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A letter to the President to the Turkish Republic

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, United Nations, World Law on July 19, 2017 at 8:58 AM

-- AWC-UN Geneva Logo --

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July 18, 2017

Hon. Recep Tayyip Erdogan
President of the Turkish Republic
Ankara
Turkey

Honorable President Erdogan:

As a Nongovernmental Organization in Consultative Status with the United Nations (UN) and accredited with the UN Human Rights Council, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) wrote on June 12 expressing concern over the arrest by police of Mr. Taner Kiliç, Attorney at Law, Chair of Amnesty International Turkey.

A month has passed and Attorney Kiliç remains in detention. More preoccupying still, we hear a court in Turkey has just sent six Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) to prison, including Amnesty International’s Turkey Director, Ms. Idil Eser, less than a month after jailing Attorney Kiliç.

It appears that other HRDs have also been arrested, namely Günal Kursun and Veli Acu (Human Rights Agenda Association), Özlem Dalkiran (Citizens’ Assembly), Ali Gharavi, an IT strategy consultant, and Peter Steudtner, a nonviolence and well-being trainer. They are being held pending trial on the suspicion of “assisting an armed terrorist organization”.

Four HRDs were charged but released on bail – Nalan Erkem (Citizens Assembly), Ilknur Üstün (Women’s Coalition), Nejat Tastan (Equal Rights Watch Association) and Seyhmus Özbekli (Rights Initiative).

The AWC is sorry to hear that the Turkish authorities have arrested and jailed these HRDs just when they are needed most. As your country is still trying to make sense of the major constitutional crisis that took place with the failed coup d’état against the democratically-elected government of Turkey last year, there is a need for all positive, useful energies to get involved in the search for a more inclusive, participatory form of governance in Turkey.

We understand that the charges brought against the abovementioned people are related to the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization. While the AWC certainly understands Turkey has been under pressure from terrorist groups for a number of years, especially in connection with the ongoing conflict in Syria where your country supports the people’s democratic revolution, like we do, we believe that charges related to terrorism must not be brought too lightly or quickly against an individual or an association – also bearing in mind the many existing cases throughout the world of HRDs who were branded “supporters of terrorism” only because they had denounced human rights violations by state agents, while they were also being targeted by those very terrorist groups they were being accused of supporting.

A year and a day ago, our President, Prof. René Wadlow, highlighted precisely this phenomenon and the risks induced thereby in an article published in Foreign Policy News. We are attaching a copy thereof for your reference and you can access it online here:
http://foreignpolicynews.org/2016/07/17/prepare-defend-human-rights-turkey/

The AWC believes that Turkey has reached a turning point in its history and a country with as great a culture and past as yours cannot afford to put its future in jeopardy by shutting out – or locking up – people who are so precious to its present and future.

Therefore, we are sure that your Government will make all efforts to immediately and unconditionally release Attorney Taner Kiliç, Ms. Idil Eser, as well as HRDs Günal Kursun, Veli Acu, Özlem Dalkiran, Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner.

The AWC further urges you to have all existing restrictions imposed on HRDs Nalan Erkem, Ilknur Üstün, Nejat Tastan and Seyhmus Özbekli lifted.

We thank you very much in advance for bringing Turkey back in line with UN standards.

Please accept, Honorable President Erdogan, the assurances of our highest consideration.

Prof. René Wadlow
President

Bernard Henry
External Relations Officer

Cherifa Maaoui
Liaison Officer,
Middle East & North Africa

Noura Addad, Attorney at Law
Legal Officer

The Empty Chair, but Democratic Vistas Radiate

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, World Law on July 16, 2017 at 10:22 AM

THE EMPTY CHAIR, BUT DEMOCRATIC VISTAS RADIATE

By René Wadlow

Lu Xiaobo

“Ever the undiscouraged, resolute, struggling soul of man,

Have former armies fail’d, then we send fresh armies – and fresh again.”

Walt Whitman, ‘Life’

Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Peace Prize laureate died on July 13, 2017 at age 61 after having been jailed for 11 years for being a chief writer of an appeal for democratic and human rights reforms in China. Concern has been expressed for his wife Liu Xia, who has been under heavy surveillance since the arrest of her husband. To honor his memory, we reprint an essay written at the time of the Nobel ceremony.

The chair for Liu Xiaobo was empty at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on December 10, 2010, and there were a few other empty chairs of ambassadors from countries that had been constantly warned by Chinese emissaries that attendance at the ceremony would be considered an unfriendly act. However, the spirits of the armies holding to Democratic Vistas were there. Walt Whitman in Democratic Vistas had denounced the depravity of the business classes and the widespread corruption, bribery, falsehood, and mal-administration in municipal, state, and national government. He was worried about the mal-distribution of wealth and the treatment of the working people by employers. Yet Whitman kept alive his ideal of social and political progress and the possibility of higher consciousness. Likewise, Liu Xiaobo and the other authors of Charter 08 are critical of the current trends of Chinese society but are firm in the hope that “all Chinese citizens who share this sense of crisis, responsibility and mission will put aside our differences to seek common ground to promote the great transformation of Chinese society.

On Christmas Day 2009 a court convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced him to 11 years in prison and two additional years of deprivation of political rights. The verdict cited as evidence passages from six essays Liu published online between 2005 and 2007 and his role in drafting Charter 08, an online petition for democratic reform issued on December 9, 2008 which has since been co-signed by some 10,000 persons, mostly Chinese in China. This December 2010, Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Prize for Peace, though his presence at the ceremony in Oslo was represented by an empty chair.

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In 2010, U. S. Representative Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the House, standing before a portrait of Liu Xiaobo.

Liu Xiaobo’s case highlights one of the most crucial challenges facing the emerging Chinese civil society: the limits of freedom of expression. Liu Xiaobo not only offers his criticism of the regime but puts forth proposals to deal with crucial questions facing both the government and society, such as his essays on the future of Tibet.

Liu Xiaobo also reflects on the history of the relationship between the ruler and the ruled and urges the Chinese people to awaken from a supplicant mentality shaped by a historical system continued to the present that has infantilized them. As he wrote, “After the collapse of the Qing dynasty and especially after the CPC came to power, even though our countrymen no longer kowtow physically like the people of old, they kneel in their souls even more than the ancients … Can it be that Chinese people will never really grow up, that their character is forever deformed and week, and that they are only fit to, as if predestined by the stars, pray for and accept imperial mercy on themselves?”

His essays, since he returned to China from a visiting professorship at Columbia University in New York City in May 1989 to participate in the 1989 Democracy Movement, have infuriated the Chinese authorities with his hard, polemical style — “Driven by profit-making above all else, almost no officials are uncorrupted, not a single penny is clean, not a single word is honest … Degenerate imperial autocratic tradition, decadent money-worship, and the moribund communist dictatorship have combined to evolve into the worst sort of predatory capitalism.”

Liu Xiaobo stresses that China’s course toward a new, free society depends on bottom up reform based on self-consciousness among the people, and self-initiated, persistent and continuously expanding non-violent resistance based on moral values. He underlines the importance of New Age values that “Humans exist not only physically, but also spiritually, possessing a moral sense, the core of which is the dignity of being human. Our high regard for dignity is the natural source of our sense of justice.”

He sets out clearly the spirit and methods of non-violent resistance in the current Chinese context. “The greatness of non-violent resistance is that even as man is faced with forceful tyranny and the resulting suffering, the victim responds to hate with love, to prejudice with tolerance, to arrogance with humility, to humiliation with dignity, and to violence with reason. The victim, with a love that is humble and dignified takes the initiative to invite the victimizer to return to the rules of reason, peace, and compassion, thereby transcending the vicious cycle of ‘replacing one tyranny with another’. Regardless of how great the freedom-denying power of a regime and its institutions is, every individual should still fight to the best of his/her ability to live as a free person and make every effort to live an honest life with dignity …”

“The non-violent rights-defense movement does not aim to seize political power, but is committed to building a humane society where one can live with dignity…The non-violent rights-defense movement need not pursue a grand goal of complete transformation. Instead it is committed to putting freedom into practice in everyday life through initiation of ideas, expression of opinions and rights-defense actions, and particularly through the continuous accumulation of each and every rights-defense case, to accrue moral and justice resources, organizational resources, and maneuvering experience in the civic sector. When the civic forces are not yet strong enough to change the macro-political environment at large, they can at least rely on personal conscience and small-group cooperation to change the small micro-political environment within their reach.”

Liu Xiaobo thus joins those champions of nonviolent action such as Martin Luther King and the Dalai Lama who have been recognized by the Nobel Peace Prize. The spirit of the New Age is rising in the East and is manifesting itself in non-violent action to accelerate human dignity— a trend to watch closely and to encourage.

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Note:

The text of the six essays cited in the trial for “inciting subversion of state power” and a translation into English is in the N°1, 2010 issue of China Rights Forum published by Human Rights in China: www.hrichina.org.

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Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

June 20: World Refugee Day

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on June 20, 2017 at 8:19 AM

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JUNE 20: WORLD REFUGEE DAY
By René Wadlow

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot” political issue in many countries, and the policies of many governments have been very inadequate to meet the challenges. The UN-led World Humanitarian Summit held in Istanbul, Turkey on May 23-24, 2016 called for efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts by “courageous leadership, acting early, investing in stability, and ensuring broad participation by affected people and other stakeholders.”

If there were more courageous political leadership, we might not have the scope and intensity of the problems that we now face. Care for refugees is the area in which there is the closest cooperation between nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the UN system. As one historian of the work of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has written “No element has been more vital to the successful conduct of the programs of the UNHCR than the close partnership between UNHCR and the non-governmental organizations.”

Refugee Rights Protest at Broadmeadows, Melbourne

The 1956 flow of refugees from Hungary was the first emergency operation of the UNHCR. The UNHCR turned to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of Red Cross Societies which had experience and the finances to deal with such a large and unexpected refugee departure and resettlement. Since 1956, the UNHCR has increased the number of NGOs, both international and national, with which it works given the growing needs of refugees and the increasing work with internally displaced persons who were not originally part of the UNHCR mandate.

Along with emergency responses − tents, water, medical facilities − there are longer-range refugee needs, especially facilitating integration into host societies. It is the integration of refugees and migrants which has become a contentious political issue. Less attention has been given to the concept of “investing in stability”. One example:

The European Union (EU), despite having pursued in words the design of a Euro-Mediterranean Community, in fact did not create the conditions to approach its achievement. The Euro-Mediterranean partnership, launched in 1995 in order to create a free trade zone and promote cooperation in various fields, has failed in its purpose. The EU did not promote a plan for the development of the countries of North Africa and the Middle East and did nothing to support the democratic currents of the Arab Spring. Today, the immigration crisis from the Middle East and North Africa has been dealt with almost exclusively as a security problem.

An_Aerial_View_of_the_Za'atri_Refugee_Camp

Za’atari, Jordan. The biggest refugee camp in the world.

The difficulties encountered in the reception of refugees do not lie primarily in the number of refugees but in the speed with which they have arrived in Western Europe. These difficulties are the result of the lack of serious reception planning and weak migration policies. The war in Syria has gone on for six years. Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, not countries known for their planning skills, have given shelter to nearly four million persons, mostly from the Syrian armed conflicts. That refugees would want to move further is hardly a surprise. That the refugees from war would be joined by “economic” and “climate” refugees is also not a surprise. The lack of adequate planning has led to short-term “conflict management” approaches. Fortunately, NGOs and often spontaneous help have facilitated integration, but the number of refugees and the lack of planning also impacts NGOs.

Thus, there is a need on the part of both governments and NGOs to look at short-term emergency humanitarian measures and at longer-range migration patterns, especially at potential climate modification impact. World Refugee Day can be a time to consider how best to create a humanist, cosmopolitan society.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Najet Laabidi, avocate engagée pour l’Etat de droit en Tunisie

In Democracy, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, World Law on May 27, 2017 at 8:35 AM

NAJET LAABIDI, AVOCATE ENGAGÉE POUR L’ÉTAT DE DROIT EN TUNISIE

Par Bernard Henry

«L’Etat de droit, ce n’est certainement pas le droit de l’Etat». Le 5 mai dernier, Frédéric Sicard, Bâtonnier de l’Ordre des Avocats de Paris, accueillait dans la bibliothèque du Palais de Justice les élèves-avocats qui venaient de prêter serment en audience solennelle. A deux jours du second tour d’une élection présidentielle de tous les dangers où, comme quinze ans auparavant, le choix allait être entre les valeurs républicaines et l’extrême droite, le premier des avocats parisiens avait pour les nouveaux entrants des paroles très politiques – sans bien sûr l’être tout-à-fait, réserve de l’avocat oblige.

Maître Sicard n’aurait aucune raison de se réjouir, encore moins sa Vice-bâtonnière Dominique Attias, native de Tunis, s’il savait quel est, par-delà la Méditerranée, le sort de sa consœur Najet Laabidi dans cette Tunisie présentée comme le seul et unique succès des révolutions arabes, là où l’Egypte est revenue au point de départ et où Libye et Syrie ont sombré dans le chaos et la guerre.

Une militante acharnée des Droits de l’Homme

Originaire de Siliana, dans le nord-ouest voisin de l’Algérie, Najet Laabidi s’inscrit à la Faculté des Sciences juridiques, politiques et sociales de Tunis, la plus réputée du pays. Elle prête serment en 2008 à Tunis et ouvre son cabinet dans le quartier universitaire d’El Manar.

FrontLine Defenders

Immédiatement, la jeune avocate s’implique dans la défense des Droits de l’Homme. Dans ce qui est encore la Tunisie des Ben Ali-Trabelsi, où les opposants vivent dans la clandestinité ou se retrouvent derrière les barreaux au moindre mot de trop, elle s’engage dans des procès touchant à la liberté d’expression. Ses plaidoiries attirent l’attention d’autres avocats engagés, tels que Khaled Krichi, Mohamed Nouri et Samir Dilou – qui deviendra quelques années plus tard ministre au nom du parti islamiste Ennahda.

Désormais reconnue par ses pairs et camarades de combat, Najet Laabidi rejoint l’association Liberté Equité, dont elle entre bientôt au Conseil d’administration. Puis vient la révolution en 2011, et pour l’avocate, ce n’est que le début du combat.

A l’épreuve de la justice «révolutionnaire»

Le 8 novembre 2011, choisie et contactée pour représenter des victimes de mauvais traitements dans l’affaire Barakat Essahel, l’avocate subit un déluge d’insultes et de menaces de la part de proches d’anciens officiels de l’Etat poursuivis en justice pour avoir torturé des prisonniers politiques sous Ben Ali. D’abord par téléphone avant le procès, puis le jour venu, en pleine salle d’audience.

La police militaire évacue les auteurs des injures et menaces, mais ne lève pas le petit doigt pour protéger l’avocate. Il lui est ordonné de ne pas quitter le prétoire jusqu’à ce que tout le monde soit sorti. Elle décline une proposition de la raccompagner en voiture. Le ton est donné de ce que seront les années qui suivent pour Najet Laabidi.

Quatre ans plus tard, deuxième round. Le 26 novembre 2015, elle plaide lors d’une audience d’opposition contre Ezzedine Jenayeh, ancien Directeur de la Sûreté nationale sous Ben Ali, condamné par contumace pour délit de violences dans l’affaire Baraket Essahel et qui conteste le jugement. D’entrée, la procédure consacre l’arbitraire.

«Quand il a fait opposition, contrairement à la loi et au Code de procédure pénale, il s’est présenté en prévenu libre et la Chambre correctionnelle a refusé la présence des avocats des parties civiles, dans l’ignorance totale du principe du droit à la défense et du procès équitable». La Présidente du Tribunal militaire permanent, Leila Hammami, rejette en bloc les constitutions des parties civiles, niant aux avocats jusqu’au droit de représenter leurs clients. Najet Laabidi et son confrère Abderraouf Ayadi dénoncent des vices de procédure, et aussitôt, Leila Hammami porte plainte contre les deux avocats pour «outrage à un fonctionnaire de l’ordre judiciaire». Rien que ça.

Dans le viseur d’une justice (toujours) politique

Entretemps, aux côtés d’Abderraouf Ayadi, Najet Laabidi est devenue membre de la direction d’un parti politique, Attayar, ou en français, le Courant Démocrate, fondé par l’ancien ministre Mohamed Abbou qui fut lui-même avocat et détenu politique puis gréviste de la faim sous Ben Ali. Et comme par hasard, eux deux et eux seuls sont visés par la plainte.

Ils se retrouvent convoqués le 17 décembre 2015 devant le juge d’instruction du Tribunal militaire permanent de première instance de Tunis. Ils ne vont pas à sa rencontre, demeurant à l’extérieur, entourés de confrères et de sympathisants. Ce sont le Président de la Section des Avocats de Tunis, en quelque sorte le Bâtonnier local de l’Ordre tunisien qui est unitaire et national, et une délégation d’avocats qui se rendent chez le magistrat à leur place par solidarité.

Devant le Tribunal militaire, les deux avocats avaient accusé Leila Hammami de partialité, les propos de Najet Laabidi ayant été filmés puis diffusés sur les réseaux sociaux. «Dans ma vidéo,» rappelle l’avocate, «j’ai évoqué les circonstances de l’impunité, j’ai souligné que le Tribunal militaire ne pouvait pas consacrer les principes d’un procès équitable car, dans ce corps d’Etat, il y a toujours la corruption». Nouvelle plainte de Leila Hammami le 21 décembre 2015, la magistrate versant au dossier un CD de l’enregistrement de Najet Laabidi lui disant ses quatre vérités.

Il n’en faut pas plus au Procureur général près la Cour d’appel de Tunis pour lancer des poursuites sur le fondement de l’Article 128 du Code pénal pour «outrage à un fonctionnaire public». Convoquée le 1er février 2016 devant le juge d’instruction du Tribunal de première instance de Tunis, Najet Laabidi refuse de comparaître. Le 12 octobre 2016, elle est condamnée par contumace à un an d’emprisonnement.

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Informée de sa condamnation seulement le 24 avril dernier, l’avocate y fait opposition. A l’issue de son audience le 10 mai dernier, Najet Laabidi est condamnée à six mois de prison, décision dont elle interjette immédiatement appel. Mais qui n’aurait jamais dû intervenir en premier lieu, puisque ce qu’on lui reproche, outre peut-être son appartenance à un parti politique d’opposition, c’est d’avoir agi comme ce qu’elle est – une avocate.

Symbole d’un Etat de droit introuvable

Poursuivie pour l’exemple, Najet Laabidi l’est sans nul doute. Mais au-delà de l’exemple, de par l’acharnement judiciaire dont elle fait l’objet depuis les premiers mois de la Tunisie du 14 janvier, elle est devenue un symbole. Le symbole d’un Etat de droit que tous appellent de leurs vœux, dont chacun(e) se dit le meilleur espoir pour peu qu’on lui confie le pouvoir, mais qui, dans les faits, plus de six ans après la fuite de Ben Ali et sa famille, demeure introuvable en Tunisie.

Lors des premières poursuites contre Najet Laabidi en 2011, l’Association of World Citizens (AWC) était intervenue auprès des autorités tunisiennes pour la soutenir. Nous l’avons fait cette fois encore, conscients de ce que représentent des poursuites contre un avocat dans un pays qui, six ans et demi après avoir renversé la dictature dans une révolution inattendue du monde, en particulier des «orientalistes», peine encore à asseoir l’Etat de droit. Quel que soit le système juridique que l’on se choisit, jamais un tel résultat ne peut être atteint si l’on ne respecte pas la liberté d’exercice professionnel des avocats.

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Najet Laabidi a elle aussi bien conscience de la portée, bien au-delà du simple cadre judiciaire, du procès en conscience professionnelle dont elle fait l’objet. «Ce dossier démontre que l’impunité persiste, que le système de corruption existe encore, avec l’absence d’une volonté politique d’assurer l’indépendance de la justice ainsi que le respect des avocats et de leur immunité.»

L’avocate ne cache pas son dépit devant les fruits amers d’une révolution saluée de par le monde et qui, selon elle, n’a rien réglé des maux anciens de la Tunisie. «L’Etat de droit réside dans le respect des lois, et surtout, de l’égalité pour tous devant la règle de droit, chose qui n’existe malheureusement toujours pas en Tunisie,» n’hésite-t-elle pas à conclure. «Aujourd’hui, les victimes de la torture, mais aussi celles de la corruption, n’ont pas réussi ni à avoir leurs droits, ni à poursuivre les tortionnaires et les corrompus».

Sous Ben Ali, un silence aussi pesant que feutré entourait les dissidents et défenseurs des Droits de l’Homme pourchassés par le régime. Couronné «rempart contre l’islamisme», l’ancien Premier Ministre de Habib Bourguiba, dont il avait été le «tombeur» en 1987, n’avait rien à craindre des grands de la Méditerranée. Jacques Chirac lui-même avait déclaré à Tunis en 2003 : «Le premier des Droits de l’Homme, c’est de manger», autrement dit, Tunisiens taisez-vous et finissez vos assiettes.

Depuis la révolution, la Tunisie où, jadis, le simple fait d’être membre d’Ennahda faisait de vous un terroriste a connu successivement le retour de bâton islamiste, puis le retour en grâce des anciens du Rassemblement constitutionnel démocratique de Ben Ali à travers le nouveau parti Nidaa Tounes. Les anciens refuzniks non-islamistes, qu’ils se nomment Taoufik Ben Brik, Sihem Ben Sedrine, Radhia Nasraoui ou Hamma Hammami, ont connu, libres et au grand jour, des destins et des fortunes diverses. La Tunisie n’est plus telle que Ben Ali la tenait, mais elle n’est pas pour autant telle que les opposants au dictateur la rêvaient. On y mange moins qu’avant, les prix des denrées alimentaires ayant flambé, et l’on y est à peine plus libre.

Mais l’Etat de droit voulu par la révolution, crié dans les «Dégage !» des Tunisiens à Ben Ali en janvier 2011, vit toujours. Il vit dans l’esprit et le cœur d’une avocate comme Najet Laabidi, dont le prénom signifie «délivrance» et qui, un jour, sera peut-être celle de son peuple en laquelle elle croit tant.

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’Association of World Citizens.

Jammeh: Here’s Your Hat, The Plane is Waiting

In Africa, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, The Search for Peace, World Law on January 23, 2017 at 10:59 AM

JAMMEH: HERE’S YOUR HAT, THE PLANE IS WAITING

By René Wadlow

An update to the article “Gambia: The Cry of the Imburi” by René Wadlow, published on January 21, 2017.

Yahya Jammeh, the former President of Gambia, chose the wiser course of action and left Gambia on Saturday, on January 20, 2017 at 9.15 PM local time with his wife Zineb and the President of Guinea, Alpha Condé, who had been negotiating the departure on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He was wearing his trademark white cap and said that only God would judge him.

Senegal troops, mandated by ECOWAS, had already crossed the frontier of Gambia, although they said that their aim was to protect the people and not to bring about political change. There was, nevertheless, a potential for violence either in opposition to the Senegalese troops or among supporters and opponents to Jammeh.

Managing Resource Wealth: Alpha Conde

Alpha Condé, President of Guinea, who helped broker a peaceful solution to the political crisis in Gambia.

It is likely that the situation will remain relatively calm as people await the return to Gambia of Adama Barrow, who had taken the oath of office of President in the Gambian Embassy in Dakar on Friday, January 19, 2017. Barrow had left Gambia fearing for his life as Jammeh has a reputation of “disappearing” his opponents during his 22 years of rule. With Barrow’s return, the real work of socio-economic development can start.

As noted in my earlier article, Gambia is a creation of colonial history, the English came up the Gambia River first for the slave trade. After 1807 when the slave trade was banned north of the equator, there was a shift to other forms of trade. In the late 1860s the English started to set up an administration while the French were doing the same thing in what is now Senegal. Thus Gambia is bounded on both sides by Senegal and the Gambian population of about one and a half million have ethnic links with groups in Senegal.

Gambia is heavily dependent on the Senegal, and a good number of Gambians work in Senegal. As Gambia has few resources beyond a subsistence agriculture and some export of peanuts, the country has become a transit area for drugs coming from Latin America destined for Europe. Gangs involved in the drug trade have also been involved in the arms trade. Since nothing in the small country escaped the eyes of Jammeh, it is most likely that he took his cut of the drug profits and placed his money outside of Gambia.

Press reports indicate that Jammeh and his wife quickly left Guinea for Equatorial Guinea, set between Cameroon and Gabon, also ruled by long-time and brutal dictator Obiang Nguema. Jammeh is in no danger of a trial.

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In looking at the statistical tables of the UN Conference on Trade and Development’s Least Developed Countries Reports, the Gambian economy has been flat since Jammeh took power – the drug and arms trade are not part of the figures. In addition, the education and health sectors have been “weak” at best.

There have been since the independence of Senegal in 1960 proposals for the integration perhaps in the form of a confederation. For lack of a political will, such a con-federation has never been created. Rather we have a week integration of the Gambian economy into that of Senegal with no corresponding government structures.

It is too early to know what the future will hold. Armed violence is most probably avoided. But we must still keep an eye open to see if the new government is able to meet the new economic challenges.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Gambia: The Cry of the Imburi

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, International Justice, The Search for Peace, World Law on January 22, 2017 at 10:25 AM

GAMBIA: THE CRY OF THE IMBURI
By René Wadlow

The Imburi are spirits that are said to inhabit the forests of Gabon in Equatorial Africa and who cry out for those who can hear them at times of impending violence or danger. Today, the Imburi are crying so that we will focus on the Gambia. The United Nations (UN) Security Council has heard the cry and has called for a transfer of authority to a new president, duly elected, Adama Barrow.

Adama Barrow took the oath of office of President on January 19, 2017 at the Embassy of Gambia in Dakar, Senegal as he is in exile for his safety in neighboring Senegal. The long-time President, Yahya Jammeh, who took power in 1994 in a military coup has been in office so long that he refuses to leave.

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Adama Barrow, the new, democratically-elected President of Gambia.

Many have suggested that Jammeh could leave, especially to avoid local violence or foreign intervention. In his 22 years of service in a country where the trade of arms and drugs is the chief economic activity, he must have put his share of profits in foreign banks. There are suggestions that with funds collected to offer him a “golden parachute” he could leave peacefully. Nigeria has offered him a nice retirement home. But Jammeh insists that he will stay on and that the one December vote was somehow fixed against him and his alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction Party.

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has strongly suggested that Jammeh leave power and has sent a number of high-level missions to the capital Banjul to urge a departure. To drive home their point, ECOWAS has stationed troops in Senegal on the frontier with Gambia. Some Senegalese troops, members of ECOWAS, have crossed the frontier into Gambia to prevent violence but said that they did not have a political mission. The current chair of ECOWAS is the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who knows first-hand what armed conflict and civil war can bring to a country.

There are those in Gambia who expect the worst. Some 45,000 have left the country for Senegal in the last few days. Many shops have closed, and food prices have climbed. There are real possibilities for violence. President Jammeh had a long-term policy of hate speech against minorities, especially the Mandinka whose traditional home is Senegal and against gays. Jammeh’s current supporters are stressing that “gays and their foreign supporters” are those who are creating instability.

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Yahya Jammeh, the former President of Gambia.

There is real danger that violence based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, and political allegiance will break out.

Ministers in Jammeh’s government have resigned including the key ministries of Foreign Affairs, Finance and Trade. Some ministers have left the country for Senegal fearing revenge violence. Certainly a quiet retirement in Nigeria would be a welcome end to Jammeh’s brutal and corrupt years of service. But the situation merits watching closely. The Imburi are worried.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Many Forms of Violence against Women

In Being a World Citizen, Democracy, Human Development, Human Rights, International Justice, Social Rights, Solidarity, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on November 25, 2016 at 11:47 AM

MANY FORMS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

By René Wadlow

November 25 is the day designated by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly as the “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.” Violence against women is a year-round occurrence and continues at an alarming rate. Violence against women can take many different forms. There can be an attack upon their bodily integrity and their dignity. As citizens of the world, we need to place an emphasis on the universality of violence against women but also on the multiplicity of the forms of violence. We need to look at the broader system of domination based on subordination and inequality. The value of a special Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is that the day serves as a time of analysis of the issues and a time for a re-dedication to take both short-term measures – such as the creation of a larger number of homes for battered women – and longer range programs.

Both at the international UN level and at the national and local level, there have been programs devoted to the equality of women and to the promotion of women in all fields. Thus, it is important to stress that women are not only victims in need of special protection but also that women should participate fully and effectively in all aspects of society.

Nevertheless, women have largely remained invisible and inaudible by being allowed to have a key role in the “informal sector” – those sectors of the economy that are the least organized and are often left out of the statistics of the formal economy as if the informal sector did not count. Women have turned to the informal sector – or have been pushed into it – as a way of sustaining a livelihood for their families.

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(C) Anna Sapphire

In the informal sector, women survive and often have a major responsibility for the economy of the whole family. Fathers are often absent by need or by choice. Some women do well in the informal sector and serve as a model – or a hope – as to what others can accomplish. Self-employed women are increasingly helped by micro-credit programs. Micro-credit loans are useful but rarely do such loans allow a person to move outside the informal economy.

Women’s work in the informal sector accounts for a large proportion of total female employment in most developing countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia. Women work as food producers, traders, home-based workers, domestic workers, prostitutes and increasingly are engaged in drug trafficking – anything to earn an income to feed their children. The informal sector is their last hope for economic and social survival for themselves and their families.

Violence against women

“Violence against women”, by Gaetano Salerno, 80x60cm, 2013.

Gender inequality and the walls built around the informal sector are the marks of the “silent violence” against women. Amartya Sen defined the major challenge of human development as “broadening the limited lives into which the majority of human beings are willy-nilly imprisoned by the forces of circumstances”.  On November 25, this day for the elimination of violence against women, we need to look closely at the many social, cultural and economic wall which imprison.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

World Citizens Demand an End to All Hostile Maneuvers Toward Amnesty International in Russia

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, International Justice, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, United Nations, World Law on November 4, 2016 at 9:20 AM

-- AWC-UN Geneva Logo --

WORLD CITIZENS DEMAND AN END TO ALL HOSTILE MANEUVERS
TOWARD AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL IN RUSSIA

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) is concerned that the headquarters of the Russian Section of Amnesty International, based in Moscow, have been sealed off by the local authorities and the staff have been barred from accessing the premises.

Although the Russian authorities have contended that the rent for the Amnesty headquarters was overdue, the organization has proved that this contention was unfounded, thus demonstrating that the sealing is an unwarranted move and a violation of Amnesty International’s rights as an organization of Human Rights Defenders in line with the provisions of Resolution 53/144 of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.

Compliance with international human rights standards can never harm the stability – political, administrative or other, of a given society, only improve it by establishing firm legal, political, and moral norms that every citizen can both claim in defense of their own rights and use to defend the rights of others when necessary.

The AWC calls on the authorities of the Russian Federation and the City of Moscow to restore free access to the headquarters of Amnesty International Russia for its staff, volunteers, members and anyone else who may wish to visit with the consent of the Amnesty leadership there.

World Policy for Migrants and Refugees

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on October 4, 2016 at 7:26 PM

WORLD POLICY FOR MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
By René Wadlow

«There is no doubt that Mankind is once more on the move. The very foundations have been shaken and loosened, and things are again fluid. The tents have been struck, and the great caravan of Humanity is once more on the march.»

Jan Christian Smuts at the end of the 1914-1918 World War.

On September 19, 2016, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly held a one-day Summit on “Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants”, a complex of issues which have become important and emotional issues in many countries. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) published a report on international migration indicating that there are some 244 million migrants, some 76 million live in Europe, 75 million in Asia, 54 million in North America and others in the Middle East, Latin America and the Pacific, especially Australia and New Zealand. In addition, there are some 24 million refugees – people who have crossed State frontiers fleeing armed conflict and repression as well as some 40 million internally-displaced persons within their own country. Acute poverty, armed conflicts, population growth and high unemployment levels provide the incentives for people to move, while easier communications and transport are the means.

However, as we have seen with the many who have died in the Mediterranean Sea, people will take great risks to migrate. Thus, there is an urgent need to take away the monopoly of the life and death of refugees from the hands of mafias and traffickers and to create an effective world policy for migrants and refugees.

UNGA

This is the third time that the major governments of the world have tried to deal in an organized way with migration and refugees. The first was within the League of Nations in the 1920s. The 1914-1918 World War and the 1917 Russian Revolution had created a large number of refugees and “stateless” persons – citizens of the former Russian, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian Empires. These people had no passports or valid identity documents. The League of Nations created a League identity document – the Nansen Passport – which gave some relief to the “stateless” and brought international attention to their conditions. The Nansen Passport, however, became overshadowed in the mid-1930 when people – in particular Jews – fled from Germany-Austria and were refused resettlement.

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The second international effort was as a result of the experiences of the 1939-1945 Second World War and the large number of refugees and displaced. Under UN leadership was created the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees. In addition, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, originally created as a temporary body, was made a permanent UN agency in recognition of the continuing nature of refugee issues.

The current third international effort is largely a result of the flow of refugees and migrants toward Europe during 2015-2016. The disorganized and very uneven response of European governments and the European Union to this flow has indicated that governments are unprepared to deal with such massive movements of people. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have not been able to deal adequately with this large number of persons despite many good-will efforts. Moreover, certain European political movements and political parties have used the refugee issue to promote narrow nationalist and sometimes racist policies. Even a much smaller flow of refugees to the USA has provoked very mixed reactions – few of them welcoming.

Distressed persons wave after being transferred to a Maltese patrol vessel.

The September 19 Summit is a first step toward creating a functioning world policy for migrants and refugees. The Summit is not an end in itself but follows a pattern of UN awareness-building conferences on the environment, population, food, urbanization and other world issues. The impact of UN conferences has been greatest when there are preexisting popular movements led by NGOs which have in part sensitized people to the issue. The two UN conferences which have had the most lasting consequences were the 1972 Stockholm conference on the environment and the 1975 International Year of Women and its Mexico conference. The environment conference was held at a time of growing popular concern with the harm to the environment symbolized by the widely-read book of Rachel Carson Silent Spring. The 1975 women’s conference came at a time when in Western Europe and the USA there was a strong “women’s lib” movement and active discussion on questions of equality and gender.

Migration and refugee issues do not have a well-organized NGO structure highlighting these issues. However human rights NGOs have stressed the fate of refugees and migrants as well as human rights violations in the countries from which they fled. There is also some cooperation among relief NGOs which provide direct help to refugees and migrants such as those from Syria and Iraq living in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and those going to Greece and Italy.

The Summit’s Declaration is very general, and some observers have been disappointed with the lack of specific measures. However, we can welcome the spirit of the Summit Declaration with its emphasis on cooperative action, a humane sense of sharing the responsibilities for refugees and migrants and on seeking root causes of migration and refugee flows. What is needed now are strong NGO efforts to remind constantly government authorities of the seriousness of the issues and the need for collective action. Refugees and migrants are not a temporary “emergency” but part of a continuing aspect of the emerging world society. Thus there is a need to develop a world policy and strong institutions for migrants and refugees.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Building on the UN Summit to Address Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants

In Being a World Citizen, Children's Rights, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on September 20, 2016 at 6:58 PM

BUILDING ON THE UN SUMMIT TO ADDRESS LARGE MOVEMENTS OF REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS

By René Wadlow

awc-un-geneva-logo

On September 19, 2016, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly held a one-day Summit on “Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants”, a complex of issues which have become important and emotional issues in many countries. Restrictive migration policies deny many migrants the possibility of acquiring a regular migrant status, and as a result, the migrants end up being in an irregular or undocumented situation in the receiving country and can be exposed to exploitation and serious violations of human rights.

Citizens of the world have been actively concerned with the issues of migrants, refugees, the “stateless” and those displaced by armed conflicts within their own country. Thus we welcome the spirit of the Summit Declaration with its emphasis on cooperative action, a humane sense of sharing the responsibilities for refugees and migrants and on seeking root causes of migration and refugee flows. There are three issues mentioned in the Summit Declaration which merit follow up action among the UN Secretariat, world citizens and other non-governmental organizations:

1) The migration of youth;

2) The strong link between migration, refugee flows, and improving the structures for the resolution of armed conflicts;

3) Developing further cooperation among non-governmental organizations for the protection and integration of refugees and migrants.

The Migration of Youth

Youth leave their country of birth to seek a better life and also to escape war, poverty, and misfortune. We should add to an analysis of trans-frontier youth migration a very large number of youth who leave their home villages to migrate toward cities within their own country. Without accurate information and analysis of both internal and trans-frontier migration of youth, it is difficult to develop appropriate policies for employment, housing, education and health care of young migrants and refugees. It is estimated that there are some 10 million refugee children, and most are not in school.

Studies have noted an increasing feminization of trans-frontier migration in which the female migrant moves abroad as a wage earner, especially as a domestic worker rather than as an accompanying family member. Migrant domestic workers are often exposed to abuse, exploitation and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity and occupation. Domestic workers are often underpaid, their working conditions poor and sometimes dangerous. Their bargaining power is severely limited. Thus, there is a need to develop legally enforceable contracts of employment, setting out minimum wages, maximum hours of work and responsibilities.

The Association of World Citizens recommends that there be in the follow ups to the Summit, a special focus on youth, their needs as well as possibilities for positive actions by youth.

The strong link between migration, refugee flows, and improving the structures for the resolution of armed conflicts

The UN General Assembly which follows immediately the Migration-Refugee Summit is facing the need for action on a large number of armed conflicts in which Member States are involved. In some of these conflicts the UN has provided mediators; in others, UN peacekeepers are present. In nearly all these armed conflicts, there have been internally-displaced persons as well as trans-frontier refugees. Therefore, there is an urgent need to review the linkages between armed conflict and refugee flows. There needs to be a realistic examination as to why some of these armed conflicts have lasted as long as they have and why negotiations in good faith have not been undertaken or have not led to the resolution of these armed conflicts. Such reflections must aim at improvements of structures and procedures.

Developing further cooperation among nongovernmental organizations for the protection and integration of refugees and migrants

We welcome the emphasis in the Summit Declaration on the important role that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) play in providing direct services to refugees and migrants. NGOs also lobby government authorities on migration legislation and develop public awareness campaigns. The Summit has stressed the need to focus on future policies taking into account climate change and the growing globalization of trade, finance, and economic activities. Thus, there needs to be strong cooperation among the UN and its Agencies, national governments, and NGOs to deal more adequately with current challenges and to plan for the future. Inclusive structures for such cooperation are needed.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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