Category Archives: HUMAN RIGHTS

USA: “It’s Time for Moral Confrontation”: New Poor People’s Campaign Stages Nationwide Civil Disobedience

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An interview by Democracy Now (reprinted according to terms of Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0)

On Mother’s Day 50 years ago, thousands converged on Washington, D.C., to take up the cause that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been fighting for when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968: the Poor People’s Campaign. A little more than a week after her husband’s memorial service, Coretta Scott King led a march to demand an Economic Bill of Rights that included a guaranteed basic income, full employment and more low-income housing. Half a century later, Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis have launched a new Poor People’s Campaign. Starting today, low-wage workers, clergy and community activists in 40 states are participating in actions and events across the country that will culminate in a mass protest in Washington, D.C., on June 23. We speak with Rev. Dr. William Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. . .


Video of broadcast

AMY GOODMAN: The new Poor People’s Campaign officially launched last year, and, since then, Reverend Dr. William Barber and Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis have been touring the country. Today they’re in Washington, D.C., for a major day of nonviolent direct action, joining us now.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Reverend Dr. William Barber, you’re president of Repairers of the Breach, distinguished visiting professor of public theology at Union Theological Seminary, former president of the North Carolina NAACP, and Moral Mondays leader. Talk about what you’re doing now. What is different today? What are you doing in Washington, D.C.?

REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: Thank you so much, Amy. Today, in more than 30 states and here in the District of Columbia, activists, clergy and, most of all, impacted people, the poor, will be organizing a nonviolent, moral, fusion direct action Mondays, a direct confrontation with what we call policy violence and the immoral policies that we see are continuing to hurt the poor. And particularly the focus today will be on women in poverty, children in poverty and the disabled. We cannot continue to have a democracy that engages in the kind of policy violence that we see happening every day.

I think about the low-wage worker I met in North Carolina who could not get insurance, because North Carolina did not expand Medicaid, and was also sick with ovarian cancer and has children. Or Amy in West Virginia, who is a woman who’s a working poor woman, who watched her state, her governor, Republican governor, cynically give a little raise to teachers, but chose to do it by cutting Medicaid and cutting food stamps. Or I think about the lady Pamela in Lowndes County, Alabama, who has raw sewage in the back of her yard, who was taken advantage of by predatory lenders and had to pay over $100,000-some for a single wide trailer that is now falling apart, full of mold and holes. And her son, who is an 11-year-old, now has to wear a CPAP machine because of the infections in his lungs. And she, herself, is disabled.

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Question for this article:

Helping the poorest of the poor help themselves, if millions took it up, could it be the foundation of a just world?

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All over this country, we continue to see what is not often seen or talked about in our politics, in our political debates, or even in the media, except for places like here, Amy. Two hundred fifty thousand people are dying every year from poverty and low wealth. Sixty-four million people work with less than a living wage, 54 percent of African Americans. And these realities hurt children and women and the disabled the most. Thousands of people who are homeless, of every different race, creed, color and sexual orientation.

And what we are saying, it is time for a moral confrontation, a nonviolent moral confrontation, because whether you look at the morality of our Constitution, the establishment of justice, or you look at the morality of the Scriptures, that says, for instance, in Isaiah 10, “Woe unto those who legislate evil and rob the poor of their right and make women and children their prey.” It is immoral to have 37 million people without healthcare. It is immoral not to pay living wages when we know we can do it. It is immoral that people don’t have single-payer healthcare for everybody as a matter of human rights—and children have access to public education and college, and that we stop the trend of resegregation. It is immoral the way we’ve suppressed the vote in a way that allows people to get elected who, once they get elected, using racialized methods to do so, they then vote policies that hurt women and children and disabled. They’re against living wages. They’re against healthcare. They’re against unemployment—and those things that hurt families, hurt children, hurt women and hurt the disabled.

And we’re coming together, of every race, creed, color, kind, people from every part of this country. There will be simultaneous nonviolent actions, beginning today with a 2:00 rally and then 3:00 direct action. And this will go on for 40 days, every Monday, along with other things that will be happening across the country.

AMY GOODMAN: What is that direct action, Reverend Dr. Barber?

REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: The direct action, well, today, after the rally, we will link arms, clergy, in full vestment, with impacted people. And today, we will—under the theme “Somebody is hurting our people, and it’s gone on far too long, and we can’t be silent anymore,” we will take a particular street, right near the east side of the Capitol, and we will engage in that street. Many people will sit down to pray and lay, because we are saying that the country is headed in the wrong direction. That’s why today it’s the street. Later on, it will be other places in D.C. But today it’s the street, because we’re saying the country is headed in the wrong direction. We have to break through the moral narrative. Our first goal is to break through the moral narrative to where we’re talking about it. We’re not even talking about these issues in the country. And we’re also going to be calling people to engage in massive voter mobilization. We’re also going to be doing power building among poor communities. And this, Amy, is a launch.

The 40 days is not the end of the campaign. It is the launching of a multiyear campaign.

The carnage against Gaza civilian protesters

. . . . . HUMAN RIGHTS . . . . .

A message received by email from Nonviolence International (info@nonviolenceinternational.net)

Dear Friends–

Jonathan Kuttab, our Treasurer and Co-Founder, has this to say in the wake of the dozens killed in peaceful protest this past weekend:

The carnage against Gaza civilian protesters in shocking and unconscionable. Over 40 people have been killed just today and over a thousand wounded by live fire. Palestinians have a right to protest peacefully, and Israel has no right to shoot at protesters except in self defense. No Israeli soldier or civilian has been hurt or endangered. There is absolutely no excuse for this carnage. We cannot be silent in the face of this massacre.

Our sorrow and pain at this human loss is tempered by our admiration for the protesters.

We are awed and impressed by the determined nonviolence of these Palestinians. They go to their protests knowing that Israeli deadly drones and snipers are awaiting them, yet they go ahead to make their voices heard and their demands, which have been ignored for far too long known to the world. This is a reminder of Gandhi’s Salt March in India and the Sharpesville massacre in South Africa, and we have no doubt that their legitimate demands will eventually be realized. Brute military force cannot ultimately prevail against the determined spirit of a people prepared to die for their beliefs.

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Questions related to this article:

Rights of the child, How can they be promoted and protected?

Presenting the Palestinian side of the Middle East, Is it important for a culture of peace?

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We denounce in the strongest possible terms the use of deadly violence against unarmed protesters and call on Israel to refrain from such murderous behavior which constitute a crime against humanity. We also call for the immediate lifting of the illegal siege of Gaza and the permission of the flow of civilian goods and people in and out of Gaza. Non-violent protests and attempts to break this siege will continue and Nonviolence International is proud to support such actions.

With this tragedy in mind, we are excited to introduce a new project into the Nonviolence International family. We Are Not Numbers, spearheaded by American journalist Pam Bailey, aims to humanize the victims of mass conflict through storytelling and mentoring. On their website, you can find dozens upon dozens of real-life accounts of the Palestinian struggle. From stories told by small children to octogenarians, We Are Not Numbers helps to provide faces to the statistics that are so widely spread.

You can read their tales here: https://wearenotnumbers.org/home/Stories, and, as always, you can donate here: http://nonviolenceinternational.net/wp/donate/.
With Peace,

Nonviolence International

Amnesty International: Israeli forces must end the use of excessive force in response to “Great March of Return” protests

. . . . . HUMAN RIGHTS . . . . .

An article from Amnesty International

The Israeli authorities must put an immediate end to the excessive and lethal force being used to suppress Palestinian demonstrations in Gaza, Amnesty International said as fresh protests have started today [April 13].


(Click on photo to enlarge)

Following the deaths of 26 Palestinians, including three children and a photojournalist, Yasser Murtaja, and the injuring of around 3,078 others during protests on the past two Fridays, Amnesty International is renewing its call for independent and effective investigations into reports that Israeli soldiers unlawfully used firearms and other excessive force against unarmed protesters.

“For the past two weeks, the world has watched in horror as Israeli forces unleashed excessive, deadly force against protesters, including children, who merely demand an end to Israel’s brutal policies towards Gaza and a life of dignity,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The Israeli authorities must urgently reverse their policies and abide by their international legal obligations. Their horrifying use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters, and the resultant deaths, must be investigated as possible unlawful killings.

“The Israeli authorities must respect the Palestinians’ right to peaceful protest and, in the event that there is violence, use only the force necessary to address it. Under international law, lethal force can only be used when unavoidable to protect against imminent threats to life.”

Eyewitness testimonies as well as videos and photographs taken during demonstrations point to evidence that, in some instances, unarmed Palestinian protesters were shot by Israeli snipers while waving the Palestinian flag or running away from the fence.

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Questions related to this article:

Rights of the child, How can they be promoted and protected?

Presenting the Palestinian side of the Middle East, Is it important for a culture of peace?

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Among those injured since Friday 30 March, there were around 445 children, at least 21 members of the Palestinian Red Crescent’s emergency teams, and 15 journalists. According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, some 1,236 people have been hit by live ammunition. Others have been injured by rubber bullets or treated for tear gas inhalation dropped by drones. The World Health Organization expressed concern that nearly 350 of those injured may be temporarily or permanently disabled as a result of their injuries. So far, at least four people have had leg amputations.

On two consecutive Fridays, tens of thousands of Palestinians, including men, women and children, have gathered in five camps set up around 700 meters away from the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel to reassert their right of return and demand an end to nearly 11 years of Israel’s blockade. While protests have been largely peaceful, a minority of protesters have thrown stones and, according to the Israeli army, Molotov cocktails in the direction of the fence. The Israeli forces claim that those killed were trying to cross the fence between Gaza and Israel or were “main instigators.” There have been no Israeli casualties.

While the Israeli army indicated that it would investigate the conduct of its forces during the protests in Gaza, Israel’s investigations have consistently fallen short of international standards and hardly ever result in criminal prosecution. As a result, serious crimes against Palestinians routinely go unpunished.

In a statement made on 8 April, Fatou Ben Souda, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court expressed concern at the deaths and injuries of Palestinians by Israeli forces, reminding that the situation in Palestine was under preliminary examination by her office.

“Accountability is urgently needed not only for this latest spate of incidents where excessive and lethal force has been used by Israel but also for decades of potentially unlawful killings, including extrajudicial executions, and other crimes under international law.”

The protests were launched to coincide with Land Day, and are demanding the right of return for millions of refugees to villages and towns in what is now Israel.

The protests are expected to last until 15 May, when Palestinians commemorate the Nakba or “great catastrophe”. The day marks the displacement and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948-9 during the conflict following the creation of the state of Israel. 

Israel/OPT: Palestinian child activist Ahed Tamimi sentenced to 8 months in prison

. . . . . HUMAN RIGHTS . . . . .

An article from Amnesty International

The continued imprisonment of Palestinian child activist Ahed Tamimi is a flagrant attempt to intimidate those who dare challenge the circumstances of the ongoing occupation, Amnesty International said today after she was sentenced to eight months and a 5,000 shekels fine (around US$ 1,400) with a three year suspended sentence after entering into a plea deal at Ofer military court in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

17-year-old Ahed Tamimi was accused of aggravated assault and 11 other charges after a video showing her shoving, slapping and kicking two Israeli soldiers in her home village of Nabi Saleh on 15 December 2017 went viral on Facebook.

“By sentencing Ahed to eight months in prison the Israeli authorities have confirmed yet again that they have no regard for the rights of Palestinian children, and have no intention to reverse their discriminatory policies. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a state party, the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child must be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and Africa.

“Today’s sentence is another alarming example of the Israeli authorities’ contempt for their obligations to protect the basic rights of Palestinians living under their occupation, especially children. Ahed Tamimi is a minor. Nothing she did warrants her continued imprisonment and she must be released immediately.”

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Questions related to this article:

Rights of the child, How can they be promoted and protected?

Presenting the Palestinian side of the Middle East, Is it important for a culture of peace?

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Ahed was convicted on four of the 12 charges against her including incitement, aggravated assault and two counts of obstructing Israeli soldiers. Her mother Nariman was sentenced to eight months in prison in addition to a fine of 6,000 shekels (around US$ 1,780) and a three-year suspended sentenced for assisting in assaulting a soldier, obstructing a soldier and incitement. Ahed’s cousin, Noor Tamimi, was fined 2,000 shekels (around US$500).

“The Israeli authorities must stop responding to relatively small acts of defiance with such disproportionately harsh punishments. By ruthlessly targeting Palestinians, including children, who dare challenge Israel’s oppressive occupation, the authorities are neglecting their responsibilities under international law as an occupying force.”

Hundreds of Palestinian children are prosecuted every year through Israeli juvenile military courts. Those arrested are systematically denied their rights and subjected to ill-treatment including in some cases physical violence. There are currently approximately 350 Palestinian children in Israeli detention.

Background

Ahed Tamimi was arrested on 19 December 2017 after her mother, Nariman Tamimi, also a prominent activist, posted the footage of her altercation with Israeli soldiers online. Nariman Tamimi was arrested later that day, while Ahed’s cousin, Nour Tamimi, was arrested the following morning. Nour was released on 5 January pending trial, and was sentenced today to the time she had already spent in prison.

Ahed confronted the soldiers amid a demonstration in Nabi Saleh against US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The incident took place on the same day that one of Ahed’s other cousin, 15-year-old Mohammad Tamimi, was hit in the head at close range by a rubber bullet fired by an Israeli soldier and sustained serious injuries.

Cuba a ‘Champion’ of Children’s Rights: UNICEF

. . . . . HUMAN RIGHTS . . . . .

An article from Telesur TV

The United Nations Children Fund, or Unicef , has declared Cuba a ‘champion’ in children’s rights. According to Unicef 99.5 percent of Cuban children under six years of age attend an early childhood education program or institution.

María Cristina Perceval, the regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean region, said, Cuba’s exemplary model of early education, “Educa a Tu Hijo (Educate Your Child),” is being adopted by many other nations. 

Perceval, who made the comments during a recent event in Cuba’s capital, Havana, also highlighted the significant advances made by the country in health. The Caribbean nation was the first to work towards the elimination of maternal and child transmission of HIV / AIDS in 2015. 

Health and education policies form the core of Cuba’s socialist programs. Cuba first initiated the social program focused on children’s well-being, 26 years ago. The Unicef in the region works in collaboration with the government in these social programs.

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Questions related to this article:

Rights of the child, How can they be promoted and protected?

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The ‘Educate Your Child’ initiative promotes the role of family and community in children’s formative years. Through the program, the government also prioritizes the participatory methodologies and social commitment in the area of child development. 

“The government has installed a mechanism for communities to not only deal with emergency situations, but also with other phenomena, with efficacy, professionalism, and speed,” Perceval added. 

“We are grateful to share this information that the education mechanism which incorporates childhood education, elimination of vertical transmission of HIV, and prevention of teen pregnancies. Champions, champions, champions!”

According to the 2016 Unicef report which cited the official statistics from the Ministry of Education, “There are more than 855,000 children under six years of age in Cuba, of whom 99.5 percent attend an early childhood education program or institution.”  

“Cuba has adopted a holistic approach to early childhood development (ECD), providing children under six and their families with a system of integrated services that aims to promote the best start in life for all children and the maximum development of each child’s potential,” the report added.

Perceval also pointed out that communities have played an essential role in “allowing with much humility to work on what is lacking,” adding that there is work to be done against gender violence in the region. 

“The Federation of Cuban women is immensely fierce, but we have known that violent practices could occur in public spaces and have insisted on eradication of all types of child abuse in communities and institutions,” The U.N. senior official added.

France / Refugees. Resumption of Trial of Martine Landry, Member of Amnesty International France and Anafé Unfairly Pursued for “Crime of Solidarity”

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

A press release from Amnesty International France (translated by CPNN)

This Wednesday, February 14, Martine Landry, activist of Amnesty International France (AIF) and Anafé (National Border Assistance Association for Foreigners), will appear in the Nice Criminal Court. She is accused of having “facilitated the entry of two illegal foreign minors”. She faces up to five years in prison and a fine of € 30,000.

AIF and Anafé denounce the persecution of people whose only motivation is to assist migrants and refugees, with no other consideration than to have their rights respected.


Photo of Martine Landry from France3

These people are not traffickers or delinquents; they are worried, intimidated, pursued, defending human rights first and foremost. They act to protect the rights of migrants and refugees against the infringement by the French authorities.

It is urgent and essential that the French government’s policy be reoriented in order to respond to the imperative respect for the rights of migrant and refugee people crossing the Franco-Italian border and the necessary protection of those who help them. .

Amnesty International France and Anafé reiterate their support for Martine Landry and will be present at the trial.

Further information

Martine Landry has been a member of Amnesty International since 2002. She is also the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regional referee on the issue of refugees and migrants since 2011 and is in charge of an observation mission in a waiting area for AIF. . At the same time, she takes part in the militant missions of counseling to the asylum seekers and accompaniment to give them access to their rights. For these missions she benefited from several formations.

Moreover, apart from her activities for AIF, Martine Landry is involved in various local and national associations for the defense of migrants and refugees including Anafé.

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(Click here for the original French version of this article)

Question for this article

The refugee crisis, Who is responsible?

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Working with Anafé for many years as part of her observation mission in the waiting area for AIF, Martine Landry has been a member of Anafé since 2017. She is actively involved in the observation mission of the Anafé at the French-Italian border.

She is accused of having “facilitated the entry of two illegal foreign minors”. She faces up to five years in prison and a fine of € 30,000.

Summary of facts

On 28 July 2017, Italian police sent two unaccompanied foreign minors to France on foot. Martine Landry picked them up at the Menton / Ventimiglia border crossing on the French side to accompany them to the Border Police (PAF), with documents attesting to their request for support by the child welfare service (ASE). The two minors, both 15 years old and of Guinean origin, were subsequently taken over by the ASE.

On July 31, Martine Landry went to the PAF Menton following the arrest and transfer of eleven migrants. On that day, she received a convocation for an audition on August 2nd. The next day, Martine Landry receives a summons from the Nice Criminal Court. She was to be tried on January 8 for “facilitating the entry of two illegal foreign minors […], having taken care of and escorted these two minors from the Italian border crossing to the border crossing on the French side”. His hearing was postponed until February 14, 2018.

Applicable international law

On 29 October 2002, France ratified the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, additional to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. This text defines the smuggling of migrants as “the act of securing, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, unlawful entry into a State …”. a person who is neither a national nor a permanent resident of that State “.

By making the provision of a financial or other material benefit, the authors of this text clearly intended to exclude the activities of persons providing assistance to migrants on humanitarian grounds or because of close family ties. The intent of the Protocol was not to criminalize the activities of family members or support groups such as religious or non-governmental organizations. This intention is confirmed by the preparatory work for the negotiations for the elaboration of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols thereto (2008), p. 514 – (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Preparatory Work).

Amnesty International’s investigation at the French-Italian border “Border controls of the law”: .

Anafé note on “Restoring Internal Border Controls and State of Emergency – Consequences in Waiting Areas.”

Defending Hope against Fear and Repression in Honduras

. . . . . HUMAN RIGHTS . . . . .

An article by David A. Sylvester for Tikkun

 You may have seen the photographs of the violent protests here in the capital of Honduras when the right-wing candidate Juan Orlando Hernández installed himself as president two weeks ago after manipulating the November election in his favor.  For hours, the opposition demonstrators appeared like dark forms in the grey haze of tear gas as they faced off against three types of police and soldier.

But you probably never saw a more important event the next night: an interfaith vigil and demonstration calling for national dialogue and a peaceful return to a constitutional government. In spite of the confrontations of previous day, more than 500 Hondurans streamed onto the Avenida La Paz directly in front of the bunker of a U.S. Embassy and freely shouted in defiance to those in the building, with an appeal to the lines of police and soldiers guarding it and, perhaps equally important, to strengthen hope in each other.


Video of Non-Violent Demonstration Outside the U.S. Embassy in Honduras

Speaker after speaker railed against the stolen presidential election, the crisis of militarization in Honduras, and the disaster of this slow social strangulation supported by the United States. In the street, Hondurans sang and danced and cried with grief for the wounded and dead at the hands of the military.  For a moment, even surrounded by the machinery of repression, the gathering became a cathartic fiesta of freedom.

By all accounts, this moment of free speech and assembly was possible because of the presence of a delegation of some 50 interfaith and peace activists, largely from the United States. We stood between phalanx of police and army soldiers in front of the U.S. embassy and the crowds of Hondurans on the street.

The police and military did not attack with tear gas and long wooden clubs called garrotes as they had attacked the demonstrations the day before. Apparently, the newly installed government, dependent on the U.S. government aid, decided it was unwise, or at least bad public relations, to attack the peaceful presence of U.S. citizens.

Most remarkable of all, we witnessed what is really possible in Honduras, the kind of dialogue, in embryo, that could heal this wounded, battered and traumatized country; a national dialogue that includes all segments of the society and searches for solutions to the endemic poverty, violence and social inequality so prevalent in Honduras.

Instead of being silenced by fear, many chanted the demand to end the repressive government of Hernández, known by his initials, JOH, and pronounced “Hoh.”

“Fuera JOH! Fuera JOH!”

(“Out, Hernández! Out!)

At times, the speakers appealed to the soldiers standing in the shadows between the shrubs on the sidewalks and the concrete facade of the embassy.

“You are our brothers!” shouted one speaker from the street.

“You have children and families! You have hearts like ours!”

The crowd roared in response:

“No matarás! No matarás”

(“Thou Shalt Not Kill! Thou Shalt Not Kill!”)
Occasionally, a few of the police responded to comments of the crowd with smiles and nods of heads of some of the demonstrators, and for a moment, it held the promise of reconciliation.

For most of the vigil, however, they stood stiff and impersonal behind face shields and helmets glistening in the street lights.

Underlying the joy and anger, there was ever-present grief. A white sheet was draped across the street with the names of those murdered and assassinated during the repression in protests since the November election.

Candles were lit in the street and on the barrier in front of the police lines. One woman held up the photo of her son, trying to shout his name when I asked above the noise, but only was able to say, “My son, my son…” before breaking down in tears. I could only listen, share her grief and give her my presence with the implicit message: “No está sola!”

Our delegation was unusual in that we were responding to an emergency appeal put out by Father Ismael Moreno, known as Padre Melo, one of the best known progressive leaders in Honduras, for international support during the week of national protests before the installation of Hernández. Melo is a Jesuit priest and director of radio station Radio Progreso, Honduras’ version of Democracy Now!, and located in historically progressive region about 320 kilometers northwest of the capital.

Since last December, Melo and the station staff has been receiving serious death threats. First, the station was knocked off the air for almost a week in the capital after the destruction of its transmitting antenna there during a night-time act of sabotage.

Two weeks later, just before New Year’s Eve, posters appeared one morning on the walls of the town of El Progreso naming Melo and others “El eje del mal en la perla del Ulúa.” –The ‘axis of evil’ in the “Pearl” of the River Ulúa, using a previous name for the town based on the nearby river.

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Questions related to this article:

What peace actions inspire people to get involved?

How effective are mass protest marches?

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Then an equally serious death threat came on Jan. 20, within a week of the inauguration and just before our arrival. At night, pamphlets were thrown out of vehicles and left in public areas of the town claiming to identify  El circulo del terror de la Alianza – “the circle of terror of the Alliance” in Progreso. It showed the faces of 12 leading members of the opposition Alianza arranged like a clock, with Melo’s face the largest and at the twelve o’clock position on top.

This campaign of vilification evoked deeply painful memories from the decades of repression, death squads and assassinations in Honduras and throughout Central America.

Last year, Berta Caceres, an internationally known environmental activist in Honduras, was murdered in her home at 1 a.m. by intruders suspected to be linked to an elite U.S.-trained military intelligence unit. This murder, in spite of security guards assigned to her by the government, sent shock waves through progressive community in Honduras and internationally. (See 16 Days of Activism: Meet Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, Honduras.)

There are numerous reports of a military plot or links to U.S.-trained soldiers.

Recognizing the imminent danger for all in the opposition coalition, the Alianza, Melo issued his urgent appeal for international support. Though the last-minute organizing of two Berkeley-based nonprofits, SHARE and the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity,  a delegation was organized  and the 50 faith and peace activists — five times larger than expected — arrived at the airport in San Pedro Sula on Wednesday, Jan. 24, four days after the last death threat.

Jose Artiga, director of SHARE and a good friend of both Caceres and Melo, remembers that they used to joke, in a macabre way, wondering who would be killed first. ”It turned out to be Berta,” says Artiga. ”Now my single goal is this: Can we keep Padre Melo alive?”

At first, we didn’t know what to expect as we arrived at the San Pedro airport and went through two check-points of questioning by customs officials.  But we emerged into the main airport lobby to the cheers of a small crowd of supporters who opened their signs of protest and stretched out a black cloth bearing the faces of two dozen recent victims of the murder campaign targeting activists since the Nov. 26 “electoral coup,” as it’s been called.

Melo, a small bear of a man, came forward, beaming, and shaking hands and hugging us. He is shorter than many of us norteamericanos, and his relief was visible. To hug me, he laid his head on my chest like a son, a gesture of humility and gratitude for our presence here.

Certainly, a week of my time in the town of El Progreso is nothing compared to living under the threat of beatings or death, as Melo, the radio station and much of the population must live with day and night. Over 15 members of the station have received death threats, some repeatedly.

During a time of repression, death came come quickly, at night, as it did for Caceres and also, in 2014, for Carlos Mejia Orellana, the marketing manager for Radio Progresso. Or it came come slowly, as it did for some of the victims whose beaten faces stare out at us from the photographs at the airport.

During our week, we stayed close to Melo, the staff at Radio Progreso and attended some of the opposition protests as witnesses. We accompanied human rights observers between the two sides in some of the many road blockades, called a toma, or a taking of the street. Sometimes, we witnessed negotiations and other times, we witnessed the charge of police against the demonstrators.

Over the years, I have traveled to Central America for different reasons, but this was the first time that I was with a U.S.-based delegation directly intervening in a power conflict with whatever authority, or privilege, we could muster when the lives of the people who became our friends depend on the conflict’s resolution.

I returned home with a troubled conscience, knowing how little we could actually do in the face of the disastrous policies of our government toward these countries. As we all know, the United States has aided, defended and profited from the horrific civil wars in Central America for 40 years — bloodbaths that have stained the American conscience with shame and dishonor.  The U.S. is now adding to this disgraceful legacy with its anti-immigration policies for those fleeing exactly those countries where U.S. policies have weighed heaviest.

Even though the American public discourse seems curiously silent on these realities, especially for the often overlooked Honduras, the reality of U.S. influence is a well-known international scandal. In 2005, British playwright Harold Pinter minced no words about the U.S. support for the right-wing dictatorships in Central America and elsewhere. In his address for the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Pinter said:

”Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.

”It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”

Our delegation intends to provide eyes and ears to witness and remember. To Padre Melo and the journalists at Radio Progreso, our brief presence tells them: “No están solos.” You are not alone.

Pakistan: Asma Jahangir, Champion Of Human Rights, Critic Of Pak Army, Dies At 66

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article from New Delhi Television Limited

Leading Pakistani human rights advocate Asma Jahangir has died, her family said Sunday, in a major blow to the country’s embattled rights community. She was 66.

The lawyer and former UN special rapporteur died of cardiac arrest, according to her sister. “Unfortunately we have lost her,” Hina Jilani, also a prominent rights activist and lawyer, told AFP.


Pakistan’s top rights advocate Asma Jahangir braved death threats in her long career (AFP)

The lawyer and former UN special rapporteur died of cardiac arrest, according to her sister. “Unfortunately we have lost her,” Hina Jilani, also a prominent rights activist and lawyer, told AFP.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced, according to a statement by her daughter Munizae Jahangir, as the family waited for relatives to return to their hometown of Lahore.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi expressed grief at Asma Jahangir’s death, praising her contribution to upholding the rule of law and safeguarding human rights.

Ms Jahangir’s supporters and former opponents alike took to social media to offer their condolences and express shock at news of her death.

“Asma Jahangir was the bravest human being I ever knew. Without her the world is less,” wrote prominent Pakistani lawyer Salman Akram Raja.

“I and many others didn’t agree with some of her views. But she was a titan. And one of the brightest and bravest ever produced by this country,” wrote journalist Wajahat Khan on Twitter.

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Question for this article:

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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In 2014 Asma Jahangir received France’s highest civilian award and Sweden’s Right Livelihood Award, for her decades of rights work.

Few Pakistani rights activists have achieved the credibility of Ms Jahangir.She braved death threats, beatings and imprisonment to win landmark human rights cases while standing up to dictators.

Ms Jahangir also helped establish the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

The organisation made its name defending religious minorities and taking on highly charged blasphemy accusations along with “honour” killings — in which the victims, normally women, are murdered by a relative for bringing shame on the family.
 
There is still terrible violence against women, discrimination against minorities and near-slavery for bonded labourers, Ms Jahangir told AFP during an interview in 2014, but human rights have made greater strides in Pakistan than may be apparent.

“There was a time that human rights was not even an issue in this country. Then prisoners’ rights became an issue,” she said.

“Women’s rights was thought of as a Western concept. Now people do talk about women’s rights — political parties talk about it, even religious parties talk about it.”

Asma Jahangir secured a number of victories during her life, from winning freedom for bonded labourers from their “owners” through pioneering litigation, to a landmark court case that allowed women to marry of their own volition.

She was also an outspoken critic of the powerful military establishment, including during her stint as the first-ever female leader of Pakistan’s top bar association.

Ms Jahangir was arrested in 2007 by the government of then-military ruler Pervez Musharraf. In 2012 she claimed her life was in danger  from the feared Inter Services Intelligence spy agency.

Uruguay’s main trade union center plans massive mobilization to construct a culture of peace

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article from República

PIT CNT [Uruguay’s main trade union center] is planning a strike for the third week of February, with “massive” mobilization, where all social organizations will be called, not just trade unions, to demand the “construction of peace, tolerance and dialogue,” according to President Fernando Pereira.


Fernando Pereira

Hours before the stoppage in response to the acts of violence experienced in recent days, two femicides in four days of the year, the death of a police officer at the end of 2017, the brutal death of a taxi driver and the murder of a union leader, something that in Uruguay had not happened for a long time, President Fernando Pereira said that the society needs “a day of mourning and reflection. We are not asking others to reflect, we are going to reflect and we are mourning.”

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(Click here for a Spanish version of this article.)

Question related to this article:

What is the role of organized labor in the peace movement?

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“Given these events, the trade union movement decided to call for reflection and mourning as an immediate response,” he said. “We called for it immediately so no one could say we were trying to stretch a long weekend. The solution was to act immediately and to postpone the other proposals that are on the table “.

Among the measures to be taken, the first one is to convene the Extended National Representative Board of the Union in the first week of February, in order to plan a mobilization for the third week of that month.

“We hope to have organizations linked to human rights, to feminism, to different religious beliefs, to all the members of society that want to participate in a massive call to build a culture of peace, tolerance and dialogue, rather than settling conflict through violence,” said the president of the union.

He recalled that there were 33,000 complaints from women about violence, “which marks a problem we have as a society. We can not look with indifference at the things that are happening, when a teacher is being beaten by a mother, or when rural workers commit acts of violence towards workers who claim their rights.”

At the beginning of the general strike called by the PIT CNT, at the door of the company Viana Trasporte, where the trade unionist of the SUTCRA, Marcelo Silvera was assassinated in front of his partner and his son, dozens of people approached the facilities to make an escrache demonstration .

In front of the march, colleagues of the union carried a banner with an image of the victim, with the caption: “Marcelo Silvera Presente” and below the signature of the transport coordinator. The murderer of Silvera is serving a pre-trial detention while the trial against him is being prepared. Because it is an aggravated homicide, the person who fired the shots could receive a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign Reborn

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article by Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan in Democracy Now

Martin Luther King Jr. would have turned 89 years old this Jan. 15. Assassinated at the age of 39 on April 4, 1968, his much-too-short life forever changed America. Among the landmarks of his activism are the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, ending segregation in public transportation; leading the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech; the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act; and marching with sanitation workers in Memphis, where he declared in his last speech, delivered on the eve of his death, “I’ve been to the mountaintop.” Often overlooked are the increasingly radical policy positions King took in his last years, from speaking out against the Vietnam War to forging a multiracial Poor People’s Campaign that sought, as King said, “a radical redistribution of economic and political power.” Now, 50 years later, a coalition has formed anew to organize poor people in the United States into what King called “a new and unsettling force” to fight poverty and forge meaningful change.


Illustration from Nation of Change

This renewal, called “The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival,” has an audacious agenda: “to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality.” At the forefront is the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. Born just two days after the famous March on Washington, Barber grew up in the civil-rights movement. For over 10 years he served as president of the North Carolina NAACP, stepping down to lead this new campaign.

Back in 1968, King described the need for the Poor People’s Campaign, saying: “Millions of young people grow up in the sunlight of opportunity. But there is another America. And this other America has a daily ugliness about it that transforms ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair.”

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Question for this article:

Helping the poorest of the poor help themselves, if millions took it up, could it be the foundation of a just world?

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Speaking this week on the “Democracy Now!” news hour, Rev. Barber reflected on how little has truly changed since King’s time: “Fifty years later, we have nearly 100 million poor and working poor people in this country, 14 million poor children. … Fifty years later, we have less voting rights protection than we had on August 6, 1965,” he said. “[Republicans] have filibustered fixing the Voting Rights Act now for over four years, over 1,700 days.”

“Every state where there’s high voter suppression,” Barber continued, “also has high poverty, denial of health care, denial of living wages, denial of labor union rights, attacks on immigrants, attacks on women.”

Barber says the answer is fusion politics: “We have black, we have white, we have brown, young, old, gay, straight, Jewish, Muslim, Christians, people of faith, people not of faith, who are coming together,” creating what he calls the “Third Reconstruction.” Part of this fusion includes reaching out to traditionally conservative Christians, like Minister Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. From a devout, white evangelical family, as a teen he served as a congressional page under South Carolina Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond, one of the fiercest segregationists of the modern era.

Wilson-Hartgrove heard William Barber preach, and has been a follower and a colleague ever since. The renewed Poor People’s Campaign is responding to poor, white evangelicals, Wilson-Hartgrove says: “These people who say, ‘Vote for me because I’m a good Christian leader’ are not serving your interests. You don’t have health care, you don’t have a living wage, because the same people who say they’re standing up for God and righteousness are, when they’re voting, voting against the interests of poor people, whether you’re black, white, brown or whatever.”

Barber sees transformation of the Deep South on the near horizon, but doesn’t claim it will be easy. Recent court victories against both racial and political gerrymandering in North Carolina will further empower African-Americans and other traditionally marginalized groups. But the real work will be done not in the courts, but in the streets.

Barber and Wilson-Hartgrove, along with the Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-director of the New York City-based Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice and co-chair of the modern-day Poor People’s Campaign, traveled to 15 states around the country in recent months, recruiting, organizing and training over 1,000 people. Barber said: “Our first action will be on the Monday after Mother’s Day. We’re going after 25,000 people engaging in civil disobedience over six weeks to launch a movement.” Their target: the U.S. Capitol and statehouses across the country.

Martin Luther King Jr. was robbed of life by a sniper’s bullet 50 years ago. But on this anniversary of his birth, this national holiday that people fought decades for, his vital work to empower the poor, lives on.