To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice. – Desmond Tutu
Archive for the ‘human rights’ Category
In a candid interview for the documentary We Feed the World, Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck makes the astonishing claim that water isn’t a human right. He attacks the idea that nature is good, and says it is a great achievement that humans are now able to resist nature’s dominance. He attacks organic agriculture and says genetic modification is better.
Nestlé is the world’s biggest bottler of water. Brabeck claims – correctly – that water is the most important raw material in the world. However he then goes on to say that privatisation is the best way to ensure fair distribution. He claims that the idea that water is a human right comes from “extremist” NGOs. Water is a foodstuff like any other, and should have a market value.
He believes that the ultimate social responsibility of any Chairman is to make as much profit as possible, so that people will have jobs.
And just to underline what a lovely man he is, he also thinks we should all be working longer and harder.
Consequences of water privatisation
The consequences of water privatisation have been devastating on poor communities around the world. In South Africa, where the municipal workers’ union SAMWU fought a long battle against privatisation, there has been substantial research (pdf) about the effects. Water privatisation lead to a massive cholera outbreak in Durban in the year 2000.
The Nestlé boycott
Nestlé already has a very bad reputation among activists. There has been a boycott call since 1977. This is due to Nestlé’s aggressive lobbying to get women to stop breastfeeding – which is free and healthy – and use infant formula (sold by Nestlé) instead. Nestlé has lobbied governments to tell their health departments to promote formula. In poor countries, this has resulted in the deaths of babies, as women have mixed formula with contaminated water instead of breastfeeding.
Tell Nestlé they are wrong – water is a human right
There is Europe-wide campaign to tell the European Commission that water is a human right, and to ask them to enact legislation to ensure this is protected.
If you live in Europe, please sign the petition.
Original article published by Union Solidarity International.
FBI has been monitoring the activities of Occupy Wall Street.
This is nothing new for the FBI. They have previously targeted Civil Rights and Ant-War movements.
In the UK, Occupy London Stock Exchange were linked with terrorists.
When people campaign for democracy, a fairer society, they are treated as terrorists.
FBI should target real terrorists, the financial terrorists, the banks, the eco-terrorists, the coal and oil industry, the gun-totting killers, the psychos in the NRA.
“So, let them put me in jail. I’m not afraid at all. I won’t last more than a few days, and frankly at my age I’m likely to die before they manage to throw me behind the bars,” 85-year-old Ludmilla Alexeeva told me nonchalantly in November. Widely referred to as the grandma of the Russian human rights movement, she leads the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), the oldest active civil society organization in Russia, founded along with several other Soviet dissenters back in the 1970s.
“I lived in a real totalitarian state and that was scary,” she said. “But now the country is different, people are different — you just cannot compare. Back in 1976, MHG was the only independent group in the USSR. Now things just aren’t the same.”
Things sure aren’t the same, but Alexeeva seems be faced with the very same dilemma she confronted all those decades ago: stop your work or pay a high price. During the Soviet period, she was fortunate enough to be offered exile as an alternative to imprisonment (she lived in the United States for almost 20 years before returning to Moscow after the fall of the USSR). Now she counts herself lucky because her old age won’t allow for prolonged imprisonment.
While today’s Russia cannot be compared to the Soviet Union, it is certainly moving in that direction. In fact, during the first seven months of Vladimir Putin’s new presidency, the echo of the old times has become alarmingly strong. So strong, in fact, that the most prominent human rights defender in the country is seriously contemplating the prospect of soon landing in jail. This is especially poignant since just a year ago, when mass public protests erupted in Moscow following the December parliamentary vote, Alexeeva and other human rights defenders were rejoicing about the awakening of Russian society and hoping for positive change.
Such hopes were apparently premature. In 20 years of on-the-ground human rights monitoring in post-Soviet Russia, Human Rights Watch has not seen a political crackdown as sweeping as the one we are witnessing today. The crackdown was foreshadowed in the lead-up to Putin’s May 7 presidential inauguration, when authorities in some cities repeatedly used beatings, threats from state officials, arbitrary lawsuits and detention, and other forms of harassment to intimidate political and civic activists and interfere with news outlets that are critical of the government. State-controlled media, including pro-government websites, did their best to discredit the Kremlin’s critics by subjecting them to venomous and often depraved smear campaigns.
The Kremlin tightened the screws as soon as Putin returned to power, possibly in response to the humiliation and threat posed by the growing protest movement. The government, it seems aspires to go back to the end of 2007, when Putin was finishing his second presidential term and the Kremlin utterly dominated public and political life.
Parliament has proven to be a particularly useful tool in Putin’s campaign to reinstate strong authoritarian rule. Since May, it has rammed through a raft of laws that set out broad new restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and assembly, and provide powerful mechanisms for putting pressure on civil society activists. One such piece of legislation, commonly referred to as the “foreign agents law,” requires non-governmental advocacy organizations that accept foreign funding to register with the Justice Ministry and identify themselves publicly as “foreign agents,” which of course demonizes them in the public eye as foreign spies. Groups are expected to register voluntarily and can have their work suspended or be taken to court if they don’t. If an NGO refuses to register, the head of the organization may face criminal sanctions and go to prison for up to two years. Meanwhile, if the institution registers as a “foreign agent,” the organization must deliver biannual reports on its activities and carry out an annual financial audit. It must also publicize details about the “agent” receiving the funds and the “principal” who’s providing them in a manner that sends a clear message: If you accept foreign funds, your donors are your master.
It’s not for fear of more cumbersome bureaucracy that leading human rights groups are refusing to embrace these requirements. It’s a matter of principle. As they work in the interests of Russian citizens and represent Russian civil society, they simply cannot register as something they clearly are not. Groups that work on controversial issues and do not receive adequate domestic funding are now forced to make an intolerable choice: face criminal sanctions, debase themselves as “foreign agents,” or severely reduce their work. Since the law came into force on Nov. 21, most prominent human rights defenders in the country — including Ludmilla Alexeeva and MHG — have asserted that their groups will not brand themselves “foreign agents,” no matter the consequences. It’s this stand that has Alexeeva anticipating criminal prosecution and the possibility of ending her days behind bars. So far, these actions have not provoked an official response.
The foreign agents law also appears designed to make human rights defenders reconsider a standard aspect of human rights work anywhere: seeking improvements through advocacy. That’s especially true if the foreign agents law is coupled with another dramatic legal novelty — the new law on treason, which conveniently came into force one week before the NGO legislation.
The country’s newly expanded definition of treason now includes “providing financial, technical, advisory or other assistance to a foreign state or international organization … directed at harming Russia’s security.” The overly broad and vague definition seems deliberately designed to make activists think twice before doing international human rights advocacy — and to make lay people think twice before approaching international human rights organizations. In Russia’s current political climate, there is little doubt that the authorities’ threshold for interpreting what “harming Russia’s security” means will be quite low. Those charged with treason face a prison sentence of 12 to 20 years.
When it introduced the treason law as a draft, the Federal Security Service (FSB, the KGB’s successor) issued an explanatory memorandum that justified the amendments by referring to the “active use by foreign secret services” of foreign organizations — governmental and non-governmental — to harm Russia’s security. The FSB contends that “claims about a possible twist of spy mania in connection with the law’s passage are ungrounded and based exclusively on emotions.” At the same time, law enforcement and security services will clearly be able to use the law to justify close surveillance of activists and non-governmental groups in the name of an inquiry, or to open a criminal case for alleged treason as a way of paralyzing a critic or political adversary.
In writing about the treason law and its destructive potential, I cannot help but think that the briefings on the status of Russian human rights defenders that I gave Council of Europe officials in Strasbourg, France in mid-October can now be viewed by Russian authorities as criminally liable. Likewise, the submission to the U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women I co-authored in early November or my testimony before the U.S. Congress during the Tom Lantos Commission’s “Human Rights in Russia” hearings on Nov. 15 could trigger criminal persecution if someone at the Kremlin were to conclude that the public exposure of the problems I described was “directed at harming Russia’s security.”
More to the point, my very job description could put me behind bars. As a researcher with Human Rights Watch, my mission is precisely to provide “assistance to an “international organization” — and the issues I focus on could be deemed sensitive from the perspective of national security since they pertain, for example, to abuses by law enforcement and security agencies during counterinsurgency operations in the North Caucasus. What was it again? Twelve to 20 years in prison? A very appealing prospect indeed. And unlike Alexeeva, I don’t have the benefit of old age to help come to terms with that possibility.
True, it’s not yet clear how, or whether, the treason law will be enforced. But that may be beside the point. Belarus, after all, adopted a very similar treason law last year and has to use it against anyone. But the legislation hangs like a sword of Damocles over human rights activists whom the government continues to hound using other tools.
In Russia, the effects of the new political atmosphere are clear and highly damaging. Several weeks before the treason law officially took effect, for instance, the European Union organized an academic conference in Brussels. Human Rights Watch has learned that a prominent social scientist from one of Russia’s regions planned to present a paper there, only to receive a phone call a few days before departure from the rector at his university, who candidly explained that the social scientist should not be traveling to the event if she valued her job or wanted to travel abroad again. Soon, the professor learned that a colleague from another university also decided to skip the conference under similar circumstances. In both cases, the rectors referred to “high-profile warnings” from Moscow and a “tense political climate.”
The foreign agents law is also having a tangible impact on the country — one I experienced firsthand back in August during a research trip to a remote Russian province, where I interviewed medical professionals about a health-care access issue that even the most vigilant official would have a hard time branding “politicized.” Just two days into the trip, local officials confronted me with questions: “Who invited you here?” “Who pays your travel costs?” “Where are your headquarters?” “Who funds your organization?” “Who is the local person arranging your meetings for you?” “Where is your authorization [for the visit] from the federal authorities?” “Where is the proof that you work in Russia legitimately?” They also contacted local health-care workers and cautioned them to stay away from Human Rights Watch and to exercise special caution vis-à-vis “foreign” actors.
Baffled by the experience, I returned to Moscow, only to discover a fascinating internal document from another province circulating on social networks. The letter was dated Aug. 9, 2012, printed on the letterhead of the administration chief for the Mari El Republic in Russia’s Volga region, and addressed to heads of local government agencies and services. It cited growing concern about the “activization of foreign and domestic non-profit organizations,” and called on the officials to make sure that their staff at all levels “minimize participation in programs and socio-political events funded by foreign and Russian non-profit groups.” The message, in other words, was to stop cooperating with these groups altogether.
Later, when the foreign agents law came into force on Nov. 21, activists from the human rights groups Memorial and Russia’s Movement for Human Rights came to work to discover that “Foreign agents! Love USA!” had been spray-painted on the walls of their office buildings. Stickers with the inscription “Foreign agent” were also found on the walls of the building housing the Moscow Helsinki Group.
I learned about the Moscow Helsinki Group and the history of Soviet dissenters in the mid-1990s, when I came to work for the Andrei Sakharov Archives as a graduate student at a university in Boston. Several years later, just before Putin came to power, that line on my CV landed me a job at the revived Moscow Helsinki Group led by Alexeeva. Working alongside some of the people — truly heroic figures — whose dossiers I used to handle in the archives was a heady feeling indeed.
But if someone had asked me back then, in late 1998, whether I thought that one day I could be faced with a choice similar to those Soviet dissidents, I would have laughed. “No way, that’s in the past,” I would have responded. “The Soviet Union is no more, and no matter how challenging human rights work in Russia is, it cannot put you in jail.”
I only wish I could say that now, just seven months into Putin’s third term in office.
– Tanya Lokshina
Originally published in Foreign Policy.
Tanya Lokshina is senior researcher and deputy Moscow office director at Human Rights Watch
Mousa Maria lives in Occupied Palestine, in the West Bank town of Beit Ummar, a town now surrounded by six illegal Israeli settlements.
The farmers go out to work their land with difficulty. They are beaten and shot by settlers and Israeli soldiers. Their olive trees are cut down, the land flooded with sewage from the illegal settlements. An apartheid wall is planned which will cut the farmers off from their land.
If land is left unused, the Israelis declare it abandoned and seize it. One project is to ask people in the West to finance the planting of trees, in order that the Israelis cannot claim land is abandoned.
The entrance to Beit Ummar is guarded by an Israeli watch tower. Periodically the town is sealed off by the Israelis. If the townsfolk attempt to leave, they will be gunned down by the Israelis.
Mousa Maria became an activist at the age of seventeen, when his college was occupied by Israelis and turned into a prison, an Israeli flag flown over the building. Mousa Maria and his friends, wanted their college back, wanted to continue their education. They decided on direct action, for which they paid a very heavy price. They decided to rip down the Israeli flag and replace it with a Palestinian flag. Two of his friends were gunned down and killed. He was arrested and thrown into prison for five years.
In prison began his education as an activist. He realised violence would not work. It would simply provoke even greater violence from the Israelis and it was what the Israelis wanted, as then the Palestinians could be portrayed as the violent aggressors, and the Israelis seekers of peace. No matter what the provocation, Palestinians have to learn to respond with non-violent direct action.
A second spell in prison, Administrative Detention (held without trial).
Children are arrested by Israelis and thrown in prison.
Training is being given for people to record what they see and upload to the net.
Western observers are needed to bear witness to Israeli atrocities.
The Palestinian Authority has no authority, the only authority is Israel.
Lawrence of Arabia and the Arabs were betrayed by the British and the French, who carved up the Middle East, replacing the Turks as the new colonial master. The Balfour Declaration granted the Jews the right to occupy part of Palestine, classic divide and rule. Israel is a terrorist state founded on terrorism. In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, Jewish terrorists landed in Palestine, massacred Palestinians and British, drove the Palestinians out of their villages, invited other Jews to join them to occupy the land they had seized. T E Lawrence drew up his own map. Following his betrayal, we suffer the consequences today. Kurdistan would have been a state, as would Palestine. There would have been no Israel. There would have been no Palestinian problem. The countries we now see in the Middle East are artificial countries drawn up by the British and the French.
The Balfour Declaration (dated 2 November 1917) was a letter from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Rothschild (Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild), a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland:
His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
The weapons used by the Israelis are supplied by the British and Americans.
There is no hope of action by the United Nations, the Arab countries or the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians are a non-people the rest of the world wish would go away.
It is for ordinary people to act, to boycott Israeli goods, to pressure their governments to introduce an arms embargo on Israel, an economic embargo, Israeli war criminals to be arrested and charged, their bank accounts frozen.
Mousa Maria is co-founder of Palestine Solidarity Project and Center Four Freedom and Justice. His talk at St Nicolas Church in Guildford comes towards the end of a three week speaking tour of the UK.
Following the meeting at St Nicolas Church, Zaytoun Palestinian olive oil was on sale.
- Israeli Apartheid by Ben White
- Israeli Apartheid – A talk by Ben White
- Israel is an apartheid state (no poll required)
- Britain must atone for its sins in Palestine
- Picking olives under occupation
- Nablus: The Business of Occupation
- Sindyanna of Galilee – fair trade for a fair society
- A massive shooting of live ammunition direct at people as Israeli army invaded Ni’lin: three people severely injured
I am a single mother of one. I am unemployed, on the works programme and volunteer working with kids with disabilities once week.
During the last half term I missed my sign on appointment due to the break in my normal routine/human error. This has lead to a four week sanction ( 16/11 – 13/12) being imposed where I can’t receive job seekers allowance, housing benefit, council tax benefit or child tax credits nor a crisis loan.
I applied for a hardship payment that was granted 30th Nov (I care for my child and I am diagnosed with a mental health issue) but can’t be paid out until I sign on 13th Dec and money will be in account 18th December. I also appealed the sanction but was turned down.
Tonight is the 2nd night without gas and I have 3 pounds left on the emergency electric meter. The school run involves 2 buses and a 45 min journey and my oyster card ran out today.
The job centre advised that I contact social services who offered a twenty pound cash payment thay went on 2 daysworyh of bus pass (8.40), electricity (7 and the rest on dry food/toilet paper. That is all they can do unless I voluntarily put my daughter up for temporary foster care.
I also contacted Shelter who put me in touch with grant charities but the application process is between 4-8 weeks long. I left multiple messages with the Salvation army but have not heard back.
I don’t know where else to turn. My daughter is in my bed with her winter coat on and multiple blankets and the room temperature is now 8 degrees Celsius. I can’t sleep for feeling cold and worrying. I can’t get her to school tomorrow nor do we have enough food to make it past lunch.
I can’t believe that the price for a missed appointment is having to consider temp fostercare to ensure the wellbeing of my child when I have brought her up in house filled with love, respect and happiness. I am tee total, anti-drugs and non-smoker. I am a loving, engaged parent who really wants a career and come off benefits.
Please advise me on what to do and where to turn to. I can’t give away my child. I don’t want to and I should not have to.
This tragic story was originally posted on Mum’s net by a very desperate single mother.
Skipping through the comments, most people are shocked.
I am not shocked, appalled yes, but not shocked. This is typical of the bastardisation of the unemployed by sick bastards who work in Job Centres who take a sick pleasure in putting the boot into those worse off than themselves.
Is the story true, or is it someone seeking sympathy or a con artist looking to exploit others? It is almost irrelevant whether true or not. This is how unemployed, disabled are being treated.
We have sick people, people who are at death’s door, who have just come out of intensive surgery, being told by Atos they are fit for work and being stripped of benefits.
We had George Osborne blatantly lie in his Autumn statement that disabled would be no worse off. A lie that has been exposed by disability action groups.
What a position to be put in, do I hand my child over to Social Services?
The answer to that must be a categoric no. They employ the same bastards, the same mindset, as Job Centres. The last thing this mother needs is Social Services poking their unwanted noses into her affairs and being deemed unfit as a mother.
A lot of dumb advice has been given on Mum’s net. For example sell all your possessions to raise some money.
When sanctioned, you can immediately be put on another benefit, Hardship Allowance (?), it pays 2/3 of Job Seekers Allowance, but has to be applied for, and with all the changes, maybe no longer exists.
You can apply for an emergency payment. This is a loan not a grant, and has to be paid back.
She is still entitled to Housing Benefit and Council Tax. It automatically stops when Jobseekers Allowance is stopped. It is paid on the basis of minimum income. Clearly if income has dropped to zero, that criteria is met. She must appeal.
The press is a two-edged sword. They may be sympathetic, but just as likely to label her as a scrounger.
During the Autumn Statement, smug bastard Osborne let the mask slip when he spoke of unemployed being too lazy to get out of bed in the morning.
She must talk to her Member of Parliament. Even if not sympathetic, these idiots must be made aware of the impact of their actions.
She must appeal the sanction. This does not help in the short term, but it will get her benefits reinstated.
Free bus pass? I would not have thought she is entitled. It goes to over 60s and those on disability benefits. If Atos decide you are fit for work, you not only lose your benefits, you also lose your bus pass, thus lose your mobility.
For everyone, with benefits frozen for three years, times are going to be very tough. Everyone on benefits were already struggling as the money received has not kept pace with non-discretionary payments such as food and fuel, which have risen much faster than inflation, leaving many with the choice of eat or heat.
Tomorrow (Saturday 8 December 2012) Starbucks is to be occupied. This is in protest at cuts and the failure of Starbucks to pay their fair share of tax. She must join that occupation. At the very least she will be warm, and hopefully she will meet people who will be able to help her.
Mum’s net is a very powerful social network. They must fight these cuts in benefits.
You judge a country by how it treats its prisoners. — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Prison Island Bastøy in the fjord of Oslo, Norway is a penal colony, but a very unusual prison.
A novel by Orhan Pamuk in the prison library. Must be a very literay prison population.
A friend used Paulo Coelho with dangerous prisoners.
In this prison, those convicted of the most serious offences. To get into this prison, have to show a desire to reform.
Average re-offending rate for Europe 70%, for Bastøy 16%.
Filmed by a Russian film crew. For contrast, at the end a Russian penal colony.
No1 Top Story in Norway News (Friday 14 December 2012).