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Libérez Razan Zaïtouneh !

In Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on December 19, 2013 at 1:44 PM

-- AWC-UN Geneva Logo --

LES CITOYENS DU MONDE APPELLENT A LA LIBÉRATION IMMÉDIATE DE MAÎTRE RAZAN ZAITOUNEH ET TROIS AUTRES DÉFENSEURS DES DROITS DE L’HOMME CAPTURÉS AVEC ELLE DANS LA SYRIE EN GUERRE

Paris & Genève, le 19 décembre 2013

L’Association of World Citizens (AWC) appelle à la libération immédiate de Madame Razan Zaïtouneh, avocate syrienne des Droits de l’Homme, et de trois autres Défenseurs des Droits de l’Homme (DDH) – Monsieur Wael Hamada, Monsieur Nazem Hamadi et Madame Samira Khalil – qui ont été enlevés avec elle par des inconnus voici dix jours.

Le 9 décembre 2013, ces quatre DDH ont été capturés par des hommes masqués et armés puis conduits en un endroit inconnu, depuis les locaux du Centre pour la Documentation des Violations des Droits de l’Homme en Syrie situé à Douma.

Madame Razan Zaïtouneh défend sans relâche les droits des prisonniers politiques en Syrie. Quand la révolution, qui était au départ non-violente, a éclaté en 2011, elle a fondé les « comités locaux de coordination ». Cette même année, elle a été la lauréate du Prix Anna Politkovskaïa « RAW (Reach of Women) in WAR ».

Active également en tant que journaliste, Madame Razan Zaitouneh observe et informe sur les crimes de guerre et les atteintes aux Droits de l’Homme en Syrie. Dans le courant de cette année, le Prix « International Women of Courage » lui a été décerné pour son travail et ses efforts remarquables.

Depuis le 9 décembre, personne n’a revendiqué l’enlèvement, qui a eu lieu dans une zone où toutes les parties au conflit sont représentées et il est donc impossible de savoir avec certitude pour le compte de qui œuvraient les ravisseurs.

La seule certitude en la matière est que, qui qu’ils soient, les kidnappeurs ont commis un crime de guerre par l’enlèvement délibéré de civils dans un contexte de conflit armé, particulièrement s’agissant de DDH qui sont protégés de manière spéciale par le droit international des Droits de l’Homme.

En conséquence, l’AWC exige la libération immédiate de ces quatre DDH syriens.

Release Razan Zaitouneh!

In Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Uncategorized, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on December 19, 2013 at 1:37 PM

-- AWC-UN Geneva Logo --

CITIZENS OF THE WORLD CALL FOR THE RELEASE OF ATTORNEY RAZAN ZAITOUNEH AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS CAPTURED IN WAR-TORN SYRIA

Paris & Geneva, December 19, 2013

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) calls for the immediate release of Ms. Razan Zaitouneh, a Syrian human rights lawyer, and three other Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) – Mr. Wael Hamada, Mr. Nazem Hamadi, and Ms. Samira Khalil, who were kidnapped by unknown assailants ten days ago.

On December 9, 2013, the four HRDs were abducted by masked armed men and taken to unknown whereabouts from the premises of the Center for Documenting Human Rights Violations in Syria, located in Douma.

Ms. Razan Zaitouneh has tirelessly defended the rights of political prisoners in Syria. When the revolution, initially a nonviolent one, started in 2011 she founded the “local coordination committees”. That year she received the Anna Politkovskaya award “RAW (Reach All Women) in WAR”.

Also active as a journalist, Ms. Razan Zaitouneh has been monitoring and reporting war crimes and human rights violations in Syria. Earlier this year she received the International Women of Courage Award for her outstanding work and efforts.

Since December 9 no one has claimed responsibility for the abduction, which took place in a zone where all parties to the conflict are represented, making it impossible to know for sure who the kidnappers were working for.

The one thing we know for sure is that, whoever they are, the kidnappers committed a war crime by deliberately abducting civilians in a context of armed conflict, especially HRDs who are specially protected under international human rights law.

Consequently, the AWC demands the immediate release of the four Syrian HRDs.

World Citizenship: Forerunners of a Great Political Era

In Being a World Citizen, Human Rights, Introductory, United Nations on December 15, 2013 at 8:12 PM

WORLD CITIZENSHIP: FORERUNNERS OF A GREAT POLITICAL ERA

By René Wadlow

As the German sociologist Max Weber wrote just after the First World War, “We shall not succeed in banishing that which besets us — the sorrow of being born too late for a great political era — unless we understand how to become the forerunner of an even greater one”.

Our generation, which came after the events leading to the Second World War, followed by the creation of the United Nations (UN), and then by the ending of Western European colonialism in Asia and Africa, has only been able to make alive the institutions of the earlier generation, but never to the extent that the earlier generation hoped.

This is particularly true within the UN. The generation of the founders in 1945 hoped to modify in depth inter-State relations and the balance-of-power mechanisms which had led to the Second World War.

Max Weber (1964-1920) is recognized as one of the founders of sociology as we know it today.

Max Weber (1964-1920) is recognized as one of the founders of sociology as we know it today.

Yet the balance-of-power was the framework for the 1945-1990 Cold War. While the balance-of-power has now been modified with the disintegration of the USSR, the balance-of-power as a method of international policy-setting has not changed. The United Nations has not been able to modify in depth the balance-of-power framework.

The crisis we face today is not about the administration of the UN but about how to deal with the emerging world society in which there is still poverty and violence with often a lack of willingness to help those in need.

Citizens of the World stress the need for certain common values among all the States and peoples of the world, such as the values set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Such values must be based on a sense of common responsibility for both present and future generations.

In December 1948 Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of U. S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was truly the driving force behind the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In December 1948 Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of U. S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was truly the driving force behind the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Through dialogue among world citizens, the foundations for the values of the emerging world society are being set. Dialogue has to do with trust. To have true dialogue, people have to trust each other enough to reveal the deeply held beliefs that lie behind their surface opinions. Then, they can question each other’s assumptions and begin to establish a context for shared thinking and action.

The forerunners of a true world society are at work, setting the foundations of the new era. This leadership will come ever more into the public light.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

The day that Ukraine ended the Cold War

In Current Events, Democracy, Europe, The former Soviet Union on December 14, 2013 at 10:38 AM

THE DAY THAT UKRAINE ENDED THE COLD WAR

By Bernard Henry

Along with Thailand, Ukraine has gotten the attention of the world’s media due to the nonviolent demonstrations for democracy in its capital lately. The Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, once Ukraine’s Prime Minister under authoritarian leader Leonid Kuchma, has come under fire for turning his back on the European Union and favoring instead closer ties with Moscow.

In 2004 Yanukovych had been opposed in the presidential ballot by Viktor Yushchenko, who had previously been Prime Minister too as the leader of an opposition alliance. With his face ravaged by an attempt at dioxin poisoning by agents of the Kuchma regime, Yushchenko was defeated at the polls but persistent allegations of fraud in favor of the Yanukovych camp prompted the Ukrainian people to take to the streets in what became known as the Orange Revolution. After an unprecedented three rounds of vote, Yushchenko finally won the presidency by a slight margin. Sworn in as President in January 2005, Yushchenko gradually turned his presidency into a mere sequence of revenge against both his opponents and his Orange Revolution allies, such as his iconic one-time Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Eventually, it was Yanukovych who got his revenge when in 2010 Yushchenko was shut out in the first round of the presidential election and Yanukovych won.

Seeing the country caught in such a vicious circle of political authoritarianism and uprising would almost make the world forget that, twenty-two years ago, it was the President of Ukraine who put the last nail in the coffin of the Soviet Union, thus ending the Cold War for good.

After the Orange Revolution took to power the opponent Viktor Yushchenko, who had barely escaped with his life after a dioxin poisoning attempt, Ukraine had a chance to make history once again.  Unfortunately, the one-time dissident turned authoritarian and rendered his own victory without purpose, so much so that he too was evicted from power by his own people.

After the Orange Revolution took to power the opponent Viktor Yushchenko, who had barely escaped with his life after a dioxin poisoning attempt, Ukraine had a chance to make history once more.
Unfortunately, the one-time dissident turned authoritarian and rendered his own victory without purpose, so much so that his own people eventually had to evict him from power too.

In December 1991 Ukraine was a republic within the Union of Soviet of Socialist Republics, therefore not a sovereign state – although, oddly enough, Ukraine and Bielorussia, known today as Belarus, did have a seat at the United Nations alongside the Soviet seat. After the coup in August that year in which Communist hardliners almost removed reformist President Mikhail Gorbachev from power, the Union as its people had known it thus far found itself considerably weakened in many aspects.

Soon after the failed coup, the very communist system started to crumble. Article 6 of the Soviet Constitution, which made the Communist Party the central element of the state, was abolished. Gorbachev himself resigned from the Party, thus becoming the first-ever non-communist leader of a Soviet Union which was now down from fifteen to twelve republics. And that was only a beginning.

Gorbachev, who in December 1990 had violently repressed the declarations of independence of the three Baltic republics – Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, granted immediate independence to the three states which had been invaded by the Soviet Union during World War II. As for similar claims coming from others, though, Gorbachev stated clearly that those would never be granted.

On the contrary, Gorbachev was adamant that his very own plans for the country should be implemented come what may. Yet apart from the Muslim republics of the south, such as Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, no one in the Union was supporting Gorbachev any longer. Russia’s President, Boris Yeltsin, who had risen to glory by leading the resistance against the August coup, was emerging of a natural leader of the breakaway movement.

Gorbachev had been campaigning for a “Treaty of the Union” which was to completely redesign the Soviet Union, very much in line with the perestroika (inner transformation) which he had advocated since his accession to power in 1985 after the death of Konstantin Chernyenko. With the treaty in force, the twelve republics were to become all but independent, the USSR becoming more like a confederation with little central powers left. No wonder the old guard didn’t like it. But now that his enemies were no longer a threat Gorbachev was determined to push for a wide adoption of the Treaty.

To achieve this goal, Gorbachev knew that without Russia on his side now, he desperately needed the support of the Soviet Union’s second leading republic – Ukraine, where a presidential election was planned for December 5. In the once single-party state that the Soviet Union had been, several candidates were now allowed to run for president in each of the republics. The Ukrainian election would see several rival factions compete for the presidency, among which the communist hardliners, Gorbachev’s own camp, and the chairman of Ukraine’s Supreme Soviet, Leonid Kravchuk. After the August coup Kravchuk, aged 57, had resigned from the Communist Party and declared Ukraine independent from the Soviet Union. Along with Yeltsin and Bielorussia’s President, Stanislaw Chukchievich, Kravchuk was ready to declare the death of the Soviet Union. Yet Gorbachev still hoped that Kravchuk would, if elected, sign the Treaty of the Union and have Ukraine rejoin a widely-reformed Soviet Union.

On December 5, 1991 Kravchuk won the election and immediately dozed Gorbachev’s hopes by stating that he would not sign the Treaty of the Union and Ukraine was now a sovereign state for good. Three days later Yeltsin, Chukchievich, and Kravchuk signed the Belavezha Accords, declaring the Soviet Union dissolved and replacing it with a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

With a Union now comprised only by the southern Muslim republics, although the leaders of many of them had actually supported the failed coup against him, Gorbachev was forced to admit that the country he hoped to reform had now just died. On December 21 the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was banned and on December 25 Gorbachev resigned from the Soviet presidency, adding in a live television address that the Soviet Union had “ceased to exist as a subject of international law”. The Minsk-based CIS took over and Russia was recognized abroad as the legitimate successor to the Soviet Union.

On December 8, 1991 Presidents Chukchievich of Bielorussia, Yeltsin of Russia, and Kravchuk of Ukraine (not pictured) signed the Belavezha Accords which effectively put an end to the existence of the Soviet Union and replaced it with the Commonwealth of Independent States. If it hadn't been for Ukraine and President Kravchuk, none of this would have been possible.

On December 8, 1991 Presidents Chukchievich of Bielorussia, Yeltsin of Russia, and Kravchuk of Ukraine (not pictured) signed the Belavezha Accords which effectively put an end to the existence of the Soviet Union and replaced it with the Commonwealth of Independent States, thus formally ending the Cold War.
If it hadn’t been for Ukraine and President Kravchuk none of this would have been possible.

Had Ukraine decided instead to support Gorbachev and sign the Treaty of the Union, history could have taken quite a different turn. Several leaders of the southern Muslim republics, such as Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov, had supported the August 1991 coup against Gorbachev. Had he been forced to do with a downgraded union with several regional leaders openly seeking a return to the Stalin-era ways, Gorbachev likely would not have stood a second coup or a rally of hardliner leaders against him, leaving a weakened newly-independent Russia and its allies in Bielorussia and the Baltic republics hardly armed enough to face a nine-member Union poised to restore the old order by any means necessary.

As Ukraine grapples once again with democracy and rights issues today, its leaders on both sides certainly ought to take pride if only in this one thing – it is their country that saved the world from a possible Third World War, nuclear or not, by making it possible for Russia and its supporters to put an end to a Soviet Union which had failed to meet the challenges of history.

Bernard Henry is External Relations Officer of the Representative Office to the United Nations in Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

Nelson Mandela and the Struggle for Universal Human Rights

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, International Justice, The Search for Peace, Uncategorized, World Law on December 10, 2013 at 12:43 PM

NELSON MANDELA AND THE STRUGGLE FOR UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS

By René Wadlow

 

It is appropriate that a major part of the commemoration for Nelson Mandela should fall on December 10, the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mandela was both a major actor in developing human rights in South Africa and a symbol of the worldwide struggle for the respect of human rights.  Pressure from human rights groups worldwide played an important part in his release from prison in 1990 as well as bringing an end to the deeply entrenched system of apartheid that enforced racial segregation in every aspect of South African life.

The efforts on the part of the Afrikaner-led National Party Government to enforce apartheid and to prevent opposition had led to many violations of human rights in South Africa: limits on press and expression, on the freedom of association, and the right to fair trial. Therefore, the dismantling of the apartheid system was a necessary pre-requisite for the establishment of the rule of law and respect for human rights.

Nelson Mandela led the efforts to end apartheid, a victory without the blood bath that so many had predicted and feared. He led on the path of constructive reconciliation and an inclusive society.

There is still much to do to develop equality of opportunity in South African society.  Years of discrimination, of lack of education and training, of lack of access to resources leave deep structural divides.  However, much has been undertaken, and South Africa has the potential to be an economic and political leader in Africa.

Nelson Mandela is an example of courage and conviction to secure human rights, both in his own country and worldwide, an example of the long and continuing efforts needed for human freedom.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

 

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Can Persistent Racism be a Prelude to Genocide?

In Being a World Citizen, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, International Justice, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on December 9, 2013 at 1:31 PM

CAN PERSISTENT RACISM BE A PRELUDE TO GENOCIDE?

An Interrogation to Mark the Anniversary of the Genocide Convention

By René Wadlow

December 9 is the anniversary of the 1948 Convention on Genocide, signed at the UN General Assembly held in 1948 in Paris. The Genocide Convention was signed the day before the proclamation on December 10, 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The two texts were much influenced by the Second World War. The crimes of Nazi Germany were uppermost in the minds of those who drafted the Convention in order to deal with a new aspect of international law and the laws of war.

The protection of civilians from deliberate mass murder was already in The Hague and Geneva Conventions of international humanitarian law. However, genocide is different from mass murder. Genocide is the most extreme consequences of racial discrimination and ethnic hatred. Genocide has as its aim the destruction, wholly or in part, of national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such. The term was proposed by the legal scholar Raphael Lemkin, drawing on the Greek genos (people or tribe) and the Latin cide (to kill)[i].

Mass deaths are not genocide. The largest number of deaths since the end of the Second World War was the failure of Chinese agricultural policies between 1958 and 1962 with over 20 million deaths, but the aim was not to destroy the Chinese as a people. Likewise, the destructive famine in Ukraine 1932-1933 with its seven million dead had a political motivation to reduce opposition but not to destroy the Ukrainians as a people. The United States-led war in Vietnam killed some two million Vietnamese, but the aim was not to destroy the Vietnamese as a people.

Genocide in the sense of a desire to eliminate a people has nearly always a metaphysical aspect as well as deep-seated racism. This was clear in the Nazi desire to eliminate Jews, first by forced emigration from Europe and, when emigration was not possible, by physical destruction.

With the horrendous Jewish Holocaust committed by Nazi Germany in mind, on December 9, 1948 the UN General Assembly made genocide the subject matter of the very first human rights instrument created by the World organization, one day before even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the Assembly in Paris.

With the horrendous Jewish Holocaust committed by Nazi Germany during World War II in mind, on December 9, 1948 the UN General Assembly made genocide the subject matter of the very first human rights instrument created by the World organization, one day before even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the Assembly in Paris.

We see a desire to destroy totally certain tribes in the Darfur conflict in Sudan that did not exist in the much longer and more deadly North-South Sudan Civil War (1956-1972, 1982-2005). Darfur tribes are usually defined by “blood lines” — marriage and thus procreation is limited to a certain population, either within the tribe or with certain other groups with which marriage relations have been created over a period of time. Thus children born of rape — considered ‘Janjaweed babies ‘— after the government-sponsored Janjaweed militias— are left to die or are abandoned. The raped women are often banished or ostracized. By attacking both the aged, holders of traditional knowledge, and the young of child-bearing age, the aim of the destruction of the continuity of a tribal group is clear.

We find the same pattern in some of the fighting in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo where not only are women raped but their sexual organs are destroyed so that they will not be able to reproduce.

Thanks to the efforts of Raphael Lemkin, the international community does have a legal instrument to deal with genocide and punish perpetrators whenever necessary. The only trouble is that in this day and age, "genocide" has still not become an anachronism in global affairs.

Thanks to the efforts of Raphael Lemkin, the international community does have a legal instrument to deal with genocide and punish the perpetrators thereof. It is a shame, though, that in this day and age, “genocide” has still not become an anachronism in global affairs.

Article VIII of the Genocide Conventions provides that “Any Contracting Party may call upon the Competent Organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the UN as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III”. Unfortunately no State has ever done so.

Thus we need to look more closely at the ways in which deep-set racism and constant and repeated accusations against a religious, ethnic or social category can be a prelude to genocide.

 

Prof. René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

 


[i] Raphael Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for World Peace, 1944)

For good overviews see:

Walliman and Dobkowski (Eds), Genocide and the Modern Age (New York: Greenwood Press, 1987)

F. Chalk, K. Jonassohn, The History and Sociology of Genocide (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990)

G.J. Andreopoulos (Ed), Genocide Conceptual and Historical Dimensions Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994)

Samantha Power, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 2002)

John Tirman, The Death of Others (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)

J’étais là

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Solidarity on December 2, 2013 at 11:24 AM

J’ETAIS LA

Par Bernard Henry

Samedi 30 novembre 2013. Me voici de retour chez moi à Suresnes. Je viens de participer à la Grande Marche contre le Racisme organisée à Paris par un certain nombre d’associations, dont Amnesty International avec laquelle j’ai moi-même marché.

On nous avait dit de ne pas aller marcher à Paris, car cette marche ne serait qu’une manœuvre de diversion du Parti Socialiste pour cacher les mauvais résultats de l’action du Gouvernement. On nous avait encore dit, du côté du Front National et des islamistes, extrêmes qui comme toujours se rejoignent, qu’il était « inutile » d’aller ainsi marcher – comme quoi il est toujours « utile », en tout état de cause, de se demander à qui profite le crime, en l’occurrence le racisme.

Moi-même, j’étais sollicité pour deux autres événements aujourd’hui, et avec la marche, cela m’en faisait trois parmi lesquels il me fallait choisir.

Je n’ai pas choisi, tout au long de mon existence, de subir des injures et des attaques sur le fait que je sois handicapé, ou que je sois juif, ou que je sois d’origine étrangère (du côté maternel, ce qui explique mon nom français car seul mon père l’était). Celle que j’aime, ses enfants d’une précédente union et nombre de mes ami(e)s n’ont pas choisi non plus de subir les mêmes choses parce que leur peau est plus mate, leur nom plus difficile à prononcer et leur appétit mis entre parenthèses en journée pendant un mois chaque été.

De même, Christiane Taubira, Ministre de la Justice, Garde des Sceaux, ne s’est vue laisser aucun choix lorsque d’aucuns l’ont comparée à un animal parce qu’elle a la peau noire, si courageux de leurs idées qu’ils ont parfois envoyé le faire à leur place leurs enfants dont ils ont ainsi pollué l’esprit. Même les Nations Unies ont condamné ces attaques contre elle[i].

Dans l’émission Envoyé Spécial de France 2, une candidate investie pour les prochaines municipales par le Front National, parti français d’extrême droite, a montré avec fierté un odieux montage photo de sa composition dans lequel elle compare la Ministre française de la Justice à un singe parce qu’elle est de couleur noire.

Dans l’émission Envoyé Spécial de France 2, une candidate investie pour les prochaines municipales par le Front National, parti français d’extrême droite, a montré avec fierté un odieux montage photo de sa composition dans lequel elle compare la Ministre française de la Justice à un singe parce qu’elle est de couleur noire.

Il n’était donc qu’un seul endroit où je pouvais et devais me trouver aujourd’hui, et cet endroit, c’était l’espace qui sépare la Place de la République de la Place de la Bastille à Paris, cet espace qui a accueilli la Grande Marche contre le Racisme.

Abraham Lincoln, le Président des Etats-Unis qui a aboli l’esclavage dans son pays, ayant payé de sa vie son courage politique, a dit un jour : « On peut tromper quelques personnes pendant quelques temps ; on peut tromper tout le monde pendant quelques temps ; mais on ne peut pas tromper tout le monde tout le temps ».

En matière de lutte contre le racisme, Lincoln reste une référence dans l’histoire américaine et mondiale. Si les Etats-Unis ont cessé de prendre pour acquis qu’un être humain pouvait être la propriété d’un autre en raison de sa seule couleur de peau, c’est grâce à lui.

Dans l’opinion publique française, les discours racistes ont acquis au cours des derniers mois une popularité inquiétante. Mais la résistance existe et n’a pas peur de s’afficher.

Dans l’opinion publique française, les discours racistes ont acquis au cours des derniers mois une popularité inquiétante. Mais la résistance existe et n’a pas peur de s’afficher.

Aujourd’hui, la France connaît à nouveau, comme avant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale puis dans les années 1950, une montée de l’insanité raciste et des agressions envers celles et ceux qui ne ressemblent pas à la majorité. La Grande Marche contre le Racisme de cet après-midi a démontré que la population n’était pas unanime, loin s’en faut, à suivre ce mouvement de folie.

Elle réagit. Nous réagissons, toutes et tous ensemble. Nous disons non au racisme, non à la fatalité historique qui vouerait la France à la haine de l’autre. Mais pour capital qu’il était d’y prendre part, cette marche n’est en tout et pour tout qu’un instant. Elle n’est pas une finalité.

C’est chaque jour qu’il faut agir, c’est ensemble qu’il faut agir. C’est ainsi que les tenants de la haine comme instrument politique finiront par comprendre que leurs intrigues ne seront pas couronnées de succès.

C’est ce qu’avait compris, cent ans après Lincoln aux Etats-Unis, Martin Luther King, lui aussi assassiné parce qu’il voulait mettre fin au racisme dans son pays. Le Révérend savait combien l’inaction, le renoncement, le fatalisme étaient nuisibles à la lutte contre le sectarisme et l’injustice. Parmi ses nombreuses maximes passées à la postérité, il y a celle-ci :

« A la fin, nous nous souviendrons non pas des mots de nos ennemis, mais des silences de nos amis. »

« On ne peut pas continuer comme ça », ai-je entendu Geneviève Garrigos, Présidente d’Amnesty International France, déclarer à une journaliste de BFM TV. J’étais là. Je l’ai entendue le dire à deux mètres de moi. J’étais là, quand d’autres l’auront entendue plus tard à la télévision. Si par bonheur, Geneviève les a convaincus, qu’ils passent à l’action à leur tour, sans quoi encore plus tard, peut-être, sera trop tard.

Bernard Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures du Bureau de Représentation auprès de l’Office des Nations Unies à Genève de l’Association of World Citizens.


Violences contre les femmes : Des murs qui emprisonnent

In Human Rights, International Justice, Solidarity, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on November 25, 2013 at 10:57 PM

VIOLENCES CONTRE LES FEMMES : DES MURS QUI EMPRISONNENT

Par René Wadlow

 

Lorsque, dans son discours de lauréat du Prix Nobel de la Paix (1974), Sean McBride (1904-1988) a cité, aux côtés du développement et de l’acceptation des armes nucléaires sans discernement, l’utilisation d’armes chimiques et d’assassinats politiques comme les signes d’un « écroulement presque total de la moralité publique et privée dans pratiquement tous les secteurs des relations entre les êtres humains », il a mis l’accent sur le thème qui lui était le plus cher : la nécessité d’actions non-gouvernementales visant à assurer la survie.

Même si McBride avait servi en qualité de Ministre irlandais des Affaires Etrangères entre 1948 et 1951 et joué en cela un rôle important dans la création du Conseil de l’Europe, c’est bien en tant que dirigeant d’une organisation non-gouvernementale (ONG) qu’il a apposé sa marque dans l’histoire – en tant que premier président du Comité Exécutif d’Amnesty International (1961-1974), Secrétaire Général de la Commission international des Juristes (1963-1970) et Président du Bureau international de la Paix. C’est dans le cadre de ses efforts pour mettre en lumière l’usage répandu de la torture que nous avions commencé à travailler ensemble à Genève. Il dénonçait des techniques de torture « qui faisaient passer la poucette et le rack du Moyen Age pour des jouets d’enfants ».

Sean McBride, un authentique héros de la défense des Droits de l'Homme.

Sean McBride, un authentique héros de la défense des Droits de l’Homme.

Il critiquait particulièrement la torture et la violence à l’encontre des femmes. Il avait été élevé en grande partie par sa mère, l’actrice et militante nationaliste irlandaise Maud Gonne. Son père, John McBride, avait été pendu par les Britanniques pour sa participation à l’insurrection de Pâques en 1916, quand Sean avait douze ans. La violence contre les femmes était donc doublement injuste – parce qu’il s’agissait de violence et parce que les femmes devaient être respectées.

Quand Sean McBride, au travers d’Amnesty International, a soulevé pour la première fois la question de la torture à la Commission des Droits de l’Homme de l’ONU, les représentants des divers gouvernements ont répondu que la torture pouvait arriver occasionnellement – il y a toujours bien des policiers ou des gardiens de prison à la main lourde – mais que la torture était rare et jamais employée en tout cas au titre de politique gouvernementale officielle. Cependant, une fois que la question a été soulevée et reprise par les représentants d’autres ONG, il est devenu clair que la torture était généralisée, à travers les différentes cultures et les différents systèmes politiques eux-mêmes. En fin de compte, la Commission des Droits de l’Homme des Nations Unies a nommé un Rapporteur spécial pour la Torture et mis en place un moyen systématique d’examiner les plaintes de torture.

Pareillement, c’est pour beaucoup cette façon de faire qui a été utilisée pour faire naître une prise une conscience au sujet des violences contre les femmes. Quand la question a été soulevée pour la première fois par les représentants d’ONG, les gouvernements ont répondu là encore que la violence contre les femmes existait en effet, mais qu’elle était rare ou n’était en tout et pour tout qu’une « violence conjugale », ce qui faisait que les gouvernements ne pouvaient intervenir si la police n’agissait pas la première.

Toutefois, des preuves émanant du monde entier furent présentées par les ONG qui établissaient que la violence contre les femmes atteignait un niveau alarmant. La violence contre les femmes est une agression contre leur intégrité physique, et aussi contre leur dignité. Comme l’ont souligné les représentants des ONG, nous devons mettre l’accent sur l’universalité de la violence contre les femmes, sur la multiplicité des formes qu’elle prend et sur les façons dont la violence, ainsi que la discrimination, que subissent les femmes, et de manière plus large le système de domination basé sur l’asservissement et l’inégalité, fonctionnent en lien direct les uns avec les autres.

‘La violence contre les femmes’, de Gaetano Salerno, 80x60cm, 2013.

‘La violence contre les femmes’, de Gaetano Salerno, 80x60cm, 2013.

En réponse à cette abondance de preuves, l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU a proclamé le 25 novembre Journée internationale pour l’Elimination de la Violence contre les Femmes. La valeur d’une telle « Journée » spéciale est qu’elle offre un moment pour analyser une question donnée puis de remobilisation pour prendre des mesures tout à la fois à court terme et sur une durée plus longue.

Tout à la fois au niveau international de l’ONU et au niveau national, des programmes ont été créés en vue d’assurer l’égalité pour les femmes et la promotion des femmes dans tous les domaines. La violence physique envers les femmes a fait l’objet d’une attention de plus en plus importante, des centres pour les femmes battues ont été créés et l’on s’est aussi penché sur la question de trafic de femmes. Il a été souvent redit qu’il était nécessaire d’assurer l’éducation, la formation, la santé, la promotion de l’emploi, et l’insertion des femmes afin que celles-ci puissent participer de manière pleine et effective au processus du développement dans la société.

Les violences envers les femmes, encore et toujours un fléau mondial.  (c) Wikipédia

Les violences envers les femmes, encore et toujours un fléau mondial. (c) Wikipédia

Mais l’inégalité perdure, et les murs qui emprisonnent les femmes sont toujours debout. En ce 25 novembre, cette journée pour l’élimination de la violence contre les femmes, il nous faut regarder de près les différentes formes de violences qui font que de telles murailles, à travers le temps, demeurent en place.

Le Professeur René Wadlow est Président et Représentant en Chef  auprès de l’Office des Nations Unies à Genève de l’Association of World Citizens.

Violence Against Women: Walls That Imprison

In Human Rights, International Justice, Solidarity, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on November 24, 2013 at 6:32 PM

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: WALLS THAT IMPRISON

By René Wadlow

When in his Nobel Peace Prize address (1974), Sean MacBride (1904-1988) cited torture along with the development and acceptance of indiscriminate nuclear weapons, the use of chemical weapons, and political assassination as signs of a “near total collapse of public and private morality in practically every sector of human relationship”, he stressed his central theme: the necessity of nongovernmental actions to ensure survival.

Although MacBride had served as the Irish Foreign Minister from 1948 to 1951 and played an important role in the creation of the Council of Europe, it was as a non-governmental organization leader that he made his full mark: as an early chair of the Amnesty International Executive Committee (1961-1974), as Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists (1963-1970) and as chair of the International Peace Bureau.  It was in his efforts to highlight the wide use of torture that we started to work together in Geneva.  He denounced torture techniques “that make the medieval thumb screw and rack look like children’s toys”.

Sean McBride, a true hero of the defense of human rights.

Sean McBride, a true hero of the defense of human rights.

He was particularly critical of torture and violence against women.  He had been largely raised by his mother, the actress and Irish nationalist Maud Gonne. His father, John MacBride, was hanged by the British for his participation in the 1916 Easter uprising when Sean was 12.  Violence against women was doubly unjust: because it was violence and because women were to be respected.

When Sean MacBride through Amnesty International first raised the issue of torture in the United Nations (UN) Commission on Human Rights, the government representatives replied that torture might happen occasionally — there are always some brutal policemen or prison guards — but torture is rare and never a government policy. However, once the issue was raised and taken up by other NGO representatives, it became clear that torture is widespread, in different cultures and in different political systems.  Finally, the UN Commission on Human Rights named a Special Rapporteur on Torture and developed a systematic way of looking at torture complaints.

Likewise, it has largely been the same pattern for raising awareness of violence against women. When the issue was first raised by representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), governments replied that violence against women exists but is rare or that it is “domestic violence” and governments cannot act unless there are actions taken by the police.

However, worldwide evidence was presented by NGOs that violence against women exists to an alarming degree. Violence against women is an attack upon their bodily integrity and their dignity.  As NGO representatives stressed, we need to place an emphasis on the universality of violence against women, the multiplicity of its forms and the ways in which violence, discrimination against women, and the broader system of domination based on subordination and inequality are inter-related.

"Violence against women", by Gaetano Salerno, 80x60cm, 2013.

‘Violence against women’, by Gaetano Salerno, 80x60cm, 2013.

In a response to the evidence, the UN General Assembly has set 25 November as the UN-proclaimed International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The value of a special “Day” is that it serves as a time of analysis of an issue and then of rededication to take both short-term and longer-range measures.

Both at the international UN level and at the national level, there have been programs devoted to the equality of women and to the promotion of women in all fields.  There has been growing attention to physical violence against women, the creation of centers for battered women and attention given to the trafficking of women.  It has often been repeated that it is necessary to ensure the education, training, good health, employment promotion, and integration of women so that they can participate fully and effectively in the development process.

Violence against women, a global scourge. (c) Wikipedia

Violence against women, an enduring global scourge. (c) Wikipedia

Yet inequality continues, and walls still exist that imprison women. On November 25, this day for the elimination of violence against women, we need to look at the different forms of violence which keep such wall in place.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

The UN and the Disappearing State of the Central African Republic

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, International Justice, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on November 22, 2013 at 10:36 AM

THE UN AND THE DISAPPEARING STATE OF THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

By René Wadlow

In a November 19, 2013 statement to the United Nations (UN) Security Council, the Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, warned that communal violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) was spiraling out of control and backed the possibility of an armed UN peacekeeping force to complement the civilian UN staff, the Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA).

The UN faces a double task in the CAR. There is the immediate problem of violence among tribal-based militias in the absence of a national army or central government security forces. The militias basically pit the north of the country against the south. In addition, there are other militias from the Democratic Republic of the Congo which use the CAR as a “safe haven” and live off the land by looting villages. There are also segments of the Lord’s Resistance Army, largely from the Acholi tribes of northern Uganda who also use the CAR as a safe area looting as they move about.

In the absence of a standing UN peacekeeping force, UN peacekeepers would have to be redeployed from the eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area also torn apart by fighting among different militias and an incompetent Congolese national army. Although the UN forces have been in the Congo for a number of years, it is only in the last couple of months that they have had a mandate to be active in a military way and have started to make an impact on the security situation. By deploying UN troops away from the Congo, there is a danger that the security progress made will fade away.

The longer range task of the UN, the peacebuilding effort, is to create a national administration which provides services beyond the capital city, Bangui. This is the aim of the BINUCA, but its work is largely impossible in the light of the ongoing violence. The challenge is “State-building” which was not done during the colonial period by France.

The area covered by the current State had no pre-colonial common history, but was incorporated into French Equatorial Africa when it could have been as easily part of the Belgium Congo or added to Uganda as part of British East Africa.

Oubangui-Chari as it was then known was the poor cousin of French Equatorial Africa (AEF) whose administrative center was Brazzaville, Congo, with Gabon as the natural resource base. The Cameroon, although legally a League of Nations Mandate, was basically part of AEF. Oubangui-Chari was used as an “exile post” for African civil servants considered “trouble makers”. French colonial administrators also considered Oubangui-Chari as a posting in exile, a place to get away from as soon as possible. Schools were few, and secondary school students were sent away to Brazzaville.

There was only one political figure of standing who emerged from Oubangui-Chari, Barthelemy Boganda (1910-1959). He was the first Roman Catholic priest ordained in 1938. After the Second World War, he was elected to serve in the French Parliament as a member of the Catholic-influenced MRP Party, although he was stripped of his priesthood for going into politics and also for marrying his legislative assistant.

Boganda advocated keeping the AEF together as a federation of independent States knowing that Oubangui-Chari was the poorest of the AEF States and most in need of help from its neighbours. Unfortunately, he was killed in a plane crash on the eve of independence, and with him disappeared all enlightened leadership.

However, his stature in the political life of Oubangui-Chari was such that political power passed on to two cousins, David Dacko, first President of the independent Central African Republic and then Jean-Bedel Bokassa in 1965 who changed the name of the country to Central African Empire and ruled (or misruled) as Bokassa 1er. His dreams of being a new Napoleon was ended in 1979 by a French military intervention after Bokassa had too visibly killed young school children who were protesting.

Jean-Bedel Bokassa aka Bokassa the First, the man who would be emperor – even if it meant reigning over scorched earth.

Jean-Bedel Bokassa aka Bokassa the First, the man who would be emperor – even if it meant reigning over scorched earth.

Since Bokassa, all pretext of a unified administration has disappeared. General Kolingba, Ange-Felix Patassé, followed by Francois Bozizé were considered “Head of State”, but the State had no visible administration. Bozizé was overthrown in March 2013 by Michel Djotodia and his Seleka (alliance in the Sango language) militia. The Alliance has now been dissolved by Djotodia but replaced by nothing. A fact-finding mission sent by the UN Human Rights Council concluded that “both the forces of the former government of President Bozizé and the non-State armed group Seleka committed serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law during the conflict”.

Creating order from disorder is a difficult task, especially as the pre-colonial tribal structures no longer function. There were very few inter-tribal mechanisms to settle disputes in any case. The State-building process merits close attention. Somalia remains a good example of the difficulties. The UN faces real challenges in the Central African Republic and requires help from national governments and NGOs.

Politically, Africa has always been a continent of many dramas. Hopefully, if the international community finally decides to take quick, decisive action at last, the Central African Republic will not be just another name on the list.

Politically, Africa has always been a continent of many dramas. Hopefully, if the international community finally decides to take quick, decisive action, the Central African Republic will not be just another name on the list.

René Wadlow is the President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

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