Archive for the ‘human rights’ Category

It’s All On Obama Now — Forget Blaming Bush

May 3, 2009
Political observers say that with the events of the last week, accountability for the nation and its current problems has clearly shifted from Bush.
By Peter Nicholas
The Los Angeles Times
May 3, 2009
Reporting from Washington — In the span of a single week — from the day Arlen Specter turned Democratic to the moment Congress passed the White House’s budget blueprint and on through the opening of a spot on the Supreme Court — President Obama crossed a fateful line: From now on, it’s his country.

Every president inherits a tangle of problems from his predecessor. War and recession, natural disaster and foreign crises. And for some undefined interval, new presidents argue that they should not be accountable for the troubles that arose on another’s watch.
But inevitably, responsibility shifts. And for Obama, that time came last week, bringing both greater opportunities and greater risks.

Read the rset:

Obama Meeting Chavez Greatest Presidential Endorsement of Human Rights Abuser Since Carter Met With Hamas

April 21, 2009

In April, 2008, Former President Jimmy Carter embraced a leading Hamas figure at a meeting that infuriated Israeli officials already upset by Carter’s freelance Mideast peace mission.

Mr. Carter also laid a wreath at the grave of Yasser Arafat, whom the Bush administration and many Israelis blamed for the breakdown of peace talks seven years ago and the violence that followed.

The right howled.  The left cheered.

But few question Carter’s motives: he really believes in what he is doing and can explain it in detail.

And Carter carefully plans his every move: even as a former president.

President Clinton also had a record of working with international leaders and human rights was frequently on his agenda.  He went to China and even appeared in Tiananmen Square — a sort of spiritual human rights shrine in China for dissidents and a kind of shrine of communism and the force of law for the government..

But the UK newspaper The Independent in 1998 reported, “The President was holding forth about the importance of human rights, when his thoughts were rudely interrupted by the arrival of Sandy Berger, his national security adviser, who reminded him of billions of dollars of outstanding US contracts with Peking. At which point Mr Clinton delivered a dollop of trademark fudge …. “We are concerned about trade, but we are much more concerned about human rights.” It sounds fine, but the subtext is clear. The business of America remains business.

The Independent continued: “The Tiananmen Square ceremony lasted only 11 minutes. It was not broadcast live in China. There were no speeches…..Television cameras were positioned in such a way as to show as little of Tiananmen Square as possible – there were no pictures of the main gateway with its portrait of Mao Tse-tung.

Evidence of White House precautions was everywhere. Hillary Clinton, who had arrived in Peking wearing red, was now in black. Both she and her husband maintained solemn expressions, as though the occasion was more of a remembrance ceremony than a welcome.”

Thus Clinton went to Tiananmen without taking too much heat from Chinese human rights activists or the communists: the result of careful stagecraft.

What Mr. Obama did last weekend with Hugo Chavez and others was purely theater and photo op: no statement on human rights and no business was apparently conducted.  This is imagery without even the veneer of substance….

And little stagecraft: which means little care of consequences.

In fact: Chavez got the upper hand — and the jump in his poll numbers.

Barack Obama’s slipshod meetings with Chavez and other tyrants say what about this man?

Obama White House Engineered Photo Ops, Publicity Stunts Not Always Honest, Well Conceived


From Fox News

Hugo Chavez has cultivated a world image of a cuddly, mischievous leftist. 

But behind the softy socialist persona is a ruthless politician, a Venezuelan president whose regime is described by the U.S. State Department and others as one of the world’s leading abusers of human, political and social rights. 

Chavez’s transgressions since taking office in 1999 have amounted to much more than merely throwing insults, as he did at former President Bush at the opening session of the 2006 U.N. General Assembly. It was there that Chavez described the American president, who had spoken one day earlier, as the “devil” whose sulfur stench remained at the podium. 

Human Rights Violations

A 2006 State Department report on human rights documented a slew of abuses, including data implicating Chavez’s security forces in about 6,000 killings over five years. 

The department’s annual Country Report on Human Rights practices released in March 2008 cited The Venezuelan Program of Action and Education in Human Rights statistic of 165 unlawful killings by Chavez security forces from October 2006 through September 2007.

The group reported that it received 11 complaints of torture and 692 complaints of cruel or degrading treatment during the same period, which was actually a decline from the year before.

“Reports of beatings and other humiliating treatment of suspects during arrests were common and involved various law enforcement agencies,” reads the 2008 State Department report. 

Workers Rights and Election Tampering

Alarms have been raised recently about Chavez’s crackdown on his political opponents. 

Manuel Rosales, mayor of Maracaibo, dropped out of sight a few weeks ago after the government filed corruption charges against him. Supporters said he had gone into hiding, and FOX News learned Tuesday that he is seeking political asylum in Peru. 

He’s not alone. Antonio Ledezma, another Chavez opponent, was elected mayor of Caracas in 2008 but is being barred from his office by his own police force, which attacked him when he tried to enter it. 

“What’s going on is persecution,” said Susan Purcell, director of the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami.

The crackdown began after Chavez won the battle to remove presidential term limits, amending the nation’s constitution in a February referendum.

“Discrimination on political grounds has been a defining feature of the Chavez presidency,” Human Rights Watch wrote in a 2008 report, titled “A Decade Under Chavez.” 

The report said while Chavez came into office pursuing human rights reforms, a short-lived 2002 coup changed that aim and provided a “pretext” for government policies that undercut those protections. The Venezuelan government kicked Human Rights Watch monitors out of the country shortly after the report was released.

According to the Human Rights Watch report, Chavez:

— Maneuvered a “political takeover” of the Supreme Court in 2004 by the president and his allies by signing legislation allowing his supporters to “pack and purge” the court. 

— Fired and blacklisted political opponents from state agencies and the Venezuelan oil company. 

— Denied citizens with unfavorable political opinions access to social programs. 

— Required state oversight and certification of union elections. 

— Engaged in reprisals against striking oil workers. 

— Subjected rights advocates to exaggerated charges and groundless investigations. 

Media Control

Reporters Without Borders took Chavez to task in its 2008 report on press freedoms. It reported that Chavez: 

— Shut down RCTV, the major Venezuelan TV station, in 2007 by refusing to renew its license. Though Chavez apparently said he was not renewing the license because the station backed the 2002 coup, Reporters Without Borders said in its report that Chavez had a more sinister motive, since another TV station that backed the coup was allowed to continue operating. (RCTV later moved to cable, but was still threatened.) 

— Controls “nearly all the country’s broadcasting.” Chavez went on TV 1,500 times for more than 900 hours between January 1999 and November 2007. Plus he took up 1,000 hours on his Sunday show Alo Presidente.

— Pushed for the creation of about 60 newspapers to support his agenda. 

The State Department report also noted that harsh freedom-of-speech and press laws are still on the books in Venezuela. 

— The penal code was amended in 2005 so that insulting the president is punishable by up to 30 months in prison. 

— Inaccurate reporting that disturbs the public peace carries a sentence of up to five years. 

Those laws have not prevented Chavez and his officials from singling out certain publications, according to the State Department. 

“Independent media outlets and journalists were subject to public harassment by high-ranking government officials on state-owned media,” the report reads. “The independent print media regularly engaged in self-censorship due to fear of government reprisal and in order to comply with laws regulating the media.” 

FOX News’ Steve Harrigan contributed to this report. 

Russia: Human Rights, Democracy Only On The Mythical Level

April 20, 2009

If it weren’t so sad, it would be funny to read Russia’s President Medvedev’s recent interview with Novaya Gazeta, in which he said, “Democracy [in Russia] existed, exists, and will exist.”

Human rights still appear to be a luxury in Russia. Recently, Lev Ponomaryov, director of the Moscow-based Organization For Human Rights, and a leader in the new political opposition movement Solidarity, was reportedly beaten by a group of men outside his home . Stanislav Markelov, whom the Wall Street Journal called one of Russia’s top human rights lawyers, was murdered in late January, as was Anastasia Baburova, a 25-year-old freelancer for Novaya Gazeta, which, according to the New Zealand Herald, is the last major publication critical of the Kremlin. Novaya Gazeta also lost three other journalists in the last decade– Anna Politkovskaya, Yuri Shchekochikhin, and Igor Domnikov.

By Anna Borshchevskaya
The Washington Post

When I read about a journalist or a human rights activist hurt or killed because of their work, it hits a little too close to home. My father, who never joined the Communist Party, was a journalist at the Ostankino radio tower in Moscow until the end of 1993, when, after several years of trying to get permission to leave the country, my family and I immigrated to the U.S. with refugee status. I grew up knowing that certain opinions I heard at home were those of the minority and repeating them outside our apartment was not a good idea.

Several analysts have observed that Medvedev’s recent interview with Novaya Gazeta, in addition to meeting with human rights activists in the Kremlin and hosting a new human rights council, is little to celebrate. Radio Free Liberty/Radio Europe reported that Vladimir Bukovsky, a prominent Soviet-era dissident, said, “Experts are already telling us that Medvedev is for liberal reform and Putin is the bad guy. This is how politics is played here. Now everybody is placing their hopes in Medvedev. If something bad happens they say it is Putin’s fault. If something good happens, Medvedev gets credit. It is an old game that I have been watching for 40 years, and it is a game that I have grown tired of.”

The problem runs very deep in Russian culture, stemming back centuries with only one person in charge. It is one dilemma that will not be resolved for a very long time. Shortly after our arrival to the U.S., my parents attended several job search skills seminars for recently arrived immigrants. In one of these sessions, the issue of employee rights and how they are treated in the workplace came up. My parents were surprised to discover how much respect for individual employees was emphasized–the idea was so new and foreign.

When I spent a week in Moscow this past March, a journalist, and a friend of my father, told me that I’m lucky because I can say what I think, implying that is still not possible in Russia – at least not without the fear of persecution that could potentially follow. He proceeded to explain how Pushkin would veil certain criticisms of the czar in his poetry, since it was not possible to do so outright.

It is true–a publication like Novaya Gazeta could not have existed during the Soviet era. But the Russian government mainly allows it to exist because it serves certain purposes, such as creating an appearance of free press. In a country that was built, after its last czar was killed, on the idea that everything was “for the person, by the person, and in the name of the person,” as one Soviet slogan went, it seems everything still is indeed “for the person”– the same person whom, according to a Soviet-era joke, one man from rural Russia saw for the first time when he went to the Red Square.