bumfights.com you can get a glimpse at the marketing strategy used for promotion. The fast-selling 57 minute long video features gruesome footage of homeless men in street fights, along with fights among what appear to be high school- and college-age youths. Some of the footage was filmed in Las Vegas, and other scenes were shot in California. The producers (Ryan McPherson, Zachary Bubeck, Daniel Tanner and Michael Slyman) manipulated a large number of homeless individuals to carry out various acts, ridiculing and demoralizing each participant. Among the cast of characters are Rufus the Stunt Bum and the Bum Hunter Steve Urban. These characters are crafted to take the very serious issues many homeless people experience and create a form of entertainment that puts drug addiction, mental illness, and alcoholism as a laughing matter.

 

From the perspective inside a luxurious SUV, Rufus the Stunt Bum is first seen walking down the street, when he is approached by the producers and asked if he would be willing to “help make a video”. He agrees and in the next segment Rufus is shown in numerous scenes engaged in self injurious behavior with members of the production team by his side encouraging him each step of the way. From getting pushed down a flight of stairs in a shopping carriage to diving into a dumpster, Rufus is fully exploited to get the “quality footage” needed for the creation of the video. Between acts, Rufus speaks in a confused and illogical manner in what seems to be a promotion of “Bumfights”.  

 

The Bum Hunter Steve Urban is a character who is a spin off of television’s Crocodile Hunter. Before this segment begins, information is posted – “Very few bums were harmed in the making of Bum Hunter. All were released into their natural habitat.” In these segments, the Bum Hunter hunts the city streets in the early morning hours to examine the “diversity of life” within “various species” of the homeless. Crawling on his hands and knees, with several assistants behind him, the Bum Hunter rapidly approaches individuals sleeping on the street, immediately tying their feet and hands together, then pinning them into a position where he can carry out a thorough examination. Once he has succeeded in subduing these helpless and unsuspecting victims, he starts a narration about their features speaking with an Australian accent.

 

With his first victim, a middle aged blond gentleman, he pulls out a measuring tape stating, “this one here has a shoulder width at 16 inches”. His cruel degrading analysis continues, “he is off the Richter – you can tell he is a young buck – he has a lot of strength – maybe he is on drugs – cocaine or PCP”. Through this whole segment the victim struggles to break free. With a broken voice and a terrified look on his face he repeats, “what are you guys doing”? Other footage includes: a vagrant struggling to escape the punches, kicks and body slams of his attacker; Bling Bling the Crackhead getting high in a parking lot and defecating on the sidewalk; a homeless man getting Bumfights tattooed across his forehead.

 

Emotionally painful is an understatement in describing the feelings I experienced sitting through this documented violation of human rights. Each segment fueled my anger towards the cruel and ignorant creators. It made my stomach turn to see this group take full advantage of the homeless, bribing them with alcohol, money, and other offers (including sex) to perform self destructing acts for the producers’ own entertainment pleasure and financial benefit.

 

Bumfights” has sold over 300,000 copies, with videos selling at twenty dollars a piece. I was pleased to find out that Donal Breenan and Rufus Hannah, two of the people exploited in the film, have filed suit against the producers seeking unspecified punitive damages for assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil rights violations and other allegations. Although legal action is being taken against these callous individuals, this law suit and others that may follow will not mend the extensive damage the video has caused. I remain shocked and puzzled over the vast quantity of videos distributed, and the existence of a large fan base. When I overheard conversations about “Bumfights”, people were laughing and expressing to one another the great humor and quality the video offers. How can people find entertainment value in such inhumane subject matter? Do people really view the homeless as an inferior group subject to constant ridicule?

 

It is easy for people to look at the homeless and apply labels such as indolent, ambitionless drunks, or the many other demeaning terms often used. Beneath outward appearances are real people who each have a history. Many have dark histories – victims of abuse, survivors of war, and those afflicted with mental illness. As a result of deinstitutionalization, many people who urgently need proper health care now live on the streets. Drug addiction, alcoholism, and mental illness are problems that are often looked at with skepticism. Many people claim these problems can be attributed to the weakness of the individual who willingly makes a choice to ruin their lives through substance abuse or lack of emotional control. Often times the complex interplay between biological factors and social environment is overlooked or ignored as possible roots to these problems. It is also important to note that not all homeless people suffer from mental illness. A large number of people simply cannot find affordable housing. Assessing the homeless with the generalized portrait news and entertainment sources present is limiting in ascertaining the true identity of these individuals.

 

My initial question still remains unanswered - what is so appealing about this video?  Although the HRWG views “Bumfights” as a malicious attack against the less fortunate, there remain over 300,000 copies in circulation and a large fan base who find it greatly amusing. Has the media succeeded in creating a large sector of the public devoid of emotion and compassion? With the popularity of senseless violence and reality based television, it is not surprising this video has had such great success. Within the framework of modern cultural phenomenon, it is clear that “Bumfights” reaches a new low in our society, where the violation of human rights has become a source of entertainment.

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A LOVE LETTER TO UMB

By Minh T. Luong

 

It’s unlikely that we will wake up one morning and realize that the human rights we enjoy are suddenly gone, disappeared into the atmosphere like a red helium balloon floating away into nothingness. Instead, we will watch as our rights to a free and peaceful society, with equal opportunities, and equal share in society and human dignity for all, are eroded, chipped away, and obscured into a hollow memory.  There is never any rest in this struggle.

 

I weigh the daunting task of working to change the injustices of the world against what I personally have to offer.  The prospects do not look like much on paper, coming from an immigrant, working class background, at an impoverished public university facing massive budget cuts and an uncertain future.  Yet, I look around UMB and I am heartened to see the best minds of my generation, capable of changing the world.  In my teachers I see individuals who are defining their scholarship, and the meaning of teaching altogether.  In my fellow classmates I see thinkers, activists, and leaders.  Collectively, I see the UMB community as a profound source of power.         

           

Now, our existence as the only public university in a city  which includes some of the most expensive, elite colleges, is threatened by Mitt Romney and his administration.  Romney wants to raise the cost of our education; merge us with other public schools; and force us into begging for corporate donations, because when he looks at UMB he doesn’t see the best and brightest, like I do.  He claims that these changes will not affect our education, but believe me, I’ve learned a few things here, and it will.  Rest assured, UMB will still stand tomorrow, but if Romney has his way it will stand for something other than the mission of educating the working and middle classes.

 

UMB, as an urban public university, is not only an academic institution, but  an important  MODEL  for other public universities who want to dedicate themselves to educating a working and middle class population. Romney’s cuts jeopardize not only our academic institution, but also the principles upon which our University was built, to educate people from every background.  I read today in the New York Times a lengthy article about students from many private colleges around the country, who have had to leave school to enter the work force in the face of the economic downturn and depletion of financial aid.  The editors at the Times certainly consider this an important story, but here at UMB, working and learning go hand in hand.   Having a job is not an anomaly; this is our everyday reality. I invite them to come to our campus, where they will discover what it means to work and receive an education. 

 

Who is going to stand up for UMASS Boston?  So far I’ve heard little from the representatives on Beacon Hill whom we’ve elected.  I have heard little from our own administration and our Chancellor Gora.  To them I say: It would mean a lot to our community if you would address these proposed cuts and overhauls--your silence is discouraging.  I am calling for a massive campaign against Romney’s proposals.  I am asking the UMB community to unite in solidarity to resist the erosion of our rights to a public education.  While we are living in a time with many struggles, and facing many issues, we are also in a moment when we have the opportunity to define who we are, to reaffirm our mission as an alternative and to make a difference in our lives.

 

P.S. Stay tuned for more action against Romney’s budget cuts.  P.P.S. Send me an e-mail, or visit my web page   http://www.geocities.com/umbunited/  if you’d like to join me in organizing minhboston@hotmail.com.

 

Minh T. Luong

Class of 2004

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BIRTH OF A NATION

by Joel Mroz*

 

"The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake, American remains engaged in the world, by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom."

 

There's no mistaking American's presence in the world today. It is colossal; rivaling the might of past empires. The Eagle has bared its talons. The world has been promised: "Shock and Awe!" — a heavy but steady barrel of a steely strength — a shotgun bearing down upon all of the world in the name of Freedom.

 

No, make no mistake about it. The world will be informed of just what shape its balance of power will be, and just what kind of freedom it will be permitted to enjoy.

 

"We will defend our allies and our interests."

 

Who are America's allies? Well, until just recently among America's allies were the powers of a united NATO trust. In only a matter of months the tide has turned. A long-standing unity that for generations served as a bulwark for Liberty and Freedom lies torn and tattered. After all, what do the bared talons of The Eagle require of an Old Europe? "Out of our way! Your interests are no longer ours!"

 

"We will show purpose without arrogance."

 

The world can hardly mistake a purpose of some kind behind the promised war of "Shock and Awe." But just what can this purpose be? "Liberty and Freedom," we are told. And how can there be any arrogance when Liberty and Freedom are at stake? No! "You are either with us, or you're against us!"

(Who might soon even dare mention the word "arrogance?")

 

"We will meet aggression and bad faith with resolve and strength."

 

How prescient were the men who crafted these prophetic words! Who would doubt The Eagle's strength? Only a madman from Baghdad! We are resolved against his aggression and bad faith! As to any aggression on our part? It is justified for our security! As to bad faith: Everyone knows that this madman from Baghdad has been linked — no — is responsible for the September 11th attacks. The evidence has been laid bare for all the world to see. (In the days immediately following the September 11th attacks, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell promised the world a "white paper" that would leave no doubt as to who the perpetrators of the attacks were. It is now March 13th, 2003. The world is still waiting for the revealing "white paper." Should it ever arrive it will certainly be interesting to see how much white remains on the paper after blackouts have been imposed. )

 

"And to all nations, we will speak for the values that gave our nation birth."

 

 "The Birth of a Nation." Perhaps that will be the standing motto that history will attach to this first administration of the 21st century. Can any nation (Dare any nation?) question the speaking voice or the values that are being given birth by America today?

 

"America, at its best, is compassionate."

 

Tell that to a world that once looked to America as a beacon for Freedom and Liberty. Tell that to a world that looks in vain for an American resolve based on diplomacy and respecting international law.

Tell the Iraqi mothers and children who will soon become "collateral damage" to "The Mother of All Bombs" about America at its best — about America's compassion.

 

The quotations  in this essay are from the Inaugural Address of George Walker Bush, delivered to the American people and the world on Saturday, January 20th, 2001.

 

Joel Mroz is a student in the graduate non-degree program for Massachusetts Teacher Certification.  He submitted this essay as an entry in the University of Massachusetts Human Rights Essay contest.  You can find out more about the essay contest by going to www.umb.edu, scrolling down to the shortcuts, and clicking on human rights and following the “about us” link or by going directly to http://site.www.umb.edu/human_rights/about/contest/index.html. 

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BUTTERFLIES IN SPACE

By Paul Cantor

 

One of the personal items that perished with Israeli astronaut Colonel Ilan Ramon when he died in the space shuttle disaster February 1 was a drawing made by a 14-year old Jewish boy killed in Auschwitz. 

 

It is called “Mountains of the Moon.” In the foreground are sharply etched mountains.  In the dark background above the mountains, light from the earth illuminates the scene.

 

The sketch was made by Petr Ginz in Terezín.   Terezín or Theresienstadt is the Czech town were Jews from Bohemia and Moravia were held before the Nazis shipped them off to other concentration camps during World War II. 

 

15,000 children passed through Terezín.   Only 150 survived.  Altogether six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, more than 1 million of them children. And, some of those children were used for medical experiments before they were killed.

 

Pavel Friedmann, another young man killed in Auschwitz wrote a poem about a yellow butterfly which was the last butterfly he saw while being held in Terezín.  “It went away I’m sure because it wished to kiss the world goodbye,” he said.

 

Ilan Ramon did not want to kiss the world goodbye.  He wanted to send it a message. 

 

"There is no better place to emphasize the unity of people in the world than flying in space," he said before liftoff.   “We are all the same people, we are all human beings, and I believe that most of us, almost all of us, are good people.”

 

Ilan Ramon’s mother was an Auschwitz survivor.  Good people?  Ilan was a fighter pilot who helped take out a nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981.  Good people?  Ilan Ramon was a citizen of Israel, a country that has been engaged in a perpetual war with its neighbors since it was founded.  Good people? 

 

Was Ilan Ramon crazy?

 

No.  In the 20th century thanks to the good that is in most of us humans reached great heights.  But, in the 20th century as a consequence of the darker aspects of human nature that holds sway in some of us we also sank to unprecedented depths.  Auschwitz and Terezín are examples of what can happen when one group of individuals demonizes and vilifies another.   The space program and its accomplishments are a reflection of how high our ability to reason and work together can take us.

 

If we can send people into outer space and bring them back again, if we can build robots and increase life expectancies and design computers and the many other machines and products that have made life in the 20th century more livable for great masses of people, then we must have the capacity to fashion a peaceful and just world order.  Why haven't we?

 

It is largely in order to answer this and the related question of how to structure a world order in which human rights are protected and human welfare maximized that Human Rights programs have been establish at Harvard, the University of California Berkeley, and many other universities around the world. These programs operate under the premise that the same ability to solve problems through reason that has already carried us to the mountains of the moon may be fruitfully applied to issues having to do with peace, justice and social welfare here on earth.  Colonel Ilan Ramon, Petr Ginz, Pavel Friedmann and the children of Terezín would appreciate that.  They understood how hope can arise even from the ashes of despair.

 

"That butterfly was the last one.  Butterflies don't live in here, in the ghetto," says the last stanza of Pavel Friedmann’s poem. 

 

Butterflies don't live in outer space either. 

 

Or do they?

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RESOLUTION AGAINST WAR

By Paul Cantor

 

“War is not healthy for children and other living things,” says the famous Another Mother for Peace poster.

 

In war people who are not party to a conflict are maimed, killed, enslaved, tortured.  Bombs don’t discriminate between the guilty and the innocent.

 

But there are just wars and unjust wars some argue.  If armed conflict was the only way to prevent a crazed dictator from slaughtering his own people and amassing weapons of mass destruction with which to threaten the world, then war would be justified.

 

The Bush administration claims that is the situation Saddam Hussein presents us with today.  But in massive demonstrations in New York, London, Rome and many other cities around the globe, millions of people voiced their disagreement. 

 

These were not demonstrations in support of a vile dictator.  Rather they were demonstrations against the Bush administration’s determination to press ahead with a war which would claim thousands of innocent lives. You can’t save a people by destroying them, the demonstrators maintained. 

 

Furthermore, since the war against Iraq does not have the support of the United Nations it would not make the world a safer place to live.  Rather, it would lead to increasing unrest in the Middle East where it would be viewed as an attempt by the United States to seize the oil and other resources of the region.  And, many maintained, since a war against Iraq is not supported by the United Nations it would set a dangerous precedent which rogue nuclear powers might point to if they too determined it was in their interest to go to war regardless of world opinion. 

 

It was with these thoughts in mind that the University of Massachusetts Boston Human Rights Working Group (UMBHRWG) drafted the following resolution against a war with Iraq. 

 

HUMAN RIGHTS WORKING GROUP RESOLUTION AGAINST THE WAR
 
Bearing in Mind that 9 million people die across the world each year of entirely preventable illnesses, 40 million people in Africa live in hunger and malnutrition, (according to the World Health Organization) and that 1.2 billion people live on less than 1 dollar a day (UN development Program),
 
Deeply convinced of the sacred right of peoples to peace and the inseparable tie between disarmament and development (as stated in the  UN Commision on Human Rights Resolution 2001/69),
 
Taking into account the human rights violations that have been committed on all sectors of the Iraqi people (Amnesty International),
 
Profoundly concerned with the estimate that in the aftermath of a war in Iraq health supplies would be needed for 100,000 Iraqis suffering injuries, 1.23million people deemed highly vulnerable to disease, and 5.4 mill with ongoing needs (UN briefing paper) and furthermore the real possibility of a humanitarian crisis emerging with large flows of refugees and the internal displacement of thousands of people,
 
Reaffirming the need to improve the human rights situation in Iraq, not further loss of life, increased suffering or deteriorations of basic human rights,
 
The UMB Human Rights Working Group:
 
1.   Strongly condemns the use of military force against the Iraqi people and promotes the strengthening of international peace and security for all peoples and,
 
2.   Appeals to UMASS Boston community to extend support for a peaceful means of resolution to the current conflict/crisis.

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ALTERNATIVES TO WAR

By Paul Cantor

 

If the United States unleashes the massive fire power with which it confronts Iraq today, thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians will die.

 

Will the world be a safer place as a result?   Will those Iraqi’s who survive be better off?

The Bush administration says yes. Much of the rest of the world says no.  Many say the answers to both questions are uncertain.

 

Are there alternative to war which can prevent Saddam Hussein’s from developing or employing weapons of mass destruction?   The Bush administration claims that short of Saddam Hussein’s removal from power there are not.  French, German, Russian and Chinese leaders say there are. 

 

As this is being written, in fact, Germany and France are planning to present to the United Nations Security Council a plan to disarm Iraq without war.  Their joint proposal which seems to have the support of  the Russian and Chinese governments as well, calls for tripling the number of weapons inspectors and deploying United Nations troops in Iraq and declaring the entire country a no-fly zone.  

 

Paul Kennedy, the Dilworth Professor of History at Yale University and the author of "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers," goes further still.  In a February 3 Tribune Media Services International article, he suggests that in addition to calling for more inspectors the Security Council pass resolutions mandating the UN to: establish an office in Iraq to monitor human rights abuses, set up with the help of  various Non Government Organizations (NGOs) a network to distribute food and medicine to the Iraqi people,  join with environmental organizations to map out and deal with environmentally dangerous sites in the country, and, with assistance from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and United Nations Development Programme,  help restore Iraq’s economy.  The work of all these UN sponsored offices and organizations, Kennedy says, would tie the Iraqi regime down and prevent it from doing harm as Gulliver was tied down and restricted by the Lilliputians in Jonathan Swift’s famous story.   

 

With personnel from U.N. agencies and other international organizations setting up offices in the capital and literally crisscrossing the country to regional offices, inspection sites and meetings with local officials, educators, scientists, and tribal representatives,” writes Kennedy, it would be: “inconceivable” that Saddam “could restart any hidden programs to develop weapons of mass destruction,” “impossible for him to claim that women and children were starving” when they were not and difficult for him to continue violating with impunity the human rights of the Iraqi people.  Moreover, the proposed projects would have two advantages over a military campaign: they would not be quick in and out operations but would last for years if necessary and, their cost would be significantly less. 

 

By setting up international bodies with offices and legions of inspectors in Iraq, Kennedy says, “the world community would totally and imaginatively call Saddam's bluff. In fact, rather like Gulliver himself…Saddam would be between the devil and the deep blue sea.”  Protected by the presence of so many international organizations and their agents, “the Iraqi people would at last be to speak and operate without fear. Observing the benefits of being returned to the world community, they would be likely soon to call for free elections; and if there were such, one doubts that Saddam would get the 99 percent vote he received last year. If, in fact, U.S. hawks are so right and Saddam is unpopular (but feared), then we would have ‘regime change’ all right, but one carried out peacefully and not by the 101st Airborne Division. What could be more congenial -- except to those who truly want a war?”

 

And it Saddam refused to comply with the restrictions placed on him by the additional UN resolutions or subsequent UN mandates based on information received its inspectors and allies within the country? Then, according to Kennedy, the entire world community would support using force to remove him from power. 

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ARE WOMEN HUMAN?

by Paul Cantor

 

Are women human?  When it comes to specifying the rights they are entitled to some think not.

 

Since World War II a coordinated effort to structure an optimal world order has been gaining momentum.  An essential component of that effort has been the drafting of documents specifying "human rights" or universal rights to which every member of society is entitled. 

 

Once ratified by a significant number of countries these documents become part of the set of rules which are expected to govern the behavior of all nations.  They become, in other words, part of the growing body of international human rights law which courts can use to determine whether acts committed by individuals or nations constitute human rights violations. 

 

One of the most important of these post World War II documents is The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women or CEDAW.  CEDAW was adopted by General Assembly resolution 34/180 on December 18, 1979. As of  December 10 (Human Rights Day), 2002, 170 countries have ratified CEDAW but the United States is not one of them. 

 

Ratification in the United States requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate and the signature of the President.   Less than six months ago, on July 30, 2002 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted twelve to seven to send CEDAW to the full Senate for a vote in the next to last step of the ratification process.   But ratification here is anything but certain.  The Bush administration led by Attorney General John Ashcroft has reservations about the treaty.  Hence, there is no guarantee that the President will sign it even if it is passed by the Senate.  Meanwhile, conservative and fundamentalist groups are putting pressure on Senators to vote against CEDAW. 

 

The American Family Association, for instance, claims that CEDAW "represents a fundamental attack upon the institutions of family, religion, and country" and Concerned Women of America (CWA) calls it "anti-motherhood and pro-prostitution."  CWA's Oregon state director Suzanne Brownlow writes, furthermore, that if CEDAW is ratified by the United States, "every radical liberal dream, including women in combat, abortion, rights for sexual deviancies, and wages set by bureaucrats could be imposed upon us."  CEDAW, she says:

"is the Equal Rights Amendment on steroids. It defines 'discrimination' as 'any distinction ... on the basis of sex,' in 'any ... field.'  In other words, no one is allowed to recognize the wonderful differences between men and women. Even in the most personal of relationships - family, marriage and religious.  The treaty requires governments to 'modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women.' It commands governments to revise textbooks and teaching methods to promote gender neutrality. CEDAW claims that 'traditional roles' must change for men and women to achieve equality.  But who decides what is a traditional role, and which culture should prevail?"

One wonders whether 170 countries including Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, and Spain would have ratified CEDAW if, as Ms. Brownlow claims, it prohibited people from recognizing the differences between men and women.  But readers can judge the accuracy of her and other religious fundamentalists' portrayal of the document by going to www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/e1cedaw.htm.  

 

Here, in part, is what CEDAW says:

 

The States Parties to the present Convention…have agreed on the following: Article I.  …'discrimination against women' shall mean any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. Article 2.  States Parties…undertake…to repeal all national penal provisions which constitute discrimination against women…Article 5.  States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:  (a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women;  (b) To ensure that family education includes a proper understanding of maternity as a social function and the recognition of the common responsibility of men and women in the upbringing and development of their children, it being understood that the interest of the children is the primordial consideration in all cases. Article 6.   States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.  Article 7.  States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country…Article 10. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in order to ensure to them equal rights with men in the field of education   Article 11.  1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment…Article 15. 1. States Parties shall accord to women equality with men before the law… they shall give women equal rights to conclude contracts and to administer property and shall treat them equally in all stages of procedure in courts and tribunals… Article 16. 1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations…"

 

CEDAW requires governments to ensure that women have access to "information and advice on family planning."  Opponents claim that such language is a euphemism for "access to abortion."  CEDAW does not, however, as many claim, require that prostitution be legalized.   Nevertheless, according to Human Rights Watch, (www.hrw.org/campaigns/cedaw/) the CEDAW committee which is set up by the convention to monitor progress in its implementation has "recommended the decriminalization of prostitution in specific countries (such as China) where prostitution and trafficking in women and children are rampant." 

 

Despite the many arguments and counterarguments for and against CEDAW, however, there is no getting around the fact that, as Ms. Brownlow and many in this country and abroad fear, CEDAW and other human rights documents' claim to universality undermine their ability to prevent women from voting (a right they were denied in this country before 1920) or obtaining an education, job, property or information.    Furthermore, while human rights laws do not prevent fundamentalists from teaching their daughters that they should leave the world of science, politics, or any other field to men and concentrate on being good mothers and housewives they would prevent parents from restraining their daughters if they chose to enter any of those fields.  Furthermore, certain practices associated with religions such as female genital mutilations are, according to CEDAW, against the law. 

 

Acccording to the United Nations' Human Development Report 2002 (www.undp.org/hdro), 544 million of the world 854 million people who are illiterate (64%) are women  and "of the 113 million children not in primary school 60% are girls."  But "education is just one aspect of human development in which there is discrimination between the sexes.  Around the world women still earn only around 75% as much as men.   Domestic violence against women is common in many societies.  And around the world there are an estimated 100 million 'missing' women…who would be alive but for infanticide, neglect, or sex-selected abortions."

 

So, it seems, the need for CEDAW is clear.  Unless, of course, women are not human. 

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HUMAN RIGHTS AND YOU

by Paul Cantor

 

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a "right" as "something that is due to a person or governmental body by law, tradition, or nature."  The Meriam Webster Dictionary defines it as "something to which one has a just claim."  By these definitions the term "human right" would (with all due respect to animal rights advocates) seem to be redundant.

The United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights lists as universally recognized human rights the rights to: life, liberty and security of person; equal protection of the law; freedom of movement; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of opinion and expression; freedom of peaceful assembly; participate in government; marry and found a family; own property; an education; participate in the cultural life of the community; privacy; work; free choice of employment; just and favorable conditions of work; protection against unemployment; rest and leisure; a standard of living adequate for health and well-being including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services; security from destitution in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other circumstances beyond one's control; economic, social and cultural conditions indispensable to dignity and the free development of one's personality.    Slavery; arbitrary arrest, detention or exile; torture; and cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are, according to the same document, violations of human rights.

 

Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized."  How to frame such a world order is a key question that a human rights curriculum would address.  The University of Massachusetts Human Rights Working Group (UMBHRWG) has been working assiduously over the past two years to involve students and faculty at UMass Boston in an effort to establish a human rights center which would provide students with the opportunity to earn a human rights degree.   If you are interested in participating in this effort please contact the group at umbhrwg@hotmail.com.

 

Recently, the UMBHRWG received a $5000 grant from the Chancellor's office to organize a human rights conference in the spring.  The theme of the conference will be human rights and the war on terrorism.  It will be the fifth major human rights event the UMBHRWG has organized since it was established.  The UMBHRWG is also engaged in developing a web page, a human rights certificate program, and an internship program.  Furthermore, it has a weekly Human Rights and Human Wrongs Column in The Mass Media for which it seeks contributions from students and faculty. 

 

Next year the UMBHRWG hopes to have a fund raising event for a human rights center that would administer a first of its kind undergraduate human rights program in which students would be able to major in human rights.  The human rights center would also organize human rights forums and engage in many other human rights related activities.   Clearly the more students, staff, faculty members and human rights activists from the wider community who become involved with the UMBHRWG the more likely its efforts will be successful.  So please understand:

 

The UMBHRWG needs you.  Human rights need you.

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THE TROUBLING NEW FACE OF AMERICA*
by Jimmy Carter **

 

Fundamental changes are taking place in the historical policies of the United States with regard to human rights, our role in the community of nations and the Middle East peace process -- largely without definitive debates (except, at times, within the administration).

 

Some new approaches have understandably evolved from quick and well-advised reactions by President Bush to the tragedy of Sept. 11, but others seem to be developing from a core group of conservatives who are trying to realize long-pent-up ambitions under the cover of the proclaimed war against terrorism.  Formerly admired almost universally as the preeminent champion of human rights, our country has become the foremost target of respected international organizations concerned about these basic principles of democratic life. We have ignored or condoned abuses in nations that support our anti-terrorism effort, while detaining American citizens as "enemy combatants," incarcerating them secretly and indefinitely without their being charged with any crime or having the right to legal counsel.

 

This policy has been condemned by the federal courts, but the Justice Department seems adamant, and the issue is still in doubt. Several hundred captured Taliban soldiers remain imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay under the same circumstances, with the defense secretary declaring that they would not be released even if they were someday tried and found to be innocent. These actions are similar to those of abusive regimes that historically have been condemned by American presidents. While the president has reserved judgment, the American people are inundated almost daily with claims from the vice president and other top officials that we face a devastating threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and with pledges to remove Saddam Hussein from office, with or without support from any allies.

 

As has been emphasized vigorously by foreign allies and by responsible leaders of former administrations and incumbent officeholders, there is no current danger to the United States from Baghdad. In the face of intense monitoring and overwhelming American military superiority, any belligerent move by Hussein against a neighbor, even the smallest nuclear test (necessary before weapons construction), a tangible threat to use a weapon of mass destruction, or sharing this technology with terrorist organizations would be suicidal. But it is quite possible that such weapons would be used against Israel or our forces in response to an American attack.

 

We cannot ignore the development of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, but a unilateral war with Iraq is not the answer. There is an urgent need for U.N. action to force unrestricted inspections in Iraq. But perhaps deliberately so, this has become less likely as we alienate our necessary allies. Apparently disagreeing with the president and secretary of state, in fact, the vice president has now discounted this goal as a desirable option. We have thrown down counterproductive gauntlets to the rest of the world, disavowing U.S. commitments to laboriously negotiated international accords.  Peremptory rejections of nuclear arms agreements, the biological weapons\ convention, environmental protection, anti-torture proposals, and punishment of war criminals have sometimes been combined with economic threats against those who might disagree with us. These unilateral acts and assertions increasingly isolate the United States from the very nations needed to join in combating terrorism.

 

Tragically, our government is abandoning any sponsorship of substantive negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. Our apparent policy is to support almost every Israeli action in the occupied territories and to condemn and isolate the Palestinians as blanket targets of our war on terrorism, while Israeli settlements expand and Palestinian enclaves shrink. There still seems to be a struggle within the administration over defining a comprehensible Middle East policy.

 

The president's clear commitments to honor key U.N. resolutions and to support the establishment of a Palestinian state have been substantially negated by statements of the defense secretary that in his lifetime "there will be some sort of an entity that will be established" and his reference to the "so-called occupation." This indicates a radical departure from policies of every administration since 1967, always based on the withdrawal of Israel from occupied territories and a genuine peace between Israelis and their neighbors. 

 

Belligerent and divisive voices now seem to be dominant in Washington, but they do not yet reflect final decisions of the president, Congress or the courts. It is crucial that the historical and well-founded American commitments prevail: to peace, justice, human rights, the environment and international cooperation.

 

----------------------------

*This article was first published by The Washington Post on September 5, 2002.

 

**On October 11, 2002 former President Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his "untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."  

 

WOMEN AND HUMAN RIGHTS

16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM AGAINST GENDER VIOLENCE

by Rita Arditti

 

From November 25, United Nations Day to eliminate Violence Against Women, to December 10, International Human Rights Day, women’s organizations all over the world will focus on the violations of women’s human rights.

 

Violence against women is a world-wide epidemic which manifests itself in various ways in different cultures and it is usually compounded by other factors such as race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation and age.  Violence against women takes place in the private and public spheres. 

 

Only recently has the human rights international community, thanks to the persistent work of feminist activists, recognized that domestic violence is a form of torture and should be seen as a human rights violation.  In fact the United Nations Convention Against Torture defines torture as “an act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person,” for a purpose such as obtaining information or a confession, punishment, intimidation, or coercion, “or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind” (from the AI fact sheet on Domestic Violence as Torture).

 

But is domestic violence the only form of violence we should worry about?  Absolutely not.  It is sometimes easy to forget that domestic violence takes place in a society that systematically discriminates against women economically, legally, and culturally. In fact, cultural beliefs, attitudes, and values have been often used to justify the oppression of women.  Justifications like stating “this is how we do things, this is part of our culture,” negate the fact that cultures change, that what is acceptable today is different from what was acceptable 100 years ago (i.e., slavery, foot-binding, etc) and that there are different ideologies and deep contradictions within cultures.

 

During 16 days we will be reminded that every day in the United States a “woman will be raped every 6 minutes, a woman will be battered every 15 seconds.  In North Africa, 6,000 women will be genitally mutilated each day.  This year, more than 15,000 women will be sold into sexual slavery in China.  200 women in Bangladesh will be horribly disfigured when their spurned husbands or suitors burn them with acid.  More than 7,000 women in India will be murdered by their families and in-laws in disputes over dowries.  Violence against women is rooted in a global culture of discrimination which denies women equal rights with men and which legitimizes the appropriation of women’s bodies for individual gratification or political ends” (from the Amnesty International Report, Broken Bodies, Shattered Minds: Torture and Ill Treatment of Women).

 

We must look at all the aspects in a culture that erode women’s human rights. So when we talk about women and violence we need to remember the violence against women in prison in the form of rape, sexual assault, groping during body searches, shackling during childbirth; the control of women’s sexuality, which is supposed to exist in order to serve men; “honor” killings in societies where women carry the burden of representing the honor of their families; the increased vulnerability of women to the AIDS epidemic because of the refusal of men to wear condoms,  and most glaringly the lack of prosecution, the total impunity for the perpetrators of these actions.  In fact, often, the reaction to many of these abuses is to “blame the victim” and to ostracize and shame those who have the courage to speak up about the abuses that they suffered.

 

Amnesty International has put together an excellent package of resources: the Women’s Action Packet/Fall 2002, which presents up to date information on women’s human rights and ideas on how to get involved in these 16 days campaign and how to spread the word about what we can do. Whatever we do, let's remember that Women’s Human Rights are violated 365 days of the year, and that only constant awareness, speak up, and hard work will make a dent in the wall of denial and silence that protects those guilty of these unspeakable crimes. 

 

For more information, contact AI, Northeast chapter at 58 Day Street, Davis Square, Somerville, MA, 02144, tel.617-623-0202. www.amnestyusa.org. e-mail at            aiusane@aiusa.org

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ISRAEL ACCUSED OF WAR CRIMES

by Paul Cantor

Saddam Hussein heads one government in the Middle East guilty of committing crimes against humanity.  Ariel Sharon heads another.  And the list goes on. 

Indeed, it would be hard to find a country in the region which is not guilty of egregious violations of human rights.  Some of them are our allies (Saudi Arabia and Israel).  Some of them are our enemies (Iraq and Iran).  Clearly, the degree to which a regime respects human rights is not a criterion we use to determine which is which.

Perhaps our staunchest ally in the area, for example, is Israel.  Earlier this month, Amnesty International released a 77 page report accusing Israel of human rights violations in its campaign against Palestinians living in the West Bank.  Israel claims it is waging a war against terrorism in which the tactics of its enemies dictate the actions it is forced to take.  It's response to accusations that it is violating human rights, in other words, is reminiscent of the response of the Bush administration to accusations that it is mistreating prisoners at the Camp X-Ray detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. 

Amnesty's report focuses on the invasion of Nablus and Jenin, two cities some 30 and 50 miles north of Jerusalem in the West Bank, by the Israeli Defense Force last April.  Here are some excerpts from that report.

"On 29 March 2002 the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) launched a new offensive, Operation Defensive Shield, in Palestinian residential areas. According to the IDF, the purpose of the offensive, like the incursions into refugee camps which preceded it in March and the occupation of the West Bank which followed in June, was to eradicate the infrastructure of "terrorism", in particular following Palestinian armed groups' killing of 80 Israeli civilians between 1 March and 1 April.

"The offensive began with an attack on President Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah. The IDF then entered Bethlehem, Tulkarem and Qalqiliya from 1 April, followed by Jenin and Nablus from the nights of 3 and 4 April. They declared areas 'closed military areas', barring access to the outside world. The IDF cut water and electricity in most areas, and imposed strict curfews on residents within the towns.

"In Jenin and Nablus a tight cordon of tanks, armoured personnel carriers and soldiers was thrown around the areas where the IDF carried out operations: Jenin refugee camp and Nablus old city. Houses were intensively attacked by missiles from Apache helicopters.

"After the first day those killed or wounded in Jenin and Nablus were left without burial or medical treatment. Bodies remained in the street as residents who ventured outside to collect or attend to the dead or injured were shot. Tanks travelling through narrow streets ruthlessly sliced off the outer walls of houses; much destruction of property by tanks was wanton and unnecessary. In one appalling and extensive operation, the IDF demolished, destroyed by explosives, or flattened by army bulldozers, a large residential area of Jenin refugee camp, much of it after the fighting had apparently ended.

"In the four months between 27 February and the end of June 2002 – the period of the two major IDF offensives and the reoccupation of the West Bank - the IDF killed nearly 500 Palestinians. Although many Palestinians died during armed confrontations many of these IDF killings appeared to be unlawful and at least 16% of the victims, more than 70, were children. More than 8,000 Palestinians detained in mass round-ups over the same period were routinely subjected to ill-treatment and more than 3,000 Palestinian homes were demolished…

"In Jenin and Nablus the IDF carried out actions which violate international human rights and humanitarian law; some of these actions amount to grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949 and are war crimes. …

"In both Jenin and in Nablus, there were instances when the IDF bulldozed houses while residents were still inside. The IDF either gave inadequate warnings or no warnings before houses were demolished, and subsequently not only failed to take measures to rescue those trapped in the rubble but even prevented others from searching for them. Amnesty International documented three incidents leading to the deaths of 10 people between the ages of four and 85; six others on the hospital lists of those killed in Jenin are recorded as a result of being crushed by rubble.

"In the towns and refugee camps occupied by the Israeli army the IDF ill-treated and sometimes reportedly tortured Palestinians detained in mass roundups of males aged 15-55. Amnesty International interviewed many Palestinians from Jenin who had been released from detention while they were still in Rumaneh, a village near Jenin, prevented from returning to their homes. Amnesty International delegates also interviewed former Palestinian detainees arrested during Operation Defensive Shield in Jenin and Nablus, who described the cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to which they had routinely been subjected. Most were humiliated and many were insulted. Many described treatment amounting to torture, mostly in the form of random beatings with rifle butts.

"In both Jenin and Nablus, as many testimonies show, there was a pattern of forcing Palestinians to participate in military operations or to act as "human shields". Women as well as men were used in this way.

"War crimes and crimes against humanity are among the most serious crimes under international law, and represent offences against humanity as a whole and are prohibited in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The international community cannot therefore remain as ineffective witnesses of the grave violations which continue to take place in Israel and the Occupied Territories."

Javier Zuniga Amnesty International's Director of Regional Strategy who entered Jenin refugee camp on 17 April 2002 made the following observation and comment which serve as a preface to the report:

"Gratuitous, wanton, unnecessary destruction. Children's prams, toys, beds everywhere. Where were those children? I do not know, but I do know where the survivors will be in the future."  

 

It is something to think about as we prepare to go to war in Iraq.

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WYATT EARP AND THE MONSTER IN OUR MIDST

by Paul Cantor

 

Saddam Hussein is a monster. 

 

If you need convincing of that fact two reports available on the web should do the job.  The first is Genocide in Iraq: The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds (www.hrw.org/reports/1993/iraqanfal/ANFAL.htm) which was published in 1993 by Human Rights Watch's Middle East Watch.  The second is The Great Terror, an article by Jeffrey Goldberg, published in The New Yorker magazine  on March 25, 2002  (http://home.cogeco.ca/~kurdistanobserver/goldberg-great-terror.html).

 

Andrew Whitley, in his preface to Genocide in Iraq, writes:

 

"The phenomenon of the Anfal, the official military codename used by the government in its public pronouncements and internal memoranda, was well known inside Iraq, especially in the Kurdish region. As all the horrific details have emerged, this name has seared itself into popular consciousness -- much as the Nazi German Holocaust did with its survivors. The parallels are apt, and often chillingly close…

"Middle East Watch believes it can now demonstrate convincingly a deliberate intent on the part of the government of President Saddam Hussein to destroy, through mass murder, part of Iraq's Kurdish  minority. The Kurds are indisputably a distinct ethnic group, separate from the majority Arab population of Iraq, and they were targeted during the Anfal as Kurds…

"All told, Middle East Watch has recorded forty separate attacks on Kurdish targets, some of them involving multiple sorties over several days, between April 1987 and August 1988. Each of these attacks was a war crime, involving the use of a banned weapon; the fact that noncombatants were often the victims added to the offence.

"By our estimate, in the Anfal at least 50,000 and possibly as many as 100,000 persons, many of them women and children, were killed out of hand between February and September 1988. Their deaths did not come in the heat of battle – 'collateral damage' in the military euphemism. Nor were they acts of aberration by individual commanders whose excesses passed unnoticed, or unpunished, by their superiors. Rather, these Kurds were systematically put to death in large numbers on the orders of the central government in Baghdad -- days, sometimes weeks, after being rounded-up in villages marked for destruction or else while fleeing from army assaults in 'prohibited areas'… the vast majority of the dead were noncombatants whose death resulted from the fact that they inhabited districts declared off-limits by the Iraqi government. Underlining the deliberate, preplanned nature of the Anfal, those responsible for their murder by firing squad were usually members of élite security units unconnected to the forces responsible for the Kurds' capture; in other words, while one hand would sweep, the other would dispose of what the regime considered to be the 'garbage'."

Given these findings and the observation that that the Iraqi regime was the first to employ chemical weapons against its own citizens,  you might suppose that Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United Nations and other international organizations would support President Bush's call for military intervention to overthrow Saddam Hussein.  But that is not the case.   Rather, in its policy statement on Iraq, Human Rights Watch notes:

"the threatened war in Iraq is not one of humanitarian intervention, but one designed, according to the public statements of the U.S. government, to deprive the Iraqi government of its alleged chemical and biological weapons, to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons, and to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Although in making a case for war George Bush has referred to the Iraqi government's severe repression, this is clearly a subsidiary argument to his call to address Iraq's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction and to force 'regime change.' There can be little doubt that if Saddam Hussein was overthrown and any weapons of mass destruction reliably surrendered, there would be no war, even if the successor government was just as repressive."

In other words, the important question of how the world should deal with rogue rulers responsible for human rights violations is not central to the current debate on Iraq.  If it was, it might be pointed out that The United Nations and the International Criminal Court were designed to address it just as the United Nations was designed to address the issue of how to deal with rogue nations which threaten the peace of the world.  But the Bush administration by campaigning against the International Criminal Court and showing disdain for the United Nations has adopted the posture that the US, when it chooses, should be the lone arbiter of disputes between or within nations.  That is a position many in this country and a majority in the rest of the world do not share.   Rather most believe that when one individual or nation becomes the world's policeman the rights of all are threatened.   George Bush may fancy himself a modern day Wyatt Earp in the global arena.  What he needs to realize is that even that legendary lawman wasn't always on the right side of the law. 

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U.S. RETALIATION AGAINST TERROR

By Jeff Cohen

 

Nothing will ever be the same, we're told, after the cataclysmic terrorism of 911. Yet some things seem unchanged in the media--such as the pundit clamor for retaliation against someone, somewhere, fast.

 

As a talk radio host in New York put it: "Bomb somebody, goddamnit!"

 

We've been here before, almost exactly three years ago. In the wake of terror bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, President Clinton was urged to take decisive action, and on August 20, 1998, he ordered missile attacks on two targets purportedly linked to Osama bin Laden, the accused mastermind of the bombings.

 

One target of operation "Infinite Reach" was bin Laden's paramilitary camp in Afghanistan. "The U.S. picked the highly accurate cruise missile for the strikes against the Afghan camp," reported CNN's military correspondent Jamie McIntrye, "because of their ability to fly with pinpoint accuracy." One of the missiles was so inaccurate it hit the wrong country, Pakistan, several hundred miles off-course.

 

The other target was the Al Shifa factory in Sudan, alleged by the Clinton administration to be linked to bin Laden and to be producing chemical warfare agents. The factory was destroyed and workers there were killed and maimed.

 

That night, Sen. John McCain appeared on five national TV programs in less than three hours to endorse the president's action. The next day, the missile attacks were supported on the editorial pages of America's leading dailies.

 

But soon, Western professionals who had worked at the Sudan plant began to speak credibly of the plant being just what the Sudanese government claimed it was: a civilian factory producing a major share of the pharmaceuticals for an impoverished country.

 

Western journalists who rushed to the scene of the U.S. missile attack found medicine, but no security features that one would expect at a military or weapons facility. Sudan's government offered journalists unfettered access to the area.

 

The U.S. government said that it had obtained a suspicious soil sample from near the plant nine months before the cruise attack. But as New York Times reporter James Risen noted in an exhaustive study a year after the Sudan factory had been leveled, "officials throughout the government raised doubts up to the eve of the attack about whether the United States had sufficient information linking the factory to either chemical weapons or to Mr. bin Laden."

 

Risen reported that intelligence analysts in the State Department were drafting an internal report saying the cruise attack on the Sudan factory had not been justified, but the report was killed by higher ups.

 

What's not in dispute is that Sudan government officials forced Osama bin Laden to leave their country in 1996. Or that the Al Shifa factory had been purchased by a Sudanese businessman five months before the missile attack--a fact that was unknown to the U.S. at the time it targeted the plant.

 

Three years after the U.S. government likely killed and injured innocent people on foreign soil in a misguided "retaliation against terrorism," media voices are again calling for a quick and forceful reprisal.

 

Outrage is the natural and appropriate response to the mass murder of September 11. But media should not be glibly encouraging retaliatory violence without remembering that U.S. retaliation has killed innocent civilians abroad, violated international law and done little to make us safer.

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HUMAN RIGHTS QUIZ

by Paul Cantor

 

What country is the only country to have dropped a nuclear bomb on another?

 

The United States of America.   On August 6, 1945 The United States dropped an atom bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.  Over 70,000 were killed by that bomb.  Three days later, on August 9, 1945 the United States dropped another atom bomb on Nagasaki, Japan.  That second bomb killed more than 70,000 others.  Neither bomb distinguished between men, women, and children.  Those who were there when the bombs hit died. 

 

What country today has the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons?

 

The United States of America.  The Educational Foundation for Nuclear Science (EFNS) which publishes the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists estimates that 55% of the more than 128,000 nuclear warheads built worldwide since 1945 have been built by the Untied States. 

 

What country has the longest range and most accurate delivery system for nuclear weapons?

 

The United States of America.  We have Minutemen Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and submarine-launched Trident missiles which can carry multiple warheads (each with an explosive power many times greater than the atom bombs dropped on Japan) and can be guided to hit targets virtually anywhere in the world. We also have the shorter range Tomahawk cruise missiles used in the Gulf War. 

 

What country has the largest stockpile of biological weapons such as Anthrax?

The answer is not known but it may well be The United States.  The United States developed biological weapons during and after World War II.  Between 1971 and 1972  it allegedly destroyed those weapons.  It continued, however, to conduct research on how to defend itself against biological agents.  Despite its obligation under the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention to destroy and not develop potentially lethal biological weapons, in other words, for research purposes the United States may have stockpiled weapons grade biological agents.  Many believe, therefore, that the weapons grade anthrax that was sent in the mail and killed 5 people in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attack on America was stolen from a laboratory in the United States conducting research on biological weapons.  

What countries have developed and employed chemical weapons?

 

Many, including the United States.  The United Stated used napalm and other chemical agents in Vietnam.  Napalm sets forests, farms, and people on fire.  Agent Orange, used along with napalm to clear jungle areas, poisoned people including many of our own soldiers. 

 

Which of the following countries has not ratified the Rome Statute establishing an International Criminal Court to prosecute crimes against humanity?  Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Luxembour, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

 

The United States.   Furthermore, President George Bush is the only world leader who has actively opposes the International Criminal Court.  

 

Which of the following countries has not abolished the death penalty?  Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, East Timor, Finland, France, Germany, Haiti, Hungary, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Yugoslavia?

 

The United States and Iraq.

 

What country do the people of other nations consider the greatest threat to human rights in the world today?

 

For most of them it is not Iraq.

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IRAQ FROM A HUMAN RIGHTS PERSPECTIVE

by Paul Cantor

 

On October 7, in a speech to the nation, President George W. Bush made the case for removing Saddam Hussein from power militarily if the Iraqi dictator doesn't allow weapons inspectors back into his country and convince the world that he does not have and is not acquiring weapons of mass destruction.  

 

Many, however, believe that Bush is determined to overthrow the Iraqi leader regardless of how he responds to U.S. ultimatums.  The U.S. President, according to this view, is motivated by the desire to:  i. gain control of Iraq's oil reserves, ii. avenge his father's failure to depose of Hussein in 1991,  iii. distract attention from corporate malfeasance in which he and other members of his administration have been involved,  iv. distract attention from his administration's policies that favor the wealthy at the expense of the poor,  v. distract attention from the dire state of the U.S. economy.    

 

The two reasons Bush gave for going to war to overthrow Hussein were that he is:  1. a "murderous tyrant" who is a threat to the security of the world and in particular the United States and   2. a "homicidal dictator" who makes life intolerable for his own people. 

 

Bush's characterization of Hussein as a megalomaniac eager to obtain the biological and nuclear weapons and the delivery systems that would provide him with that capacity to conquer the world, is widely accepted.   Furthermore, there is little disagreement that Hussein has committed atrocities against his own people and, in the words of Human Rights Watch's  World Report 2002, continues to perpetuate "widespread and gross human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests of suspected political opponents and their relatives, routine torture and ill-treatment of detainees, summary execution of military personnel and political detainees as part of a "prison cleansing" campaign, and forced expulsions of Kurds and Turkmen from Kirkuk and other regions."

 

But Scott Ritter, the former chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, and other experts point out that Bush is misleading the public when he claims that Hussein has biological and nuclear weapons and the delivery systems needed to make him a significant threat to the United States or other countries.  Rather, according to Ritter, the evidence indicates that Iraq no longer has such weapons or any realistic prospect of obtaining them and that as a result of the Gulf War in 1991 and its aftermath (including weapons inspections and a trade embargo) it is in a weakened military state.  So by attacking Saddam Hussein we won't increase our own security.  Instead, for two reasons, we are more likely to make ourselves and the world a good deal less secure.  

First, an attack on Iraq which does not have the support of the United Nations will fuel anti-American hatred.  Second, it will set a dangerous precedent which might be cited by any country in launching a "preemptive attack" against another (e.g. by Pakistan if it decided to bomb India, or China after it attacked Russia, or North Korea after it destroyed South Korea, etc.). 

Clearly, then, by attacking Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein without the support of the world community we will not make ourselves or others safer.   But, will we free the people of Iraq from oppression and make them better off? 

Not according to Amnesty International which believes the Bush administration is singling out Hussein's human rights abuses now in order to "legitimize military actions" against him.  "The human rights situation in Iraq," writes Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan,

 

"is being invoked with unusual frequency by some western political leaders to justify military action. This selective attention to human rights is nothing but a cold and calculated manipulation of the work of human rights activists. Let us not forget that these same governments turned a blind eye to Amnesty International's reports of widespread human rights violations in Iraq before the Gulf War. They remained silent when thousands unarmed Kurdish civilians were killed in Halabja in 1988."

War, as Ms. Khan and AI suggest, will have an adverse effect on the life, safety, security and human rights of the Iraqi people.  It is the Iraqi people whose lives are going to be lost and property destroyed if we attack Saddam Hussein.  Hence the decision of whether or not to launch an attack should not be one made by us or our President alone.  It is a decision that should be made by the United Nations in consultation to the extent possible with the people of Iraq.

In summary, if the question is "how can we make the world more secure for ourselves and others and improve the well being of the people of Iraq?" military action against Saddam Hussein which doesn't have the support of the United Nations is not the answer. 

--------------------------------

 

Thanks to Steve Golemme for pointing out, in response to this column, that Saddam Hussein got the material he needed (anthrax and clostridium botulinum bacteria) to construct biological and chemical weapons from The American Type Culture Collection, a biological samples repository in Manassas, Virginia and that the Center of Disease Control also sent bacteria samples to Iraq.  Hussein obtained the bacterium from the US at a time in the late 1980s when our government was supporting Iraq in its war against Iran.  At http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,64472,00.html and other sites on the web you can find additional information.  

 

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LANGUAGE POLICY IS A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE
by Pepi Leistyna
 
An initiative on the November ballot in Massachusetts seeks to eliminate bilingual education in Massachusetts.   If you vote yes on this initiative you will be voting to deny underprivileged and oppressed children the opportunity to build cultural solidarity and get the education they need to survive and prosper.  That is the argument that UMass Applied Linguistics Professor Pepi Leistyna makes in the article below.  The article discusses the forces and motivation behind the so called Unz initiative.  
 
Capitalizing on the public's general discontent with k-12 schools, proponents of English-only have worked tirelessly and effectively to scapegoat Bilingual Education, creating legal constraints on the daily lives of educators by ensuring that languages other than English are stomped out of school life entirely. They have also capitalized on public fears over national unity.  For example, E.D. Hirsch Jr. insists that linguistic pluralism on a national level would bring about "cultural fragmentation, civil antagonism, illiteracy, and economic-technological ineffectualness". Echoing this sentiment, the U.S. English Foundation, Inc. believes "that a shared language provides a cultural guidepost that we must maintain for the sake of our country's unity, prosperity and democracy…" Not only do these dehistoricized positions presuppose that the country has at some point been united, but they strategically say nothing about a system within which people are relegated, and not by choice, to live on the margins of economic, social, and political power. 
 
Anti-bilingual proponents tell the public virtually nothing about the fact that three out of four linguistic-minority students live in low-income, urban areas and attend crumbling, highly segregated schools. Instead, the English-only coalition serves up myths of meritocracy and life in a melting pot where the patterns of a 'common culture' and economic success miraculously emerge. 
 
Ironically, some anti-bilingual advocates insist that instruction in languages other than English is 'un-American'. This paradoxical twist disregards that the Constitution of the United States protects linguistic pluralism, and that the U.S. Supreme Court's 1974 Lau vs. Nichols Decision and United States Court of Appeals Castenada vs. Pickark Decision -- which agreed that plaintiffs were denied their rights secured by the 14th amendment, the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 -- were intended to protect the rights of linguistic-minorities in public schools. It also seems more unpatriotic for a democracy to exclude (or mark as “foreign”) languages that are now indigenous to the United States: the native tongues of Puerto Rico, Native America, Hawaiians, African Americans, and Mexican Americans. Recognizing that English-only plans severely limit the possibility of a participatory democracy, the states of Alaska and Oklahoma recently struck down state-wide monolingual initiates, ruling them unconstitutional as they violate free speech and citizen's right and ability to petition the government.
 
What's particularly interesting about the rhetorical strategy that calls for “assimilative policies” is that the mainstream that supports U.S. English-only is not the least bit interested in the assimilation of racially subordinated groups into their neighborhoods, places of work, educational institutions, clubs, and communities; i.e., in equal rights and universal access.  As has been the case historically, under a xenophobic climate clouded with anti-immigrant sentiments (e.g., Proposition 187), the main concern of whites (and others who have bought into the purger) is with ‘unwelcomed outsiders’ taking over of jobs and affordable housing, and flooding public schools and other social services.
 
The harsh reality is that beyond the concocted hype about the usurping of quality employment by 'outsiders', the job opportunities that are intended for migrant workers, the majority of immigrants, and the nation’s own down-trodden, consist of manual labor, cleaning crews, the monotony of the assembly-line, and farm jobs that require little to no English -- as with the Bracero Program (1942-1964) when more than 4 million Mexican farm laborers were ‘legally brought’ into the U.S. to work the fields and orchards. In 1964, when the Bracero Program was finally dismantled, the U.S. Department of Labor officer heading the operation, Lee G. Williams, described it as "legalized slavery". 
 
According to government data: by 2008 the U.S. economy will have some 161 million jobs but only 154 million workers to fill them.  The biggest need will be in the low-wage, low-skill jobs.  In response, George W. Bush's White House is currently looking into another guest worker program. Thus, being pro-immigrant, as Ron Unz claims "Nearly all the people involved in the effort [English-only] have a strong pro-immigrant background", does not necessarily mean being pro social justice.  
As the founder and Chairman of a Silicon Valley financial services software firm -- Wall Street Analytics, Chair of the national advocacy organization English for the Children, and the originator of California's Proposition 227 which in 1998 effectively outlawed Bilingual Education in that state., Unz's insistence that an English-only approach will ensure "better jobs for their [linguistic-minority children's] parents" doesn't seem to ring in solidarity with organized labors' concerns with the systematic exploitation of workers, both documented and undocumented.  Simply shifting to a one-year sink or swim Sheltered Immersion Program for what would now be "legal" workers (who won’t be going to school as they’ll be working long hours) will not eradicate the problems of economic abuse and subjugation.  
 
For those linguistic-minority students in school, conservative English-only programs provide limited access to language and learning and prevent most of these children from attaining academic fluency in either their native language or in English. Even after three years in California's Unz-initiated immersion programs, more than 90% of linguistic-minority children were still not ready to be mainstreamed. 
 
Taking away the native tongue while never really giving access to the discourse of power  is a common practice in any colonial model of education. This strategy effectively works to deny oppressed peoples access to the mainstream, while simultaneously taking away any tools that can be used to build the cultural solidarity necessary to resist and transform dominating forces.  This is a smart move if you are trying to silence the largest, and demographically growing, political force in the country -- Latino/as.  And this is the type of linguistic imperialism that the United States is forcing down the world's throat as neoliberalism goes global.
 
The most significant place to begin these debates over Bilingual Education is to inform the general population of the spectrum of issues at hand when dealing with the cultural and racialized politics that surround language acquisition and teaching.  As Susan Dicker argues, "Together we must turn the tide of hatred around, and show those outside our profession that the ills of society will not be solved by making the already challenging lives of immigrants and language minorities even more difficult and devoid of human rights and dignity". What is key to our failure as a nation in achieving quality and effective education, democracy, social justice, and unity in diversity, is how we systematically deny so many people's language, culture, and humanity.  
               

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BILINGUAL EDUCATION

 

The University of Massachusetts Boston Human Rights Working Group (UMBHRWG) is sponsoring a forum on bilingual education. 

 

An initiative on the November ballot in Massachusetts would do away with bilingual education.   If it passes the 20 percent of students in the state who are English language deficient but proficient in another language will no longer be able to study history, mathematics, and other subjects in their native tongue.  They will, in the view of UMB professor Pepi Leistyna, therefore be deprived of their right to a decent education. 

 

The effort to do away with bilingual education in the state has been spearheaded by California Businessman, Ron Unz, and a group he sponsors called English for the Children.   Unz claims, among other things, that children who don't speak English do better when they are forced to take English intensively for one year and then take all their subsequent instruction in English.  Professor Leistyna challenges this view in his article below.

 

 

WINNING BY DECEPTION:

THE UNZ ASSAULT ON MASSACHUSETTS

by Pepi Leistyna*

 

 

English for the Children, what a clever name for a draconian English-only organization  championed by a monolingual, multimillionaire with no children, and with no background in education or linguistics. The following points contradict Unz's claims.

 

There are over one hundred and fifty studies that show how when properly implemented, including the native tongue is beneficial for linguistic, psychological, cognitive and academic development.

 

There is no defensible theory or body of research to support the claim that students need only one year (about one hundred and eighty school days) to become fully fluent, literate, and able to learn content in another language. The majority of students in California in Structured Immersion did not achieve even intermediate fluency after one-year. Take for example the Orange Unified School District: after the first year, 1%, or six students out of 3,549 were mainstreamed; and more than half of the students were not ready for specially designed classrooms with watered-down content. In Canada's immersion programs (which it is important to note promote long-term bilingualism), students are unable to fully function in the L2 (the second language) after two years. 

 

Research shows that it takes children from five to seven years to become fluent and literate, and thus able to handle the demands of standardized testing like the MCAS (the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System). That's how long it took all of us in our first language experience.

 

If knowledge is comprehensible in the first language (e.g., the language of math), then it will be easier to understand in the second language. The catch-up process should include grade-appropriate content in the native language while the English improves. Instead, Unz's promotional pamphlet states, "It [the organization] will NOT throw children who can't speak English into regular classes where they would have to 'sink or swim'." So, rather than supporting bilingual education's simultaneous development of knowledge, language and literacy skills, students will remain in a segregated and mixed-age holding tank in English with no advancement in the content areas of Math, Science, and the Language Arts.

 

Unz claims that the standardized test scores of over a million students have improved in California as a result of Proposition 227 (the legislation that dismantled bilingual programs in that state).  But he fails to inform the public about the inevitability of test inflation caused by teaching to the test, special test preparation, selective testing in terms of who gets to participate, class size reductions, political and financial incentives for those administrators who comply, and eliminating most school activities that are unrelated to the test.  In fact, all students' scores improved, including those from bilingual programs. In some cases, students in bilingual programs scored higher overall. What has not significantly decreased in states that have already adopted English-only programs is the gap between the LEP students and the mainstream. In Cambridge Massachusetts, the Two-Way Bilingual Education Program has managed to close this gap in scores to an 8% difference between the Spanish and Portuguese speaking students and the Native English speakers.  There is a 23% difference for the students that are immediately immersed.

 

Unlike Unz's one-size fits all approach, students from different age groups and backgrounds have different needs.  When those needs are addressed, and parents and caregivers are allowed to be part of the assessment process and are given an informed choice as to what is best for their children, the results are outstanding. Take for example Framingham Public Schools in Massachusetts. In 2001, out of the 1,500 students that are in one of the five programs that are offered, 92% of the third graders passed the MCAS in English. The teachers responsible for such success, under the Unz initiative, can be sued and banned from working for five years if they use the native tongue in the classroom.

 

The average stay in a bilingual program in Massachusetts is 2.8 years. In programs that are properly orchestrated, such as Framingham and Cambridge, the average is 2.3 years.

 

English-only advocates claim that bilingual education causes high drop-out rates, especially among Latino/a students. The reality is that only a minority of LEP students around the country are in bilingual programs. The real issue at hand is that 75% of all linguistic-minority students reside in low-income, urban areas that have schools that are highly segregated and in rough shape. How is "structured mixing" of mainstream and linguistic-minority students, as Unz suggests, going to work in schools that are segregated because of economic/housing demographics?

 

Bilingual education's success or failure depends entirely on the people and institutions that bring it to life. What needs to be addressed are the harsh racist and material conditions, incessant harassment of bilingual teachers, segregated school activities, limited classroom materials, teacher attitudes that belittle students, weak teacher professional development, poorly designed and unenforced policies, and indifferent leadership that dramatically disrupt the personal, cultural, and academic lives of linguistic-minority students.

 

*Assistant Professor, Applied Linguistics Graduate Studies, UMass Boston.

 

______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

BILINGUAL EDUCATION

 

The University of Massachusetts Boston Human Rights Working Group (UMBHRWG) is sponsoring a forum on bilingual education. 

 

An initiative on the November ballot in Massachusetts would do away with bilingual education.   If it passes the 20 percent of students in the state who are English language deficient but proficient in another language will no longer be able to study history, mathematics, and other subjects in their native tongue.  They will, in the view of UMB professor Pepi Leistyna, therefore be deprived of their right to a decent education. 

 

The effort to do away with bilingual education in the state has been spearheaded by California Businessman, Ron Unz, and a group he sponsors called English for the Children.   Unz claims, among other things, that children who don't speak English do better when they are forced to take English intensively for one year and then take all their subsequent instruction in English.  Professor Leistyna challenges this view in his article below.

 

 

WINNING BY DECEPTION:

THE UNZ ASSAULT ON MASSACHUSETTS

by Pepi Leistyna*

 

 

English for the Children, what a clever name for a draconian English-only organization  championed by a monolingual, multimillionaire with no children, and with no background in education or linguistics. The following points contradict Unz's claims.

 

There are over one hundred and fifty studies that show how when properly implemented, including the native tongue is beneficial for linguistic, psychological, cognitive and academic development.

 

There is no defensible theory or body of research to support the claim that students need only one year (about one hundred and eighty school days) to become fully fluent, literate, and able to learn content in another language. The majority of students in California in Structured Immersion did not achieve even intermediate fluency after one-year. Take for example the Orange Unified School District: after the first year, 1%, or six students out of 3,549 were mainstreamed; and more than half of the students were not ready for specially designed classrooms with watered-down content. In Canada's immersion programs (which it is important to note promote long-term bilingualism), students are unable to fully function in the L2 (the second language) after two years. 

 

Research shows that it takes children from five to seven years to become fluent and literate, and thus able to handle the demands of standardized testing like the MCAS (the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System). That's how long it took all of us in our first language experience.

 

If knowledge is comprehensible in the first language (e.g., the language of math), then it will be easier to understand in the second language. The catch-up process should include grade-appropriate content in the native language while the English improves. Instead, Unz's promotional pamphlet states, "It [the organization] will NOT throw children who can't speak English into regular classes where they would have to 'sink or swim'." So, rather than supporting bilingual education's simultaneous development of knowledge, language and literacy skills, students will remain in a segregated and mixed-age holding tank in English with no advancement in the content areas of Math, Science, and the Language Arts.

 

Unz claims that the standardized test scores of over a million students have improved in California as a result of Proposition 227 (the legislation that dismantled bilingual programs in that state).  But he fails to inform the public about the inevitability of test inflation caused by teaching to the test, special test preparation, selective testing in terms of who gets to participate, class size reductions, political and financial incentives for those administrators who comply, and eliminating most school activities that are unrelated to the test.  In fact, all students' scores improved, including those from bilingual programs. In some cases, students in bilingual programs scored higher overall. What has not significantly decreased in states that have already adopted English-only programs is the gap between the LEP students and the mainstream. In Cambridge Massachusetts, the Two-Way Bilingual Education Program has managed to close this gap in scores to an 8% difference between the Spanish and Portuguese speaking students and the Native English speakers.  There is a 23% difference for the students that are immediately immersed.

 

Unlike Unz's one-size fits all approach, students from different age groups and backgrounds have different needs.  When those needs are addressed, and parents and caregivers are allowed to be part of the assessment process and are given an informed choice as to what is best for their children, the results are outstanding. Take for example Framingham Public Schools in Massachusetts. In 2001, out of the 1,500 students that are in one of the five programs that are offered, 92% of the third graders passed the MCAS in English. The teachers responsible for such success, under the Unz initiative, can be sued and banned from working for five years if they use the native tongue in the classroom.

 

The average stay in a bilingual program in Massachusetts is 2.8 years. In programs that are properly orchestrated, such as Framingham and Cambridge, the average is 2.3 years.

 

English-only advocates claim that bilingual education causes high drop-out rates, especially among Latino/a students. The reality is that only a minority of LEP students around the country are in bilingual programs. The real issue at hand is that 75% of all linguistic-minority students reside in low-income, urban areas that have schools that are highly segregated and in rough shape. How is "structured mixing" of mainstream and linguistic-minority students, as Unz suggests, going to work in schools that are segregated because of economic/housing demographics?

 

Bilingual education's success or failure depends entirely on the people and institutions that bring it to life. What needs to be addressed are the harsh racist and material conditions, incessant harassment of bilingual teachers, segregated school activities, limited classroom materials, teacher attitudes that belittle students, weak teacher professional development, poorly designed and unenforced policies, and indifferent leadership that dramatically disrupt the personal, cultural, and academic lives of linguistic-minority students.

 

*Assistant Professor, Applied Linguistics Graduate Studies, UMass Boston.

 

______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION AND THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF ISRAEL

By Baruch Kimmerling

 

Kol HaIr, Israel, 22  March 2002.  Today in Israel, there is no greater moral or democratic act than conscientious objection to serving in the Occupied Territories. Those who claim that objection comes from ideological and political motivations are indeed correct, because the military oppression of the Palestinians is indeed the heart of the issue. Objection is the step which works to fix the democratic regime in Israel - and not by subversion from underneath, but by repair (and not mere undermining) of the foundations for legitimacy on which Israel is founded.

 

Since 1967 Israel has ruled directly - and since 1994 indirectly – over millions of Arab residents lacking all civil and most basic human rights.  On the one hand, Israel did not annex the Occupied Territories and their population (except for East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights), in order to keep from them civil rights - for example, the right to vote and be elected. On the other hand, Israel has taken freely use of all material and human resources (land, water, etc.) of the Territories as if they belonged to the Jewish state. As time passes and this situation has been institutionalized, Israel has ceased being a democratic state and become a Herrenvolk democracy. This is a regime in which part of its subjects (the citizens) enjoys full rights and another part (the non-citizens) enjoy none. The laws of Israel have become the laws of Master-people and the morality, the morality of lords of the land. The name of the game has become that in every matter and subject which it is comfortable for Israel, residents of the Territories are part of the State, in every matter and subject not comfortable for Israel, they are outside the state. This is a state with a double legal system, a double rule, and a double morality.

 

In this context, conscientious objection undermines all the logic of a regime which claims in the name of democracy, the obligation of obedience to its laws in precisely the same domain in which it is clearly undemocratic. Therefore it is no surprise that fingers were waved when the group of soldiers, as a group, declared their unwillingness to serve in the Occupied Territories. Up until now, most conscientious objection has been principally a gray and limited phenomena, and the powers that be have had varied tools for dealing with it. It is not a surprise that when disobedience became a public and group issue fingers were waved; such a declaration threatens to shake down the entire legal and moral house of cards built not only upon the regime of occupation but also on the general democratic character of the state.

 

One of the most refuted claims raised against the objectors has been the comparison to possible conscientious objection from the other side of the political map, or that the left-wing objectors grant legitimacy to the potential objection of the right when they will be given the order to dismantle settlements. In other words, with the principal of to each his own conscience, the entire military framework is cancelled out. This claim is correct but lacking in the true context of the situation both politically and morally. Orders given which continue and perpetuate the situation of Israel as a regime of master people have nothing to do with a lawful state, and disobedience to them turns objectors into moral initiators who come to repair the state's democracy. If an order to dismantle settlements will indeed be issued, it will be part of the democratization process of the state, and thus breech of such an order will be clearly illegal and immoral.

 

The general perverted position in Israel regarding conscientious objection is not merely a matter of isolated misunderstanding of the phenomena itself, but rather is part of the militaristic and colonial political culture. Thus there has never been a mass peace movement in Israel which has deserved to be called such. The power of the settler minority in Israel and its ability to hold the entire state in political and conceptual captivity, to set the national agenda, and most importantly to fix seemingly irreversible facts on the ground, stems from its willingness to work in the field and to take personal risks by sacrificing personal and family life to an ideological alter. The vast majority of the so-called "peace camp" have been arm-chair revolutionaries. They have writen "courageous" articles in the papers and sometimes go out to demonstrate,  but the vast majority have not been willing to make personal sacrifices for their conscience and for political and ideological fulfillment. This does not make their ideas less correct, but it does make them empty of power and political efficacy. However, this stems not only from personal comfort and unwillingness to pay a price for their beliefs, but principally because most members of the peace camp have been and are still partners with the radical and less radical right in the Israeli militaristic ethos. Striking example of this phenomenon is the extra-parliamentary working arm of the Labor and Meretz Peace Now movement. When this organization refuses to adopt the idea of conscience objection in the name of a democracy that does not exist, and the fear of leaving the national   consensus, it ceases being a peace movement. As a mater of fact, this movement   becomes a collaborator with the occupying regime which exists and supports a democracy of Masters. It grants this regime legitimacy that no political body from the right would be able to grant them.

________________________________________________________________________

 

Report From Ramallah
By Tzaporah Ryter
 
Ramallah, Occupied Palestine.  I am an American student from the University of Minnesota under siege in Ramallah. 
 
People here are being massacred by the Israeli army and armed militia groups of Israeli settlers. Israelis are shooting at anything that moves.
 
On Thursday afternoon, the Israeli army sealed off entrances to Ramallah. People were not allowed to go out and many working people -- with homes and children to return to -- were not allowed in. Everyone was running and screaming and trying to take cover as Israelis fired at them.
 
Women carrying infants and toddlers were trying desperately to flee. Children were running through fields, slipping and falling on rocks, trying to reach safety. Israelis in jeeps were pulling up from every direction and shooting at everyone.
 
When night fell, Israeli tanks began to invade. Israeli troops surrounded our house. We lay on the floor and kept silent. We stayed there, on the floor and in darkness for nearly four days.  It was very cold.  
 
In the daytime, we heard shooting and people screaming.  Then their screams stopped and there was just silence.  
 
Large groups of people have been found in rooms, shot dead.   There are blood marks where they have lined people up on their knees and shot them. They are taking people from their homes, blindfolding them, removing their clothes, taking them away, lining them up against a wall and shooting them.
 
Human rights offices and media centers have been shut down. The Israelis are demanding journalists leave Ramallah. Today another foreign journalist was shot. They do not want eyewitnesses in Ramallah. Human rights groups and legal advocates are denied information of where those arrested are being held. 
 
Hospitals have been invaded and patients interrogated. Today a patient was shot and killed while trying to leave a hospital. 
 
On the fourth day I decided to go out for food. When I got to the corner they opened fire on me so I had to turn back. 
 
Today is Day Five. This afternoon the Israelis announced everyone had two hours to go out to get food. However, the Israelis continued shooting people in the streets indiscriminately. It was a sick joke: starve people and then shoot them when they try to find food with your permission.
 
In an apartment building where I used to live they took 60 people who were my neighbors and pushed them into one room. The Israelis told them that they would be used as "human shields".
 
We keep calling to try to find people but there has been no electricity and most  phones are dead now. 
 
There are more explosions outside and more shooting. Another explosion. More firing. It just doesn't stop. 
 
Foreign delegations tried to get in but were turned back.  The International Committee of the Red Cross is trying to help but they are ignored. 
 
I am not only scared for myself and for people here but for all of humanity in a world which cannot stop ethnic cleansing.
 
On the news in America, we see hardly anything of demonstrations. What are you doing over there?
 
Please take to the streets.  Act now!  Tell your representatives that Israelis are murdering people whose only crime was to be born in a country under military occupation. Demand the US stop supporting Israel.  Demand international protection for the Palestinian people.  Scream that this is an affront to humanity.  Demand a response. Be loud.  Refuse to go home until the Israelis withdraw. 
 
For the love of God, please stop this slaughter. Please help.

________________________________________________

 

HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMAN RESPONSIBILLITIES

by Paul Cantor

 

What is the relationship between human rights and human responsibilities?  That is a question Helmut Schmidt has been concerned with for many years.

 

Helmut Schmidt was the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1974 – 1982.  He is now the Honorary Chairman of the InterAction Council, an international organization established in 1983 "to mobilize the experience, energy and international contacts of a group of statesmen who have held the highest office in their own countries."

 

What follows are excerpts from a speech he made on October 17, 1999, nearly two years before the September 11, 2000 attacks in New York and Washington that led to the bombing of Afghanistan by U.S. forces.    The title of the speech was, "It is Time to Talk about Responsibility."

 

In the speech Schmidt warns of possible clashes between "the Islamic part of mankind and Western civilization" or between Jewish/Israeli nationalism and Moslem/Palestinian nationalism or between Pakistani and Indian nationalisms.  In order to prevent such clashes political leaders, academics, teachers, the mass media and each of us individually must behave responsibly.  Unfortunately, however, too many in the Western countries are ready to claim their rights but not to accept their responsibilities.  Politicians, as well as citizens, therefore "should strive to keep rights and responsibilities in balance." 

 

"At the turn of our century, 50 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations," says Schmidt, "it is time to talk about human responsibilities. A minimum of world-wide-recognized ethical standards is an imperative necessity for inter-continental co-existence. Not only as far as individual behavior is concerned but also for political authorities, for religious societies and churches, as well as for nations and states and their governments. It becomes a necessity for international manufacturing corporations or trading and financing corporations, the latter being in serious danger of falling into a new kind of world-wide, speculative predatory capitalism. The necessity for conscientious responsibility counts, all the same, for the international media, which runs the danger of poisoning people world-wide with murder, shooting, violence and all kinds of abuse."

 

Yet, despite the fact that article 29 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights declares that "everyone has duties to the community," nowadays one rarely hears any reference to those duties.  If you look at the mangers of industry around the world, for example, many "do not acknowledge their moral duty of creating jobs in cases of unemployment inside their societies. They do not acknowledge their duty of implementing training programs for young people. More and more of them seem to adhere to what they call “shareholder value” as a guiding ideology for what they do or not do. More and more of them attach to the price of their shares and dividends a higher importance than they attach to their moral responsibilities."

 

"It is time, therefore, "to talk about human responsibilities," says Schmidt. "A minimum of world-wide-recognized ethical standards is an imperative necessity for inter-continental co-existence. Not only as far as individual behavior is concerned but also for political authorities, for religious societies and churches, as well as for nations and states and their governments. It becomes a necessity for international manufacturing corporations or trading and financing corporations, the latter being in serious danger of falling into a new kind of world-wide, speculative predatory capitalism. The necessity for conscientious responsibility counts, all the same, for the international media, which runs the danger of poisoning people world-wide with murder, shooting, violence and all kinds of abuse."

 

It was with these thoughts in mind that the InterAction Council under Schmidt's leadership drafted The Universal Declaration of Responsibilities.  The Universal Declaration of Responsibilities  may be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.asiawide.or.jp/iac.  It should be seen as one more effort "to reach a consensus on a minimal code of ethical ground rules," says Schmidt.   "We do need other efforts as well. We do need efforts by teachers and priests and academics to contribute to the idea of a global ethical minimum - and by politicians as well. Otherwise, the age of globalized television and internet may turn into an era of superficiality, plus intolerance and strife."

 

Article 1 of the proposed Universal Declaration of Responsibilities states, "

every person, regardless of gender, ethnic origin, social status, political opinion, language, age, nationality, or religion, has a responsibility to treat all people in a humane way."  Article 3 claims, "everyone has a responsibility to promote good and to avoid evil in all things."  Article 4 sanctifies the  golden rule by proclaiming "what you do not wish to be done to yourself, do not do to others."  Article 9 declares, "all people, given the necessary tools, have a responsibility to make serious efforts to overcome poverty, malnutrition, ignorance, and inequality."  Article 11 maintains, "all property and wealth must be used responsibly in accordance with justice and for the advancement of the human race. Economic and political power must not be handled as an instrument of domination, but in the service of economic justice and of the social order."  Article 15 declares, "while religious freedom must be guaranteed, the representatives of religions have a special responsibility to avoid expressions of prejudice and acts of discrimination toward those of different beliefs. They should not incite or legitimize hatred, fanaticism and religious wars, but should foster tolerance and mutual respect between all people."

 

The InterAction Council submitted the Universal Declaration of Responsibilities to the United Nations in the hope that it might be adopted, "as a common standard for all peoples and all nations" which would complement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.   Former President Carter was among the World Leaders who endorsed it. 

_______________________________________________________________

 

WHAT GOOD ARE TRUTH AND JUSTICE

by Paul Cantor

 

A man kills another man and pays for it with imprisonment or his own life.  Does it bring back his victim?  Does it undo the crime?

 

No.

 

Then what good is punishment? 

 

Keep in mind that we are not talking about putting criminals in prison to prevent them from committing crimes in the future.  Nor or we talking about putting them behind bars until they can learn to be good citizens.  We are talking about making them suffer for the harm they have caused others.  Prison is seen as punishment only because prison conditions are restrictive and harsh.  The more people think criminals should be punished for their crimes the hasher they think prison conditions should be.  

 

There are essentially two reasons for making criminals suffer for their crimes.  First, it satisfies a thirst for revenge.  Second, their punishment may serve as a deterrent to others. 

 

If a criminal makes himself better off by harming others shouldn't the people he has harmed have a right of retribution?  The Old Testament suggests they should.   "Thou shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot," reads a passage in Exodus even though according to the New Testament Jesus said "whoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."  

 

Clearly, many agree with the Old Testament.  Indeed, that is why in countries around the world crime victims or their relatives have a say in determining how or if criminals should be punished.  And that is why today in the United States a strong and growing victims rights movement is attempting to ensure that victims have a greater voice in determining the severity of sentences meted out in our courtrooms.  Still some argue that those who have been harmed by criminals would be better off if they could learn to turn the other cheek. 

 

But to the extent that people who witness others being punished for a crime are deterred from committing crimes themselves the argument for punishment is much harder to refute.  The key question is, then, "Does punishment deter crime?" And if the answer is that it does few would argue that those responsible for the worst crimes, genocide and human rights violations, shouldn't be punished. 

Nevertheless, Nelson Mandela, when he was the President of South Africa determined that those who committed crimes against humanity would be allowed to go free if they confessed their crimes.  His goal was reconciliation between the criminals and their victims.  Therefore, in 1995 he set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission which took testimony from perpetrators and victims alike and then allowed the perpetrators who confessed to their crimes to go free. Many were appalled and argued that truth was no substitute for justice. 

Nevertheless, similar commissions have been set up in Chile, Argentina and other countries.  They allow victims, their relatives, and human rights violators to testify to atrocities that have occurred in their nations with the goal of bringing about reconciliation and closure but not to punish the government, military or police officials responsible for the atrocities.  This may help to avoid military uprisings in the present.  But what does it bode for the future?

________________________________________________________________________

 

SEVEN MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT

by Paul Cantor

 

Last Wednesday the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock from nine to seven minutes to Midnight.

 

Now, according to the clock, we are closer to a nuclear conflagration than at any moment since the end of Cold War.  That is the bad news.

 

The good news is that the minute hand of this particular clock can and has moved backward as well as forward.   In 1991, for example, it moved back 7 minutes after the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. 

 

But now it appears we are moving closer to an apocalypse that would dwarf Hiroshima and Nagasaki in its immensity.  Should the hand touch 12 millions upon millions would die.  It would be the greatest human rights disaster the world has ever known.  Many who survived would wish they hadn't.  

 

How might the hand be pushed back?  By looking at nuclear weapon development and indeed all weapon development as a violation of human rights.  Most importantly, as the United Nations' Human Rights Committee's notes, "the production, testing, possession, deployment and use of nuclear weapons should be prohibited and recognized as crimes against humanity."  Moreover, as the Committee points out:

 

"It is evident that the designing, testing, manufacture, possession and deployment of nuclear weapons are among the greatest threats to the right to life which confront mankind today. This threat is compounded by the danger that the actual use of such weapons may be brought about, not only in the event of war, but even through human or mechanical error or failure.  Furthermore, the very existence and gravity of this threat generates a climate of suspicion and fear between States, which is in itself antagonistic to the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the International Covenants on Human Rights." (www.sfsu.edu/~mclicfc/art6.html).

 

Right now with respect to nuclear arsenals, the United States is the 20,000 pound gorilla on the world stage.   If we responded to the Human Rights Committee's call "to take urgent steps, unilaterally and by agreement, to rid the world" of the nuclear menace we could begin moving the minute hand in the right direction.  Instead, "the continuing U.S. preference for unilateral action rather than cooperative international diplomacy; U.S. abandonment of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and U.S. efforts to thwart the enactment of international agreements designed to constrain proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons," are among the reasons cited by the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for moving the minute hand closer to doomsday.

 

Still there are those who think the rest of the world has nothing to worry about as long as the United States is the dominant nuclear power.  They, no doubt missed the story buried in the interior of last Friday's New York Times and based on tapes released by the national archives.  The story indicates that after his national security advisor presented him with options for stepping up the war in Vietnam on April 25, 1972, President Nixon responded, "I'd rather use the nuclear bomb."

 

Seven minutes to midnight and still ticking. 

 

______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

HUNGER

By Paul Cantor

 

Enough food is produced in the world to provide everyone an adequate diet.  According to Food First:

 

"Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the world's food supply. Enough wheat, rice and other grains are produced to provide every human being with 3,500 calories a day." (http://www.foodfirst.org/who).

 

Yet, as the United Nations World Food Program, notes:

 

"Every day malnutrition is a significant factor in the deaths of 11,000 children. That's one child every eight seconds."

 

Every day, in other words, thousands of children are dying easily preventable deaths. This represents a human rights catastrophe of epic proportions.

 

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:

 

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care."

 

Yet, as the Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger Project explains, malnutrition leads to preventable diseases "such as measles, diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia," which every year cause the death of nearly 13 million children under five. (www.feedingminds.org).

 

Or as Food for the Hungry notes:

 

"An estimated 17 percent of all deaths in the world are due to malnutrition and unsafe water. In the last 50 years, more than 418 million people have died from hunger and poor sanitation -- nearly three times the number of people who died in all wars of the 20th century. More than 24,000 people still die every day from hunger-related causes. An estimated 791 million people in the developing world currently do not consume enough calories to safely maintain their bodies and energy levels." (http://www.fh.org/)

 

Why?  Why in a world of plenty do people starve?

 

Sometimes a natural disaster such as a flood or drought is seen to be the cause. Other times wars or mismanagement are cited as the reason. But according to the experts the fundamental underlying culprit is poverty. 

 

Eliminate poverty and you eliminate starvation.  Fail to eliminate poverty and people will continue to die of hunger. 

 

That brutal poverty is widespread is borne out by statistics.  "Of the World's 6 billion people," the World Bank points out, for example: 

 

"2.8 billion—almost half—live on less than $2 a day, and 1.2 billion—a fifth—live on less than $1 a day." (World Development Report 2000/2001, p. 3).

 

That poverty and hunger go together is also clear from evidence provided by the World Bank: 

 

"In rich countries fewer than 1 child in 100 does not reach its fifth birthday, while in the poorest countries as many as a fifth of children do not.  And while in rich countries fewer than 5 percent of all children under five are malnourished, in poor countries as many as 50 percent are."  (Ibid.)

Does that mean we have nothing to worry about in the United States?  Not at all.  "Nearly 8 million people" in our country, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, "over a third of them children, lived in households that experienced hunger in 1999." (http://www.usda.gov/news/releases/2000/09/0301.htm).

 

But what if you are not among those 8 million?  What if you are not poor?  Why should you care about poverty?  Why should you care if other people are hungry? 

 

Consider the following:  Poverty and hunger cause social unrest.  Together they provide fertile ground for criminals and terrorists.  Together they swallow up scientists, musicians, teachers, athletes, and others who might have produced goods and services of benefit to you.  Together they weaken the body making it susceptible to diseases and diseases spread. 

 

There are, in other words, self-serving as well as ethical reasons to care about poverty.  But the two, of course, are often related.   People of conscience find it difficult, for example, to comfortably sit down to a meal knowing every 8 seconds a child is dying for lack of food. 

 

Most agree, therefore, that poverty should be eliminated.  Yet absolute poverty has been increasing in many countries.  Why?

 

Some blame globalization. Unfortunately, however, as UMB Professor and Interim Provost, Arthur MacEwan points out,

 

"Opposition to globalization sometimes is expressed as an opposition to connections with other peoples rather than as opposition to the way those connections are exacerbating inequalities of power and income.  Thus xenophobic protectionism is sometimes just below the surface of protest actions."  (NACLA Report on the Americas, November/December 2001, p. 31). 

 

Globalization, per se, in other words may not be the cause of increasing poverty. Rather the problem may have to do with the manner in which globalization is taking place. 

 

How can poverty be eliminated in our increasingly market oriented and globally integrated world?  Can trade agreements be fashioned that will lead to a more equal and equitable distribution of income? 

 

These are the kind of questions that would be addressed in a human rights program such as the one the University of Massachusetts Human Rights Working Group (UMBHRWG) hopes to establish at UMB.   Students, faculty members and others interested in human rights are encouraged to contact us at umbhrwg@hotmail.com.

 

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SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC, THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT AND YOU

By Paul Cantor

 

Slobadan Milosevic, the former President of Serbia, is on trial in The Hague charged with "crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war."  But the trial which began on February 12 is about more than the responsibility of one man for the vilest acts imaginable. Most importantly it is about taking substantive steps toward creating a world where human rights are clearly defined and respected. 

 

The United Nations in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights has provided the world with a document delineating rights to which every individual in the world is entitled.  Now what is needed is a mechanism that reduces the probability that those rights are violated.    We don't want more trials.  We want a world where crimes against humanity are not committed.  Hopefully, by drawing attention to the role international tribunals can play in deterring human rights abuses, the trial of Slobadan Milosevic can help get us there.  

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, where Milosevic is being prosecuted, represents a victory for the Human Rights movement.  It is the first international criminal court established since military tribunals were set up to try Nazi and Japanese leaders after World War II.   Subsequently, the United Nations established The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda "for the prosecution of persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law" committed in that country between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994."  Both these bodies make it clear that the world community may hold public officials accountable for human rights violations committed in their own countries.  But because they are ad hoc tribunals with limited jurisdictions their value as deterrents is diminished.  That is why it is important to establish the International Criminal Court (ICC).  The ICC will serve as a reminder to tyrants everywhere that the world community will hold them accountable for their crimes. 

An international court that would have the authority to prosecute individuals for crimes against humanity is something that has been on the United Nations' agenda almost since its foundation in 1945.  As the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan put it, the General Assembly of the United Nations has long recognized the need to establish a court

"to prosecute and punish persons responsible for crimes such as genocide. Many thought . . . that the horrors of the Second World War -- the camps, the cruelty, the exterminations, the Holocaust -- could never happen again. And yet they have. In Cambodia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Rwanda. Our time -- this decade even -- has shown us that man's capacity for evil knows no limits. Genocide . . . is now a word of our time, too, a heinous reality that calls for a historic response."   

Nevertheless, it wasn't until the summer of 1998 that the United Nations called a "conference of plenipotentiaries" in Rome to finalize the text of a statute establishing the ICC.   

Article V of the Rome Statute reads,

"The jurisdiction of the Court shall be limited to the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole. The Court has jurisdiction in accordance with this Statute with respect to the following crimes:

(a)     The crime of genocide;

(b)     Crimes against humanity;

(c)     War crimes;

(d)     The crime of aggression."

Article six defines "genocide"; article seven, "crimes against humanity"; article eight, "war crimes".  The definition of "crimes of aggression" is left for a future date. 

This Rome Statute will take effect once it is ratified by 60 countries.  As of today it has been ratified by 52 countries including Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom but not the United States.  There is little doubt, therefore, that the world will soon have a tribunal charged with the responsibility of prosecuting its most heinous criminals.  But until the Rome Statute is ratified by the United States its authority will be diminished.  This is where you come in.  You can let your representatives know that your support for them is contingent on their support for the ICC. 

Why hasn't the United States ratified the Rome Statute?  Conservatives, including President Bush are opposed to it for two reasons.   First, they claim it will be used by enemies of the United States to bring frivolous charges against U.S. policymakers.  "The court threatens to diminish America's sovereignty, produce arbitrary and highly politicized "justice," and grow into a jurisdictional leviathan," according to Gary Dempsey, a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute.   And in the same vein Brett Schaefer of the Heritage Foundation writes that repressive governments would use the ICC to harass the United States "with spurious and politically motivated accusations designed to discourage U.S. military action in support of its national interests."  Second, opponents of the ICC in this country assert that it does not provide the same protection to those accused of a crime as our constitution.  Lee Casey and David Rivkin, Jr., also with the Heritage Foundation, write, for example:

"As an institution, the ICC would act as police, prosecutor, judge, jury, and jailer. These functions would all be performed by ICC staff, or under their supervision, with only bureaucratic divisions of authority. The ICC would be the sole judge of its own power, and there would be no process to appeal its decisions, however irrational or unjust those might be."

But as Carl Kaysen and Sarah Sewall Programs point out in an essay sponsored by the Committee on International Security Studies of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, "while critics like to make the ICC sound like an overreaching Independent Counsel, intent on prosecuting Americans conducting peacekeeping operations, it is extremely unlikely that the United States would lose national jurisdiction to the Court."  Kaysen, the David W. Skinner Professor of Political Economy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Sewall,  Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University are the authors of The United States and the International Criminal Court: National Security and International Law.  They conclude that "the sooner the United States is able to work constructively to guide the Court, the better served national interests will be — buttressing American claims to international leadership and strengthening a new mechanism to directly and indirectly advance U.S. national security objectives." (www.amacad.org/projects/iccarticle.htm).

And to quote Kofi Annan again,

"In the prospect of an international criminal court lies the promise of universal justice. That is the simple and soaring hope of this vision. We are close to its realization. We will do our part to see it through till the end. We ask you . . . to do yours in our struggle to ensure that no ruler, no State, no junta and no army anywhere can abuse human rights with impunity. Only then will the innocents of distant wars and conflicts know that they, too, may sleep under the cover of justice; that they, too, have rights, and that those who violate those rights will be punished." 

Or Human Rights Watch,

"the ICC will help to end the impunity often enjoyed by those responsible for the most serious international human rights crimes. It will provide incentives and guidance for countries that want to prosecute such criminals in their own courts, and it will offer permanent back up in cases where countries are unwilling or unable to try these criminals themselves, because of violence, intimidation, or a lack of resources or political will."  

And most importantly, as Amnesty International points out, the ICC

 "will act as a deterrent to people planning to commit grave crimes under international law."

[Students interested in finding more information about the ICC might visit the Independent Student Coalition for the International Criminal Court web site (www.isc-icc.org/index2.html).  Also of interest would be the United Nations' web page which includes the Rome Statute establishing the ICC (http://www.un.org/law/icc/index.html) and, of course, the web sites of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (http://www.amnesty-usa.org/icc/ and  http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/icc/).]

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AFGHAN FALLOUT

By Paul Cantor

 

In a show of patriotic fervor, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black and white, left and right have rallied behind President's Bush conduct of the "war against terrorism."

 

Even Christopher Hitchins, the liberal columnist for The Nation, supported the United State's effort to "bomb Afghanistan out of the Stone Age."

 

Indeed, few are left in this country who question Bush's use of the war as a vehicle for promoting the interests of the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else.   Consequently, the greatest threat to human rights and world peace in the eyes of much of the rest of the world has become the President of the United States and his crusade to rid the world of "evil doers."

 

"Some governments," the President said in his State of The Union address,

 

"will be timid in the face of terror. And make no mistake: If they do not act, America will… We will be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events while dangers gather. I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."

Here was the commander-in-chief of the most powerful nation the world has ever known proclaiming his right to act unilaterally against the forces of evil, pandering to the public's thirst for vengeance, and posturing in a manner that called to mind Shakespeare's characterization of Julius Caesar:

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.

No, George Bush is not Caesar.  But his pretensions and motivation merit scrutiny nevertheless since there is reason to believe he is using the war to divert attention from human rights abuses condoned or carried out by his administration as he promotes an agenda that awards the rich and punishes the poor.  

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads: 

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

But even in the U.S., the richest country in the world, many are hungry and many are homeless and many don't have access to medical care.  Specifically:

·        31 million Americans "did not have assured access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life" in 1999 according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture study.1 

·        29% of children under 12 go hungry or are at risk of hunger according to the University of Rhode Island's Feinstein Center for a Hunger Free America.

·        Up to 600,000 men, women and children go homeless every night in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

·        44 million Americans went without health care in 2000 according to a Kaiser Foundation study.2

This is a picture of a human rights crisis made worse by the recent recession.  Yet the President has chosen to ignore the crisis and use the war against terrorism as a smokescreen to move forward with an agenda that favors the rich and will lead to more hunger in America. 

The President's proposes to cut taxes on income and wealth, dramatically increase expenditure on defense, and drastically scale back income support programs for the poor.  Specifically, the budget he submitted to Congress includes a $38 billion or nearly 12% increase in defense spending, a provision that would allow the President to spend $10 billion above that on the war against terrorism, and $18 billion of additional funds for domestic security.   On the other hand, it cuts funds for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance, job programs and public housing while providing the richest 1% of the population with an average $50,000 tax break. 

Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.

Yet we have racial profiling in this country and Attorney General John Ashcroft has recently given the practice a boost.  Now Arab Americans as well as blacks and Latinos are stopped, questioned and arrested not because of something they did but because of their appearance or ethnicity. 

Furthermore, the poor in the U.S. are no more likely to benefit from "the equal protection of the law" than the poor anywhere else.  Indeed "the law," wrote Anatole France more than 100 years ago, "in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."  Little wonder, then, that the U.S. has the highest or next to highest incarceration rate in the world and that a disproportionate number of its nearly 2 million people in prison are poor and  black.

Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads:

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Yet according to a report in Newsweek (December 10, 2001) "as innocent Muslim men swept up in the post-September 11 dragnet begin to emerge after being held in custody, often in secret, for weeks and months, they are telling embarrassing and sometimes horrifying tales of official indifference and occasionally, abuse."

Furthermore, we have the death penalty in this country and if you are poor and black your chances of being executed are mush higher than if you are rich and white.  "It is undeniable that the death penalty in the USA is applied disproportionately on the basis of race, ethnicity and social status," Amnesty International concluded in its 1999 report "Killing With Prejudice: Race and Death Penalty in the USA."  But the more important point is that the death penalty itself "is an affront to human dignity: the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment; every execution deepens the culture of violence."3

Not, however, in the opinion of the President.  Texas led the nation in executions when he was its governor.  And now that he is President and the nation is on a war footing there is fear that many more "evil doers" will be put to death after being arrested, mistreated, and rightfully or wrongfully accused of terrorist acts. 

Consider the account John Walker Lindh's lawyers gave of how he was treated after he was in U.S. custody accused of conspiring with Taliban forces.  He was blindfolded, handcuffed, interrogated in a darkened room, and denied medical attention and food.  Then he was stripped naked, bound to a stretcher with his hands and feet cuffed in a manner "such that his forearms were forced together and fully extended, pointing straight down toward his feet," placed in a dark, un-insulated and unheated, windowless metal shipping container and threatened with death and torture. 

But perhaps Mr. Lindh should be thankful that he is an American and that media attention was focused on his plight.  Others are likely to be even more brutally treated or tortured and then shot by U.S. government agents or their allies who see the war against terrorism as an opportunity to silence their opponents.  Indeed the evidence of human rights violations carried out with the complicity of the U.S. government is enormous.  As Amnesty International writes, for instance,

"the US government has supplied arms and security equipment to governments and armed groups that have committed torture, political killings and other human rights abuses in countries around the world. It has trained military officers who have committed human rights violations." 

And now, with the war against terrorism and "evil doers" in full swing we can expect torture and killings by our allies, including the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, to escalate. 

"What is this war really about?" human rights activists should therefore be asking themselves.  Is it about protecting Americans and others from terrorists?  If that is the case does arming repressive regimes in Colombia, Indonesia, Pakistan and elsewhere make Americans more secure? 

 

Or is the war about promoting democracy? Democracy implies that each individual has the same capacity to influence public policy as every other.  That cannot be the case, however, in a world where there is an ever widening divide between the few who are wealthy and the many who are poor.  Therefore, if the war is about promoting democracy shouldn't the Bush administration be doing what it can to eliminate poverty and promote a more even and equitable distribution of income at home and abroad and among all the countries of the world? 

 

Or is the war about promoting human rights?  If so, then shouldn't the U.S. be denouncing all countries and all regimes that violate human rights including some of its staunchest allies such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? 

 

Or is the war really about making the world safe for certain favored multinational corporations and the mostly men who own and run them?  Then perhaps the President Bush, by turning a deaf ear to the words of former President Eisenhower, is doing exactly what he should be doing.

 

"In the councils of government," warned Eisenhower in his famous 1961 farewell address,

 

"we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

 

Think about those words.  Then think about the war against terrorism.  Then think about the role Vice President Cheney played in the Enron debacle.  Then think of oil.  Then think about how some energy magnates would like to lay a pipeline from the oil producing region of central Asia across Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea.  Then think about President Bush's proposal to drill in the Artic National Wildlife Preserve.  Then think about the companies that will benefit from increased defense spending.  Then think of how John Ashcroft wants to limit your liberties.  Then think about the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor in this country and the rest of the world.  Then think about all the human rights violations that will be carried out under the aegis of the war against terrorism.  Then think about all the connections. 

________________

1. http://www.uri.edu/endhunger/internships.html

2. http://www.kff.org/content/2000/2207/forewdoverview.pdf

3. http://www.amnesty-usa.org/rightsforall/dp/race/summary.html

 

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ARGENTINA’S HUMAN RIGHTS COMMUNITY AND THE CURRENT CRISIS

By Rita Arditti*

 

For the past four years Argentina’s economy has been in deep recession.

 

The country has defaulted on its $132 billion debt and the peso has been devalued. 

 

14 million people, about 40% of the population, live in poverty though the country has rich natural resources.  Meanwhile, austerity measures designed to gain IMF support have destroyed the few and meager benefits that once helped  them to survive. 

 

On December 20, after declaring a state of siege and trying to stop the demonstrations against his administration, and only two years into his four years term, president Fernando de la Rúa resigned.  More than 30 people were killed in the demonstrations against his government.

 

A new form of protest has erupted in Argentina and is already going global: the “cacerolazo” (banging pots and pans).  Mostly initiated by the shrinking middle class which is confronting economic measures previously unheard of, like being able to withdraw only $250 a week from their bank accounts or take no more than $1,000 in cash out the country, cacerolazos are now an everyday occurrence in Argentina.  The middle class has finally come out of its stupor and this in itself is opening a new chapter in the complicated story of Argentine politics.  Up until now social protest in the country has been led by the unemployed and the working poor.

 

The main architect of Argentina’s economy, Domingo Cavallo, helped bring on the recession by  pegging the peso to the dollar in 1991 to stop inflation.  Economics Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz has commented on the crisis and criticized the world financial system starting with the IMF. 

 

But the Argentine governments of the last decade also share a great responsibility.  The corruption of the two Menem administrations is legendary. Countless books and articles have exposed it to little and no avail.  Both Radicals and Peronists insisted in maintaining the 1 to 1 parity between the peso and the dollar, sold the banks to foreign interests, launched mass privatization programs and lowered tariffs.  They totally embraced free-market economics, consistently ignoring and discounting the needs of  huge sectors of the population.

 

There is strong and overall condemnation of the political and economic establishment and few politicians dare show themselves in public for fear of being insulted.  The Supreme Court is uniformly hated for its role in legitimating the decisions that allowed the robbing of the country  and has now attained the distinction of being the target of a  cacerolazo every Thursday at 5 pm. 

 

 

In the middle of this bleak situation many of us asked, what is the position of the human rights community vis-à-vis the crisis? The human rights groups are in a very real sense, the moral conscience of the country.  They have provided leadership and clear thinking in many difficult situations. They stood up to the 1976-1983 dictatorship and struggled for two decades against the culture of forgetting and impunity that dominates the country. And, they joined forces with each other to point out that the amnesty laws that allow those guilty of human rights abuses to walk free in Argentina would set the ground for corruption and abuses in the economical and political spheres. Unfortunately, they were right, their foresight validated by countless facts that emerged through the past few years and now by the current events.   

 

On December 28, 2001, nine human rights organizations1 published a Pronunciamiento making their position clear. The document starts by stating that the solution to the profound crisis that the country is going through must be based on strict respect for human rights and the Constitution. And they remind their readers that they have previously expressed their solidarity with all those who resist the injustices of the system and warned the authorities that they would be held responsible for the security of those who fought for their rights.

 

They demand that the state:

 

·          Free all political prisoners and those jailed in the recent events; free all those who fought against hunger and unemployment; fulfill the pacts and recommendations of international organizations.

·          Investigate and punish those responsible for the repression and the economic     plunder.

·          Investigate and punish those responsible for acts of corruption

·          Investigate those responsible for the illegitimate external debt.

·          Fulfill the international obligation to “extradite or judge” and accept the concept of universal justice for crimes against humanity.

·          Annul the laws and decrees regarding impunity for the crimes of state terrorism during the military dictatorship and ratify their lack of validity by the Supreme Court of Justice

·          Bring the members of the Supreme Court to trial.

 

           In this clear and succinct document the human rights organizations have linked their struggle against impunity to the struggle for economic justice and the creation of a new model for the country. They have aligned themselves, once again, with all those who resist measures that bring hunger and suffering to the people. Several of the human rights groups who signed the Pronunciamiento are members of Frenapo (The National Front Against Poverty), a coalition of progressive organizations that launched a plebiscite where over 3 million people voted for the creation of unemployment insurance and other measures in behalf of the disenfranchised and oppressed.

 

As the economic crisis becomes more acute president Eduardo Duhalde will have to recognize that the struggle against poverty must be a crucial part of his program.  The struggle to chart the future of Argentina is a struggle between those who have held the reigns of power up till now and those who have been disenfranchised for so long.  Argentina is now at a crossroad, it must reinvent itself politically, culturally, and economically.  Otherwise the country will continue spiraling downward. Luckily we can count on the human rights organizations to continue pointing the road to social justice and the creation of a new and livable Argentina.

 

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[1][1] The nine groups are: Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo; Asamblea Permanente por los Derechos Humanos; Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales; Familiares de Desaparecidos y Detenidos por Razones Políticas; Hijos/as por la Identidad y la Justicia, contra el Olvido y el Silencio; Liga Argentina por los Derechos del Hombre,;Madres de Plaza de Mayo-Línea Fundadora; Movimiento Ecuménico por los Derechos Humanos; Servicio Paz y Justicia. 

 

*  Rita Arditti is a member of the University of Massachusetts Human Rights Working Group and the author of “Searching for Life:  The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Disappeared Children of Argentina”  published by the University of California Press. 

 

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COLLATERAL DAMAGE

By Paul Cantor

 

What do you call a child killed by a bomb dropped on his home in Afghanistan in the war against terrorism?

 

Collateral damage.

 

What do you call a person killed when the World Trade Center and a part of the Pentagon were destroyed by terrorists on September 11?

 

A bond trader, computer programmer, firefighter, or police officer.  A unique individual who skied, cooked,  read history or danced.  A person who loved and was loved. 

 

This is the script that is being written by the Bush administration, many policymakers and the media.  On one side are human beings:  mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, lovers, friends, firefighters, policeman, airline passengers who died in heroic attempts to save others; vibrant, intelligent, productive human beings whose live were cut short by religious fanatics.  On the other side are filthy, stupid, cowardly, bearded, religious fundamentalists hiding out in caves and encouraging Osama Bin Laden to kill Americans.  

 

No wonder Americans band together, wave the flag and cheer as their armed forces head into battle.  “Hi-yo Silver, away!” John Wayne, the Lone Ranger, and the U.S. cavalry ride again.  Only this time their horses have wings. 

 

“Yep, keep it simple, partner.”  You can almost hear the Hollywood executives responding to the Bush administration’s call for advice. 

 

Keep it simple.  Good versus evil.  White against Black.  Swarthy terrorists hiding under beds, taking over our airports, sending Anthrax through the mail versus high minded police officers charged with defending our way of life.  Evil doers versus the pure of heart.   Ignorance versus enlightenment.”

 

What about those who want analyses that don’t begin with the assumption that once the good guys  have smoked out the Osama Bin Laden’s of the world and sprayed them with insecticide all our problems are over?

 

Collateral damage.

 

And people alarmed that we may be planting the seeds for a police state at home and unjustified military adventures abroad? 

 

Collateral damage. 

 

And you and me?

 

Col….   No, hold on a second.

 

Academics may be threatened but they are still alive and well and have a job to do.  Our job is to raise hard questions and to forswear facile thinking in the search for answers.  Our job is to find ways to prevent war and to contain collateral damage when wars occur.  Our job, in the wake of efforts to silence us, is to speak up.  With that in mind, here are questions and reflections meant to provoke a rational response to the September 11 terrorist attacks that will lead to a better and safer world without causing nearly as much collateral damage as one 15,000 pound Daisy Cutter bomb. 

 

Has the bombing of Afghanistan made us more secure?  What have we gained from the bombing?  What has it cost?  The bombing has no doubt weakened the capacity of Al Qaeda to carry out terrorist attacks.  It has also put an end to the repressive rule of the Taleban in Afghanistan.  But the costs have been high. 

.

There are, of course, the direct costs which may be measured in billions of dollars or in goods and services foregone because the resources needed to produce them are employed in conducting a military campaign.   And then there is the collateral damage.  The bombing, no doubt, has heightened the impression among millions in the Middle East that the U.S. has little regard for their well being.  How many of them will now join the ranks of terrorist organizations?

 

How should the United States have responded to the September 11 attacks?   Might it have allowed the United Nations to take the lead in orchestrating a response?   Do people in the rest of the world have good reason to be concerned that the United States is the only remaining superpower?  How might we expect them to respond to proclamations that we occupy the high moral ground?

 

“On one side is democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human life; on the other is tyranny, arbitrary executions, and mass murder.  We’re right and they’re wrong.  It’s is simple as that,” said New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in remarks before the United Nations General Assembly on October 1, 2001 that echoed the reaction of  President Bush and many others.  But does the rhetoric match the reality?

 

Last April Joyce Horman and Jennifer Harbury spoke at a human rights forum organized by the University of Massachusetts Human Rights Working Group.   Joyce’s husband, Charles, and thousands of others were killed as a result of a violent coup d’état in which the democratically elected government of Chile was overthrown.  The U.S. government promoted and supported that coup.  Jennifer’s husband, Efrain Bamaca Velasques, was tortured and killed by the military in Guatemala, another country in which the U.S. was involved in the overthrow of a democratically elected government.  The rest of the world, therefore, has reason to be skeptical when the U.S. claims to champion democracy.  And it well might wonder on which side Mr. Giulliani would place Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and some of our other allies in the war against terrorism.

 

And what about the rule of law?   According to the U.S. Constitution the power to declare war resides in the Congress.  But we went to war against Afghanistan without a declaration of war.   The law, furthermore, says that when people are arrested they have a right to know what crime they are being charged with and the right to counsel.  Nevertheless, over 1000 individuals whose names, appearance or nationality mark them in the eyes of the authorities as suspected terrorists have been arrested and many of them have been held in secret without being charged with any crime and without being provided with counsel.  The Bush administration, furthermore, wants the trials of suspected terrorists to be conducted in secrete by military tribunals and it wants the right to eavesdrop on defendants’ conversations with their lawyers.  As The New York Times put it in an editorial on December 12, President Bush and his attorney General John Ashcroft are bent on building a parallel criminal justice system in which

 

“people can be rounded up by the government and held at undisclosed locations for indefinite periods of time.  It is a system that allows the government to conduct warrantless wiretaps of conversations between prisoners and their lawyers, a system in which defendants can be tried and condemned to death by secret military tribunals...the Bush administration is taking us down a path that will surely wind up embarrassing the country and undermining our own standing as a defender of international human rights and global justice.”

 

Finally, with respect to the rule of law, it should be noted that Bush administration has opposed efforts to establish the International Criminal Court (ICC) because it wants to protect U.S. government officials charged with participating in the overthrow of democratically elected governments or torturing prisoners from the hands of international law.   Yet the ICC, once established, might be used to try terrorists such as those involved in the attack on the World Trade Center.  Rather than championed the rule of law in the international arena, in other words, the Bush administration would undermine it.  

 

And respect for human life?   The United States is the only country in the world that has dropped a nuclear bomb on another country.   And while the death penalty has been outlawed in many countries of the world it is still applied in the United States.  Furthermore, according to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, the week before Christmas Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil “contemptuously dismissed” a World Health Organization proposal for a modest increase in foreign aid that would help poor countries fund health care that would save 8 million lives a year.   Some would point out that because poverty both kills and provides the breeding grounds for killers, O’Neil’s reaction was not only callous.  It was shortsighted as well.    

 

Per Capita GDP in Afghanistan is $800 according to the Central Intelligence Agency and the majority of the population suffers “from insufficient food, clothing, housing, and medical care.”  Meanwhile 1.2 billion people, according to the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report 2001, live on less than $1 a day and 2.8 billion on less than $2 a day.   On the other hand, per capita GDP in the United States according to the United Nations is $31,872 or 40 times higher than it is in Afghanistan while according to studies by economists at the World Bank income inequality has been increasing in recent years.   Nevertheless, the U.S. allocates a meager .1% of its GDP to foreign aid, the lowest percentage among the countries represented by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development and far below the .7% recommended by the United Nations.  So the question naturally arises:  wouldn’t we be safer and better off if we devoted more of our resources to feeding the hungry of the world and less to weeding out terrorists in Afghanistan? 

 

The above are just a sampling of questions and reflections provoked by the Bush administration’s war against terrorism.  None of them, of course, is meant to condone the bombing of the World Trade Center or other terrorist acts carried out my individuals acting on behalf of reprehensible organizations or regimes.  All are meant to counter the self righteous posturing of policymakers that contributes little to understanding the reason for terrorist attacks and how they can be prevented.   And they are meant, too, to counter the insidious attempt by reactionaries to intimidate critics of the Bush administration.

 

According to a document, “Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America and What Can be Done About It,” produced by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, an organization headed by Lynne Cheney, wife of the Vice-President:

 

“Polls across the country, coupled with statements from public officials and citizens, have been remarkably uniform in their condemnation of the terrorist attacks and support of a military response…In contrast has been reaction from the Ivory Tower.  While there are no doubt numerous exceptions, a vast number of colleges and universities—public and private, small and large, from all parts of the country—have sponsored teach-ins and other fora which have been distinctly equivocal and divided in their response.”

 

That was meant as condemnation of academics that refuse to jump on the bomb Afghanistan bandwagon.  I take it as a complement.  It was also meant to intimidate.  I take it as a clarion call to stand up and be counted. 

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

HUMAN RIGHTS PROPOSAL WINS CHANCELLOR ENDORSEMENT

by Paul Cantor

 

The University of Massachusetts Boston Human Right's Working Group's proposal to establish a human rights center and human rights program at the University of Massachusetts Boston has won the endorsement of Chancellor Jo Ann Gora and Interim Provost Arthur MacEwan.

 

"I applaud your efforts to build a Center that would provide a foundation for new scholarship and present the university community with a source of information, ideas and activity around human rights issue," Chancellor Gora said in a memo to the UMBHRWG.  "Its innate interdisciplinary focus is one I support."

 

"The establishment of such a center," wrote Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs MacEwan, "could make a valuable contribution to the University, enhancing the education of our students and providing a focal point for activities that would have far-reaching, positive impacts on and off the campus."

 

And, Professor MacEwan continued in a letter addressed to the UMBHRWG:

 

"I am especially pleased that you are attempting to build your efforts on a very broad definition of human rights, taking into account issues of gender and class and building your work on a foundation of economic and social analysis.  The political rights that are usually defined in terms of free elections and widespread civil liberties are essential aspects of human rights.  Yet, as your work acknowledges, the effective exercise of these political rights is closely connected to the establishment of equally important social and economic rights.  A broad collection of political, economic and social rights is needed to build a society where human rights are respected and effective.

 

If you are successful in your efforts, a Human Rights Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston could provide an important foundation for both formal and informal work at the university.  It could be a basis on which to organize new classes that would both enlighten and energize students.  It could provide a foundation for new scholarship on a wide variety of important issues.  It could present the larger community with a source of information, ideas, and activity around human rights issues.  Not only would this work be valuable in itself, but, in addition, the work of a Human Rights Center could be a model for the further emergence of strong multidisciplinary programs on campus."

 

In addition to the support of the Chancellor and Interim Provost, the proposal to establish a human rights center and program at UMB has received the endorsement of the Hispanic Studies and Latin American Studies, the Economics and Anthropology departments, the College of Public and Community Service, 45 faculty members and numerous staff.  Furthermore, a student survey taken last semester demonstrated not only supported the proposal but would welcome the opportunity to participate in a human rights program and earn a human rights certificate or degree. And Joshua Rubenstein, the Northeast Regional Director of Amnesty International wrote:

 

"The idea of creating a program which would grant a degree in human rights is an innovative and inspiring goal for your new program.  It would demonstrate an extraordinary commitment on the part of UMASS Boston and a long overdue example of academic leadership."

 

The UMBHRWG is composed of UMB faculty members, students, staff, and human rights activists from the wider community.  Its first meeting of the new semester will take place on Friday, February 1, from 12-2PM in W4-138 (The Chiapas room on the fourth floor of Wheatley).   Ben Day, UMBHRWG chairperson urges everyone interested in human rights to attend that meeting. 

______________________________________________________________

 

IN SUPPORT OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS PROPOSAL

The Mass Media

 

Deciding to support the UMass Boston Human Rights Working Group's proposal to establish a human rights center and human rights program on campus is a "no-brainer."  The value of establishing such a program was outlined nicely by Intermim Provost MacEwan.

 

"It could be a basis on which to organize new classes that would both enlighten and energize students.  It could provide a foundation for new scholarship on a wide variety of important issues.  It could present the larger community with a source of information, ideas, and activity around human rights.  Not only would this work be valuable in itself, but, in addition, the work of a Human Rights Center could be a model for the further emergence of strong multidisciplinary programs on campus."

 

There is strong support across this campus for human rights related dialogue, as evidenced most recently by the overflow crowd that turned out to hear Noam Chomsky and German Plata Diaz speak in December.

 

The proposal has received the endorsement of the Hispanic Studies and Latin American Studies, the Economics and Anthropology departments, the College of Public and Community Service (CPCS), 45 faculty members and numerous staff.

 

Chancelor Gora has come out in support of the program.  "Its innate interdisciplinary forcus is one I support."

 

The entire university community should get behind this effort and change the "could be" that Interim Provost MacEwan refers to into "should be" and "will be."

 

The focus in the coming months, in light of the current fiscal climate, may likely be on what UMB can't do, but can also offer an opportunity to find innovative solutions.  This particular issue can prove to be a rallying point on what UMB can do.

 

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

TORTURE TERRORISTS?

By Paul Cantor

 

“Time to Torture” was the headline of an article by Jonathan Alter in the November 5th issue of Newsweek.   

 

Alter wrote that:

 

even as we continue to speak out against human-rights abuses around the world, we need to keep an open mind about certain measures to fight terrorism, like court-sanctioned psychological interrogation. And we’ll have to think about transferring some suspects to our less squeamish allies, even if that’s hypocritical.   Nobody said this was going to be pretty.”

 

Under certain circumstances, in other words, it is o.k. to use torture to extract information from prisoners according to Alter.

 

Consider one such circumstance.  You have arrested a man who belongs to a terrorist organization.   You know he has information which will enable you to prevent his organization from carrying out a terrorist attack.  Torture is the only way you can force him to reveal that information in time to save thousands of people from being killed.  Who would argue that in this case torture is unjustifiable?

 

Consider another circumstance.  You are arrested.  The authorities mistakenly believe you are the terrorist described above.  They torture you.  Have they committed a crime for which they should be held accountable in a court of law?

 

Consider a third situation.  The United States fails to allow the United Nations to take the lead in orchestrating the response to the terrorist attacks?  Has it thereby undermined efforts to establish an international order in which laws govern the behavior of nations as well as individuals?

 

These are the kinds of questions students would address in a human rights program.  Students in a human rights program, for example, would learn about national and international laws governing the treatment of prisoners including prisoners of war and the rationale that underlies those laws.   Their training would lead them to note, therefore, that Alter’s Newsweek article makes no mention of the eighth amendment of the U.S. constitution which outlaws cruel and “unusual punishments”  or article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which prohibits anyone from being “subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” And it would enable them to explain, furthermore, why lawmakers conversant with the argument Alter makes determined that such laws were a necessary component of a just world order. 

 

But though they are rapidly being established in universities around the world there is still no human rights program at UMass Boston.  That is why students, faculty, and staff formed the University of Massachusetts Boston Human Rights Working Group (UMBHRWG).  Like their colleagues elsewhere, they recognize demand for human rights experts to help fashion rules for the world community to live by is increasing pari passu with the pace of globalization. 

 

The immediate goals of the UMBHRWG are twofold.  First it hopes to establish a human rights center which would oversee a human rights program in which students could major or minor in human rights or get a degree in another field with a human rights emphasis.  Second, the UMBHRWG is moving ahead with plans for a conference on May 3, 2003 on the impact of the war on terrorism on human rights in the United States.  People who want to join the UMBHRWG or be put on its mailing list should contact umbhrwg@hotmail.com.

 

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

HUMAN RIGHTS AT UMB

By Paul Cantor

 

What are “human rights?”

 

Should social and economic rights be given primacy over civil and political rights?  

 

Is it ever o.k. to torture?

 

How should the United States deal with countries which prohibit women from going to school or permit female genital mutilation?

 

How should other countries deal with the United States if they believe that the death penalty amounts to cruel and inhuman punishment?

 

What is the best way to create a world community in which human rights are respected?

 

These are the kind of questions that would be addressed in an undergraduate human rights program.  Recently faculty, students, staff, and human rights advocate formed the University of Massachusetts Boston Human Rights Working Group (UMBHRWG) and drafted a proposal, reprinted below, for a human rights center that would oversee such a program, sponsor human rights forums, and carry out other human rights related activities. The UMBHRWG meets every other Friday in Wheatley 4-141.   If you would like to join the UMBHRWG, be on its mailing list, or endorse the proposal, please contact umbhrwg@hotmail.com or Clark Taylor at  617-287-7364.

 

The UMBHRWG’s proposal has been endorsed by faculty, staff, and students.  It has been or soon will be presented to Chancellor Jo Ann Gora and Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Arthur MacEwan. 

 

Faculty members who have endorsed the proposal include: Elsa Auerbach, English; Lawrence Blum, Philosophy; Gunther S. Boroschek,  Management/Marketing; Elizabeth Bussiere, Political Science;  Jim Campen, Economics; Paul Cantor, Norwalk Community College;  Elilzabeth Clemens, Gerontology Center;  Reyes Coll-Tellechea, Hispanic Studies;  Meg Colo, Writing Center; Jeremiah Cotton, Economics; Estelle Disch, Sociology;  Libby Fay, English; Leonor Figueroa-Feher, Hispanic Studies; Larry Foster, Philosophy; Reebee Garpfalo, Labor Resource Center;  Janis Kapler, Economics; Darren Kew, CPCS; Esther Kingston-Mann, History/American Studies; Pepi Leistyna, Applied Linguistic;  Andrew Leong, CPCS;  David Levy, Management/Marketing; Donaldo Macedo, Applied Linguistics; Terry McLarney, CPCS; Chuck Meyer, Applied Linguistics;  Elaine Morse, Women’s Studies;  Jim O’Brien, Gerontology Center; Debi Osnowitz, Labor Resource Center; Barry Phillips, Justice Cluster CPCS; Gautam Premnath, English; Patricia Reeve, Labor Resource Center; Cindy Schuster, Hispanic Studies; Ester Shapiro, Psychology; Tim Sieber, Anthropology; Rusty Simonds, Political Science; Jack Spence, Political Science; Rajini Srikanth, English; Vicky Steinitz, CPCS; Michael Sullivan, Joiner Center; Clark Taylor,  CPCS;  Miren Uriarte,  Gaston Institute; Primo Vannicelli, Political Science; Elaine Ward, Center for Immigrant & Refugee Community Leadership and Empowerment; Ann Withorn, General Center; and Judy Zeitlin, Anthropology  

 

Staff that have so far endorsed the proposal include: Vanessa Aller, Enrollment Information Service; Dan Currie, Manager, Enrollment Information Service;  Diane Dujon, CPCS; and Sharon Ghantous, Undergraduate Admissions. 

 

Student members of the UMBHRWG are currently conducting a survey to determine student support for the Human Rights Center and Program. The proposal to establish both is reprinted below.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

PROPOSAL TO ESTABLISH

A J0HN JOSEPH MOAKLEY HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER AND HUMAN RIGHTS PROGRAM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS BOSTON

 

I.  WHY A HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER AND PROGRAM AT UMB? 

 

The worldwide human rights movement has led to international criminal tribunals being set up for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet on charges of crimes against humanity, an increasing focus on poverty and income distribution in international forums, and an effort to establish an international criminal court.  It has also led to human rights centers and programs being established at scores of universities around the world.[1]  Strikingly, however, there is still no university in the United States which enables undergraduates to major in and receive a human rights degree.

 

The importance of bringing human rights issues into our classrooms was pointed out by Harvard Law Professor, Henry Steiner.  “Literacy about Human rights,” said Steiner, “is urgently needed within the university” because human rights issues touch “many ideals of an open and just


society that are the university’s own ideals:  the equal dignity of human beings; freedom of inquiry and advocacy; broad political participation.  Involvement by the university with the concerns of international human rights should then take active as well as scholarly expression.”

 

Despite the need for it, however, there is still no undergraduate human rights degree granting program in the United States.[2]  Hence, by establishing a human rights center that develops a program which enables undergraduates to earn a human rights degree, the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB) can play a path-breaking role which will give it a pronounced international profile and have positive repercussions for its students, faculty, and the worldwide human rights movement.  The Center might be called The John Joseph Moakley Center for Human Rights in honor of the late Congressman John Joseph Moakley.[3]

 

II.  A HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER WOULD:

 

·                    develop and administer a human rights undergraduate degree program.

·                    promote research on human rights related issues.

·                    host human rights scholars from around the world.

·                    organize and sponsor human rights forums, conferences and similar 

            activities.

·                    provide human rights internships for students.[4]

·                    develop an on-line distant learning program.[5]

·                    establish and manage a UMB human rights worldwide web page with links to other human rights programs and organizations.

·                    engage in fund raising activities in order to become self sustaining.

 

III.  BENEFITS TO UMB.  THE CENTER’S ACTIVITIES WOULD:

 

·              expose UMB students to issues of importance to the world community and relate those issues to local concerns.

·              give a UMB undergraduate education the greater international profile sought by the administration.  

·              lead to greater interaction between students and faculty at UMB.

·              lead to greater interaction between students and faculty at UMB and    

            individuals  and institutions involved in human rights activities

            elsewhere.[6]        

·              provide the opportunity for collaborative research between faculty members in different departments and between faculty members at UMB and other universities.

·              generate favorable publicity for the University. 

·              lead to financial support from individuals and organizations engaged in or wanting to promote human rights work.[7]

 

IV.  KEY QUESTIONS

 

But despite its promised benefits, a proposal to establish a human rights center and human rights program at a state university facing serious budget constraints raises a number of questions, including:

 

1.      How great is the need for a human rights center and/or program?

2.      Would students at UMB choose to major in human rights?

3.      Are there any special advantages to having a human rights center and human rights program at UMB?

4.      What would a human rights curriculum look like?

5.      Would the benefit to students, faculty and the community at large of a human rights center and program outweigh the cost?

6.      How might a degree granting human rights program, considered separately, be established and what would it cost?  

7.      If the decision is made to go ahead with the Center and/or program what is the best way to proceed?

 

Each of these questions is addressed below. 

 

V.  NEED FOR A HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER AND PROGRAM

 

As the world community attempts to frame a just world order in the post-cold war era the need for journalists, lawyers, judges, politicians, health care professionals, election monitors and human rights activists with human rights expertise is growing and with it the need for universities to provide the requisite knowledge and training in human rights.   Furthermore, as indicated by the success of a human rights forum that took place at UMB on April 25, 2001 students and faculty recognize that need and would welcome a program that addresses human rights issues in a systematic way.[8]

 

The April 25 forum was organized by students and faculty and co-sponsored by academic departments, student groups, and the administration.[9]  Over 300 people packed the room in the Faculty Club where it was held.  Most, furthermore, remained following the speakers' formal presentations to engage in a profound and animated discussion of human rights issues. After it was over many commented that it was an eye opening event and that there was a need for regularly scheduled human rights forums that would enable students and faculty to keep up with human rights developments taking place at an ever increasing pace around world. 

 

Within two weeks of the April 25th forum, for example, according to stories which made the front page of the New York Times: a trial of four Rwandans in Belgium marked the “first time a jury of civilians from one country” were “asked to judge people accused of war crimes committed in another;” former Senator Bob Kerrey acknowledged that a combat mission he led killed at least 13 unarmed women and children in Vietnam in 1969; a federal judge condemned the conditions in Alabama’s Morgan County jail as resembling “the holding units of slave ships during the Middle Passage of the 18th century;” and “the United States lost its seat on the United Nations Human Rights Commission for the first time since 1947, when it was founded under American leadership.”  More recently, the former Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, was arrested and now awaits trial in The Hague for war crimes, Vladimiro Montesinos, Peru's former intelligence chief, was arrested and charged with murder and torture, and the U.S. reacted to the destruction of the World Trade Center and one wing of the Pentagon by declaring a war on terrorism. 

 

Each of these events raises human rights issues which academics in a wide range of disciplines can and should address.  Jose Ortega y Gassett warned in 1930 that humanity's future is threatened when all we create in our universities is hermetic, self-satisfied, learned ignoramuses shut up in their laboratories like bees in the cells of their hives and unaware of the larger world of which they are a part.[10]  Shortly after Ortega y Gasset published this warning, university trained specialists were designing death camps for Adolph Hitler.  An interdisciplinary undergraduate human rights program that encourages ethical issues to be addressed across the academic spectrum will help ensure that students at UMB become true scholars and not narrow minded specialists. That is a third reason such a program is needed.  Finally, an interdisciplinary human rights program is needed to help provide the diversity and interaction between departments and programs called for by the Provost Committee on Academic Affairs as well as to realize the university's goal of strengthening its international offerings.

 

 

VI.  STUDENT INTERST IN HUMAN RIGHTS

 

Student attendance at the first human rights forum is evidence of a latent interest in human rights issues.  The HRWG is in the process of organizing a second human rights forum in which Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Noam Chomsky will discuss terrorism in Colombia.  This forum, scheduled for December 12, will provide another opportunity to inform students about our efforts to establish a human rights center and human rights program and to gauge their interest in both.

 

The HRWG is also currently surveying UMB students to determine if they would choose to enroll in a human rights program were it available.  We believe that many would do so immediately and that once the program was up and running and more  became aware of it, more would choose to major or minor in human rights.  Furthermore, we believe that a human rights program would induce a number of highly qualified students to apply to UMB who would not apply if the program did not exist and that over time, as the program gained recognition, this number would also increase.    

 

VII.  NOT NOBLESE OBLIGE AND OTHER UMB ADVANTAGES

 

UMB is well suited to establish a human rights program.  Its unique blend of students, faculty, and course offerings gives it advantages other universities do not have.

 

Many of UMB’s students, for instance, come from countries where human rights violations are commonplace.  Most are from the working class.  Students at UMB who choose to pursue a human rights degree, therefore, would likely be motivated by a deeper understanding of the importance of human rights issues than students who are motivated solely by a sense of noblesse oblige.  Hence many potential donors would find the human rights program at UMB to be particularly worthy of support. 

 

UMB, furthermore, has the faculty resources to ensure that a human rights program, once established, would be successful.  Political science professor, Winston Langley, for example, is a human rights expert and many other professors throughout the university have a special interest in human rights issues that is reflected in their research and in the design of their courses.  Indeed, as indicated in the next section, many of the courses now taught at UMB would fit easily into a human rights curriculum.

 

Finally, in setting up a human rights program for undergraduates, UMB has the advantage of being able to draw on human rights programs at other universities for guidance.  The programs at Trinity College and Carleton University, for instance, might be especially helpful.

 

Trinity College in Connecticut established the first interdisciplinary human rights minor at an undergraduate liberal arts college in the United States.  "The minor consists of five courses and an integrating exercise," according to a brochure which outlines the program's requirements.  "Students must take at least three courses from a core list, including at least one from a set of courses offered by the philosophy department and the public policy and international studies programs.  Students must also take two additional courses drawn from the list of core courses and/or from a list of elective courses offered through the departments and programs participating in the Human Rights Program." All students in the program are required to take a public policy course in International Human Rights Law and Advocacy or an international studies course called Human Rights in a Global Age or a philosophy course entitled Philosophical Foundations, Issues, and Debates.   "Students fulfill the requirement for the integrating exercise by taking either an approved, one-credit, independent study in conjunction with the summer Human Rights Fellowship Program or enrolling in an approved one-credit internship supervised by a member of the Human Rights Program Faculty Advisory Board.  Students conclude the exercise by writing a substantial paper integrating the component courses."

 

Carleton University has the only comprehensive interdisciplinary undergraduate Human Rights program in Canada.  The program allows students to choose a combined major in human rights and law, philosophy, political science, sociology or anthropology.

 

VIII.  THE HUMAN RIGHTS CURRICULUM

 

The work of setting up a human rights program at UMB, as indicated in the previous section, will be made easier because many existing UMB courses could form part of a human rights curriculum with few if any changes.  Courses in the African Studies, Women's Studies[11], or American Studies departments which examine slavery, racism, sexism, or the exploitation of Native Americans, for example, might serve as electives for human rights majors.  These courses give students an understanding of how human rights have been and are violated in this country and raise questions about how individuals and society might best respond to such violations.

 

UMB courses in Anthropology which examine questions related to "cultural relativism" and whether it is ethical for the west to insist that other countries adhere to our concepts of justice might also form part of a human rights curriculum.  These courses help students understand why the American Anthropological Association adopted a human rights declaration in 1999 which reads, in part, "People and groups have a generic right to realize their capacity for culture, and to produce, reproduce and change the conditions and forms of their physical, personal and social existence, so long as such activities do not diminish the same capacities of others." 

 

UMB's Philosophy Department now offers many courses which discuss rights, equality, ethics and moral issues of importance to those interested in framing a just world order where human rights are clearly defined and protected.  One of these courses might form part of a core sequence in human rights.

 

UMB’s Economics Department has a number of courses which address social welfare issues and therefore might serve as human rights electives.  In at least one of these courses students are required to read the United Nations Development Programme's year 2000 Human Development Report which is titled, "Human Rights and Human Development."  

 

Both UMB's College of Management and UMB's Philosophy Department now offer classes that discuss Business and Management Ethics.  These courses would also be appropriate for human rights majors since they ask how nations can ensure that corporations don't violate human rights.

 

The College of Public and Community Service Legal Education curriculum has added a Concepts of Justice track with an explicit focus on human rights. Furthermore, CPCS’s Historical Change in the US: the Struggle for Human and Civil Rights by Oppressed Peoples; Impacting Poverty in America; and Workers' Struggle in the 21st Century are among its many classes which would easily fit into a human rights curriculum. 

 

The Political Science Department has courses that examine the relationship between democracy and human rights and which look at how international human rights organizations have developed.  The Psychology Department offers a course in Moral Development.  Professor Reyes Coll-Tellechea in Hispanic Studies teaches a course entitled: Hispanic Literatures and Human Rights.  The History Department offers a variety of courses which acquaint students with some of the most egregious violations of human rights that have occurred throughout the world.  All of these courses, too, might form part of a human rights curriculum. 

 

But our purpose here is to be suggestive, not exhaustive.  Departments participating in a human rights program would be asked to flag classes they think most appropriate for human rights majors.  Course descriptions indicating how human rights issues are emphasized in those classes would then be developed with the assistance of the individual hired as the director of the human rights center.  Then, with the cooperation of faculty members in the departments wishing to participate in the program and the advisory board, criteria for a human rights major would be established.  Finally, the program would be publicized and UMB would become the first university in the country with an undergraduate program in which students can major in human rights.  

 

IX.  COST AND BENEFITS OF FOUR OPTIONS

 

Because of a heightened concern for human rights issues following the destruction of the World Trade Center and one wing of the Pentagon and the even more recent discovery of Anthrax in U.S. news organizations and the Capitol, the case for this proposal and its potential to receive financial backing from state and private sources is greater than ever.   But the support of the administration is required if that potential is to be realized.   Below we discuss the forms such support might take and the costs of each suggested option.  The reader should keep in mind that the cost to the university of any of these options would diminish as the level of external funding they generated increased.  

 

OPTION 1:   ENDORSEMENT.  COST $0.

 

President William Bulger and Chancellor Jo Ann Gora send a letter to the HRWG, stating in the strongest terms possible that the administration supports the HRWG’s efforts to establish a human rights center and human rights program at UMB.  Given clear evidence of support from both President William Bulger and Chancellor Jo Ann Gora, the HRWG will draft a proposal seeking support from foundations, other private sector sources, and (with the administration’s approval) the Massachusetts State Legislature.  The administration and the HRWG would then work together to coordinate fundraising efforts for the Human Rights Center and human rights program.  Obviously, the more time and resources the administration commits to fund raising efforts the more likely those efforts will bear fruit.[12]

 

OPTION 2:  COURSE LOAD REDUCTIONS.  COST UP TO $50,000.

 

Fund course load reductions for faculty members so they can work on two aspects of this proposal: i.  Fundraising and,  ii.  Devising a human rights curriculum.   Since both activities require enormous amounts of effort and time it is unrealistic and unreasonable to expect faculty members will undertake them if they are not compensated for their efforts. 

 

Advantage of Option 2.  Option 2 is so inexpensive it should be attractive to a wide variety of potential benefactors.  

 

OPTION 3:  PROGRAM DIRECTOR.  COST: UP TO $150,000 PER YEAR

 

Hire an assistant professor to head a human rights program within an existing department.   The primarily responsibility of the Human Rights Program Chair (HRPC) would be to coordinate efforts to establish a human rights program[13] and spearhead the drive to raise funds for a human rights center.[14]  Both these efforts will require assistance from faculty members and staff that, as in option 2, will need to be provided with stipends or reduced course loads for their support. 

 

The HRPC might occupy a tenure track position in the economics, political science, philosophy, Hispanic studies, history, women’s studies or other academic department, the College of Public and Community Service or the McCormack Institute.  She or he might be expected to teach a human rights oriented course in her or his specialty and engage in human rights research but the primary responsibility of the HRPC would be to oversee the creation of a human rights emphasis or an interdisciplinary human rights major, minor, or certificate program and spearhead efforts to raise funds for the human rights center.    

 

If option 3 is chosen, after it is determined which department will be responsible for the human rights program, the HRWG will draw up a detailed job description for the HRPC which includes the academic and human rights credentials required of prospective candidates.  The job description would then be submitted to the administration for approval. 

 

Advantages of Option 3.    Option 4 (discussed below) envisions hiring someone of stature to head a human rights center, establish a human rights program and begin undertaking all of the activities envisioned in this proposal.   Option 3 is less expensive[15] than option 4 and, unlike option 4, allows for a gradual step by step approach. 

 

As suggested in Section III above, it will take time to develop a human rights program and to publicize it.  Option 3 allows for that time.  It also allows for testing the water with programs that enable students to earn a human rights certificate, a degree in another discipline with a human rights emphasis, or to minor in human rights.   These programs would be easier and less expensive to set up and supervise than a human rights major or human rights center.  Hence, the interest they generate might be used as an indicator of whether it would be worthwhile to establish a human rights center or major at this moment in time. 

 

Option 3 is preferred to option 1 and 2 because it involves a more serious ongoing commitment to realizing the goals outlined in this proposal.  One person whose primary ongoing responsibility is to devise, with the assistance of others, a human rights program and draft fund raising proposals for a human rights center is likely to achieve those objectives more readily than faculty members with a variety of other responsibilities. 

 

OPTION 4:  CENTER PLUS PROGRAM.  COST:  UP TO $250,000 PER YEAR

 

Immediately begin implementing this proposal in its entirety.  Option 4 is the preferred option from the point of view of the HRWG. 

 

Option 4 requires appropriating funds to hire an academic and human rights expert with stature to head a stand alone John Joseph Moakley Human Rights Center and provide her or him with the support needed to undertake all of the activities described in Section II. These activities include fund raising aimed at making the Center self-sustaining.  

 

Option 4 also requires finding office space for the Center’s director and perhaps a secretary and providing the Center with telephone, fax and other facilities.  As with options 2 and 3, furthermore, option 4 implies appropriating funds to reduce teaching loads or provide stipends to faculty and staff that help carry out the Center’s activities. 

 

If option 4 is chosen, a committee to hire the Center’s director should be formed.  This hiring committee should be composed of faculty, administrators and students and charged with:  i) developing a job description for the director,[16]  ii) determining an appropriate salary range for her or him, iii) establishing hiring criteria,[17] iii) preparing and circulating a job announcement, and iv) screening applicants.

 

Advantages of Option 4.  As noted in the first paragraph of this proposal, human rights programs have been and are being established at many universities around the world.  Nevertheless, there is still no program in the U.S. where undergraduates can major in human rights.  UMB, therefore, has the opportunity to be a precedent setter by establishing the first such program.  But this opportunity will not last long. 

 

That is one reason option 4 is the preferred option.  The distinction of being the first university to establish an interdisciplinary undergraduate human rights program administered by a human rights center would enhance the reputation of UMB in this country and around the world. 

 

A second reason for choosing option 4 is that it sends the clearest message to potential donors that the university stands solidly behind this proposal and has confidence that the John Joseph Moakley Center for Human Rights will play an important role in helping to make the study of human rights issues a central part of the undergraduate curriculum at UMB and other universities.  Foundations and private sector donors should find that message more compelling than ever in a world struggling to come to grips with all the human rights issues raised by the destruction of the World Trade Center and one wing of the Pentagon; discovery of Anthrax in letters sent to individuals at news organizations and the Capitol, and the war against terrorism that was declared by President Bush. 

 

A third reason for choosing option 4 is because it is the most effective way to bring human rights issues into the university arena at a time when, as Henry Steiner, Jose Ortega y Gasset and many others would point out, academics have a moral imperative to elevate the discussion of these issues and to see that they are addressed in a rational and careful manner. 

 

X.  CONCLUSION

 

The benefit to students, faculty, the university and the wider community of the proposed human rights program and John Joseph Moakley Human Rights Center at UMB far outweigh the cost of establishing them.  A John Joseph Moakley Center for Human Rights which administered a first of its kind undergraduate human rights degree granting program and carried out the activities described in Section II above would give UMB a more prominent place in the international arena and fire the imagination of students, faculty and others concerned with questions of justice in an increasingly interconnected world. That is why UMB students, UMB faculty and others have joined together to form the Human Rights Working Group and draft this proposal.  The HRWG hopes the administration will support its efforts to:

 

1)      establish a John Joseph Moakley Human Rights Center 

2)      develop an undergraduate human rights program and

3)      raise funds to make both the human rights program and human rights center self-sustaining. 

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HUMAN RIGHTS AT UMASS BOSTON

By Paul Cantor

 

On April 25, 2001 over 300 people packed a human rights forum that took place in the Faculty Club.  The forum was organized by faculty and students and co-sponsored by student organizations, academic departments and institutions, and the administration.  After it was over, many commented that it was one of the most successful events to take place at the University in many years. 

 

The success of the forum and the enthusiastic support it received from the campus community indicate that students and faculty want and need a program that addresses human rights issues in a systematic way.  The fact that such issues are increasingly making headlines around the world, furthermore, makes the case for establishing a human rights program at UMass Boston even more compelling.  

 

Within two weeks of the April 25th forum, for example, according to stories which made the front page of the New York Times: a trial of four Rwandans in Belgium marked the “first time a jury of civilians from one country” were “asked to judge people accused of war crimes committed in another,” former Senator Bob Kerrey acknowledged that a combat mission he led killed at least 13 unarmed women and children in Vietnam in 1969, a federal judge condemned the conditions in Alabama’s Morgan County jail as resembling “the holding units of slave ships during the Middle Passage of the 18th century,” and “the United States lost its seat on the United Nations Human Rights Commission for the first time since 1947, when it was founded under American leadership.”  All these stories raise issues which are of concern to the human rights movement around the world.  

 

By developing a human rights program the University of Massachusetts Boston can play a leading role in the global human rights movement and benefit from the support, funding, and favorable publicity such an effort would generate.

 

The worldwide human rights movement has led to international criminal tribunals being set up for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the arrest on charges of crimes against humanity of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, an increasing focus on poverty and income distribution in international forums, and an effort to establish an international criminal court.  It has also led to human rights programs being established at scores of universities around the world.1   But no human rights program yet exists at an urban working class university such as UMass Boston. 

 

The importance of bringing human rights issues into our classrooms was pointed out by Harvard Law Professor, Henry Steiner.  “Literacy about Human rights,” said Steiner, “is urgently needed within the university” because human rights issues touch “many ideals of an open and just society that are the university’s own ideals:  the equal dignity of human beings; freedom of inquiry and advocacy; broad political participation.  Involvement by the university with the concerns of international human rights should then take active as well as scholarly expression.”

 

A human rights program would help provide UMass Boston with a more pronounced international profile.   It would complement its public policy and public and community service programs.  It would lead to greater interaction between students and faculty here and individuals, universities and organizations involved in human rights activities.  It would help expose students to issues of importance to the world community of which they might otherwise remain unaware. It would provide for the opportunity for collaborative research between faculty members in different departments and between faculty members at UMass Boston and other universities. It would take advantage of our good fortune in having an expert on human rights, Winston Langley, on our faculty.  It would generate favorable publicity for the University and likely lead to financial support from individuals and organizations engaged in human rights work.

 

Clearly, the case for establishing a human rights program at UMass Boston is strong.  The April 25th human rights forum was an attempt to get the ball rolling.  It provides a model for future forums in which efforts would be made to peak interest in human rights issues and to relate those issues to a wide variety of academic disciplines.   The goal now is to establish a human rights program in which students can major in human rights, human rights scholars are invited to teach and study here, and regular human rights forums play an integral role.

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THE SUNSHINE GRABBER

By Paul Cantor

 

 

The Sunshine Grabber destroys people for so much as thinking that they can make the world a warmer place in which to live.  “He has fangs as long as Yak horns and yellow eyes.  And if he hears anyone, anywhere in the world, talking about WARM PLACES, his ears wiggle and his nose twitches and he comes slinking and sliming around and GRABS them and so much for that person.”

 

The Sunshine Grabber, an animated cartoon for children, was the creation of Charles Horman, a United States citizen who was killed in Chile in 1973.  After the coup d’etat which toppled the democratically elected government of  Salvador Allende, he was arrested at his home, beaten up, interrogated and shot.  The Academy Award winning movie Missing starring Jack Lemmon as Ed Horman, his father, and Sissy Spacek as Joyce Horman, his wife, portrays the tragic series of events that led to his arrest and murder.  (Joyce Horman is coming to UMass Boston next Wednesday to discuss the movie and her and others remarkably successful efforts to bring Augusto Pinochet, the coup leader, to justice—see the story on page 1).

 

Charles was one of two U.S. citizens who were arrested, tortured, and killed after the 1973 coup.  Frank Terrugi was the other.  Thousands of Chileans were also arrested, tortured and killed as the military junta led by Augusto Pinochet consolidated its hold on power.  Consequently, a climate of terror was created that enabled Pinochet to dissolve the congress, outlaw political parties, abolish labor unions, replace university administrators with military officials and carry out a regressive redistribution of income that made him, his family, and his cronies rich.

 

Now, in an extraordinary turn of events Pinochet is under arrest in his own country.  He was first arrested in England in 1998 after a Spanish judge issued a warrant charging him with torture and genocide.   That arrest marked the first time a world leader was detained under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction.  The doctrine of universal jurisdiction maintains that there are some crimes so heinous that their perpetrators can be held accountable for them in any country of the world. 

 

Ultimately, however, the British authorities determined that Pinochet was too old and feeble to be extradited to Spain for trial and he was allowed to return to Chile were he had appointed himself Senator for life.  Nevertheless, to his and nearly everyone else’s surprise, in another victory for human rights activists who had campaigned to bring the former dictator to justice, when he arrived home he was arrested again. 

 

Now the powers to be in Chile are trying to determine whether he should be brought to trial.  If only they could hear the voices of his victims that decision would be easy.

 

Victim Jara, for instance, was a songwriter and singer who supported Allende.  He was picked up by the police and taken to a stadium in Santiago.  There, according to legend, his hands were broken and he was shot.

 

Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize winning poet, had been Allende’s ambassador to France.  At the time of the coup he was suffering from cancer and was bedridden.  Nevertheless, soldiers under Pinochet’s command invaded his home, abused him and destroyed manuscripts he was working on.  Not long after the raid he died.

 

Jose Toha, Allende’s vice-president, was arrested and taken with other former officials of the Allende government to Dawson Island off the southern coast of Chile.  Toha, who was 6 feet 4 inches tall, weighed 112 pounds when, still a prisoner, he died.

 

Dr. Sheila Cassidy, a British citizen, was stripped naked and tortured with electricity.  Her crime was that she had provided medical care for some of Allende’s supporters. 

 

Carlos Pratts was the commander-in-chief of the Chilean armed forces until the month before the coup, when he resigned under pressure from right-wing-officers.  After the coup he was arrested and forced into exile in Argentina.  From there he wrote Jose Toha’s widow, “My great wish is for the day to come when the majority of my former comrades at arms will see for themselves that they have been tricked and committed the greatest historical mistake in becoming the executioners of their people, of their country.”  Shortly after penning those words, in September 1974, Pratts and his wife were killed by a bomb placed in their car by Pinochet’s agents. 

 

Orlando Letelier, a prominent official in Allende’s government, and his U.S. assistant, Ronni Moffit, where killed in Washington, D.C., when a bomb similar to the bomb that killed Pratts and his wife exploded in a car Letelier was driving.  The bomb was placed in his car by a hit squad led by former CIA agent Michael Townley and under the command of Pinochet’s secret police.

 

Then, among Pinochet’s less prominent victims there are the thousands of working-class Chileans, many of whom ended up in mass graves.  If they could speak no doubt they would say to the Chilean officials charged with determining whether or not Pinochet should be tried,  “Pinochet tortured and killed doctors, poets, musicians, popular political leaders, and workers for the ‘crime’ of supporting their democratically elected government. 

 

Pinochet outlawed books, poems, and songs.  Pinochet stole the sunshine from a country that had been a flower of democracy and turned it into a colder, more frightening place than anyone could imagine.  For our sake, but also to demonstrate to tyrants everywhere that they may one day be held accountable for their crimes, Pinochet should never again be allowed to go free.”

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ENCOURAGING

Mass Media Editorial

 

This week The Mass Media is running multiple contributed articles about the upcoming Human Rights Forum here at UMass Boston.  The list of organizations supporting this event is quite lengthy and gives credence to a comment in Paul Cantor's article [p. 1] about the "importance of human rights issues to working-class students."

 

Human rights are of central concern to most reasonable individuals and they stand as one of the core values that are shared in the national consciousness.  While students protest globalization and the erosion of workers' rights, bemoan the slashing of health and welfare services domestically, and stand aghast at torture and brutality here and abroad, these integral aspects of the human condition are only dealt with tangentially by most US post-secondary liberal education programs, including here at UMass Boston.

 

There can be no clearer sign of the students' interest in human rights than the number  of student organizations supporting this forum.  All involved with the organization and production of the forum should be commended and, rightfully, fell proud.  This event should make all associated with UMB feel pride—here is a forum that deals with matters of importance without deceit and highly paid public relations specialists.  Here is a forum that is aimed at human, and is about humans and human rights.

 

The Mass Media considers the recognition of Joyce Homan and Jennifer Harbury, two tireless human rights advocates, as one of the most honorable acts this university could be involved in.  It is encouraging, and a bit heartwarming, to see so many students and faculty working together to further the cause of justice.

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THE CRIME OF SILENCE

by Paul Cantor

 

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," according to Lord Acton's aphorism. 

 

If that is the case, the United States is on its way to be coming the most corrupt country the world has ever known.  Already, there are warning signs.

 

On one hand the Bush administration professes to promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.  On the other, it refuses to recognize the International Criminal Court, contemplates using nuclear weapons in Iraq, and conspires to overthrow the democratically elected government in Venezuela.  

 

Some would argue, however, that it is the man not the country or the citizenry that should be charged with corruption.  After all, not all Germans were to blame for Hitler.

 

Those who openly opposed der Führer, for example, certainly weren't to blame.  But the verdict is still out on the many Germans and non Germans that remained silent out of fear, ignorance, or indifference.   They stood by while Hitler invaded Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.  Hence, after the war they were charged with the crime of silence. 

 

And what about us?  Won't we too be guilty of the crime of silence if we do nothing while our President pursues a course of action that leads to human rights violations or threatens world peace? 

 

Most disturbing is the Bush administration's declaration on May 5th that it will not accept the jurisdiction of the international criminal court (ICC).   The purpose of the ICC is to ensure that individuals charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, or crimes of war are tried when those charges are credible and national courts fail to hear them. 

 

President Clinton signed the treaty establishing the court and the treaty has been ratified by 66 nations including Austria, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.  Only 60 countries were needed for the treaty to take effect, hence the court will take its place in the international arena on July 1, despite the opposition of the Bush administration.  

 

Nevertheless, the refusal of the administration to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC amounts to a refusal to be bound by the law it claims it is defending in its war against terrorism.  It is a warning to the world that it best not attempt to hold U.S. officials accountable for human rights violations.  It is a unilateral proclamation that we make the rules but we don't have to play by them.   

 

"If other countries attempt to develop weapons we have already developed and continue to develop," Bush is saying in other words, "I can nuke them and no international tribunal can hold me accountable for my action.  If a country such as Venezuela elects a government I don't like, I can with impunity use military personnel and secrete service agents in an effort to undermine and overthrow that government.  And finally, no U.S. official no matter how serious or credible the charge against him or her may ever be brought before an international tribunal." 

 

Hence, for example, Henry Kissinger, President Nixon's national security advisor, and a Bush administration supporter may never be brought before the ICC for charges of conducting an undercover war which led to the overthrow of the democratic government of Chile and the torture and murder of thousands of civilian supporters of that government.  The democratically elected government of Chile, incidentally, was overthrown on September 11, 1973, exactly 28 years before the attacks which brought down the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon. And, while it may seem to many that other than that coincidence there is no connection between the two events, they would be wrong. 

 

Suicide bombers chose a detestable and counterproductive method for getting their garbled message across on September 11, 2001 but we need to understand why millions around the world who empathize with the victims of their attacks also empathize with the terrorists.  Many believe that no member of the voting public in the most powerful country in the world is an innocent bystander in a world where millions suffer and starve under repressive regimes supported by the U.S.   And to a large extent they have reason on their side.

 

If we do nothing now to demand that our government respect and defend human rights at home and abroad then aren't we, too, guilty of the crime of silence?  Don't we, for instance, have an obligation to demand that our government ratify the treaty establishing the ICC and accept its jurisdiction?  Shouldn't we insist that if our policymakers are responsible for human rights violations they be held accountable for their crimes?  Don't we have an obligation as citizens of the most powerful nation the world has ever known to lead the effort to provide international human rights laws with teeth so that even our own most important policymakers aren't immune to prosecution when they violate those laws? 

 

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil," Edmund Burke is alleged to have written more than 300 years ago, "is for good men to do nothing."

 

 

 



[1] The Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law was established at American University's Washington College of Law in 1990 and the College offers a human rights concentration in its Master of Laws program.  The Human Rights Center which is part of the University of California, Berkeley's Institute of International Studies conducts interdisciplinary research on human rights issues. Brandeis University established the Andrei Sakharov Archives and Human Rights Center in 1993 and offers international fellowships in human rights. The University of Chicago established a Center for Human Rights and human rights program with a three course core sequence in 1997.  Columbia University's Center for the Study of Human Rights sponsors human rights seminars and administers a Human Rights Advocates Training Program "designed for experienced human rights workers."   Students at Colombia can earn a master's in human rights in its Liberal Studies program.  Currently, together with Barnard College, the University is in the process of establishing an undergraduate human rights degree-granting program.   The Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard, established in 1999, sponsors a speakers’ series, a film series, periodic conferences and workshops while the human rights program at Harvard University Law School dates from 1984.  The George Washington University Law School together with Oxford University's Department for Continuing Education has developed a Program in International Human Rights Law "to prepare students to contribute to the improvement of human rights conditions in their homelands and around the world."    Indiana University has a program in Human Rights Law. The University of Iowa established a Center for Human Rights in 1999 which reflects its "commitment to a permanent presence for human rights issues and action on its Iowa City campus, its surrounding community, and beyond."  The University of Minnesota Human Rights Center trains human rights professionals and volunteers.  Suffolk University Law School in Boston offers courses in international human rights and international humanitarian law. Trinity College in Connecticut launched an interdisciplinary Human Rights Program in 1998 and currently offers a minor in human rights studies.  The Lowenstein Project at Yale University sponsors human rights speakers and conferences at Yale Law School, undertakes advocacy projects, and coordinates student research and projects for human rights organizations.   Meanwhile, abroad the Australian Human Rights Centre, a Research Institute based in the Faculty of Law, was established at the University of New South Wales. The Human Rights Centre at Britain's Essex University offers an M.A. in the theory and practice of Human Rights. Carleton University in Canada offers a combined B.A. in human rights in which students can choose to combine human rights with law, philosophy, political science, anthropology or other disciplines. Utrecht University, Maastricht University, Erasmus University of Rotterdam, Tilburg University, the T.M.C. Asser Institute and the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights participate in the School of Human Rights Research which "aims at promoting and executing disciplinary and multidisciplinary scientific research in the field of human rights."

[2] Students at Trinity College can minor but not major in human rights.  Columbia University is currently in the process of establishing a human rights program for undergraduates.

[3] John Joseph Moakley, who died May 28, 2001 and who represented UMB’s congressional district, South Boston, in the United States Congress for nearly 30 years took a special interest in human rights issues.  He headed a  congressional task force which investigated the killing of six Jesuits priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador in 1989 and his concern for human rights violations led him to propose closing the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia where many of those most responsible for human rights abuses in Latin America were trained. More recently his concern for human rights abuses by the Colombian military led him to oppose U.S. funding for military operations there.

[4] Critical to educating students in human rights—and consistent with UMB’s commitment to the greater Boston community—is an element of learning by doing.  Toward this goal the John Joseph Moakley Human Rights Center would develop an internship program.  The program would enable students to spend a semester or summer working for Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Human Rights Law Group, United Farm Workers, the National Organization for Women and a wide variety of other major domestic and international human rights organizations in the United States and abroad.  Students majoring in human rights would be required to take a course, Fieldwork in Human Rights, and then serve an internship in the human rights organization of their choosing.   The Center would compile a list of human rights organizations willing to host or actively seeking student interns.  Members of these organizations, furthermore, would be encouraged to apply to the human rights program at UMB. 

[5] The John Joseph Moakley Center would develop an on-line distance learning program to make human rights-related courses more accessible to a global audience.  Based on models of interactive on-line learning already employed at UMB this program would develop, in collaboration with faculty at universities in Africa, Asia and Latin America, participation “nodes” for human rights activists and students with internet access.  Hence, even students in less developed areas of the world would be able to take courses or enroll in UMB’s human rights program. 

 

[6] Among the organizations sponsoring a human rights day event at the Boston Public Library last December were Amnesty International, Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy; Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health; Global Lawyers and Physicians, International Institute of Boston, Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants, Physicians for Human Rights, and the United Nations Association of Greater Boston.  There are, of course, many other local, national and international non-government organizations which could make a positive contribution to a human rights program at UMB by sponsoring student interns and by promoting and participating in human rights seminars, forums, and conferences.

[7] The University of Iowa's Center for Human Rights recently received a $900,000 U.S. Department of Labor contract for child labor research.  The Human Rights program at Trinity College received a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. 

[8] The April 25th Human Rights Forum in which Joyce Horman, whose husband was murdered in Chile, and Jennifer Harbury, whose husband was killed in Guatemala, presented evidence of U.S. Central Intelligence involvement in their husbands’ deaths was videotaped and the videotape is available for viewing on campus. 

[9] The human rights forum was sponsored by: Offices of the Provost and Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Public and Community Service, the Student Senate, the Gaston Institute; Departments of Anthropology, Economics, Hispanic Studies, Political Science and International Relations, Women’s Studies; Arms Advocacy For Resources for Modern Survival, Politics Society, Radical Student Alliance, and the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences.

[10] Jose Ortega y Gassett, Revolt of the Masses, 1930, chapter 12, "The Barbarianism of Specialization."

[11]  Women’s studies Professor Elaine Morse teaches a course in Native American Women which would fit neatly within a human rights curriculum. 

 

[12] Of course the HRWG is aware of the opportunity cost argument that efforts to raise money for a human rights center from the state will compete with attempts by the university to raise money for other purposes.  But, it might be pointed out that to the extent there are donor dollars targeted specifically to human rights related activities, that argument lacks merit.  We are also aware of the argument that funding for a human rights center at UMB is funding that would otherwise go to private sector human rights organizations.  More likely, however, a human rights center at UMB would increase awareness of human rights issues and lead to increased funding for those organizations.  

[13]   Section V discusses how to establish a human rights program as distinct from a human rights center at UMB.

[14] See section III above for a description of the activities of the proposed the human rights center.

[15] As with option 2, option 3 might appeal to private a wide variety of potential donors because it is an inexpensive way to make a significant contribution to a cause they support. 

[16]  The director would be responsible for all the activities of the human rights center described on

[17] The criteria should include academic and human rights credentials.  

 

1  Brandeis University established the Andrei Sakharov Archives and Human Rights Center in 1993.  The Human Rights Center which is part of the University of California, Berkely's Institute of International Studies conducts interdisciplinary research on human rights issues.  The University of Chicago’s Center for Human Rights “is a part of Chicago’s Center for International Studies.” The Human Rights Advocates Training Program at Columbia University is designed for experienced human rights workers.  Students can earn an MA degree in Human Rights in two years, as part of Columbia’s graduate Liberal Studies program.  The Human Rights Program at Harvard University Law School dates from 1984. The Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University established the Carr Center for Human Rights in 1999. Indiana University has a program in Human Rights Law. The University of Iowa's Center for Human Rights was established in 1999 and reflects its "commitment to a permanent presence for human rights issues and action on its Iowa City campus, its surrounding community, and beyond." The University of Minnesota Human Rights Center trains human rights professionals and volunteers. Trinity College launched an interdisciplinary Human Rights Program in 1998.  Suffolk University Law School in Boston offers courses in international human rights and international humanitarian law.  The Lowenstein Project at Yale University sponsors human rights speakers and conferences at Yale Law School, undertakes advocacy projects, and coordinates student research and projects for human rights organizations. The Australian Human Rights Centre is a Research Institute based in the Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales.  Carleton University in Canada offers a combined B.A. in human rights in which students can choose to combine human rights with law, philosophy, political science, anthropology or other disciplines.  Oxford University's Department for Continuing Education and The George Washing University Law School have developed a Program in International Human Rights Law "to prepare students to contribute to the improvement of human rights conditions in their homelands and around the world." Utrecht University, Maastricht University, Erasmus University of Rotterdam, Tilburg University, the T.M.C. Asser Institute and the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights participate in the School of Human Rights Research which "aims at promoting and executing disciplinary and multidisciplinary scientific research in the field of human rights." The Human Rights Centre at Britain's Essex University offers an M.A. in the theory and practice of Human Rights. And the list goes on and on.