Human Rights

Monday, 01 November 2010 00:00 Human Rights Watch Editorial Dept - Human Rights

How could Canada possibly be rejected for a seat on the UN Security Council, losing by a wide margin to Portugal, a country with little international profile?

A generation ago, such an outcome would have been inconceivable. Today, sadly, it was not surprising.

Canada was once known for its internationalism. Canada created the modern concept of UN peacekeeping. It stood at the forefront of global efforts to promote human rights, such as the fight against apartheid.

When my organization, Human Rights Watch, wanted a governmental partner to help create a treaty banning landmines, we came to Ottawa, where then foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy embraced the cause. And it was another Canadian, Philippe Kirsch, who chaired the negotiations to launch the International Criminal Court, the first global war crimes tribunal, and then served as the new court's first president.

Saturday, 16 October 2010 00:00 Human Rights Watch Editorial Dept - Human Rights

Are the U.S. Detainee Review Boards for suspected Afghan insurgents fair? Ask Mullah Tractor. - The first question was the obvious one. Why are you known as Mullah Tractor? "I read one or two Islamic books, so people call me Mullah. And then I bought a tractor. So I am Mullah Tractor."

Mullah Tractor wore an orange jumpsuit, signaling maximum security. He looked to be about 60 years old, with thin downturned lips, a contoured nose that might once have been broken and a short black-and-white beard.

His real name is Gul Shah Wazir, and he is in U.S. detention in Afghanistan, accused of being a member of the Taliban. But at the U.S. military hearing that I observed in late September, whether he is connected to the insurgency was hard to determine.

This was a Detainee Review Board, a type of hearing taking place in a new detention facility on the edge of Bagram airfield, north of Kabul. Though the site is physically much improved from the old Bagram prison, this is still a long way from a just process. For the hearings to be minimally fair, the detainees should be able to contest the evidence against them and have access to a lawyer. Instead, a detainee faces a three-member U.S. military panel, which tries to determine whether he is an insurgent and whether he would continue to pose a threat if released.

The evidence against Wazir was pretty hazy, judging by the questions from the panel. Did he know the notorious insurgent commander Sirajuddin Haqqani? Wazir said no. Perhaps the U.S. had intelligence leading it to believe that he did. If so, no one told Wazir.

Monday, 01 March 2010 18:00 Kenneth Roth Editorial Dept - Human Rights

After eight years of the Bush administration, with its torture of suspected terrorists and disregard for international law, Barack Obama's victory in the November 2008 U.S. presidential election seemed a breath of fresh air to human rights activists. Obama took office at a moment when the world desperately needed renewed U.S. leadership.

In his inaugural address, Obama immediately signaled that, unlike Bush, he would reject as false "the choice between our safety and our ideals."

Obama faces the challenge of restoring the United States' credibility at a time when repressive governments -- emboldened by the increasing influence of authoritarian powers such as China and Russia -- seek to undermine the enforcement of international human rights standards. As he put it when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, the United States cannot "insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves."

His Nobel speech in Oslo also affirmed the U.S. government's respect for the Geneva Conventions. "Even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules," Obama argued, "I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength."


Sunday, 22 March 2009 18:00 Jennett Meriden Russell Editorial Dept - Human Rights


Wednesday, 19 September 2007 19:00 Jose Cabrera Editorial Dept



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