Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The global majority of governments--those of developing and transitional nations--may have embraced more open elections and other paraphernalia of democracy, but their understanding of human rights continues to diverge from the Western (or, now, Northern) model, which emphasizes political and civil liberties. In much of the global South--and for a mixture of reasons, not all of them noble in Northern eyes--there is a strong argument that top priority should go to development issues, to economic and social rights. The luxury of governance can come later.
On human rights, a bellwether area in international affairs, the opinions and strength of the global South will pose a considerable diplomatic challenge to European and North American governments and human rights organizations in the years ahead--a challenge for which US diplomacy is least prepared. There is no official American participation in recently created institutions that are building new norms in international law and human rights, notably the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Human Rights Council.
December 10, the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is a time to take stock and engage in a search for common ground with the twenty-first century's global majority. It serves no good purpose to trash the UN's human rights apparatus and the new Human Rights Council, an intergovernmental body dominated by blocs of nations often unfriendly to the United States (which is boycotting it). That has been the policy of the Bush administration and pro-Israeli groups, among others. Nor does it make much sense to assume, as many liberals do with a justified sense of chagrin, that the current American human rights record is too embarrassing to allow credible participation in any international human rights body. Solid, persuasive diplomatic work needs to be done and, yes, maybe some philosophical compromises made. Multicultural America should be at the forefront of the debate. Instead, the USA is MIA.
Some history: in 1941, when President Franklin Roosevelt went to Congress to propose the lend-lease agreement to aid European allies under siege by Nazi Germany, he said four freedoms must prevail in the world. These he described as freedom of speech and expression, freedom of every person to worship God in his or her own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear. At that moment in history he defined the last of those as a freedom from aggression anywhere in the world.
With the persistence of Eleanor Roosevelt, whose work shaped the Universal Declaration of Human Rights seven years later, the president's four freedoms were incorporated into the declaration--and expanded. Freedom from want was fleshed out considerably to cover rights to education and "a standard of living adequate for health and well-being...including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood."
Louise Arbour, the UN high commissioner for human rights from 2004 to '08, took up the story from there in a conversation in June as she was about to leave office. She said that almost from the start a split existed between political and economic rights. It has widened. "Probably one of the existential issues in international human rights currently is the rise of cultural relativism and a pushback against the concept of universality," Arbour said. "It's coming loud and clear from the many who claim, not entirely correctly but credibly in their own constituencies, that human rights is a Western concept--not only that it is a Western ideological and political concept but that coincidentally it serves a lot of political and economic interests of the West. Those who put it in the most egregious fashion will say it is a neocolonialism--the West having found another way to impose its sense of superiority."
Arbour holds the West responsible for "perverting" the concept of universality. "The West, and the United States in particular, has never embraced freedom from want as a right," Arbour said. "It has been the champion of civil liberties--of freedom from fear--but freedom from want was meant to be achieved by a healthy marketplace...ot a place for governments to play too large a role. The developing countries--and whether they are doing that in bad faith or good faith is not for me to pass judgment--are doing exactly the opposite. They claim at least to be very interested in freedom from want and that freedom from fear would look after itself if their populations were not starving. These are very profound clashes of vision."
The traditional democracies, rooted in ancient Mediterranean and modern European cultures, are in the minority now, and that minority will continue to shrink during this century. In understanding rights, as in regulating trade or the migration of people, what used to be called the West can only marginalize itself more by failing to listen to the rest. Political and civil rights are obviously worth promoting, but scores of governments need to be persuaded, and beleaguered advocates of civil and political rights in developing nations need support in international forums.
Developing nations intent on promoting the equivalence of economic and social rights have increasing confidence and experience in shaping international debate. They have legitimate arguments about priorities for the poorest countries, and they have been getting support from the new high commissioner for human rights, Navanethem Pillay of South Africa. When she took office in September, she said in her first speech to the Human Rights Council that the Universal Declaration's comprehensive vision of human rights had yet to be achieved. "It contemplates a world with the full realization of civil-political, economic, social and cultural rights without distinction," she said.
When the Human Rights Council, established in 2006 on the ruins of the discredited Commission on Human Rights, completed its ninth regular session this fall, its decisions reflected the majority agenda. But they also showed that democracies do not necessarily vote together across a North-South divide. India, Indonesia and South Africa, for example, join a pro-South majority consistently. Canada, which rarely gets the credit it deserves for its hard and effective work at the UN, is active in supporting democracy and universal rights, joining the European Union or acting alone in demanding open votes when others want the anonymity of consensus.
Arbour said that when the Human Rights Council was created, she urged democracies of both North and South, and such cosmopolitan groups as the Commonwealth or the Francophone countries, to field strong caucuses in the council to weaken the cohesion of self-serving and often tunnel-visioned regional blocs. Those on the forty-seven-member council often use their seats and regional solidarity cynically, more to cover up atrocities and shield neighbors than to expose them. Her advice was ignored, except by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which she described as "fixated" on the Middle East, and has coalesced solidly around its agenda in that region.
In its final report in September, the council ranked as human rights issues the dumping of toxic waste in developing nations, unfettered rights for migrants, the needs of the African diaspora, the right to development and a vaguely defined "international solidarity" for nations in adversity. Japan, South Korea and the Europeans opposed that last measure, saying that the first responsibility to aid and protect people lay with their own governments, and that this was not the job of an "international community." China, Chile and India, among others in the majority, voted for it. How it would be applied is anyone's guess. The report also reaffirmed the right to food in light of the food-price crisis. (Nepal's supreme court recently cited the right to food when it ordered help for needy rural areas.)
In October, a WorldPublicOpinion.org poll found that Americans support economic and social rights, notably the right to food, healthcare and education, and at least three-quarters of those surveyed (Democrats and Republicans) said that the government should be responsible for meeting those needs among its own citizens. That puts them more in line with developing nations than with the US government. The poll findings also noted that "the American public largely concurs with the principles presented in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
On the international stage, getting the US government officially back into play on human rights at the UN, and fielding skilled diplomats to open meaningful dialogue, would seem top priorities of the new US administration. It would be a smart step toward rebuilding American credibility and would also be important in shaping international discussion on human rights as they might be most broadly understood.
"If the Americans are present or absent on any issue anywhere on earth, it makes a difference," Arbour said. "So their indifference--it ranges from indifference to hostility--to the Human Rights Council of course has tremendous impact. Inside, they would have had a more positive influence."
Friday, December 5, 2008
We have been invited to attend a prayer service at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer on Forbes Ave next to St. Edmund's Academy on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008.
Please respond if you are able to make it.
We will leave from Central at around 6:45 pm. Dinner in the form of a pie with cheese, tomato sauce, and some other topping will be provided.
See info below for more details:
The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer
On December 10, 1948, the brave new voices of the newly formed United Nations proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, calling for “the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want…” Please join other members of the community as we share several events in commemoration of this world-changing declaration.
Wednesday, December 10, 7:30 pm
Interfaith Reflections on Human Rights:
A community of voices will be sharing prayers, reflections and song.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Students, Teachers, Parents: Help End the Use of Child Soldiershttp://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/features/childsoldiers/video.htm
This issue is a concern of the larger Catholic Lasallian educational mission.
As the Apostle Paul writes to the Galatian Christians, let us good while we have the opportuity.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
We will implement a school-wide petition on Thursday, November, 20, and Friday, November 21,2008, asking President-elect, Barack Obama, to close the SOA.
They are Days 3 and 4 respectively. If you have a free period and wish to sit at table in front of the cafeteria, please see me to sign up. I am in Room 407.
In the meantime, this is the sign-up thus far:
Day Three, Thursday, November 20, 2008
1 - Peach, Smith
2 - Joyce
3 - Devine, Noel
4 - Smith, Pickle
6 - Peach, Joyce, Welch, Pickle, Noel
7 - Smith
Day Four, Friday, November 21, 2008
1 - Peach, Kizior
2 - Joyce
3 - Peach, Noel
4 - Smith, Pickle
5 - Joyce
6 - Peach, Noel
Reminding ourselves that we are part of a global Lasallian community (80 countries), please allow me to introduce you to SECOLI, the SEGRETARIAT SOLIDARITY AND DEVELOPMENT MISSIONARY COOPERATION, an arm of the central government of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Go to http://www.lasalle.org/English/Mission/SECOLI/misese.php. Note that SECOLI's major objectives are informed by CST---Catholic Social Teaching.
Let me also share with you information about Building New Hope, an organization based in Pittsburgh and Granada, Nicaruagua. Go to http://www.buildingnewhope.org/.
Let us pray that the Holy Spirit, the sweet Holy Spirit, fall down fresh on us and on our world.
Stay strong! Keep the campaign for peace and justice alive in your school community and beyond.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Below is the information regarding next Thursday's off-campus event.
Please RSVP to me via the blog or in person. You can also RSVP with Mr. Sudnik.
We will leave as a group from CCHS quad by 6:30 pm and take the 61 C from Craig and Forbes to Squirrel Hill (Murray and Forbes).
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer
5700 Forbes Avenue, Squirrel Hill
next to St. Edmunds Academy, 2 doors down from the Jewish Community Center
(PLEASE BRING A NON-GLASS, NON-PERISHABLE FOOD OR TOILETRY ITEM, AS PART OF PITTSBURGH'S FOOD DRIVE FOR PEACE)
More information about the Town Hall Meeting, legislators attending, and opinions about our financial crises can be found at:http://sites.google.com/site/commongoodcommonwealth/Home
Monday, September 29, 2008
Next week sometime...stay tuned...CCHRIST will continue with the first of a film series. We will pick up again with the award-winning documentary, The Corporation, in at least a half-hour segment (considering people have places to go after school).
The film takes an interesting and highly critical look into U.S. imperialism as exercised through the workings of the corporate world.
The meeting will start promptly at 2:30 pm. I will provide snacks so come with somewhat of an appetite. Come to Room 402 or 407 (check both rooms).
Below is some reliable information on the film from http://www.wikipedia.org/
The film was written by Joel Bakan, and co-directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott. The documentary has been displayed worldwide, on TV and is also available on DVD. Bakan wrote the book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (ISBN 0-74324-744-2), during the filming of the documentary.
The film charts the development of the corporation as a legal entity from its origins as an institution chartered by governments to carry out specific public functions, to the rise of the vast modern institutions entitled to some of the legal rights of a person. One central theme of the documentary is an attempt to assess the "personality" of the corporate "person" by using diagnostic criteria from the DSM-IV; Robert Hare, a University of British Columbia Psychology Professor and FBI consultant, compares the profile of the modern, profit-driven corporation to that of a clinically-diagnosed psychopath. The film focuses mostly on corporations in North America, especially in the United States.
The film is composed of several vignettes examining and critiquing corporate practices, and drawing parallels between examples of corporate malfeasance and the DSM-IV's symptoms of psychopathy, i.e. callous unconcern for the feelings of others, incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, reckless disregard for the safety of others, deceitfulness (repeated lying to and deceiving of others for profit), incapacity to experience guilt, and failure to conform to the social norms with respect to lawful behaviors.
Topics addressed include the Business Plot, where in 1933, the popular General Smedley Butler exposed a corporate plot against then U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt; the tragedy of the commons; Dwight D. Eisenhower's warning people to beware of the rising military-industrial complex; economic externalities; suppression of an investigative news story about Bovine Growth Hormone on a Fox News Channel affiliate television station; the role of IBM in the Nazi holocaust; the Cochabamba protests of 2000 brought on by the privatization of Bolivia's municipal water supply by the Bechtel Corporation; and in general themes of corporate social responsibility, the notion of limited liability, the corporation as a psychopath, and the corporation as a person.
The film also features interviews with prominent corporate critics such as Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore, Vandana Shiva, Charles Kernaghan, and Howard Zinn as well as opinions from company CEOs such as Ray Anderson (from the Interface carpet & fabric company), the capitalist viewpoints of Peter Drucker and Milton Friedman, and think tanks advocating free markets such as the Fraser Institute. Interviews also feature Dr. Samuel Epstein with his involvement in a lawsuit against Monsanto for promoting the use of Posilac, (Monsanto's trade name for recombinant Bovine Somatotropin) to induce more milk production in dairy cattle.
"The corporation is an externalizing machine (moving its operating costs to external organizations and people), in the same way that a shark is a killing machine." - Robert Monks, a corporate governance advisor in the film and former GOP (Republican) candidate for Senate from Maine
Film critics gave the film generally favorable reviews. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 90% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 104 reviews. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 73 out of 100, based on 28 reviews.
Variety praised the film's "surprisingly cogent, entertaining, even rabble-rousing indictment of perhaps the most influential institutional model for our era" and its avoidance of "a sense of excessively partisan rhetoric" by deploying a wide range of interviewees and "a bold organizational scheme that lets focus jump around in interconnective, humorous, hit-and-run fashion."
In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert described the film as "an impassioned polemic, filled with information sure to break up any dinner-table conversation." He felt that "at 145 minutes, it overstays its welcome. The wise documentarian should treat film stock as a non-renewable commodity."
The Economist review suggests that the idea for an organization as a psychopathic entity originated with Max Weber, in regards to government bureaucracy. Also, the reviewer remarks that the film weighs heavily in favor of public ownership as a solution to the evils depicted, while failing to acknowledge the magnitude of evils committed by governments in the name of public ownership, such as those of the Communist Party in the former USSR.
The Maoist Internationalist Movement, in their review criticizes the film for the opposite: for depicting the communist party in an unfavourable light, while adopting an anarchist approach favoring direct democracy and worker's councils without emphasizing the need for a centralized bureaucracy. The film, in their view "offers no realistic alternative to imperialism." and "it shares some of the strengths and downfalls" of Mark Achbar's film Manufacturing Consent, which celebrates the life of anarcho-syndicalist, linguist, and activist Noam Chomsky. In their view, "corporate power for profit [is] not the same as megabureaucracy without profit."
The film was nominated for numerous awards, and won the World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, 2004, along with a Special Jury Award at the Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival in 2003 and 2004.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
A “Golden Rule” on human rights is essential for an effective Arms Trade Treaty
As UN member states meet in October to consider moving towards negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty, a new detailed report by Amnesty International urges world leaders to adopt a “Golden Rule” on human rights. This rule states simply: that governments must prevent arms transfers where there is a substantial risk that they are likely to be used for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
The report "Blood at the Crossroads: Making the case for a Global Arms Trade Treaty," is the first detailed examination of the parameters and scope of such a treaty using nine detailed case studies of the catastrophic human rights consequences of unrestrained arms trading. From the ongoing conflict in Darfur, military crackdowns in Myanmar and Guinea to the proliferation of sectarian violence in Iraq, the report shows how and why the current variation and loopholes in national arms legislation allows massive violations of human rights to occur. The report demonstrates that without an effective human rights provision, a global Arms Trade Treaty could fail to protect those most vulnerable.
China, Russia and the USA, amongst many other nations, are highlighted in the report as trading arms to countries with well documented human rights violations. The report uses the detailed case studies of Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Guinea, Iraq, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan & Chad and Uganda to demonstrate how and why a “Golden Rule” is essential to making an Arms Trade Treaty work.
Click the link petitioning the U.S. Foreign Affairs Minister to urge the UN to adopt the treaty and sign!
Monday, September 22, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Below is a schedule of the day's events on Saturday, 9/20, at the First Unitarian Church in Shadyside.
I suggest that those of us who attend go for the morning session, which runs from 9:15 AM to 12:30 PM. That way, the entire day is not taken up with such heaviness, knowing, as I do, how busy everyone's weekend schedules can be.
I will be leaving from Central's main quad at 8:30 AM on said Saturday. Those who show must RSVP (on blog or in person) to me by Friday, 9/19. I am in Room 407 most periods. So stop by, damnit!
Meanwhile, below is a detailed schedule of the days events according to the website: http://www.pittsburghagainsttorture.org/
Talking About Torture: Schedule for September 20th
9:00-9:15 am Coffee/Networking
9:15-9:30 am Introductions and power point on the history of the use of torture in the US.
9:30 -11:00 am Plenary Panel - Moderator Helen Gerhardt
Religious Communities – speak Sr. Barbara Finch, PAT (Pittsburgh Against Torture)
Media – Isabel McDonald, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting)
Children – Glenna Wilson, Safe Start Pittsburgh
Legislators and candidates - Sandy Strauss, Director of Public Advocacy PA Council of Churches
Prisons – Bonnie Kerness, AFSC (American Friends Service Committee)
11:00 – 11:15 am Break
11:15-12:30 pm Workshops : Topics to be addressed in the panel and workshops:
How can we talk about torture in our religious communities? Moderator -Wanda Guthrie
Representatives from different interfaith traditions will discuss language and teachings relevant to discussion of torture in their communities.
Resource people: St Barbara Finch, ?
How do we help the media to talk about torture? - Moderator David Meieran
This workshop will explore ways the mainstream media, TV programs such as “24”, You Tube and video games have normalized torture in our society and culture. How do we reframe the issue of torture for the media?
Resource: Isabel McDonald, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
How do we talk to our children about different issues, such as torture? Moderator Claudia Detwiler
This workshop will focus on how children experience and process the culture of violence around them. How do we raise our children to resist violence and how do we break the cycle of violence and torture that some of our children experience?
Resource People: Glenna Wilson, Safe Start Pittsburgh, Toni McClendon, Committee in Action For Peace
How do we encourage our legislators and candidates to take a stand against torture? Moderator Eve Wider
This workshop will discuss effective ways to educate and motivate people in the political sphere to address the issue of torture.
Resource: Sandy Strauss, Director of Public Advocacy PA Council of Churches
How do we talk about torture in our prisons? Moderator Scilla Wahrhaftig
Experts on prison abuse will address psychological and physical torture in our prisons. We will explore ways of raising public awareness about this issue.
Resource people: Bret Grote, HR FedUp
12:30-1:30 pm Lunch
Saturday, September 6, 2008
UNICEF and its mission
Amnesty Int'l: Children's Rights
Invisible Children: Ugandan Child Soldiers
Children's Defense Fund: an American Org.
Human Rights Watch: Children's Rights
Right to Play: Freeing Kids through Athletics
These are just sneak peeks at the various abuses of children everywhere. Peep the work that millions are doing to join the fight and give these kids a right to live, learn, and play, just like we did.
Just remember: we don't look back on our childhood thinking, 'Man, when I was six we went without water for four days and food for a week and a half.' or, 'I hated my orphanage after my mom and dad were killed by AIDS.' Take advantage of your fortunes and get involved.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
It was decided by the senior membership of CCHRIST, namely, Michael Noel, to develop a committee of upperclassmen, each of whom would be willing to take on a human rights issue, dedicating time to raising awareness at meetings and around school of his appointed issue.
That said, the following are responsible for proactively and spontaneously informing constituents--be it Central Catholic as a whole or CCHRIST group members--of ways to confront the world's societal ills by way of social analysis and suggested plans of action:
- Brandon Strahler - RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, IMMIGRATION
- Dante "The Inferno" Odorisio - VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, DISCRIMINATION (gender / sexual orientation)
- James Farrell III - SLAVE LABOR, ECONOMIC INJUSTICE
- Michael Noel - CHILD RIGHTS, TIBET
- Luke "Kung Fu" Kunkel - ANTI-TERRORISM (via justice/peace)
- John "J" "Writaz Block" Welch - ARMS TRADE/CONFLICT
- BRobPeachFSC - TORTURE, WAR
We still need someone to take on the issues of AIDS, Poverty, Education, and Darfur. Any takers on any or all of them?
Otherwise, the upperclassmen are to help serve as "big brothers" to the underclassmen within CCHRIST and throughout Central. It is our collective role to "look out" for each other and confront aspects of those social ills we are trying to confront on an international level that manifest themselves in the school environment.
Remember: "Think globally; Act Locally."
Moreover, I am willing--as co-moderator of The Viking--to allow space for a human rights forum in the school newspaper. Whoever is responsible for taking on a leadership role vis a vis a specific human rights issue is encouraged to write and submit editorial pieces pertaining to appointed issue with the aim of increasing awareness on campus and abroad.
Lastly, everyone is encouraged to submit information to this blog. I also encourage each of you to check the websites listed to the left to see what you can do to pressure legislators (via Amnesty International or Catholic Charities, for instance) with online mailings regarding the confrontation of human rights violations at home and around the globe.
Check the blog regularly, please.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Urge President Bush to say that the U.S. stays committed to ending the violence in Darfur.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
The 2008 competition asks students to create an in-depth written essay or multimedia feature examining a social or economic issue that has relevance to them in a global context. In the essay category, students will compare and contrast how the issue affects their community and a community abroad, as well as create recommendations for what lessons the two communities could learn from each other.
In the multimedia category, students will explore how a global problem or challenge affects their life as an individual, as a member of their local community, and/or as a global citizen. Please visit http://askasia.org/students/gsfprizes.html for the contest questions, eligibility rules, guidelines and helpful hints, and submission instructions.
The deadline for applications for the Youth Prizes is Thursday, June 12, 2008.
The 2007 winners of The Goldman Sachs Foundation Prizes for Elementary/Middle Schools, High Schools, States, and Media/Technology Organizations have just been announced!
Please visit http://www.internationaled.org/prizes/ for more information about the 2007 winners and for the announcement of the 2008 cycle of prizes in early autumn.Sincerely,The Goldman Sachs Foundation Prizes Team
Saturday, April 5, 2008
In a society that says it represents tolerance and freedom in the world, things like this have to make us stop and wonder.
FOr those of you who use facebook, you may have seen some groups acknowledging the tragedy and this advert on the sides:
April 25th will be a day of silence to remember Lawrence King
Might this be something to get the school involved in? or should we forego it as it risks ridicule due to the immaturity of some students....
Below is a press release on an event occurring this Wednesday night. I will be coordinating a trip to attend for those who are interested. We will leave from the Central Catholic quad this Wednesday at 5:15 PM. Spread the word.
Charlie Kernaghan is an internationally known critic of sweatshops and supporter of worker’s and human rights in the global economy
Kernaghan advocates for worker’s rights, especially those of children and young women. He is best known for his 1996 exposure of Wal-Mart’s mistreatment of child laborers in
“We are very excited to have Mr. Kernaghan at Carlow and this is a wonderful opportunity for the University,” said Mary Frances Reidell, director of Health Services at Carlow and an advisor to the Students for Peace and Justice. “He is probably the world’s premier expert on the issue of sweatshops and worker exploitation.”
The event is sponsored by “Sweat-Free Carlow” via a grant provided by the Grace Ann Geibel Institute for Justice and Social Responsibility at
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Saturday, March 29, 2008
I recently received an e-mail from Amnesty International asking for membership to its Urgent Action Network, which encourages those who sign-up to write letters demanding government/legislative response to issues of human rights violations.
Below is the link. Sign-up and take on an issue when you can. Everything makes a difference. Everything has its purpose:
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA
Be the voice for those facing imminent and often life-threatening human rights violations.
Join together to help individuals like the 15 Tibetan monks who are at risk of torture and severe mistreatment.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
CCHRIST is hosted a screening of an HBO documentary entitled Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (for more check: http://www.ghostsofabughraib.org/ ).
The film does well to provide a context for protesting US involvement in human rights violations through the use of torture.
We are viewing it as impetus to inspire change on the legislative level of our government so that the US will do its best to fight the professed "War on Terror" not by violence, but by upholding human dignity at all costs.
Below is some background information to provide you with a better sense of the torture issue and US involvement therein:
On September 6, 2006, President Bush asked Congress to pass the Military Commission Act (MCA) of 2006. This Act--among other things--sought to re-define criminal liability under common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which places an absolute prhobition on inhumane treatment of detainees during an armed conflict.
Among the most troubling aspects of the MCA are provisions that purport to:
- Grant unprecendented and unchecked authority to the Executive Brance to label as "unlawful enemy combatants," and possiblty detain indefinitely, an overly broad range of people, including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents inside the United States.
- Deny independent judicial review of detentions of legal permanent residents in the US and other non-citizens.
- Limit the sources of law to which the courts may look and the scope of review on appeal.
- Narrow the scope of the War Crimes Act and seek to eliminate accountability for past violations of the law.
- Permit evidence obtained through coercion, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment to be used in the military commission proceedings.
- Permit the introduction of evidence against the accused even in if the accused has not had the opportunity to review and challenge the "sources, methods, or activities" by which the government acquired the evidence.
- Restrict full disclosure to the accused of exculpatory evidence if the evidence is favorable to the defendant in a criminal trial, which could have the potential to clear the defendant of guilt.
- Give the Secretary of Defense authority to deviate from time-tested military justice standards for fair trials.
- Strips the right of habeas corpus (a writ requiring a person to be brought before a judge or court, esp. for investigation of a restraint of the person's liberty, used as a protection against illegal imprisonment) from any foreign national in US custody that the President labels an "enemy combatant"
LEGISLATION that will BAN TORTURE
The Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007 (HR 1415 and S 576) will repair much of the Military Commission Act's damage to the Constitution and American values. It bans teh use of torture and abuse and makes clear that the federal government must comply with the Geneva Conventions. The bill also ensures that we have one set of laws and standards of conduct for government officials at all levels.
S. 1943, a bill introduced by Senator Kennedy, would ensure uniform standards for interrogations for everyone in US custody, regardless of which agency is holding them. This legislation would extend the McCain amendment, which restricted interrogations by a Department of Defense official or in a Department of Defense facility, to the CIA when they operate in secret prisons or elsewhere. The legislation would restrict the CIA to using only techniques that are listed in the Army Field Manual on "Human Intelligence Collector Operations," which explicitly bans the use of many techniques widely reported to have been used by the CIA including waterboarding, the use of stress positions, and sexual humiliation.
As follow-up to our screening of Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, there are a number of "take action" steps that you could complete in order to end torture:
- Complete the brief on-line report form available at http://86days.amnestyusa.org/
- For talking points, fact sheets, and legislative updates regarding the U.S. and torture visit: www.amnestyusa.org/torture
- visit http://86days.amnestyusa.org/
- visit http://www.ghostsofabughraib.org/
- call your Senators and Representatives by using the number to the U.S. capitol operator and ask to be transferred: 202-224-3121. Tell them that you are following the issue of torture closely and you expect them to work to uphold justice and human dignity in adherence to the Geneva Convention and the Convention Against Torture.
Letter template to Senator:
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Two years ago, when Cognress passed the Detainee Treatment Act, they ensured that the ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment applied to everyone in US custody or control, regardless of what agency was holding them. Last year, in the case of "Hamdan v. Rumsfeld," the Supreme Court ruled that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, banning torture, cruel treatment and outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment. I am concerned that the President's recent Executive Order on Interrogations and classified guidance delineating what techniques are available to the CIA under Common Article 3 violates those bans.
The secret detention program run by the CIA has resulted in an unknown number of people being disappeared into secret custody, and subjecting them to treament that reportedly amounts to torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. With this new executive order, the President seems to leave all the same loopholes in place that would allow the CIA to continue to engage in enforced disappearances, and use interrogation techniques that amount to torture and ill-treatment. This order undermines Congress' intention in passing the Deatainee Treatment Act and also contradicts the Supreme Court's finding in "Hamdan v. Rumsfeld." It contravenes the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions, treaties that the US has signed and ratified.
By lowering the standards by which the US interprets Common Article 3, the US lowers protections for everyone, including US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. I encourage you to cosponsor and pass S. 1943, a bill which would ensure uniform standards for interrogations for everyone in U.S. custody, regardless of which agency is holding them. The ban on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is absolute, and no agency should be exempt. I look forward to hearing from you about this important issue.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Today, the the Brothers of the Christian Schools and the Lasallian community the world over remember Brother James Miller, FSC, who as marytred in Guatemala in 1982 standing for justice through education.
For more information, go to www.cbmidwest.org/prayers/remembering_our_brother_james_miller.pdf
Stay strong, brothers. Keep the faith, in hope of a new Pentecost. Amen.