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For a World Citizen Approach to Protecting Human Rights Defenders

In Africa, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, International Justice, Latin America, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on January 19, 2021 at 6:28 PM

By Bernard J. Henry

What are, if any, the lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 crisis? As far as we, World Citizens, are concerned, the most important one is undoubtedly this: As we have been saying since the early days of our movement, global problems require global solutions.

Beyond the appearance of a mere self-serving statement, this traditional World Citizen slogan finds a new meaning today. Never has it been so visible and proven that national sovereignty can be not only a hurdle to solving global problems, but a full-scale peril to the whole world when abused. While many European nations were quick to react to the virus as a major health crisis right from early 2020, others led by nationalists, namely the USA, the UK and Brazil, adamantly refused to take any action, dismissing the virus as harmless if not non-existent. Just like an individual who is not aware of being sick can pass the disease on others while behaving without precaution, a country that does not act wisely can contribute dramatically to spreading the disease throughout the world. And that is what happened.

No use beating about the bush – that kind of behavior is a violation of human rights, starting with the right to life and the right to health. Even though COVID-19 is first and foremost a medical issue, it also has implications in terms of human rights. There comes a question which has been with us since the beginning of the century: In the absence of a global institution, such as a global police service, in charge of overseeing respect for human rights worldwide, what about the people devoting their lives to performing this duty of public service, these private citizens whom we call Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)? Before COVID-19 ever appeared, many of them were already in danger. While vaccines and medicines are being developed to counter COVID-19, there does not seem to be a cure in sight for the perils HRDs face every day.

Legal, legitimate, but unrecognized

HRDs, people defending human rights, have existed from the early days of human civilization in one form or another. Since 1948 and the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), followed by a number of treaties and similar declarations, it has obviously been viewed as more legitimate and legal to promote and protect rights which were now internationally recognized. The UDHR itself has made history by evolving from a non-binding resolution of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to an instrument of customary international law, toward which states feel obligated through, as international law puts it, opinio juris. But in a postwar Westphalian world where only states had international legal personality, the people defending the rights enshrined in the UDHR, in other words HRDs, long remained deprived of formal recognition.

It all changed in 1998, when the UN General Assembly celebrated the half-century of existence of the UDHR by presenting it with a companion text, officially called Resolution 53/144 of December 9, 1998 but better known as the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms – in short, the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (DHRD).

Like the UDHR, the DHRD was born “soft law”. But the resemblance stops there. In twenty-two years of existence, the DHRD has been nowhere near accepted by states under opinio juris. Accepting international human rights is one thing, but endorsing the creation, if only morally speaking, of an international category of people authorized to go against the state to promote the same rights, well, that continues to be more than the nation-state can live with. Everywhere in the world, HRDs feel the pain of that denial of recognition.

Human rights under attack means defenders in danger

Traditionally, human rights in the Western sense of the word mean freedom of opinion and expression. These rights continue to be curtailed in too many countries, beyond geographical, cultural, religious, or even political differences. Inevitably, that goes for HRDs defending these rights too. The two “least democratic” countries sitting as Permanent Members on the UN Security Council, Russia and China, also stand out as world leaders in political repression.

During the Cold War, the Eastern bloc would put forward economic and social rights as a counterpoint to the said Western notion. Even though human rights were “reunified” over thirty years ago, economic and social rights remain taboo in various parts of the world. In Thailand and Nicaragua, health workers have been punished for demanding better equipment to treat COVID-19 patients. In the Philippines, city residents who pushed for more adequate shelter in times of lockdown were similarly repressed by their government.

Cultural rights, often alongside indigenous rights, can truly be described as disturbing all forms of governments in countries which used to be colonies of Western powers, from Latin America, most recently in Honduras and Paraguay, to Asia with such examples as Malaysia and Indonesia. In such countries, being an HRD trying to advance the rights of indigenous groups all but equates trying to tear the whole nation apart.

Everywhere in the world, such typical 21st-century pressing issues as LGBT rights and, more than ever since the #MeToo scandal, women’s rights may be popular causes, but taking them up almost systematically means trouble, be it in North African countries like Egypt and Tunisia or in the European nations of Poland and Andorra.

Last but not least, even though one might think the wide consensus on the issue opens doors for action, defending environmental rights is proving no easy task. From Madagascar to Belarus, trying to get your government to live up to its responsibilities is bound to create a most unsafe environment for you.

For those who need and manage to flee, being abroad does not even mean being safe anymore. China has been found to be heavily spying on activists from the Uyghur minority living in foreign countries, and last month the AWC had to send an appeal to the authorities of Canada regarding a Pakistani HRD from the Baloch minority group who was found dead in Toronto, after the local police service said the death was not a criminal act but a fellow Baloch HRD and refugee there expressed serious doubts.

When the DHRD should be providing greater relief and comfort for the performance of human rights work, HRDs continue to be denied any character of public service, leading to acute stigmatization, intimidation, and ultimately repression. As many signs that the nation-state is losing its nerves in trying to defend a Westphalian national sovereignty that COVID-19 has now largely proved is out of date.

Shattering national borders – and human rights, too

One form of human rights abuse that has become particularly salient since the late 2000s, further fueled by Brexit in 2016 and the now-ending Trump presidency since 2017, is the systematic persecution of refugees and migrants – and, more preoccupying still, of those nationals in the countries of arrival trying to lend a hand to the newcomers. In France, President Emmanuel Macron was thought to have been spared from the influence of populist parties backed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia; yet several activists have been prosecuted on these sole grounds, such as Martine Landry of Amnesty International France and Cédric Herrou, both from the Nice area near the Italian border. Eventually, both were cleared by the judiciary. In the USA, migrants’ rights activist Scott Warren was similarly prosecuted – and similarly acquitted. But in both countries and others still, the problem remains unsolved.

No wonder this is happening at all. Even those governments least favorable to the brand of xenophobia “exported” by Moscow since the last decade have become unfathomably sensitive to the issue of migration and asylum, as they too feel threatened by the outside world and flaunt their borders as ramparts, shielding them from some barbaric conduct with which they confuse different customs and religions, thus adopting the very same attitude as those populists they claim to be fighting. That leaves citizens trying to help refugees and migrants singled out as traitors and criminals.

The mass arrival of migrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East in the summer of 2015 proved that Europe and, for this purpose, the rest of the world were wrong to assume that crises in other, distant parts of the world could never hit home too violently. In this case, the crisis bore a name – ISIS, the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Sham (the Levant)”. The Iraqi-born terrorist group had conquered a wide swath of land the previous year, seizing territory from both Iraq and Syria along the border, and established on it a “caliphate” that drew scores of individuals from many parts of the world, especially Europe and North Africa. The previous summer had seen its militias persecute the millennia-old Christian minority of Iraq and other religious groups such as the Yezidis. A year before the UN dared called it genocide, the AWC did.

When the Taliban’s “Islamic Emirate” of the late 1990s in Afghanistan had been recognized by three countries, no one recognized the “Islamic State”, let alone the caliphate. Obviously, recognizing the “caliphate” would have been both a violation of international law and an insult to all of ISIS’s victims back home and abroad. Nonetheless, as the French-American scholar Scott Atran and the specialist Website e-ir.info noted, the “ISIS crisis” proved that the traditional notion of the nation-state was now being violently rejected – violently, and ISIS leaders knew full well how to make good use of it, cleverly rendering their barbaric ways appealing to Westerners and North Africans frustrated at the lack of social and political change back in their home countries.

Questioning the nation-state in such an insane, murderous manner can only be diametrically opposed to the mindset of a World Citizen. Stopping borders from serving as ramparts against foreigners irrationally viewed as enemies, bringing the people of the world together regardless of political nationality, none of this can ever be compatible with the creation of yet another nation-state, albeit de facto, to terrorist ends at home and abroad. Even though the massive afflux of migrants and refugees was certainly no phenomenon the best-prepared state in the world could have successfully dealt with overnight, European nations failed at it miserably. In suspecting and rejecting foreigners for fear of terrorism, they only made it easier to commit terrorist attacks on their soil and endanger their own population, including the Muslim population which automatically becomes a scapegoat every time a jihadi terrorist attack is carried out. Nobody’s human rights were well-served and everybody’s human rights ended up as losers.

Globalizing solidarity with HRDs

There you have it. The harder states, European and others, strive to defend their borders as sacred, God-given privileges, the harder human rights and their defenders get hit and everybody loses.

Consequently, returning to the comparison with COVID-19, a true World Citizen perspective toward protecting HRDs must put forward what has been absent throughout the pandemic, in terms of both public health and patient care – globalization. Not the unfair, inhumane economic globalization we have known since the 1990s, for that one too is responsible for what has happened over the past twelve months. A World Citizen can only seek a globalization of solidarity, bearing in mind that, as French President Emmanuel Macron once put it, “the virus does not have a passport” and travels freely through all human beings who accept, or get forced, to become its living vehicles.

The very same principle should apply to human rights and their defenders. The UDHR is by name universal, as are all human rights. Therefore, why wouldn’t the defense of the same rights be universal by nature? If terrorism can be let to shun national borders in its war on the whole world, then why can’t brave, devoted HRDs enjoy the recognition they deserve, in every country, on every continent, and from every type of government? Why in the world would a terrorist get greater attention than a citizen dedicating their life to championing the dignity of all fellow human beings? If this divided world of ours could possibly find some sort of unity in support of health workers fighting COVID-19, then why not around HRDs, too?

World leaders can no longer look away from the issue. Uniting around one global problem means endorsing the principle of global solutions for everything else. If there is to be a different future for the world, a better future, then trusting and respecting HRDs, supporting and helping them, and ultimately joining their ranks are as many keys that will unlock a brand new era of shared true dignity.

Bernard J. Henry is the External Relations Officer of the Association of World Citizens.

Henry Usborne (January 16, 1909 – March 16, 1996) World Citizen Activist

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Democracy, Human Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on January 16, 2021 at 6:42 PM

By René Wadlow

Henry Usborne was a British Member of Parliament (MP) elected in the Labour Party landslide in 1945. He was re-elected in 1950. He was an engineer and Birmingham businessman yet a socialist. Born in India, he always had a broad view of world politics. He was concerned that the United Nations (UN) whose Charter had been signed in June 1945 before the use of the atomic bombs had the same weaknesses as the League of Nations. Soon after his election, he spoke in Parliament for the UN to have the authority to enforce its decisions, an authority which the League of Nations lacked. He spoke out for a code of human rights and for an active world bank.

The early years of the UN were colored by the growing tensions between the USA and the USSR – the start of the Cold War. There were deep disagreements over the future of Germany. Non-official contacts between English and Soviets became more difficult. Proposals for international control of atomic energy were refused or not acted upon within the UN.

Thus Usborne, while still favorable to the efforts of the UN. felt that more popular support for a stronger UN was needed. He was influenced by the experience of the 1934 Peace Ballot which had been organized by the British League of Nations Association. Voters in this non-official vote were asked if they were in support of Britain remaining in the League of Nations. Over 11 million votes were cast with some 10 million in favor of remaining in the League. It is likely that those who wanted out did not bother to vote. Nevertheless, the 1934 Peace Ballot showed strong popular support for the League.

Usborne played a key role in 1946 in the creation by world citizens and world federalists from Western Europe and the USA in the creation in a meeting in Luxembourg of the Movement for a World Federal Government. With these new contacts he envisaged a vote in the USA and much of Western Europe to elect delegates to a Peoples’ World Convention which would write a constitution for a stronger world institution. He proposed that there be one delegate per million population of each State participating. He did not envisage that the USSR and its allies would participate, but he hoped that India would as Jawaharlal Nehru had played a key role in developing support for the United Nations. (1)

In October 1947 he went on a speaking tour of the USA. His ideas were widely understood as they followed somewhat the pattern of the United States (U. S.) Constitutional Convention. The delegates had originally been chosen to develop amendments to the existing Articles of Confederation. They set aside their mandate to draft a totally other basis of union among the states which became the U. S. Constitution. Understanding did not necessarily mean support; yet a fairly large number of organizations were willing to consider the idea.

However, in June 1950, war was started in Korea. Usborne and many others were worried that this was the start of the Third World War. Usborne as many other world citizens turned their activities toward the need for a settlement with the USSR and forms of arms control if there was no possibility for disarmament. The idea of the creation of an alternative world institution stronger than the UN was largely set aside. The focus became on strengthening the UN by finding programs in which the USSR and the USA could participate such as some of the early proposals for UN technical assistance programs. (2)

Usborne, as other world citizens, put an emphasis on developing a sense of world citizenship and a loyalty to all of humanity without spelling out the institutional structures such world citizenship should take. At the end of his second term in Parliament, he left party politics but remained an active world citizen always willing to share his convictions.

Notes

(1) See Manu Bhagavan. The Peacemakers: India and the Quest for One World (New Delhi: HarperCollins India, 2012)

(2) See Stringfellow Barr, Citizens of the World (New York: Doubleday and Company, 1952)

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

Albert Schweitzer (January 14, 1875 – September 4, 1965): Reverence for Life

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Social Rights, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace on January 14, 2021 at 10:51 PM

By René Wadlow

The human race must be converted to a fresh mental attitude, if it is not to suffer extinction… A new renaissance, much greater than that in which we emerged from the Middle Ages, is absolutely essential. Are we going to draw from the spirit enough strength to create new conditions and turn our faces once again to civilization, or are we going to draw our inspiration from our surroundings and go down with them to ruin? — Albert Schweitzer

January 14 was the anniversary of the birth of Albert Schweitzer and a special day at the hospital that he founded at Lambaréné. Alsatian wine would be served at lunch, and conversations over lunch would last longer than usual before everyone had to return to his tasks. In 1963, when I was working for the Ministry of Education of Gabon and spending time at the Protestant secondary school some 500 yards down river from the hospital, I was invited to lunch for the birthday celebration. As the only non-hospital person there, I was placed next to Dr. Schweitzer, and we continued our discussions both on the events that had taken place along the Ogowe River and his more philosophical concerns.

I was interviewing Gabonese staying at the hospital on what they thought of schools, of schoolteachers, of their hopes for their children. When Schweitzer was not busy writing, I would go sit with him and discuss. Since many of the people who came from Europe or the USA to visit him would always say “Yes, Doctor, I agree”, he had relatively little time for them. But since I would say, “But no, you also have to take this into account…” he was stimulated and we had long talks. On his basic position of reverence for life, I was in agreement, and I have always appreciated the time spent on the river’s edge.

As Norman Cousins has noted,

“the main point about Schweitzer is that he helped make it possible for twentieth-century man to unblock his moral vision. There is a tendency in a relativistic age for man to pursue all sides of a question as an end in itself, finding relief and even refuge in the difficulty of defining good and evil. The result is a clogging of the moral sense, a certain feeling of self-consciousness or even discomfort when questions with ethical content are raised. Schweitzer furnished the nourishing evidence that nothing is more natural in life than a moral response, which exists independently of precise definition, its use leading not to exhaustion but to new energy.”

The moral response for Schweitzer was “reverence for life”. Schweitzer had come to Lambaréné in April 1913, already well known for his theological reflections on the eschatological background of Jesus’ thought as well as his study of Bach. As an Alsatian he was concerned with the lack of mutual understanding, the endless succession of hatred and fear, between France and Germany that led to war a year later.

Since Alsace was part of Germany at the time, Schweitzer was considered an enemy alien in the French colony of Gabon. When war broke out he was first restricted to the missionary station where he had started his hospital and later was deported and interned in France. He returned to Gabon after the First World War, even more convinced of the need to infuse thought with a strong ethical impulse. His reflections in The Decay and Restoration of Civilization trace in a fundamental way the decay. He saw clearly that

“the future of civilization depends on our overcoming the meaningless and hopelessness which characterizes the thoughts and convictions of men today, and reaching a state of fresh hope and fresh determination.”

He was looking for a basic principle that would provide the basis of the needed renewal. That principle arose from a mystical experience. He recounts how he was going down river to Ngomo, a missionary station with a small clinic. In those days, there were steamboats on the Ogowé, and seated on the deck, he had been trying to write all day. After a while, he stopped writing and only watched the equatorial forest as the boat moved slowly on. Then the words “reverence for life” came into his mind, and his reflections had found their core: life must be both affirmed and revered. Ethics, by its very nature, is linked to the affirmation of the good. Schweitzer saw that he was

“life which wants to live, surrounded by life which wants to live. Being will-to-life, I feel the obligation to respect all will-to-life about me as equal to my own. The fundamental idea of good is thus that it consists in preserving life, in favoring it, in wanting to bring it to its highest value, and evil consists in destroying life, doing it injury, hindering its development.”

Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben, — reverence for life — was the key concept for Schweitzer — all life longs for fullness and development as a person does for himself. However, the will to live is not static; there is a inner energy which pushes on to a higher state — a will to self-realization. Basically, this energy can be called spiritual. As Dr. Schweitzer wrote

“One truth stands firm. All that happens in world history rests on something spiritual. If the spiritual is strong, it creates world history. If it is weak, it suffers world history.” The use of Schweitzer’s principle of Reverence for Life can have a profound impact on how humans treat the environment. Reverence for Life rejects the notion that humans can use the environment for its own purposes without any consideration of its consequences for other living things. It accepts the view that there is a reciprocal relationship among living things. Each species is linked to many others.”

Aldo Leopold in his early statement of a deep ecology ethic, A Sand County Almanac, makes the same point:

“All ethics so far evolved rest on a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts…The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soil, water, plants, and animals, or collectively, the land.”

War and the potential of the use of nuclear weapons is the obvious opposite of reverence for life. Thus, in the mid-1950s, when the political focus was on the testing in the atmosphere of nuclear weapons, Schweitzer came out strongly for an abolition of nuclear tests. Some had warned him that such a position could decrease his support among those who admired his medical work in Africa but who wanted to support continued nuclear tests. However, for Schweitzer, an ethic which is not presented publicly is no ethic at all. His statements on the nuclear weapons issue are collected in his Peace or atomic war? (1958). The statements had an impact with many, touched by the ethical appeal when they had not been moved to action by political reasoning. These protests led to the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty which bans tests in the atmosphere — an important first step.

Schweitzer was confident that an ethic impulse was in all people and would manifest itself if given the proper opportunity.

“Just as the rivers are much less numerous than underground streams, so the idealism that is visible is minor compared to what men and women carry in their hearts, unreleased or scarcely released. Mankind is waiting and longing for those who can accomplish the task of untying what is knotted and bringing the underground waters to the surface.”

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

U. N. Day: Strengthening and Reforming

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Democracy, Environmental protection, Human Development, Human Rights, International Justice, NGOs, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on October 25, 2020 at 4:11 PM

By René Wadlow

October 24 is United Nations (U. N.) Day, marking the day when there were enough ratifications including those of the five permanent members of the proposed Security Council for the U. N. Charter to come into force. It is a day not only of celebration, but also a day for looking at how the U. N. system can be strengthened, and when necessary, reformed.

There have been a number of periods when proposals for new or different U. N. structures were proposed and discussed. The first was in the 1944-1945 period when the Charter was being drafted. Some who had lived through the decline and then death of the League of Nations wanted a stronger world institution, able to move more quickly and effectively in times of crisis or at the start of armed conflict.

The official emblem of the League of Nations.

In practice, the League of Nations was reincarnated in 1945 in the U. N. Charter but the names of some of the bodies were changed and new Specialized Agencies such as UNESCO were added. There was some dissatisfaction during the San Francisco negotiations, and an article was added indicating that 10 years after the coming into force of the Charter a proposal to hold a U. N. Charter Review Conference would be placed on the Agenda – thus for 1955.

The possibility of a U. N. Charter Review Conference led in the 1953-1954 period to a host of proposals for changes in the U. N. structures, for a greater role for international law, for a standing U. N. “peace force”. Nearly all these proposals would require modifications in the U. N. Charter.

When 1955 arrived, the United States and the Soviet Union, who did not want a Charter Review Conference which might have questioned their policies, were able to sweep the Charter Review agenda item under the rug from where it has never emerged. In place of a Charter Review Conference, a U. N. Committee on “Strengthening the U. N. Charter” was set up which made a number of useful suggestions, none of which were put into practice as such. The Committee on Strengthening the Charter was the first of a series of expert committees, “High-Level Panels” set up within the U. N. to review its functioning and its ability to respond to new challenges. There have also been several committees set up outside of the U. N. to look at world challenges and U. N. responses, such as the Commission on Global Governance.

While in practice there have been modifications in the ways the U. N. works, few of these changes have recognized an expert group’s recommendations as the source of the changes. Some of the proposals made would have strengthened some factions of the U. N. system over the then current status quo – most usually to strength the role of developing countries (the South) over the industrialized States (the North). While the vocabulary of “win-win” modifications is often used, in practice few States want to take a chance, and the status quo continues.

Now, the Secretary General knows well how the U. N. works from his decade as High Commissioner for Refugees, U. N. reform is again “in the air”. There are an increasing number of proposals presented by governments and by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) associated with the U. N. The emphasis today is on what can be done without a revision of the Charter. Most of the proposals turn on what the Secretary General can do on his own authority. The Secretary General cannot go against the will of States – especially the most powerful States – but he does have a certain power of initiative.

There are two aspects of the current U. N. system that were not foreseen in 1945 and which are important today. One is the extensive role of U. N. Peacekeeping Forces: The Blue Helmets. The other is the growing impact of NGOs. There is growing interest in the role of NGOs within the U. N. system in the making and the implementation of policies at the international level. NGOs are more involved than ever before in global policy making and project implementation in such areas as conflict resolution, human rights, humanitarian relief, and environmental protection. (1)

NGOs at the U. N. have a variety of roles – they bring citizens’ concerns to governments, advocate particular policies, present alternative avenues for political participation, provide analysis, serve as an early warning mechanism of potential violence and help implement peace agreements.

The role of consultative-status NGOs was written into the U. N. Charter at its founding in San Francisco in June 1945. As one of the failings of the League of Nations had been the lack of public support and understanding of the functioning of the League, some of the U. N. Charter drafters felt that a role should be given to NGOs. At the start, both governments and U. N. Secretariat saw NGOs as an information avenue — telling NGO members what the governments and the U. N. was doing and building support for their actions. However, once NGOs had a foot in the door, the NGOs worked to have a two-way avenue — also telling governments and the Secretariat what NGO members thought and what policies should be carried out at the U. N. Governments were none too happy with this two-way avenue idea and tried to limit the U. N. bodies with which NGOs could ‘consult’. There was no direct relationship with the General Assembly or the Security Council. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Article 71 of the Charter was the body to which “consultative-status NGOs” were related.

A wide view of the 19th session of the Human Rights Council. (C) Jean-Marc Ferré / UN Geneva

What in practice gives NGOs their influence is not what an individual NGO can do alone but what they can do collectively. ‘Networking’ and especially trans-national networking is the key method of progress. NGOs make networks which facilitate the trans-national movement of norms, resources, political responsibility, and information. NGO networks tend to be informal, non-binding, temporary, and highly personalized. NGOs are diverse, heterogeneous, and independent. They are diverse in mission, level of resources, methods of operating and effectiveness. However, at the U. N., they are bound together in a common desire to protect the planet and advance the welfare of humanity.

The role of NGO representatives is to influence policies through participation in the entire policy-making process. What distinguishes the NGO representative’s role at the U. N. from lobbying at the national level is that the representative may appeal to and discuss with the diplomats of many different governments. While some diplomats may be unwilling to consider ideas from anyone other than the mandate they receive from their Foreign Ministry, others are more open to ideas coming from NGO representatives. Out of the 193 Member States, the NGO representative will always find some diplomats who are ‘on the same wave length’ or who are looking for additional information on which to take a decision, especially on issues on which a government position is not yet set.

Legal Officer Noura Addad representing the AWC during a meeting at UNESCO in November 2018 (C) AWC External Relations Desk

Therefore, an NGO representative must be trusted by government diplomats and the U. N. Secretariat. As with all diplomacy in multilateral forums such as the U. N., much depends upon the skill and knowledge of the NGO representative and on the close working relations which they are able to develop with some government representatives and some members of the U. N. Secretariat. Many Secretariat members share the values of the NGO representatives but cannot try to influence government delegates directly. The Secretariat members can, however, give to the NGO representatives some information, indicate countries that may be open to acting on an issue and help with the style of presentation of a document.

It is probably in the environmental field — sustainable development — that there has been the most impact. Each environmental convention or treaty such as those on biological diversity or drought was negotiated separately, but with many of the same NGO representatives present. It is more difficult to measure the NGO role in disarmament and security questions. It is certain that NGO mobilization for an end to nuclear testing and for a ban on land mines and cluster weapons played a role in the conventions which were steps forward for humanity. However, on other arms issues, NGO input is more difficult to analyze.

‘Trans-national advocacy networks’ which work across frontiers are of increasing importance as seen in the efforts against land mines, for the International Criminal Court and for increased protection from violence toward women and children. The groups working on these issues are found in many different countries but have learned to work trans-nationally both through face-to-face meetings and through the internet web. The groups in any particular campaign share certain values and ideas in common but may differ on other issues. Thus, they come together on an ad hoc basis around a project or a small number of related issues. Yet their effectiveness is based on their being able to function over a relatively long period of time in rather complex networks even when direct success is limited.

These campaigns are based on networks which combine different actors at various levels of government: local, regional, national, and U. N. (or European Parliament, OSCE etc.). The campaigns are waged by alliances among different types of organizations — membership groups, academic institutions, religious bodies, and ad hoc local groupings. Some groups may be well known, though most are not.

There is a need to work at the local, the national, and the U. N. levels at the same time. Advocacy movements need to be able to contact key decision-makers in national parliaments, government administrations and intergovernmental secretariats. Such mobilization is difficult, and for each ‘success story’ there are many failed efforts. The rise of U. N. consultative-status NGOs has been continual since the early 1970s. NGOs and government diplomats at the U. N. are working ever more closely together to deal with the world challenges which face us all.

Note
(1) This interest is reflected in a number of path-making studies such as P. Willets (Ed.), The Consciences of the World: The Influence of Non-Governmental Organizations in the U. N. System (London: Hurst, 1996), T. Princen and M. Finger (Eds), Environmental NGOs in World Politics: Linking the Global and the Local (London: Routledge, 1994), M. Rech and K. Sikkink, Activists Without Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998); Bas Arts, Math Noortmann and Rob Reinalda (Eds), Non-State Actors in International Relations (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001); and William De Mars, NGOs and Transnational Networks (London: Pluto Press, 2005).

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

En Tunisie, les femmes ne doivent plus être les oubliées de la révolution

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Social Rights, Solidarity, Track II, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on October 13, 2020 at 12:07 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry et Cherifa Maaoui

Il est des anniversaires qui ne sont pas des fêtes. Cette année, la Déclaration et Programme d’action de Beijing adoptée à l’issue de la Quatrième Conférence mondiale sur les femmes, du 4 au 15 septembre 1995, a quinze ans. En décembre, la Résolution 1325 du Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unies sur les conflits armés et les femmes aura vingt ans. Malgré ces deux anniversaires capitaux, dans le monde d’aujourd’hui, les femmes n’ont trop rien à fêter.

C’est encore plus vrai de celles du monde arabe, bientôt dix ans après les révolutions populaires parties de Tunisie avec l’éviction du Président Zine el Abidine ben Ali le 14 janvier 2011. La Tunisie, considérée comme le seul vrai succès du « printemps arabe » et dont les institutions héritées de cette époque tiennent toujours, tandis que l’Egypte est retournée vers l’autoritarisme et l’espoir s’est perdu dans les sables de la guerre en Libye, en Syrie et au Yémen. Epargnées par le conflit armé, les Tunisiennes n’en ont pas moins dû lutter, menacées dans leurs droits par la mouvance islamiste et jamais confortées dans ceux-ci par la droite « destourienne » se voulant héritière du bourguibisme.

Aux prises avec une incertitude politique inédite depuis la révolution de 2011, ouverte par le décès du Président Beji Caïd Essebsi en 2019, la Tunisie a connu une élection présidentielle marquée par le fait que l’un des deux candidats qualifiés pour le second tour, Nabil Karoui, se trouvait depuis peu en détention. En sortit vainqueur un conservateur assumé, le juriste Kaïs Saied, suivi du retour en force au parlement du parti islamiste Ennahda. Rien qui laisse augurer d’avancées dignes des deux anniversaires onusiens en Tunisie, où il ne manquait qu’un drame criminel pour venir plonger dans la terreur et la rage des femmes n’en pouvant plus d’être les oubliées des colères de l’histoire.

Les droits des femmes constamment écartés de la loi

En disparaissant, Beji Caid Essebsi laissait en héritage aux Tunisiennes un espoir déçu, ou plutôt, inaccompli. En novembre 2018, son gouvernement approuvait un projet de loi, transmis à l’Assemblée des Représentants du Peuple chargée de se prononcer, sur l’égalité des sexes dans l’héritage, là où un Code du statut personnel qui se distingue dans le monde arabe et musulman par son aspect moderniste et progressiste cohabite étrangement avec une survivance de la charia en droit tunisien n’accordant à une femme que la moitié de l’héritage d’un homme.

Beji Caïd Essebsi

Caid Essebsi décédé, son successeur Kaïs Saied élu dans un climat de chaos constitutionnel, le projet de loi tombait dans l’oubli. Fidèle, trop fidèle même, à ses annonces de campagne en faveur d’une prépondérance systématique de la charia en cas de conflit avec le droit civil, le nouveau chef d’Etat choisissait de célébrer la Fête nationale de la Femme Tunisienne le 13 août dernier en désavouant la notion d’égalité telle que défendue par le projet de loi.

Dans le même temps, Rached Ghannouchi, chef historique du parti islamiste Ennahda, devenait Président de l’Assemblée des Représentants du Peuple. Très vite, il trouvait sur son chemin une avocate et députée, Abir Moussi, du Parti destourien libre fondé par d’anciens responsables du Rassemblement constitutionnel démocratique, le parti unique sous Ben Ali dissous après la révolution.

Certes, les menaces d’Ennahda sur l’égalité des sexes en Tunisie, notamment à travers un projet de déclarer les femmes « complémentaires » des hommes et non leurs égales dans la future Constitution, ont laissé des souvenirs amers. Mais cet affrontement entre un ancien dissident devenu dignitaire et une bénaliste sans repentir offrait peu d’espérance, lui aussi, à des Tunisiennes dont les droits semblaient cette fois mis en sommeil pour longtemps.

Soudain, aux errements d’une politique tunisienne orpheline est venu s’ajouter un crime – plus exactement, un féminicide. De ceux qui sortent la politique du champ de la raison, faisant d’elle, à coup sûr, la politique du pire.

Quand un féminicide ravive le désir de voir l’Etat tuer

Le 21 septembre dernier, la famille de Rahma Lahmar, âgée de vingt-neuf ans, signalait la disparition de la jeune femme alors qu’elle rentrait de son travail. Quatre jours plus tard, son corps mutilé était retrouvé à Aïn Zaghouan, en banlieue de Tunis, et il apparaissait bientôt qu’avant d’être tuée, elle avait été violée. Rapidement, l’auteur présumé était appréhendé – un récidiviste condamné deux fois pour tentative de meurtre.

Rahma Lahmar, victime d’un féminicide en Tunisie

Il n’en fallait pas plus à l’opinion publique pour réclamer la peine de mort, jamais abolie en droit tunisien bien que faisant l’objet d’un moratoire depuis 1991. Les magistrats tunisiens continuent de l’infliger, quelques cent trente personnes se trouvent aujourd’hui dans le couloir de la mort en Tunisie, mais personne n’est exécuté. Le violeur et meurtrier de Rahma Lahmar doit l’être, estime la famille de la victime rejointe par une opinion publique excédée, ainsi que par un Kaïs Saied qui en vient lui-même à rouvrir la question de la peine de mort.

Kaïs Saied

Quelques jours après, l’Algérie voisine était ébranlée par un drame semblable. Le 1er octobre, une jeune femme de dix-neuf ans prénommée Chaïma tombait dans un piège tendu par un homme qui, à seize ans, l’avait violée et avait lui aussi eu affaire depuis lors à la justice de son pays. Dans une station-service désaffectée, à une cinquantaine de kilomètres à l’est d’Alger, il la violait, la frappait, puis la jetait à terre, l’aspergeait d’essence et la brûlait à mort. Comme son homologue tunisien, il était arrêté sous peu et son crime ignoble réveillait dans le pays des envies de peine de mort.

Chaïma, victime d’un féminicide en Algérie

Le 12 octobre, loin du monde arabe mais toujours dans le monde musulman, le Bangladesh, en proie à une vague d’agressions sexuelles, instaurait une peine capitale automatique pour le viol, sans s’attaquer en rien aux défauts de sa législation nationale en termes de violences contre les femmes.

En 2011, la révolution non-violente des Tunisiens avait inspiré le monde arabe jusqu’au Yémen. Aujourd’hui, le drame du viol mortel en Tunisie n’est peut-être pas ce qui donne envie de voir l’Etat faire couler le sang jusqu’en Asie, mais en tout cas, il n’y échappe pas. Pourquoi ?

La peine de mort, fausse justice et vrai symptôme de l’injustice

Quel que soit le crime commis, aussi abject soit-il et le viol puis le meurtre de Rahma Lahmar est l’archétype du crime impardonnable, l’Association of World Citizens (AWC) est par principe contre la peine de mort où que ce soit dans le monde. Par indulgence envers les criminels ? Par faiblesse dogmatique ? Ces arguments n’appartiennent qu’à ceux qui ne comprennent pas ce qu’est en réalité la peine de mort, non pas un châtiment judiciaire comme l’est, par exemple, la réclusion criminelle à perpétuité, mais un meurtre commis par l’Etat, à l’image de celui commis par le meurtrier que l’on cherche ainsi à sanctionner. Une vengeance, sans rapport aucun avec la justice qui doit punir les criminels des actes par lesquels ils se mettent eux-mêmes en dehors de la société. Comme le chante Julien Clerc dans L’assassin assassiné, par l’application de la peine capitale, le crime change de côté. Pire encore, là où un crime peut être commis sous une pulsion soudaine – qui ne l’excuse pas quand bien même – la peine de mort résulte immanquablement d’une délibération, consciente et volontaire, de citoyens agissant sous le couvert de la puissance publique.

Le violeur et assassin de Rahma Lahmar l’a privée pour toujours de son droit à la vie ; comment espérer réaffirmer les droits des femmes en Tunisie en appelant à ce qu’il soit lui aussi privé de son droit à la vie, plaçant ainsi l’Etat de droit au même niveau qu’un criminel récidiviste, ce qui serait du plus absurde et indécent ? Pas plus qu’elle n’a d’effet dissuasif prouvé, la peine de mort ne répare aucune injustice. Elle nous fait seulement perdre ce qui nous sépare des criminels. Pour quoi faire ?

Si la Déclaration et Programme d’action de Beijing en 1995, puis la Résolution 1325 du Conseil de Sécurité cinq ans plus tard, omettent toute référence à la peine capitale pour les crimes commis contre les femmes, ce n’est pas par hasard. On ne fait respecter les droits de personne en faisant couler le sang au nom de l’Etat, pas plus qu’on n’envisagerait de le faire par le crime.

En Tunisie, l’envolée des partisans de la peine de mort après celle de Rahma Lahmar en est, ironiquement, la preuve. Tant ils s’époumonent à crier vengeance, ils en oublient l’essentiel, la cause de tout le drame – la négation des droits des femmes. Et ce n’est même pas leur faute.

Seul le respect des droits des femmes peut créer la justice

Lorsqu’il s’agit du meurtre, que ce soit celui d’une femme, d’un homme voire d’un enfant, pour justifier leur acte injustifiable, les meurtriers ne sont jamais à court de raisons. En revanche, le viol ne s’explique, lui, que d’une seule façon. L’homme qui viole une femme la réduit à un corps, sans plus d’esprit, celui d’un être humain comme lui, doté du droit de refuser ses faveurs sexuelles si elle le souhaite. Ce corps privé de tout droit, déchu de la qualité d’être humain de sexe féminin, soumis par la brutale force physique, n’est plus que l’objet dont entend disposer à son gré l’homme qui viole. Autant le meurtre ouvre grand les portes de l’imagination, autant le viol verrouille la vérité, celle d’une négation de la féminité, une négation de la femme.

A quoi s’attend, sinon à cela, une société tunisienne qui, au gré des alternances politiques postrévolutionnaires entre islamistes et droite bourguibiste, ne défend que mollement les droits des femmes lorsqu’elle n’en vient pas ouvertement à les nier ? Dans un Maghreb et, plus largement, un monde arabe et musulman où son Code du statut personnel se détache depuis toujours comme étant d’avant-garde, une Tunisie qui s’interdit d’avancer ne peut que se voir reculer.

Rached Ghannouchi

C’est du reste ce qu’a bien compris Rached Ghannouchi, trop satisfait de pouvoir voler au secours de l’avocate et ancienne députée Bochra Bel Haj Hmida, en rien proche des positions d’Ennahda mais qui, pour avoir réaffirmé son opposition à la peine de mort en pleine affaire Rahma Lahmar, a subi un lynchage en règle sur les réseaux sociaux, jusqu’à un député notoirement populiste et sexiste qui s’est permis de tomber suffisamment bas pour imputer son refus de la peine capitale au fait qu’elle-même « ne risquait pas d’être violée ». De quoi faire passer les islamistes les plus réactionnaires pour des anges de vertu et ils savent en tirer profit.

Bochra Bel Haj Hmida

De tels propos, à l’aune du viol et du meurtre de Rahma Lahmar, sont immanquablement la marque d’une société qui manque à consolider dans sa législation les droits des femmes, ainsi qu’à les inscrire durablement dans sa morale civique et politique. Il paraît lointain, le temps où, en 2014, la Tunisie s’est débarrassée de ses dernières réserves envers la Convention des Nations Unies pour l’Elimination de toute forme de Discrimination envers les Femmes, la fameuse CEDAW, là où Algérie, Egypte, Libye, Syrie et Yémen conservent leurs propres réserves. Un engagement international ne sert à rien si, chez lui, l’Etat qui le souscrit en ignore ou viole l’esprit.

Inutile de réussir sa révolution si, ensuite, on rate son évolution. Sans des femmes sûres de leurs droits, réaffirmés dans la loi comme dans les esprits, la Tunisie en aura tôt fini d’être en termes économiques, sociaux ou sociétaux, une éternelle success story.

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

Cherifa Maaoui est Officier de Liaison Afrique du Nord & Moyen-Orient de l’Association of World Citizens.

PRESS RELEASE – 20200914/Migrants and Refugees/Human Rights

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Press release, Refugees, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on September 14, 2020 at 7:49 AM

Press Release

September 14, 2020

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THE ASSOCIATION OF WORLD CITIZENS PROPOSES

INCREASED GOVERNMENTAL AND NONGOVERNMENTAL ACTION

FOR AN ENLIGHTENED POLICY

TOWARD MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES

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Recent events have highlighted the need for a dynamic and enlightened policy toward migrants and refugees. The refugee camp in Moria, on Lesbos Island, Greece, which burned to the ground on September 9, 2020, hosted over 13,000 refugees and migrants, most from Afghanistan with others from Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and an increasing number from West Africa. Among them were thousands of defenseless women and children, victims of war, violence and later from xenophobia, islamophobia and racism. Prior to the fire, the refugees were already living in poor conditions, in small tents on wet ground without clean drinking water or medical care.

Since the fire, most of the refugees in Moria, including newborn babies, have been sleeping in the streets while xenophobic locals harass them and armed policemen, known for their far-right sympathies, threaten them.

A second drama of refugees and migrants is being acted out in the French Department of Pas-de-Calais, as refugees try to reach England before December 31, 2020, when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, thus ending the existing accords on refugees and migrants. Many have paid large sums of money for the possibility to reach England, often in unsafe makeshift boats.

The Association of World Citizens, along with other humanitarian organizations, has worked actively for world law concerning migrants and refugees – policies which need to be strengthened and, above all, applied respecting the dignity of each person: https://awcungeneva.com/2020/06/20/world-refugee-day/

PRESS RELEASE – 20200911/Belarus/Democracy/Human Rights

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union on September 11, 2020 at 11:42 AM

Press Release


Paris, September 11, 2020

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LATEST PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN BELARUS:

WHEN OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS RUN FOR THEIR LIVES OR “DISAPPEAR”,

DEMOCRACY CAN NEVER BE WELL SERVED

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The Association of World Citizens (AWC) has expressed deep concern over the crackdown on leaders of the opposition to the July 9, 2020 election of President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus. Many consider the election to have been marked by serious irregularities and false counting of votes.


Members of the nonviolent opposition coordinating council have been forced into exile such as the opposition’s presidential candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, to Lithuania. Others, such as Maria Kalesnikova, were taken by masked security agents to the frontier with Ukraine.


Ms. Kalesnikova ripped her passport so that she could not enter Ukraine and be exiled. Other members of the opposition have “disappeared”, no doubt held by security forces in undisclosed locations. The AWC has specifically highlighted the abuses of such “disappearances” and the need for continuing efforts against such abuses: https://awcungeneva.com/2020/08/30/enforced-disappearances-ngo-efforts-to-continue/.

Violences contre les femmes : Qui a peur de la Convention d’Istanbul ?

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, Social Rights, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on September 8, 2020 at 11:22 AM

Par Bernard J. Henry

« You can kill the dreamer, but you cannot kill the dream », « Vous pouvez tuer le rêveur, mais vous ne pouvez pas tuer le rêve ». Le plus célèbre « rêveur » de l’histoire, Martin Luther King, Jr., qui avait dit à la foule rassemblée devant le Lincoln Memorial de Washington, le 28 août 1963, « I have a dream », « J’ai un rêve », se savait menacé. Il se disait ainsi conscient que d’aucuns saisiraient la première occasion pour l’assassiner, ce qu’ils ont fait le 4 avril 1968 à Memphis. Jamais le « rêve » ne s’est éteint, et l’année 2020 aux Etats-Unis a montré que plus il manquait à se concrétiser, plus il se transformait en cauchemar.

Lorsqu’une personne incarne à ce point sa cause, est-il toujours permis de penser que, pour peu que cette personne disparaisse, la cause lui survivra toujours ? La question se pose désormais en France, depuis le décès le 28 août dernier de Gisèle Halimi, légendaire avocate devenue femme politique puis diplomate et, depuis le Procès de Bobigny qui la fit connaître en 1973, défenseure emblématique de La cause des femmes.

S’il n’a jamais été aussi vigoureux, depuis l’affaire Harvey Weinstein ainsi que l’apparition des hashtags #BalanceTonPorc et #MeToo, le féminisme ne fait pourtant toujours pas l’unanimité. En Europe, certains chefs d’Etat semblent même tant le craindre qu’ils sont prêts à amputer la loi nationale d’un instrument majeur contre les violences liées au genre, au premier rang desquelles les violences conjugales. Quels sont ces dirigeants européens qui rêvent d’un retour en arrière et que cherchent-ils ainsi ? Pourquoi vouloir éloigner encore davantage le « rêve » de Gisèle Halimi de la réalité ?

La Convention d’Istanbul, instrument juridique et engagement politique

A quoi, d’abord, ressemblerait cette amputation ? Quel est cet instrument qui leur fait si peur ? Il s’agit d’un traité, plus précisément d’une convention du Conseil de l’Europe, et comme bien des conventions, celle-ci porte un nom barbare pour les non-juristes, alors le grand public préfère la désigner selon la ville où elle a été adoptée. La Convention du Conseil de l’Europe sur la prévention et la lutte contre la violence à l’égard des femmes et la violence domestique, adoptée le 11 mai 2011 à Istanbul (Turquie), est communément appelée la Convention d’Istanbul.

Entrée en vigueur le 1er mai 2014, elle compte à ce jour trente-quatre Etats Parties et, en tout, quarante-six signataires dont l’un n’est pas un Etat, puisqu’il s’agit de l’Union européenne en tant qu’institution supranationale. Instrument de son temps, la Convention fait référence, outre son illustre aînée la Convention européenne de Sauvegarde des Droits de l’Homme et des Libertés fondamentales, tout à la fois aux classiques du genre, tels que le Pactes internationaux relatifs aux droits civils et politiques ainsi qu’aux droits économiques, sociaux et culturels, bien sûr la Convention des Nations Unies sur l’élimination de toutes les formes de discrimination à l’égard des femmes, la fameuse CEDAW, et la Convention des Nations Unies relative aux droits de l’enfant, mais aussi des textes d’adoption plus contemporaine comme la Convention des Nations Unies relative aux droits des personnes handicapées, datant de 2006, et le Statut de Rome de la Cour pénale internationale.

La Convention justifie son existence non pas seulement en droit, mais aussi en fait, invoquant le « volume croissant de la jurisprudence de la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme qui établit des normes importantes en matière de violence à l’égard des femmes », et affirmant reconnaître que « la réalisation de jure et de facto de l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes est un élément clé dans la prévention de la violence à l’égard des femmes ». La richesse et la pertinence particulière de la Convention proviennent pourtant de ce qu’elle puise sa force dans la sociologie même, son Préambule reprenant plusieurs réalités de première importance, tant historiques que contemporaines, telles que :

« la violence à l’égard des femmes est une manifestation des rapports de force historiquement inégaux entre les femmes et les hommes ayant conduit à la domination et à la discrimination des femmes par les hommes, privant ainsi les femmes de leur pleine émancipation »,

« la nature structurelle de la violence à l’égard des femmes est fondée sur le genre, et que la violence à l’égard des femmes est un des mécanismes sociaux cruciaux par lesquels les femmes sont maintenues dans une position de subordination par rapport aux hommes »,

« les femmes et les filles sont souvent exposées à des formes graves de violence telles que la violence domestique, le harcèlement sexuel, le viol, le mariage forcé, les crimes commis au nom du prétendu ‘honneur’ et les mutilations génitales, lesquelles constituent une violation grave des droits humains des femmes et des filles et un obstacle majeur à la réalisation de l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes »,

« les violations constantes des droits de l’homme en situation de conflits armés affectant la population civile, et en particulier les femmes, sous la forme de viols et de violences sexuelles généralisés ou systématiques et la potentialité d’une augmentation de la violence fondée sur le genre aussi bien pendant qu’après les conflits »,

« les femmes et les filles sont exposées à un risque plus élevé de violence fondée sur le genre que ne le sont les hommes »,

« la violence domestique affecte les femmes de manière disproportionnée et que les hommes peuvent également être victimes de violence domestique »,

« les enfants sont des victimes de la violence domestique, y compris en tant que témoins de violence au sein de la famille ».

La Convention n’est donc pas un traité de plus, venant s’ajouter à une liste déjà longue lisible des seuls juristes. Elle est un authentique engagement, non pas seulement judiciaire mais aussi politique, du Conseil de l’Europe contre la violence envers les femmes sous les multiples formes qu’elle peut revêtir.

Pour un Etat Partie, s’en retirer ne peut qu’être lourd de sens et tout autant de conséquences. Alors, qui parmi les chefs d’Etat européens peut vouloir en prendre le risque, et quelle peut être la justification d’un acte, même s’il reste hypothétique, aussi indéfendable ?

Pologne et Turquie, même combat – contre les femmes

Les deux pays concernés n’ont en commun ni géographie, ni langue, ni culture, ni religion. Mais aujourd’hui, une tentative identique de leurs dirigeants de déposséder leurs citoyennes de la protection européenne de leurs droits les unit pour le pire.

Le premier coup contre la Convention est venu du nord de l’Europe, d’un pays slave, majoritairement catholique et qui fut pendant la Guerre Froide une dictature communiste du Pacte de Varsovie. Varsovie, qui est aussi la capitale de ce pays puisqu’il s’agit de la Pologne.

Le 26 juillet, le Conseil de l’Europe s’alarmait publiquement de l’annonce du gouvernement du Président Andrzej Duda de son intention de dénoncer la Convention. Marija Pejčinović Burić, la Secrétaire générale du Conseil de l’Europe, déclarait par écrit : « Il serait fort regrettable que la Pologne quitte la Convention d’Istanbul, et ce retrait marquerait un grave recul dans la protection des femmes contre la violence en Europe ».

Zbigniew Ziobro

Devant le tollé, le parti Droit et Justice (PiS) au pouvoir ne tardait pas à se distancier du Ministre de la Justice Zbigniew Ziobro, auteur de l’annonce et représentant d’un parti de droite minoritaire de la coalition gouvernementale. Mais sans désavouer sur le fond le ministre et sans affirmer de soutien à la Convention, précisément jugée trop laxiste par le Gouvernement polonais.

En août, c’était le tour du premier pays à avoir signé et ratifié la Convention de parler à présent de la révoquer, le pays même où a vu le jour la Convention d’Istanbul, donc la Turquie. De nombreux analystes y voyaient un coup de barre à droite de la majorité gouvernementale islamo-conservatrice du Parti de la Justice et du Développement (AKP). Reçep Tayyip Erdogan, Président turc et, à l’époque de l’adoption de la Convention, Premier Ministre, déclarait néanmoins quant à lui qu’« un accord, une réglementation ou une idéologie qui sape les fondations de la famille n’est pas légitime ».

Seul le Parlement, en vacances jusqu’au 1er octobre, pourra décider du retrait ou non la Convention. Et le décès d’une grève de la faim, le 27 août, de l’avocate Ebru Timtik augure mal de la volonté des dirigeants turcs de sauver leurs administrées de violences qu’elles n’ont pas à subir.

Ebru Timtik

Que les partis conservateurs religieux, quelle que soit la religion qu’ils invoquent, n’aient jamais été les plus grands défenseurs des droits des femmes, ce n’est pas nouveau et encore moins secret. De tels partis savent pourtant, du moins devraient savoir, que risquer de perdre le vote des femmes n’est pas et ne sera jamais une stratégie politique sensée, mais bel et bien suicidaire. De là à en déduire que les femmes ne seraient pas la cible, du moins ultime, de ces menaces de départ de la Convention d’Istanbul, il n’y a qu’un pas. Et le franchir mène à une destination inattendue.

Le sexisme en cheval de Troie de la LGBTphobie

Derrière les attaques contre les femmes, dans les deux pays, la véritable cible, c’est la féminité. Non pas la vraie, mais une féminité fantasmée, crainte, maudite, celle qu’incarne aux yeux des conservateurs polonais comme turcs l’homosexualité, et au-delà, toute personne LGBT.

Car forcément, pour un conservateur, l’homosexualité est plus grave encore si elle est masculine puisque, dans son idée, elle féminise l’homme qui s’en réclame, et dès lors, foin du modèle viril patriarcal qu’exalte le conservatisme, cette abhorrée « féminité masculine » corrompt la famille et ronge toute la société.

Un certain nombre de villes de Pologne n’ont rien trouvé de plus intelligent que de se déclarer “LGBT-free”, “Libérées de l’idéologie LGBT”. Elles ont subi à juste titre la colère de leurs villes jumelles à l’étranger, de l’Union européenne, et parfois même de la justice polonaise.

Dès l’époque de son adoption, Zbigniew Ziobro avait été sans équivoque au sujet de la Convention, puisqu’il l’avait dénoncée comme « une invention, une création féministe qui vise à justifier l’idéologie gay ». Le ministre qu’il est devenu n’allait pas se priver de lui infliger le sort qu’elle mérite à ses yeux. Même coupé dans son élan par ses partenaires gouvernementaux, il en demeure capable.

En Turquie, l’anathème contre les personnes LGBT est identique, et c’est de Numan Kurtulmus, Vice-président de l’AKP, qu’il provient sous sa forme la plus explicite. Pour lui, la Convention est « aux mains des LGBT et d’éléments radicaux ». Ce à quoi ne s’attendait certainement pas, en revanche, le parti gouvernemental turc, c’est le soutien apporté à la Convention par l’Association Femmes et Démocratie, notoirement influente et qui a pour Vice-présidente Sümeyye Erdogan Bayraktar, la propre fille du chef de l’Etat.

Sümeyye Erdogan Bayraktar

Voir en la protection légale des femmes contre la violence une présumée manipulation politique des personnes LGBT, c’est tout au mieux du fantasme, au pire de l’homophobie et du sexisme morbides. Même s’il serait naïf de s’étonner de telles saillies haineuses de la part de conservateurs, comment accepter que ce qui est déjà inacceptable en parole devienne la clé qui verrouillera Polonaises et Turques hors de la Convention d’Istanbul ? A l’Europe comme au monde entier, Varsovie et Ankara en demandent ici trop.

Soutien aux femmes de Pologne et de Turquie

Et pendant que les deux gouvernements conservateurs laissent leurs fantasmes dicter leur politique, ailleurs en Europe, dans le nord scandinave, le Danemark met enfin sa législation sur le viol en conformité avec la Convention en l’acceptant enfin pour ce qu’il est – l’absence de consentement. Polonaises et Turques sont vent debout contre la menace. L’Association of World Citizens les soutient et restera à leurs côtés, de même qu’aux côtés des personnes LGBT si sournoisement visées à travers elles par ces intolérables politiques rétrogrades.

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

PRESS RELEASE – 20200909/Sudan/Human Rights

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Press release, Solidarity, Sudan, World Law on September 8, 2020 at 11:06 AM

PRESS RELEASE

Paris, September 9, 2020

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HALA KHALID ABUGROUN, A LAWYER

AND WOMAN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER UNDER THREAT:

TIME FOR SUDAN TO MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICES AT LAST

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In an Appeal to the authorities of the transitional government of Sudan, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) highlighted the present situation of Ms Hala Khalid Abugroun, Attorney at Law, a Woman Human Rights Defender. Attorney Abugroun is a member of the “No to Women’s Oppression” initiative which wishes to set out strong guidelines for the society in transition. Attorney Abugroun and colleagues have been harassed and threatened by members of the still powerful National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).

The AWC stresses that the United Nations (UN) is the main instrument for the community of States to guide life in common, according to standards which all have accepted in agreeing to the UN Charter and according also to the provisions of world law. Among these provisions are the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly in Resolution 53/144 and the Resolution on Protecting Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN Human Rights Council on March 15, 2013.

The AWC understands that the Sudan is in a transition process toward a more law-based society. A historic decision has already been made to separate religion and state, ending an improper political use of private belief to repressive ends which spanned some three decades. This is the right time to make the right choices in terms of international human rights commitments too.

Therefore, the AWC urges the Sudanese Government to ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Such a move would help Sudan to develop measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of all persons.

There also has to be an immediate, thorough, and impartial investigation into the threats against and harassment of Attorney Hala Khalid Abugroun with a view to bringing those responsible to justice consistently with international standards.

Mali: More Instability in an Unstable Region

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on September 4, 2020 at 8:35 PM

By René Wadlow

The August 18, 2020 coup by Malian military leaders brought an end to the unstable government of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, widely known by his initials IBK. He had come to power on March 22, 2012 in another military coup which had ended the administration of President Amadou Trouré. This 2012 coup highlighted the weakness of the government structures and the narrow geographic base of the administration’s power. This realization led to a revolt in the north of the country led by two rival Tuareg groups as well as Islamist militias of non-Tuareg fighters coming from other Sahel countries and northern Nigeria. Mali was effectively divided into two roughly equal half, each half about the size of France.

French troops were sent from France in January 2013 to prevent an expansion of the territory held by the Tuareg and the Islamists, but were not able to develop a stable administration.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

Mali had been poorly administered since its independence in 1960. Economic development had been guided by political and ethnic considerations. During the French colonial period, from the 1890s to 1960, the French administration was based in Dakar, Senegal, a port on the Atlantic with secondary schools, a university, and an educated middle class. Mali was considered an “outpost” (called French Sudan at the time) and largely governed by the French military more interested in keeping order than in development.

IBK’s administration was widely criticized by much of the population for its incompetence, favoritism, and corruption especially by family members such as his son Karim Keita. Islamist groups remained powerful in parts of the north and central Mali. The whole Sahel area, in particular the frontier area of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso still has powerful and violent Islamist militias. This instability is an increasing menace to the coastal countries of Togo, Benin, and Cote d’Ivoire.

Over the past year, discontent with IBK has led to a loose coalition of opposition groups known by the title M5 – RFP, of which the conservative Islamic imam Mahmoud Dicko is a leading figure.

French soldiers deployed in Mali

For the moment, the Mali military leaders have formed the Comité national pour le salut du peuple (The National Committee for the Salvation of the People). It is led by Col. Assimi Gaita, a special forces leader. The Committee has said that it is forming a military-civil transitional government that will lead to elections in nine months.

The challenges facing Mali and the wider Sahel area are great, in large measure linked to the lack of socio-economic development, economic stagnation, and poor administration. The situation is made worse by the consequences of global warming and persistent drought. The military are not trained to be development workers. A broad cooperative effort of all sectors of the population is needed. Will the military be able to develop such a broadly-based cooperative effort? Mali and the Sahel merit close attention.

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

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