Monday, January 23, 2006

Europe not facing up to its Human Rights responsibilities

Members of the European Parliament have added their voices to the human rights criticisms of the EU wich were brought to the fore by the Human Rights Watch report released last week.

The MEPs have been focusing on the apparent lack of attention being given to the human rights abuses taking place against Chechen society, and their newly adopted resolution highlights aspects worthy of concern such as the contol Putin now has over Russian civil society.

The HRW global report is introduced with strong criticism of the USA's 'do as I say, not as I do' policy concerning human rights. Britain and Canada are also mentioned early on as places in which rights protection is being undermined.

'These governments, as well as other members of the European Union, also continued to subordinate human rights in their relations with others whom they deemed useful in fighting terrorism or pursuing other goals. That tendency, coupled with the European Union’s continued difficulty in responding firmly to even serious human rights violations, meant that the E.U. did not compensate for this diminished human rights leadership.'

A huge focus of the report is, quite predictably, the so-called 'war on terrorism' and the ways in which governments use this threat of terrorism to justify brushing aside international human rights obligations.

Terrorism is an enormous threat to human rights but 'the willingness to flout human rights to fight terrorism is not only illegal and wrong; it is counterproductive. These human rights violations generate indignation and outrage that spur terrorist recruitment, undermine the public cooperation with law-enforcement officials that is essential to exposing secret terrorist cells, and cede the moral high ground for those combating the terrorist scourge.'

The 'global leadership void' when it comes to defending human rights has been taken advantage of by China and Russia, where an increase in economic power and lack of regard for human rights has resulted in new alliances. This, in turn has put more pressure on Western governments to follow the trend, for fear of losing economic opportunities and political allies.

Despite a few areas in which certain governments and organisations have put pressure on others to uphold their responsibilities, the tone of the report is sombre. Defence of human rights is in a poor state, and the most powerful nations and groups of nations in the world are doing nothing to repair it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Chechens in Poland

This is the kind of reading those people of the 'all Chechens are murderers' clan should see more of.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Time has almost run out

Today is Clarence Ray Allen'’s 76th birthday. According to reports, he will be visited by his grandchildren and can look forward to a '‘hefty meal'’. It will be his last. Allen will be executed tomorrow.

Clarence Ray Allen has been on death row for a long time. Almost my entire life actually. You cannot deny he was a criminal; and of the really nasty kind. It seems he organised the burglary of an old friend's supermarket, then murdered his son'’s girlfriend when she informed the old friend that it was Allen who was behind the burglary. That got him life imprisonment initially. The act that moved him onto death row was when he persuaded a fellow inmate to murder the old friend and a couple of witnesses. Yes, he was not a good man.

It also cannot be denied however that he has served a very long time on death row now, and the man who was '‘proven'’ to be '‘beyond rehabilitation'’ presents absolutely no danger to society today.

The whole issue of capital punishment is one topic, but particular to this case is the issue of capital punishment when it involves a very old, very sick man.

'With Allen legally blind, hard of hearing, confined to a wheelchair by the debilitating effects of diabetes, and barely able to speak above a whisper, his judicial killing is being denounced as an affront to human dignity.'’

What will happen tomorrow does indeed sound grotesque. The death chamber is not wheelchair accessible so Allen will be dragged or carried to the chair for his lethal injection. The lethal injection works by knocking him out, collapsing the lungs and stopping his heart.The same heart that stopped a few months ago after a heart attack and was made to beat again through medical intervention. It's all a bit sick.

Following Stanley 'Tookie' Williams' execution last months there has been relatively little discussion about Allen's case. He is an elderly, disabled, native American but pressure groups representing these groups of society have been pretty quiet on the issue.

There are questions relating to the adequacy of his trials, but even among those people who are utterly convinced of his guilt and who support the death penalty for the worst crimes, there must surely be some having doubts about this one. Or maybe not. Arnie certainly isn't.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

But there is hope


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Homosexual 'depravity' in Krakow

I returned from a relaxing family Christmas in Brussels followed by an idyllic New Year in the Polish mountains to be met in Krakow on my journey back to Warsaw by this:

Even the non-Polish speakers among you will have got the general idea: Stop homosexual depravity, stop deviant behaviour, stop promotion of homosexuality in Poland, etc etc.

This wasn't even a lone poster. It was one of about twenty or so lining a walkway to Krakow's main train station. I was shocked.

The poster is a reaction to an 'excessive' number of homosexual tolerance events and lists the offending activities as a march in May 2004, a conference in January 2005 and the march at the end of November 2005. The organisation behind the posters is rather unsurprisingly a Catholic one which I find deeply sad.

It never ceases to amaze me that 'religious' people can be so intolerant and selectively discriminatory.