Category Archives: HUMAN RIGHTS

Colombia: The Schools Embrace the Truth

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

Special to CPNN from Amada Benevides

On June 9, more than 1,300 educational institutions throughout Colombia commemorated the first anniversary of the delivery of the Final Report of the Truth Commission. In the company of civil society organizations and education secretariats, the schools organized to live a special day with their educational communities, opening a path of dialogue and reflection on the value of truth in coexistence and the history of the Colombian armed conflict.

On June 28, 2022, after more than 3 years of work, the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence, and Non-repetition delivered its Final Report to society. The Truth Commission (CEV), together with the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) and the Unit for the Search for Disappeared Persons in the framework of the Armed Conflict (UBPD), are part of the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-repetition (SVJR). The SVJR arising from the Agreement between the FARC-EP and the Colombian Government to end the armed conflict that lasted more than 60 years.

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(click here for the article in Spanish.).)

Question related to this article:

Truth Commissions, Do they improve human rights?

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

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The Commission’s report is made up of 11 chapters that are designed in multiple formats so that they can be addressed by diverse communities and populations. The Commission’s Final Report is a public good. Its recommendations arise from an in-depth analysis of what happened during years of violence from more than 1,000 reports delivered by civil society, nearly 30,000 people interviewed and heard about what is necessary for non-repetition. Not all the recommendations are addressed to the Government or the State; there are several that fall on the rest of civil society and that is why their dissemination with the formal and non-formal education sectors is so important. Girls, boys, adolescents and young people, as well as the entire educational community, have the right to know the truth about what happened in the context of the armed conflict and the commitment to work on actions so that this does not happen again.

To commemorate the date of the launch of the report, the organizations allied with the Commission invite the educational institutions to develop three special days of deliberation and action. The aim of these journeys are to promote spaces for reflection with the educational community on the most important aspects of the report and how these processes contribute to the construction of peace from the clarification of the truth and the recommendations for the construction of coexistence that the CEV developed in its three years of work.

The allied organizations of the Commission, including Fundación Escuelas de Paz – civil society organizations, universities, Secretaries of Education and the Ministry of National Education – are aware that the contribution to Peace must be a continuous process. We unite in order to propose the development of a commemorative agenda with three milestone dates that motivate reflection on the work that is carried out from the Comprehensive System for Peace and keep the Legacy of the Commission alive.

These sessions will be:

June 9: The School Embraces the Truth.

August 30: The School embraces empathy.

October 2: The school embraces justice and restoration.

Comment by Mazin Qumsiyeh on Palestine: Hope, Present and Future

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

A blog in the Popular Resistance Blogspot

The past 30 hours, Israeli occupation and apartheid forces invaded the city of Jenin including the Jenin Refugee camp. They bulldozed streets and electricity and water infrastructure. They prevented ambulances and attacked he press. Thousands of people were forced to leave their homes. A second etic cleansing for them. Our people are refused international protection and as before, Israeli atrocities are done with western and Arab world complicity. The few “statements” issued by some governments to express “concern” are satisfactory to the Israeli oppressors. While the Western powers hypocritically give billions of aid to Ukraine against Russia for occupying part of its territory, the same powers support the occupiers of Palestine. They support apartheid and ethnic cleansing.


Mazin Qumsiyeh and Jessie Chang founded the Palestine Museum of Natural History and the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability. Photo from Dec. 19, 2018.

I would like to make a personal reflection here. I am 66 years old and has spent all my adult life working for the cause of freedom, A vision of sustainable human and natural communities. Hope is indispensable because we cannot afford despair. Empowerment is far more challenging because it implies work on conviction. We find it most challenging to get enough people empowered to effect the change needed. Once empowered people engage and use methods they deem most effective to get the desired results. I discussed hundreds of methods people used here, most of them not armed, in my book “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of hope and empowerment”. I also engaged myself in dozens of popular resistance methods. For the past 9 years my wife and I have been volunteering full time (and 7 days a week) building up from scratch a “Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability. It is an oasis of hope and of sanity in the middle of mayhem. It is a candle in the darkness. I do not want you to have the illusion that we are 100% sure of our way.

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Question related to this article:

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

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Doubts and uncertainty abound especially in difficult times which we face a lot and in times of crisis like this one with Jenin. For example, how certain are we (at a personal level) that our way is the right way when the Israeli regime has been bombarding us for 75 years, has caused 8 million refugees or displaced people? Was John F. Kennedy right to say “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”? Is there a survival of the meanest and the most wicked in this crazy world? Are the majority of Palestinians infected with mental colonization that immobilizes them (I wrote a chapter on this in a book on post-colonialism)? How many people have discipline and a work ethic and a commitment to make this a better world? How many people have “enlightened self interest” rather than narrow and foolish self-interest?  Are my expectations of myself and those around me higher or lower than it should be? Last night as I pondered these and other questions in a sleepless night, I realized that I do not have many answers and what answers I have, they can only apply to me (afterall, we can only change ourselves in reality).

Twenty years ago in my book “Sharing the Land of Canaan”  I articulated what I consider the rational way to stop the onslaught on people and nature in historic Palestine (now under the boot of Israel) I add the quote from Howard Zinn related to hope which I used in that book to remind myself:

“There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment we will continue to see. We forget how often in this century we have been astonished by the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people’s thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

A blog I posted in late 2014 about life and how we live

B’Tselem Conquer and divide

Palestine video 1938

Who is the national security advisor Jake Sullivan, the man running US foreign policy?

Palestinians are in Israel’s cross hairs because they are not Jews

The Hindu Nationalists Using The Pro-Israel Playbook

Bill Clinton Lied—And So Did Everyone Else: A Mystery Solved in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Solidarity with Palestine: Swim with Gaza

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

Mail received at CPNN from Paul O’Brien plus excerpts from the website of Swim with Gaza

Hi,

In your language see here: swimwithgaza.com

It would be lovely if you could join us on this international solidarity swim with children on Gaza beach on August 26th.

On that day hundreds of children who have learned to swim this summer with be streaming into the sea as part of the Gaza Swimming Festival.

Would you, your friends or family like to take to the water the same day in your own area, and send a video to us?

Maybe you could join the video live stream going to and from Gaza on the day.

See more here: swimwithgaza.com and use the form to leave your details.

Please pass this message onto others who might be interested.

It will be fun for all.

Paul O’Brien
Swim With Gaza

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Question related to this article:

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

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Excerpts from website of Swim with Gaza

Since 2007 the people of Gaza have been imprisoned. They have no parks, no mountains, no valleys.

But they have the sea.

Their only free space for fun.

Let’s join them in the sea for a solidarity swim. Each year they have a swimming festival on Gaza beach. This is last year’s Gaza Swimming Carnival

This year the Swimming Festival will be held on 26th August.

The kids have already started training in Gaza

So join in wherever you are – Egypt, Lebanon, South Africa, Morocco, Spain, Ireland, Brazil or Chile.

Splash, and swim, and paddle and enjoy the sea, together.

Join them in a swim on August 26th, 2023.

Make it a festive day – bring friends and family..

TO SWIM IS TO FEEL

TO FEEL IS TO EXIST

TO EXIST IS TO RESIST

And as you are at it, why not send a message in a bottle to Gaza children, like they did recently in their Letters through the Waves campaign.

Appealing to the Waves: Children of Gaza Prisoners Make Their Case to the Mediterranean

If you would like to be involved, leave your contact details here.

France: For an Emergency Plan to Overcome the Crisis

… DISARMAMENT AND SECURITY …

A declaration of the Groupe parlementaire La France insoumise -NUPES & La France insoumise (translation by CPNN)

The death of young Nahel on the morning of June 27 in Nanterre triggered a wave of emotion and anger in the country. It has also acted as a spark, triggering a revolt in many cities across the country, which urgently demands a political response.

Faced with this situation, the government has locked itself into an escalation of verbal security that only serves to worsen the situation. They shirk their own responsibility and target rebellious France to hide their incompetence and inability to act. At the same time, they give up looking for a way out of the crisis, and they abandon the victims of damage to public property, housing and businesses essential to daily life.

We advocate no strategy of violence, but we demand that the causes of the situation be addressed because the problems are not new. For working-class neighborhoods, racism, police violence or discrimination in access to employment or housing are the daily lot of the inhabitants. The destruction of public services, social protections and associative solidarity, due to neoliberal austerity policies, has been going on for decades. For there to be harmony, strong actions are needed on the part of the government which, today as yesterday, are absent. Since the revolts of 2005, there has been no response.

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(click here for the original French version)

Question for this article:

Where are police being trained in culture of peace?

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Restoring trust is all the more difficult since the government has distinguished itself in recent years by its inability to deal with popular demands by any means other than contempt and ignorance, whether during the mobilization of yellow vests or against retirement at 64. They make it seem like no change is possible within the current framework. Therefore what is required is a complete break and exceptional responses.

For this, we request a debate in the National Assembly under Article 50-1 of the Constitution in order to propose an emergency plan including:

* The immediate repeal of the “license to kill” provisions of the Cazeneuve law of 2017, responsible for the explosion of deaths when the subject refuses to comply

* The creation of a “Truth and Justice” commission to establish all responsibilities concerning police violence that has resulted in the death or mutilation of citizens

* The immediate expatriation of any case of police violence, the complete reform of the IGPN and the creation of an independent investigation service.

* State support for repairs to shops, housing and public places that have damaged in recent days

* An in-depth reform of the national police to rebuild a better trained republican police and to get rid of all forms of racism, including in particular the dissolution of the BAC, the restoration of the code of ethics of 1986, the strengthening of training, the introduction of genuine community policing and the end of lethal immobilization techniques. We must close the period started by Sarkozy in 2002 that treats young people from working-class neighborhoods as an enemy from within.

* A global action program against discrimination including in particular the creation of a Commissioner for Equality, specialized centers within the courts of appeal and the implementation of the identity check receipt to fight against the face control

* A public investment plan in poor neighborhoods for the restoration of public services, housing, public schools, access to health and culture, financing of associations and social centers

Elders warn of consequences of “one-state reality” in Israel and Palestine

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article from The Elders

Following their visit to Israel and and Palestine, Mary Robinson and Ban Ki-moon warn that a ‘one-state reality’ is now rapidly extinguishing the prospect of a two-state solution.

The Chair and Deputy Chair of The Elders warned today (June 22) that a ‘one-state reality’ is now rapidly extinguishing the prospect of a two-state solution foreseen in the 1993 Oslo Accords to bring peace and security to both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples. 

The Government of Israel’s intent to exercise sovereignty over all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea undermines the democratic ideals of the Israeli state, denies the Palestinian people their right to self-determination, and risks an uncontrollable explosion of violence on both sides.
  
Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, and Ban Ki-moon, Deputy Chair of The Elders and former UN Secretary-General, spoke out at the conclusion of a three-day visit to Israel and Palestine. They met a range of Israeli and Palestinian political leaders and civil society organisations, foreign diplomats, and former members of the Israeli military and diplomatic service. 

They also saw for themselves some of the facts on the ground, and heard from Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organisations about the ever-growing evidence that the situation meets the international legal definition of apartheid: the expansion and entrenchment of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the establishment of dual legal regimes and separation infrastructure in the occupied territories, and the institutionalised discrimination and abuses perpetrated against Palestinians. 

They heard no detailed rebuttal of the evidence of apartheid. On the contrary, the declarations and policies of the current Israeli Government – whose Coalition Guidelines state that “the Jewish people have an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel” – clearly show an intent to pursue permanent annexation rather than temporary occupation, based on Jewish supremacy. Measures include the transfer of administrative powers over the occupied West Bank from military to civilian authorities, accelerating the approval processes for building settlements, and constructing new infrastructure that would render a future Palestinian state unviable.   

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Question related to this article:

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

Israel/Palestine, is the situation like South Africa?

How can war crimes be documented, stopped, punished and prevented?

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Such a situation has profound implications for Israel’s proud status as a democracy, the two Elders warned. It also undermines the credibility of the international community as the guarantor of a rules-based global order. If the Israeli Government’s current trajectory is not reversed, countries who care about the international rule of law should consider serious enforceable measures to increase pressure on the Israeli Government to meet its international obligations. 
 
The two Elders also noted with alarm the highest level of violence since the end of the second intifada in 2005. They condemned the killings in the past week of Palestinian civilians by Israeli security forces in Jenin, of Israeli settlers by Hamas in the West Bank, and of a Palestinian civilian by Israeli settlers. The Palestinian leadership has a responsibility to do all it can to prevent the terror attacks that cause very real fears among Israelis. The two Elders warned such incidents will only escalate and multiply unless the root causes of the conflict are addressed. 

Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: 
“I am profoundly shocked by the changes I have seen on my first visit to this region for several years. The policies of successive Israeli governments have entrenched the oppression of Palestinians, and also jeopardise the security and democracy Israelis have fought so hard for. Meanwhile the Palestinian people have no confidence in their own leadership; elections are long overdue and the democratic vacuum and shrinking civic space allows extremism and violence to flourish. All parties, including the international community, must act urgently to avert a calamitous descent into uncontrollable violence.” 

Mary Robinson and Ban Ki-moon expressed solidarity with Israelis protesting against their government’s proposed plans to weaken judicial independence, and encouraged protesters to confront the corrosive impact of the 56-year occupation on Israeli democracy. 

They also challenged the international community to address double standards on violations of international law. The indictment of Russian President Vladimir Putin by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes in Ukraine stands in stark contrast to the lack of progress on the ICC’s investigation into alleged crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. Together with the case before the International Court of Justice and the work of the UN Commission of Inquiry, the ICC case is a litmus test for the credibility of an international system which should hold to account all those who break international law. 

Ban Ki-moon, Deputy Chair of The Elders and former UN Secretary-General, said: 
“I leave Israel and Palestine with a heavy heart. I have seen and heard compelling evidence of a one-state reality, with systemic impunity for violators of international law and human rights. There is a lack of political vision and leadership in Israel and Palestine and among Israel’s allies, who continue to revert to a short-term approach. The people of Israel and Palestine, and the world, deserve better. And they deserve it now, before it is too late.” 

Truth of US fault in Jeju massacre must be conveyed via evidence to the world, argues ex-foreign minister of Australia

… . HUMAN RIGHTS … .

An article by Heo Ho-Joon in Hankyoreh

To achieve true reconciliation regarding the Jeju April 3 Incident, the US government must take responsibility for its historical wrongdoing in the same way as the Korean government, argues Gareth Evans, the former foreign minister of Australia. The US’ key role will be acknowledging responsibility and apologizing, he says.

These remarks came on the first day of the 18th Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity held at the International Convention Center Jeju in Seogwipo during the “Making the Solution of Jeju 4.3 a Global Model: Truth, Reconciliation and Solidarity” session hosted by the Jeju 4.3 Research Institute.


Gareth Evans, the former foreign minister of Australia, speaks at the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity. (courtesy of the Jeju 4.3 Peace Foundation)

The previous day, Evans received the fifth annual Jeju 4.3 Peace Prize presented by the Jeju 4.3 Peace Foundation. Evans was awarded the prize for his involvement in the conclusion of the Paris Peace Agreements that brought peace and an end to civil war in Cambodia, an opportunity which he seized to create the international “responsibility to protect” norm in 2005 that enables the UN to intervene in order to protect civilians in the event of state-sponsored genocide. Evans has also been involved in peace work such as nuclear nonproliferation and banning chemical weapons.

The 4.3 Peace Prize Special Award was awarded to painter Kang Yo-bae for his contribution to informing people about the Jeju April 3 Incident through his “History of People’s Uprising in Jeju” and “The Camellia Has Fallen” series of works in the 1990s.

Efforts to inform the international community of the tragic history that took place 70 years ago in Jeju must be taken, Evans argued.

“If mass atrocity crimes of the kind that occurred here on Jeju are not remembered and seared into the nation’s and the world’s consciousness, [. . .] then the prospect is all too real that these horrors will recur again, that people will fail to recognize the early warning signs of catastrophe before it is too late, and that we will fail as an international community to develop the kind of prevention and response strategies that minimize that risk,” he said.

Expressing concern about the movement to reveal the truth about crimes against humanity weakening in the international community, Evans said that the truth of and responsibility for the Jeju April 3 Incident must be conveyed to the international community so that it may serve as a basis for the creation of principles for solving these sorts of problems.

Evans argued that the level of responsibility the US should bear for the Jeju April 3 Incident must be explicitly stated based on historical evidence, and blame should be clearly assigned through fact-finding work.

The former foreign minister stressed that the US is “failing to properly acknowledge this responsibility.” Accordingly, he said, we must urge the US to acknowledge its responsibility in ethical and moral terms by thoroughly bringing the truth to light through evidence.

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Question related to this article:

Truth Commissions, Do they improve human rights?

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Evans recalled the moment when former German Chancellor Willy Brandt knelt down in front of the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes in Warsaw, Poland, in December 1971, and noted how the world remembers how Germany has continued to apologize for the Holocaust. He suggested that Japan should take a leaf out of Germany’s book and apologize for the horrific brutalities it committed in colonies in the past.

Furthermore, Evans suggested that, in the same way that President Barack Obama paid respects at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Biden should express a similar sentiment with regard to the uprising and massacre in Jeju 70 years ago. Doing so will make the US a nation that “warrants respect,” he said, and will serve to bolster the alliance between Korea and the US.

During a press conference after the fact, Evans called for accountability from the US government with regard to the massacre of Jeju citizens during the Jeju April 3 Incident.

Saying that while it may appear impossible for the US government to share responsibility for the Jeju April 3 Incident in the same manner as the Korean government, Evans noted that what is clear is that the specific nature of US responsibility must be revealed. Real conciliation is about acknowledging and accepting one’s own mistakes, he stressed.

In his acceptance speech for the peace prize, Evans emphasized the “necessity to retain memory of the worst if we are to progress at all toward achieving the best.”

“If we fail to remember the indescribable horror and misery that is involved in any major war, we are at profound risk of sleepwalking into another,” he said of the need to improve global and regional performance when it comes to conflict prevention and response.

Evans also brought up the recent Korea-US summit.

“South Korea is closer to the eye of the storm than my own country, and most others,” he said. “Your preoccupation with North Korea’s ever-increasing nuclear weapon capability and endless rhetorical belligerence is perfectly understandable.”

But he cautioned against heeding the “many domestic voices” that are arguing for South Korea to arm itself with nuclear weapons. “For that to happen would be disastrous for the global non-proliferation regime, and with it your country’s international reputation, while doing little or nothing to actually enhance your security.”

Evans expressed concern about Presidents Joe Biden of the US and Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea having “doubled down on their commitment to nuclear deterrence,” saying, “What South Korea, like Australia, should focus on ensuring in all our alliances with the US is not extended nuclear deterrence, with all [the] enormous risks that entails, but extended conventional deterrence.”

“If we want to build a worldwide culture of peace, there is a crucial need not only for us to remember what has gone so badly wrong in the past, but to stay optimistic about changing things for the better,” Evans stressed. “I’m sure that this is the spirit which sustained the people of Jeju during those long decades of government denial and suppression of the truth, before democracy and decency finally prevailed. I know it is the spirit which will sustain the effort to universalize the Jeju model of truth, reconciliation, and international solidarity.”

In the closing session of the Jeju Forum on the afternoon of June 2, Evans spoke with Governor Oh Young-hun of Jeju on the topic of “Promoting the Culture of Peace.”

United States: Workers Rising in the South

. . DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION . .

A blog from the United Steel Workers

Workers at Blue Bird Corp. in Fort Valley, Ga., launched a union drive to secure better wages, work-life balance and a voice on the job.

The company resisted them. History defied them. Geography worked against them.

But they stood together, believed in themselves and achieved an historic victory that’s reverberating throughout the South.

About 1,400 workers at the electric bus manufacturer voted overwhelmingly this month to join the United Steelworkers (USW), reflecting the rise of collective power in a part of the country where bosses and right-wing politicians long contrived to foil it.


“It’s just time for a change,” explained Rinardo Cooper, a member of USW Local 572 and a paper machine operator at Graphic Packaging in Macon, Ga.

Cooper, who assisted the workers at Blue Bird with their union drive, expects more Southerners to follow suit even if they face their own uphill battles.

Given the South’s pro-corporate environment, it’s no surprise that Georgia has one of the nation’s lowest union membership rates, 4.4 percent. North Carolina’s rate is even lower, 2.8 percent. And South Carolina’s is 1.7 percent.
Many corporations actually choose to locate in the South because the low union density enables them to pay poor wages, skimp on safety and perpetuate the system of oppression.

In a 2019 study, “The Double Standard at Work,” the AFL-CIO found that even European-based companies with good records in their home countries take advantage of workers they employ in America’s South.

They’ve “interfered with freedom of association, launched aggressive campaigns against employees’ organizing attempts and failed to bargain in good faith when workers choose union representation,” noted the report, citing, among other abuses, Volkswagen’s union-busting efforts at a Tennessee plant.

“They keep stuffing their pockets and paying pennies on the dollar,” Cooper said of companies cashing in at workers’ expense.

The consequences are dire.

States with low union membership have significantly higher poverty, according to a 2021 study by researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of California, Riverside. Georgia’s 14 percent poverty rate, for example, is among the worst in the country.

However, the tide is turning as workers increasingly see union membership as a clear path forward, observed Cooper, who left his own job at Blue Bird several months ago because the grueling schedule left him little time to spend with family.

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Question related to this article:
 
What is the contribution of trade unions to the culture of peace?

The right to form and join trade unions, Is it being respected?

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Now, as a union paper worker, he not only makes higher wages than he did at Blue Bird but also benefits from safer working conditions and a voice on the job. And with the USW holding the company accountable, he’s free to take the vacation and other time off he earns.  

Cooper’s story helped to inspire the bus company workers’ quest for better lives. But they also resolved to fight for their fair share as Blue Bird increasingly leans on their knowledge, skills and dedication in coming years.

The company stands to land tens of millions in subsidies from President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and other federal programs aimed at putting more electric vehicles on the roads, supercharging the manufacturing economy and supporting good jobs.

These goals are inextricably linked, as Biden made clear in a statement congratulating the bus company workers on their USW vote. “The fact is: The middle class built America,” he said. “And unions built the middle class.”

Worker power is spreading not only in manufacturing but across numerous industries in the South.

About 500 ramp agents, truck drivers and other workers at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina just voted to form a union. Workers in Knoxville, Tenn., last year unionized the first Starbucks in the South.

And first responders in Virginia and utility workers in Georgia and Kentucky also formed unions in recent months, while workers at Lowe’s in Louisiana launched groundbreaking efforts to unionize the home-improvement giant.

“I wouldn’t hesitate to tell any worker at any manufacturing place here that the route you need to take is the union. That’s the only fairness you’re going to get,” declared Anthony Ploof, who helped to lead dozens of co-workers at Carfair into the USW earlier this year.

Workers at the Anniston, Ala., company make fiberglass-reinforced polymer components for vehicles, including hybrid and electric buses. Like all workers, they decided to unionize to gain a seat at the table and a means of holding their employer accountable.

Instead of fighting the union effort, as many companies do, Carfair remained neutral so the workers could exercise their will. In the end, 98 percent voted to join the USW, showing that workers overwhelmingly want unions when they’re free to choose without bullying, threats or retaliation.

“It didn’t take much here,” said Ploof, noting workers had little experience with unions but educated themselves about the benefits and quickly came to a consensus on joining the USW.

“It’s reaching out from Carfair,” he added, noting workers at other companies in the area have approached him to ask, “How is that working out? How do we organize?”

As his new union brothers and sisters at Blue Bird prepare to negotiate their first contract, Cooper hopes to get involved in other organizing drives, lift up more workers and continue changing the trajectory of the South.

“We just really need to keep putting the message out there, letting people know that there is a better way than what the employers are wanting you to believe,” he said.

(Thank you to Nation of Change for calling our attention to this article.)

The Washington Consensus Supporting Sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela Is Breaking

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article by Branko Marcetic in Jacobin

Twenty-one members of Congress last week called for lifting US sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela, including most of the Squad. The pushback is needed: sanctions are a cruel economic weapon that hurts average people — and has spurred a surge of economic refugees.


Activists carry Venezuelan and Cuban flags during a protest rejecting President Joe Biden’s policy of sanctions on June 10, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Ringo Chiu / AFP via Getty Images)

One of the defining features of our era has been the loss of a domestic political appetite for more US wars. But a similar pushback to Washington’s use of sanctions has been slow to follow, despite the fact that US sanctions are demonstrably cruel, indiscriminate, ineffective, and often illegal.

The near-term prospects for a groundswell of US opposition to sanctions are basically nonexistent at this point. But we may be seeing the beginnings of one taking shape: last week saw twenty-one House Democrats send Joe Biden a letter calling on the president to end US sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela and review Donald Trump–era sanctions policy more generally, in light of the “border crisis,” which has seen a surge in migrants at the southern border (though one that is lower than expected ) since the expiration of the Donald Trump–era Title 42 order.

Calling the sanctions “a critical contributing factor in the current increase in migration,” the letter points to “their grave humanitarian toll on the peoples of those countries” and the “significant logistical challenges” it is creating for US authorities. But the letter also stresses that “there are also strong moral grounds” to lift the sanctions and that US policy should seek to not “exacerbate the suffering of the innocent people whose freedom we seek to advance.”

Organized by two representatives of border states, Reps. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) — a cochair of Biden’s 2024 campaign and Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) very first congressional endorser, respectively — the letter was cosigned by a number of progressive elected officials, including Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Chuy García (D-IL), and six of the newly expanded “Squad” of progressive and socialist members of Congress.

The signatures of Squad members Ilhan Omar, Summer Lee, and Ayanna Pressley were missing from the letter. Massachusetts representative Jim McGovern, who has repeatedly called on Biden to lift sanctions against Venezuela in the past, also didn’t sign the letter, and his Northampton office was met by protests from the Anti-Imperialism Action Committee, an anti-capitalist activist collective based in Western Massachusetts, and other activists as a result.

Some of the progressive signatories have taken this message to other platforms. At a May 11 House Agriculture Committee meeting, Rep. Greg Casar (D-TX) — one of the newly minted Squad members who won his seat in these past midterms — spoke about the failure of the decades-long US blockade on Cuba in fostering democracy and called for “revisiting our policies that push people out of their home countries,” emphasizing the economic costs to the US economy that result.

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Question related to this article:

Are economic sanctions a violation of human rights?

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“I don’t think that it serves us to be starving people abroad,” he said. “I think it helps Americans for us to be feeding people all over the world.”

Khanna similarly took this message to a venue where viewers are unlikely to have heard criticism of Biden’s continuation of Trump–era sanctions policy: MSNBC, on the Morning Joe  show.

“Look at what’s causing people to flee Venezuela and Cuba,” he urged. “The Republicans are saying, ‘let’s sanction them more.’ That’s causing more people to actually leave. Let’s look at rational sanction policy so we’re not causing the influx.”

Progressive criticism of sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela — both of which are explicitly aimed at fomenting regime change in the countries — have been backed up by Ben Rhodes, a foreign policy advisor for former president Barack Obama.

“This is an obvious thing that is sitting right in front of the Biden administration, to just go back to the kind of openness that we had at the end of the Obama years [and] make life better for the Cuban people,” he said in a recent MSNBC appearance, warning that the political cost for Biden stemming from events at the border would be worse than for lifting Trump’s “maximum pressure” sanctions.

This course has also been endorsed by leftist Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who said he had personally urged Biden to attack the root causes of migration to the US southern border, namely the “poverty and abandonment” endemic to those countries — and which US sanctions have unquestionably played a major role in causing. This comes a month after the US envoy of the Venezuelan opposition itself, which only a year ago was demanding that Biden not waver on Trump’s policy, implored the administration to end the sanctions, lest it turn Venezuela into “another Cuba.”

Despite this diverse chorus of voices pushing for sanctions to be lifted, it’s also running into a wall. That’s because, according to the Washington Post, the Biden administration is worried about alienating Cuban-American Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who wrote a counterletter claiming, as all sanctions enthusiasts do, that the policy has nothing to do with the exodus of people from both countries.

Menendez is a hard-line supporter of Trump’s sanctions policy, and is currently under federal investigation eight years after already once being indicted on separate bribery charges. When he finds time away from potential criminal prosecution, Menendez is a full-time hawk who teams up with neocon Lindsey Graham to push legislation undermining peaceful coexistence with China and Iran. Since it relies on him to push through appointments blocked by the GOP and to pursue its wider geostrategic goals, the administration has tended to give Menendez enormous leeway in driving its own foreign policy decision-making, something that likely won’t change anytime soon.

Still, the fact that there’s any disquiet being heard at all in Washington toward the ruinous and largely pointless US overuse of sanctions — a weapon that the Biden administration has used with record frequency — is an important development. Political shifts in the halls of Congress don’t happen overnight and are usually the fruit of months and years of small, symbolic measures like this letter, adding up bit by bit to slowly shift what’s politically acceptable. This progressive challenge to a president — one who’s otherwise enjoying near-dictatorial levels of obeisance from fellow elected Democrats — is a first step, and one that couldn’t have happened without the election of progressive insurgents to Congress.

Brazil signs in Buenos Aires declaration to combat hate speech on the internet

. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY .

An article from the government of Brazil (translation by CPNN)

Alongside representatives of other Mercosur countries, the Minister of Human Rights and Citizenship, Silvio Almeida, signed this Friday (May 12), the “Declaration for a Culture of Peace and Democracy and for Combating Expressions and Hate Speech”. The document, written during the plenary of the 41st Meeting of High Authorities on Human Rights of Mercosur (RAADH), in Buenos Aires, shows the position of the bloc’s countries on this issue.


Minister Silvio Almeida represented Brazil during the RAADH meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo: Isabel Carvalho – Ascom/MDHC)

During the discussions at the Plenary of High Authorities, the minister took a strong position against the use ;of hate speech. “Fascists have no political opinion they have hatred. As the state, we have the duty to fight any and all hate speech and to act without borders against fascists and Nazis”, he said. 

The text of the declaration condemns the circulation of hate speech and expressions of racism, xenophobia and all forms of oppression. It also condemns manifestations posted on social networks and media that intentionally attack people and groups in vulnerable situations and those historically discriminated against. 

The senior authorities addressed, during the plenary session, the theme of Human Rights and the exercise of Citizenship. The Brazilian delegation reiterated the country’s commitment to policies for the protection and promotion of the elderly, highlighting the urgency of the need for specific human rights policies for this population, including inclusion processes. In addition, data on the aging of the population in Brazil and in the region were presented, highlighting that the elderly still suffer violations of rights and age discrimination.

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

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Question related to this article:
 
Are we making progress against racism and hate speech?

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Work group 
  
The declaration also agreed on the creation of a working group (GT) to create a series of guidelines to be used internally by the signatory countries. The guidelines aim to guarantee the protection and promotion of the human rights of the people who inhabit their territories through prevention and treatment actions to face all other forms of discrimination, as well as to promote all types of subsequent accountability.

“Latin America has a history of political instability and attacks on sovereignty and disrespect for human rights. It is important that we take a stand in defense of democracy and institutional stability, combating all kinds of threats”, said the minister. 

Brazil’s participation in the event marks the country’s return to discussions on the human rights agenda in Latin America, after four years of absence.

Debates 

The 41st RAADH took place throughout the week and, at the end, the authorities presented in the plenary a compilation of information from the thematic meetings with the suggestions they consider important to be adopted by all the countries of the Mercosur bloc.
  
Among the topics discussed by Brazil are issues related to children and adolescents, women’s rights, people with disabilities, the elderly, education and culture, communication, social participation, memory, truth and justice, and social equality. 

Symbolism

The place chosen to host the Plenary of High Authorities on Human Rights had a special symbolism. It was held at the Sitio de Memoria ESMA, a former torture and extermination center that today serves as a memorial site for the atrocities committed against the victims of the last military coup in Argentina (1976 to 1983). The holding of the 41st RAADH in such an emblematic place was highlighted by the participants of the event and was included in the Final Act of the Plenary.

In addition to Minister Silvio Almeida, representing Brazil, the Plenary was attended by Horacio Pietragalla, Secretary of Human Rights of Argentina; Silvia Patiño Santacruz, Deputy Minister of Justice of Paraguay; Tomas Ignacio Pascual Ricke, Director of Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile; and Carlos Alberto Chocano Burga, Ambassador of Peru to Argentina.

Next RAADH 

The Meeting of High Authorities on Human Rights of Mercosur (RAADH) takes place every six months and is responsible for reflecting on and dictating the bloc’s human rights agenda. 

The 42nd edition of the event will take place next semester in Brazil, when the country will exercise the Pro Tempore presidency of Mercosur and will host the bloc’s discussions.

The State of the World’s Human Rights: Amnesty International’s Annual Report 2022/23

… . HUMAN RIGHTS … .

Annual report of Amnesty International

* Amnesty International’s Annual Report for 2022 highlights double standards throughout the world on human rights and the failure of the international community to unite around consistently-applied human rights and universal values.

* The West’s robust response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine contrasts sharply with a deplorable lack of meaningful action on grave violations by some of their allies including Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

* Women’s rights and freedom to protest are threatened as states fail to protect and respect rights at home.

* As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 75, Amnesty International insists that a rules-based international system must be founded on human rights and applied to everyone, everywhere.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 unleashed numerous war crimes, generated a global energy and food crisis and sought to further disrupt a weak multilateral system. It also laid bare the hypocrisy of Western states that reacted forcefully to the Kremlin’s aggression but condoned or were complicit in grave violations committed elsewhere, Amnesty International said as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world.

Amnesty International Report 2022/23: The State of the World’s Human Rights found that double standards and inadequate responses to human rights abuses taking place around the world fuelled impunity and instability, including deafening silence on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, inaction on Egypt and the refusal to confront Israel’s system of apartheid against Palestinians.

The report also highlights China’s use of strong-arm tactics to suppress international action on crimes against humanity it has committed, as well as the failure of global and regional institutions – hamstrung by the self-interest of their members – to respond adequately to conflicts killing thousands of people including in Ethiopia, Myanmar and Yemen.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a chilling example of what can happen when states think they can flout international law and violate human rights without consequences,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created 75 years ago, out of the ashes of the Second World War. At its core is the universal recognition that all people have rights and fundamental freedoms. While global power dynamics are in chaos, human rights cannot be lost in the fray. They should guide the world as it navigates an increasingly volatile and dangerous environment. We must not wait for the world to burn again.”

Shameless double standards pave way for further abuses

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine triggered one of Europe’s worst humanitarian and human rights emergencies in recent history. The conflict not only resulted in mass displacement, war crimes and global energy and food insecurity, it also raised the chilling spectre of nuclear war.

The response was swift with the West imposing economic sanctions on Moscow and sending military assistance to Kyiv, the International Criminal Court opening an investigation into war crimes in Ukraine and the UN General Assembly voting to condemn Russia’s invasion as an act of aggression. However, this robust and welcomed approach stood in stark contrast to previous responses to massive violations by Russia and others, and to pitiful existing responses on conflicts such as Ethiopia and Myanmar.

“Had the system worked to hold Russia accountable for its documented crimes in Chechnya and Syria, thousands of lives might have been saved then and now, in Ukraine and elsewhere. Instead, what we have is more suffering and devastation,” said Agnès Callamard.

“If Russia’s war of aggression demonstrates anything for the world’s future, it is the importance of an effective and consistently applied rules-based international order. All States must step up their efforts for a renewed rules-based order that benefits everyone, everywhere.”

For Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, 2022 was one of the deadliest years since the UN began systematically recording casualties in 2006, with at least 151 people, including dozens of children, killed by Israeli forces. Israeli authorities continued to force Palestinians from their homes, and the government is rolling out plans to drastically expand illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank. Instead of demanding an end to Israel’s system of apartheid, many Western governments chose to attack those denouncing it.

The USA has been a vocal critic of Russian violations in Ukraine and has admitted tens of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the war, yet under policies and practices rooted in anti-Black racism, it expelled more than 25,000 Haitians between September 2021 and May 2022, and subjected many to torture and other ill-treatment.

EU member states opened their borders to Ukrainians fleeing Russian aggression, demonstrating that, as one of the richest blocs in the world, they were more than capable of receiving large numbers of people seeking safety and giving them access to health, education and accommodation. However, many kept their doors shut to those escaping war and repression in Syria, Afghanistan and Libya.

“Responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine gave us some evidence of what can be done when there is political will. We saw global condemnation, investigations of crimes, borders opened to refugees. This response must be a blueprint for how we address all massive human rights violations,” said Agnès Callamard.

The West’s double standards emboldened countries like China, and enabled Egypt and Saudi Arabia to evade, ignore and deflect criticism of their human rights record.

Despite massive human rights violations, amounting to crimes against humanity against Uyghur and other Muslim minorities, Beijing escaped international condemnation by the UN General Assembly, Security Council and Human Rights Council.

The UN Human Rights Council established a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Russia and an investigative mechanism on Iran in the wake of deadly protests. But it voted not to further investigate or even discuss the UN’s own findings of potential crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, and discontinued a resolution on the Philippines.

“Countries applied human rights law on a case-by-case basis in a staggering show of blatant hypocrisy and double standards. States cannot criticize human rights violations one minute and, in the next, condone similar abuses in other countries just because their interests are at stake. It’s unconscionable and undermines the entire fabric of universal human rights,” said Agnès Callamard.

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(Click here for the French version of this article, or here for the Spanish version .)

Question(s) related to this article:
 
What is the state of human rights in the world today?

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“We also need States that have so far failed to put their head above the parapet to take a stand against human rights abuses wherever they fall. We need less hypocrisy, less cynicism, and more consistent, principled and ambitious action by all states to promote and protect all rights.”.

Ruthless repression of dissent across the world

In 2022, Russian dissenters were taken to court and media houses were shut down just for mentioning the war in Ukraine. Journalists were imprisoned in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Russia, Belarus and dozens of other countries across the world where conflicts raged.

In Australia, India, Indonesia and the UK, authorities passed new legislation imposing restrictions on demonstrations while Sri Lanka used emergency powers to curtail mass protests against the spiralling economic crisis. The UK law gives police officers wide-ranging powers, including the ability to ban “noisy protests”, undermining the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.

Technology was weaponized against many, to silence, prevent public assembly or disinform.

Iranian authorities responded to the unprecedented uprising against decades of repression with unlawful force through live ammunition, metal pellets, tear gas and beatings. Hundreds of people, including dozens of children, were killed. In December, Peruvian security forces used unlawful force, especially against indigenous people and campesinos, to quell protests during the political crisis that followed the ousting of former president Castillo. Journalists, human rights defenders and political opposition also faced repression including in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

In response to growing threats to the right to protest, Amnesty International launched a global campaign in 2022 to confront states’ intensifying efforts to erode the fundamental right to freedom of peaceful assembly. As part of this campaign the organization calls for the adoption of a Poland were prosecuted for helping women access abortion pills.

Indigenous women continued to face disproportionately high levels of rape and other sexual violence in the USA. In Pakistan, several high-profile murders of women by family members were reported yet parliament failed to adopt legislation on domestic violence that had been pending since 2021. In India, violence against Dalit and Adivasi women, among other caste-based hate crimes, was committed with impunity.

Afghanistan witnessed a particularly significant deterioration of women and girls’ rights to personal autonomy, education, work, and access to public spaces, through multiple edicts issued by the Taliban. In Iran, the “morality police” violently arrested Mahsa (Zhina) Amini for showing strands of hair under her headscarf, and days later she died in custody amid credible reports of torture, sparking nationwide protests in which many more women and girls were injured, detained or killed.

“States’ hunger to control the bodies of women and girls, their sexuality and their lives leaves a terrible legacy of violence, oppression and stunted potential,” said Agnès Callamard.

A crowd of protesters proceeds over the Brooklyn Bridge with the New York skyline in the background. They carry a large banner with the words ‘my body my choice’.

Global action against threats to humanity woefully inadequate

In 2022, the world continued to suffer the fall-out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Climate change, conflict and economic shocks caused in part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine further compounded the risks to human rights.

Economic crises meant 97% of the population of Afghanistan were living in poverty. In Haiti, the political and humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by widespread gang violence, left more than 40% of the population facing acute food insecurity.

Extreme weather conditions exacerbated by a rapidly warming planet triggered hunger and disease in several countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, including Pakistan and Nigeria where floods had a catastrophic impact on people’s lives and livelihoods and led to an outbreak of waterborne diseases, which killed hundreds.

Against this backdrop, countries failed to act in the best interests of humanity and address fossil fuel dependency, the main driver pushing us toward the biggest threat to life as we know it. This collective failure was another stark example of the weakness of current multilateral systems.

“The world is besieged by an onslaught of colliding crises including widespread conflict, cruel global economics with too many states burdened by unsustainable debt, corporate tax abuse, the weaponization of technology, the climate crisis and shifting tectonic plates of power. We stand no chance of surviving these crises if our international institutions aren’t fit for purpose,” said Agnès Callamard.

Dysfunctional international institutions need fixing

It is vital that international institutions and systems that are meant to protect our rights are strengthened rather than undermined. The first step is for UN human rights mechanisms to be fully funded, so that accountability and investigations can be pursued, and justice delivered.

Amnesty International is also calling for the UN’s key decision-making body, the Security Council, to be reformed to give a voice to countries and situations which have been traditionally ignored, especially in the global south.

“The international system needs serious reform to reflect the realities of today. We cannot allow the permanent members of the UN Security Council to continue wielding their veto power and abusing their privileges unchecked. The lack of transparency and efficiency in the Council’s decision-making process leaves the entire system wide open to manipulation, abuse and dysfunction,” said Agnès Callamard.

But while self-serving governments fail to put our human rights first, the human rights movement shows we can still draw inspiration and hope from the people these states should have protected.

In Colombia, the persistence of women’s rights activism and legal action contributed to the Constitutional Court’s decision to decriminalize abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. In South Sudan, Magai Matiop Ngong was released from prison, having been sentenced to death at the age of 15 in 2017. His release came after thousands of people around the world petitioned the authorities for his freedom.

Indigenous Mayan environmentalist Bernardo Caal Xol was released on parole after spending four years in jail in Guatemala on bogus charges. After years of campaigning by women’s movements in Spain, the country’s parliament passed a law placing consent at the centre of the legal definition of rape. Kazakhstan and Papua New Guinea repealed the death penalty.

“It is easy to feel hopeless in the face of atrocities and abuses but throughout the last year, people have shown we are not powerless,” said Agnès Callamard.

“We’ve witnessed iconic acts of defiance, including Afghan women marching against Taliban rule and Iranian women walking unveiled in public or cutting their hair to protest compulsory veiling laws. Millions of people who have been systematically oppressed by patriarchy and racism took to the streets to demand a better tomorrow. They did so in previous years and they did so again in 2022. This should remind those in power that we will never be mere bystanders when they assault our dignity, equality and freedom.”