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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.

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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.

November 15, 1920 : First Meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations in Geneva

In Conflict Resolution, The Search for Peace, World Law on November 15, 2013 at 1:38 PM

NOVEMBER 15, 1920: FIRST MEETING OF THE ASSEMBLY OF THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS IN GENEVA
By René Wadlow

The real contributions made by the League of Nations to the development of a sense of world community have been widely disregarded. The League is too often disparaged because of the failure of its Members to carry out their obligations, especially in the face of armed aggression.

Yet it has been said that when a star breaks, it gives birth to a thousand suns. That is just what happened with the League, for the League prepared the way for the United Nations and the further development of world law. Let us look at some of its achievements.

The official emblem of the League of Nations.

The official emblem of the League of Nations.

1)An essential precondition to any solid world organization is an impartial civil service responsible only to the head of the organization, under obligation not to accept instructions from any government or outside authority, and committed to the promotion of the aims and principles of the Organization. This the League of Nations provided for the first time under the leadership of the first Secretary-General, Sir Eric Drummond. He took bold, if discrete, initiatives in drawing the attention of the League Council to conflicts and suggested conflict resolution measures.

2)The League also dealt with the economic and monetary reconstruction of Austria, Hungary and some other countries, with the issues of minorities, with the administration of former German and Ottoman territories under the mandates system. The League provided the starting point for future work on refugees and drug control. The International Labor Organization was created alongside the League, its budget being voted by the League Assembly.

3)With the League, for the first time, it became possible to develop a world review of production, trade, health and other economic and social data. No doubt, the studies produced by the League were embryonic — the basic information in the hands of governments being nowhere near what it is today. However, without this start, the kind of world economic planning — or at least overview — which we have today would not have been conceivable.

The League of Nations, inspired by Immanuel Kant and created by Woodrow Wilson, was supposed to put an end to all wars. Due to its lack of resolve, it allowed the opposite to happen as World War II put a brutal end to its existence.

The League of Nations, inspired by Immanuel Kant and created by Woodrow Wilson, was supposed to put an end to all wars. Unfortunately, though, it allowed the exact opposite to happen, as World War II eventually put a brutal end to its existence.

Unfortunately, the League of Nations ran into difficulties from the start. The United States refused to join; too long a time elapsed before Germany and the Soviet Union were admitted. The legacy of the First World War — not primarily a matter for the League — upset both the political and economic climate: huge reparations due by Germany, the payment of large debts by the Allies to the United States, monetary collapse in several countries with general economic protectionism rampant. All this contributed to the Great Depression of the 1930s, and in turn accentuated the structural weaknesses of the world economy.

Then came the aggression committed by Japan, Italy and Germany, which found the resolve of the Western European countries and the USA weakened. The national foreign offices and the war offices were still thinking in terms of balance of power and could not bring themselves to think outside a narrow nationalistic framework.

Fortunately, today, a sense of global citizenship, of world loyalty, has been growing. By looking back to the first meeting of the League Assembly, we can mark the progress not only of institutions but also in the spirit of the women and men who shape them. Today, we see more and more people whose chosen vocation is to make this earth a true home for humanity. They have dedicated themselves to the same tasks that the League began but left unfinished.

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

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