Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thinking about Honduras

Over the summer I became very caught up in following the news about the coup in Honduras. In June of 09 President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown by Roberto Micheletti, a member of the Liberal Party of Honduras who was backed by both the military and the nation's business leaders.

Attempts to reach an agreement between Zelaya and the de facto regime this summer, fostered by Costa Rican president Correa, yielded relatively no results - with a 7 point and then 11 point plan for Zelaya's interim reinstatement as president never moving past negotiation.

Now, nearly 4 months after the coup, Zelaya is back in his nation, albeit to the frustration of the Micheletti regime.

And really, frustration is too cute of a word to use during this time of unrest in Honduras.

As President Zelaya seeks refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran military, under control of Micheletti has brought a deluge of tear gas and brutality directed against Hondurans who have come to the capital in support of the ousted leader.

Democracy Now with Amy Goodman did a great report on her show Tuesday
Goodman followed the events of the coup all summer and her program reports on both the politics that brought about the coup and the aftermath of Micheletti's seizure of power.

What happened in Honduras, from the nighttime overthrow of the sitting leader to the ongoing abuse directed toward Zelaya supporters, disgrace the importance human rights. The protection of civil and political rights were violated this year.

Zelaya's democratically elected government was overthrown based on an incorrect charge and unsubstantiated rumors. The charge that the president was looking to set unlimited term limits by calling a referendum vote in the next election is not correct. The referendum would not have allowed Zelaya to run again since by the time of the November vote Zelaya would have already stepped down, having finished his two terms as president. If the vote passed it would have only become law after a new president, who could not have been Zelaya, was elected and it would have given the option for a future president to extend his term limit by an extra term.

The citizens of Honduras are also subjected to the egregious abuses of their human rights. Their rights to free speech and assembly in the nation are suppressed by police brutality towards peaceful protestors and the general political lock down on the country since Micheletti's installment as president.

What seems most terrifying is the Micheletti governments choice to execute a coup. If Micheletti had the political support he believed (a belief that many outside observes would corroborate) why didn't he wait until the November elections where all legitimacy and adherence to national and international law would have been observed?

The political crisis in Honduras is reminiscent of the military overthrows in South and Central America throughout the 70s and 80s, contrasting than the relative stability of the region in the 21st century. The international community, led by the UN, condemned the actions in the nation this summer and now as fall begins it seems that there is another need to remind the government of Honduras that the world is watching. The abuses of human rights and democracy will delegitimize any government, no matter the amount of money and military personnel that may stand behind it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The G20 is coming

In thinking about human rights it is easy to focus on case studies around the world, places where human rights abuses are taking place. But what is equally connected to the discussion on human rights is the work of global institutions that promote or ignore the protection of human rights in their work.

Next week the G20 will meet in Pittsburgh.

As a meeting of the "developed" and "nearly developed" world, 2 categories of states that together represent 2/3rds of the global population and 80% of world trade, the G20 will discuss the world's economic future. The G20 is represented by the nations' financial ministers and in next weeks meetings the representatives will decide on economic programs that range from financial stimulus plans to tariff laws.

Frequent critiques of the meeting are the 20's disregard for the final 1/3rd of the world population and the importance of the environment and people powered elements within the economic system.

Economic rights and environmental protection clearly fall within the category of human rights. The environmental costs of factory pollution, the economic degradation of outsourcing and the unsustainable practice large scale free market capitalism on poorer nations diminish a persons ability to live in a healthy world.

Human rights are not simply the right to free speech and association but also the simple ability for a person provide to for themselves and their families. This means clean water for cooking and a job that pays a living wage, among other things. The G20, the G8, have rarely accounted for the necessity of protecting human rights by providing economic infrastructure that promotes higher business standards and fair trade principles. Perhaps this year will be different, with global economic crisis promoting new ways of thinking about aid and financial planning.
In selecting to hold the meeting in Pittsburgh, Obama and the G20 are taking a step in the right direction, acknowledging the need to reinvigorate faltering economies. Maybe the G20 will take a few ideas from Pittsburgh's' sustainable innovations in providing for citizens.
(check out this website on Pittsburgh's urban gardens!)
Last year protests in London broke out over the G20 meeting and a number of actions are in the works for next week. The New York Times reported yesterday that "Judge Rules Pittsburgh Must Allow Protest at G-20" so with the law on their side, I hope to see protesters peacefully bringing a voice to those without representation, reminding the G20 that not everyone consents to having their future decided by the world's financial ministers.

Friday, September 11, 2009

No More Broken Hearts

Watch this video!

When you check out all the giant heart sculptures planted around DC these days, think about IDPs, paramilitary killings and government corruption. Colombia is a beautiful nation with amazing people but the human rights abuses in the nation are truly heart breaking and this current ploy by business interest to court an FTA deal is inexcusable.

Japan Excutes Menatlly Ill Prisoners

AI released a report this Wednesday regarding the use of the death penalty in Japan.

The nation executes mentally ill prisoners and often subjects inmates to harsh and cruel treatment that leads to increased states of mental illness while incarcerated. Unable to see their families or speak with lawyers, death row inmates are totally isolated prior to execution.

And might I add - all executions are done by hanging.

The death penalty for criminals remains one of the most barbaric practices upheld in modern judicial systems. Amnesty International reports that in 2008 "ninety three percent of all known executions took place in five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the USA."In 2008, at least 2,390 people were known to have been executed in 25 countries, with Japan carrying out a total of 15 executions.

The US and Japan are two of the few industrialized nations that have capital punishment.

In 2002 the US Supreme court decided that the execution of the mentally ill equates to cruel and unusual punishment with the case Atkins v. Virginia. Unlike the US, the government of Japan has not taken any action to protect the rights of prisoners especially in their treatment of the mentally ill.

Amnesty's report states: "The exact number of death row prisoners with mental illness in Japan is unknown. Secrecy surrounds the death penalty and prisoners’ health and the lack of scrutiny by independent mental health experts has led to reliance on secondary testimony and documentation to assess the mental state of those on death row. The government has a policy of not allowing access to prisoners on death row and denied Amnesty International’s own request for access."

The abolition of the death penalty is one of Amnesty's current campaigns and the case in Japan displays the urgent need for action on the matter of capital punishment.

See the press release and report here -

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

To give a brief introduction to the blog...

I am a student interning with Amnesty International this semester. I am interested in sustainable development in low and middle income countries and hope to study in India this spring to further my understanding of development through the lens of environmentalism and social justice. I have spent the past two years focusing my studies in the field of development on the protection human rights and civil liberties in international relations, paying special attention to the role of the media in promoting or preventing the success of HR issues.

Interning with AI this fall gives me an amazing opportunity to experience the advocacy work I am interested in, in the protection of human rights. I will be updating this blog each week during my internship, bringing attention to AI and other human rights campaigns or commenting on HRs issues in the news. My views do not represent the opinion of Amnesty International, nor is this blog associated with Amnesty International. I am excited to have my own tiny media venue to bring attention to international issues I feel are important and i hope you will enjoy my blog!