Tag Archives: Human Rights

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the full text of which appears in the following pages. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.”


Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.

(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.

(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.

(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.

(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, 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 in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.

(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.

(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Source: UN

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Roger Cohen: Real Wars and the U.S. Culture

The culture-war surge in the U.S election campaign has come at the expense of meaningful debate about the real wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s dangerous because they stand at critical junctures.

We’ve had Sarah Palin at the Republican National Convention setting a new low for foreign policy with her attempt to mock Barack Obama’s approach to international terrorists: “He’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights.”

I’m sorry, Ms. Palin, but out there in Alaska, between moose shoots, did you hear about Bagram, Abu Ghraib, renditions, waterboarding, Guantánamo and the rest?

John McCain knows what happens when those rights disappear. He described his Vietnamese nightmare the next night: “They worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me.”

A man remembers getting broken: that’s why McCain fought the use of torture by the Bush administration. His condoning of those words from his vice-presidential candidate is appalling. Foreign policy be damned if you can score a God-fearing-macho-versus-liberal-constitutionalist point.

But the bloody wars, seven years after 9/11, have not paused for this sterile U.S. cultural battle. With some 180,000 troops in the two theaters, U.S. reserve capacity is stretched to the limit — something Iran knows when it keeps the centrifuges turning and Russia knows when it grabs Georgia.

In Afghanistan, a Taliban-led insurgency is growing in reach and effectiveness. There’s talk of a mini-surge in U.S. troops there — now about 34,000 — to counter the threat, but little serious reflection on what precise end perhaps 12,000 additional forces would serve. Until that’s clarified, I’m against the mini-surge.

France, which just mini-surged in Afghanistan, is now embroiled in an agonizing debate over the slaying of 10 soldiers, mostly paratroopers, east of Kabul on Aug. 18. At least one had his throat slit. Photos in Paris Match of Taliban forces with uniforms of the Frenchmen have enflamed the national mood.

Hervé Morin, the Defense Minister, has called for “national unity” in fighting a threat “from the Middle Ages.” But polls suggest a majority of the French favor withdrawal. A furor is building over suggestions the paratroopers were abandoned.

These French rumblings are a reminder that the NATO coalition in Afghanistan is fragile and that sending more forces is no remedy in itself.

Obama has been right to say Iraq exacted a price on the Afghan campaign — something McCain airily denies. But his calls to send “at least two additional combat brigades” to Afghanistan and his promise in Denver to “finish the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan” are rash.

After 30 years of war, the Afghan struggle won’t be finished for another 30. It’s a weak country, sandwiched between Iran and Pakistan, two far stronger ones that do not wish it well. The Afghan-Pakistani border cannot be sealed, although it can be better policed; the jihadi traffic across it will continue.

None of this means the United States is condemned to having tens of thousands of troops there for decades — although I’d say that’s more likely than victory in four years.

On the day the French were attacked, a large American military base — Camp Salerno in eastern Khost province — came under sustained Taliban assault. I spoke to a U.S. official who’s just ended an 18-month assignment in Khost.

He sees the exclusive focus on more troops as wrong-headed. The priority must be “an Afghan surge.” Get the Afghan national army to 120,000 troops as a priority, from about half that level today. If more U.S. troops do go, training Afghans should be their first task. Only Afghans can win this.

Pour money into Afghan army salaries (now about $100 a month). Keep buying loyalty with US cash in the provinces, where it counts. Make a big push on human capital — “engineering minds is becoming far more important these days than engineering more roads.” If the best brains leave, the country’s lost.

Rethink policy toward schools. Getting madrassahs registered with the government — and so gaining some control over curricula — is smarter than stigmatizing them and pushing students over the border into Waziri zealotry. Get serious about the national reconciliation program, designed to bring ex-Taliban moderates into politics. Focus on Pakistan.

Absent such cornerstones of a strategy — and absent realistic expectations — surging in Afghanistan is a mistake.

As for Iraq, gains are real but fragile. I don’t see how Obama’s “responsible” withdrawal squares with his 16-month time frame for it. If we don’t want Sunni Iraq to remarry Al Qaeda — and that’s a paramount strategic aim — we’re going to have to play buffer against the dominant Shia for several years. That won’t require the current 146,000 troops, but will require many tens of thousands through the next presidency.

Two intractable wars should preclude the culture war McCain has just so shamelessly embraced. He loves the word “fight.” So fight on the issues — and let the people decide.

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Amnesty International: China and IOC must learn from mistakes and uphold human rights values

As the Beijing Olympics ended, Amnesty International today accused the Chinese authorities of prioritizing image over substance as it continued to persecute and punish activists and journalists during the Games.

The organization also criticised the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for tarnishing the human rights legacy of the Olympics by turning a blind eye to the abuses.

“The Beijing Olympics have been a spectacular sporting event but they took place against a backdrop of human rights violations, with activists prevented from expressing their views peacefully and many in detention when they have committed no crime,” said Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Program Director in Hong Kong.

“The Chinese authorities and the IOC had an opportunity to demonstrate human rights improvements but in most respects they failed to deliver. Forced evictions, detention of activists and restrictions on journalists should not blight another Olympics,” said Roseann Rife.

Amnesty International’s statement came after Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, said at the closing of the Beijing Olympics:
‘These were truly exceptional Games.’

During the course of the Games, Amnesty International documented continued patterns of human rights violations directed at peaceful activists and journalists in China, including:

Activists being detained and punished — including by being assigned to “Re-education through Labour” — for repeatedly applying for permission to demonstrate in the protest zones.

The ongoing imprisonment or arbitrary arrests of Chinese journalists and human rights activists who have tried to report on human rights violations.

Petitioners and activists being denied permits to engage in peaceful demonstrations in government-designated protest zones in parks around Beijing. On 18 August, and after repeated questioning from the media, the Chinese authorities claimed they had received 77 protest applications involving 149 people, but that 74 had been ‘withdrawn’, two had been ‘suspended’ and one had been ‘vetoed’.

“It is high time for the IOC to put its core values of ‘human dignity’ and ‘universal, fundamental ethical principles’ into practice by making human rights a new pillar of the Olympic Games.”

Amnesty International called on the IOC to learn the lessons from Beijing by building concrete and measurable human rights impact indicators into all future Olympics bid processes and host city contracts.

Amnesty International recognized some positive steps taken by the authorities, including the unblocking of several international websites — such as www.amnesty.org — in response to strong public concern expressed by Beijing-based journalists at the start of the Games.

However, Amnesty International urged the Chinese authorities to extend the unblocking across the board and to make permanent the temporary regulations introduced for foreign journalists in China in the run-up to the Games, ensuring that they are uniformly and effectively enforced.

Note to Editors
Many Chinese activists have been persecuted and punished for speaking out about human rights violations before or during the Beijing Olympics. For example:

  • Housing rights activist, Ye Guozhu , is being held in police custody after completing a four-year prison sentence in connection with his attempts to draw public attention to alleged forced evictions in Beijing due to Olympics-related construction. The police said he would be kept in detention to keep him and his family out of trouble until the Olympics and Paralympics were over. On 26 July, the police sent the family an official detention notice stating that Ye was being held at Xuanwu district police detention centre on suspicion of “gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place”, but provided no further detail. Amnesty International received reliable reports that police beat him with electroshock batons before his trial and he was subjected to further beatings in prison.
  • Two elderly women, Wu Dianyuan  (aged 79) and Wang Xiuying  (aged 77) were accused of “disturbing public order” and assigned to one year of RTL after they applied to demonstrate in one of the official protest zones. They had been petitioning the authorities since 2001 when they were evicted from their homes to make way for a development project. Beijing city officials ruled that they would not have to serve their time in an RTL facility as long as they ‘behaved’, but that restrictions would be placed on their movements.

The Olympic pillars are currently sports, culture and the environment. The environment was added in 1994 at the winter Olympics in Norway in recognition of the negative impact major sporting event can have on the surrounding environment.

Amnesty International


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Robert Fisk: Torture does not work, as history shows

“Torture works,” an American special forces major – now, needless to say, a colonel – boasted to a colleague of mine a couple of years ago. It seems that the CIA and its hired thugs in Afghanistan and Iraq still believe this. There is no evidence that rendition and beatings and waterboarding and the insertion of metal pipes into men’s anuses – and, of course, the occasional torturing to death of detainees – has ended. Why else would the CIA admit in January that it had destroyed videotapes of prisoners being almost drowned – the “waterboarding” technique – before they could be seen by US investigators?

Yet only a few days ago, I came across a medieval print in which a prisoner has been strapped to a wooden chair, a leather hosepipe pushed down his throat and a primitive pump fitted at the top of the hose where an ill-clad torturer is hard at work squirting water down the hose. The prisoner’s eyes bulge with terror as he feels himself drowning, all the while watched by Spanish inquisitors who betray not the slightest feelings of sympathy with the prisoner. Who said “waterboarding” was new? The Americans are just apeing their predecessors in the inquisition.

Anther medieval print I found in a Canadian newspaper in November shows a prisoner under interrogation in what I suspect is medieval Germany. In this case, he has been strapped backwards to the outer edge of a wheel. Two hooded men are administering his agony. One is using a bellows to encourage a fire burning at the bottom of the wheel while the other is turning the wheel forwards so that the prisoner’s feet are moving into the flames. The eyes of this poor man – naked save for a cloth over his lower torso – are tight shut in pain. Two priests stand beside him, one cowled, the other wearing a robe over his surplice, a paper and pen in hand to take down the prisoner’s words.

Anthony Grafton, who has been working on a book about magic in Renaissance Europe, says that in the 16th and 17th centuries, torture was systematically used against anyone suspected of witchcraft, his or her statements taken down by sworn notaries – the equivalent, I suppose, of the CIA’s interrogation officers – and witnessed by officials who made no pretence that this was anything other than torture; no talk of “enhanced interrogation” from the lads who turned the wheel to the fire.

As Grafton recounts, “The pioneering medievalist Henry Charles Lea … wrote at length about the ways in which inquisitors had used torture to make prisoners confess heretical views and actions. An enlightened man writing in what he saw as an enlightened age, he looked back in horror at these barbarous practices and condemned them with a clarity that anyone reading public statements must now envy.”

There were professionals in the Middle Ages who were trained to use pain as a method of enquiry as well as an ultimate punishment before death. Men who were to be “hanged, drawn and quartered” in medieval London, for example, would be shown the “instruments” before their final suffering began with the withdrawal of their intestines in front of vast crowds of onlookers. Most of those tortured for information in medieval times were anyway executed after they had provided the necessary information to their interrogators. These inquisitions – with details of the torture that accompanied them – were published and disseminated widely so that the public should understand the threat that the prisoners had represented and the power of those who inflicted such pain upon them. No destroying of videotapes here. Illustrated pamphlets and songs, according to Grafton, were added to the repertory of publicity.

Ronnie Po-chia Hsia and Italian scholars Diego Quaglioni and Anna Esposito have studied the 15th-century Trent inquisition whose victims were usually Jews. In 1475, three Jewish households were accused of murdering a Christian boy called Simon to carry out the supposed Passover “ritual” of using his blood to make “matzo” bread. This “blood libel” – it was, of course, a total falsity – is still, alas, believed in many parts of the Middle East although it is frightening to discover that the idea was well established in 15th century Europe.

As usual, the podestà – a city official – was the interrogator, who regarded external evidence as providing mere clues of guilt. Europe was then still governed by Roman law which required confessions in order to convict. As Grafton describes horrifyingly, once the prisoner’s answers no longer satisfied the podestà, the torturer tied the man’s or woman’s arms behind their back and the prisoner would then be lifted by a pulley, agonisingly, towards the ceiling. “Then, on orders of the podestà, the torturer would make the accused ‘jump’ or ‘dance’ – pulling him or her up, then releasing the rope, dislocating limbs and inflicting stunning pain.”

When a member of one of the Trent Jewish families, Samuel, asked the podestà where he had heard that Jews needed Christian blood, the interrogator replied – and all this while, it should be remembered, Samuel was dangling in the air on the pulley – that he had heard it from other Jews. Samuel said that he was being tortured unjustly. “The truth, the truth!” the podestà shouted, and Samuel was made to “jump” up to eight feet, telling his interrogator: “God the Helper and truth help me.” After 40 minutes, he was returned to prison.

Once broken, the Jewish prisoners, of course, confessed. After another torture session, Samuel named a fellow Jew. Further sessions of torture finally broke him and he invented the Jewish ritual murder plot and named others guilty of this non-existent crime. Two tortured women managed to exonerate children but eventually, in Grafton’s words, “they implicated loved ones, friends and members of other Jewish communities”. Thus did torture force innocent civilians to confess to fantastical crimes. Oxford historian Lyndal Roper found that the tortured eventually accepted the view that they were guilty.

Grafton’s conclusion is unanswerable. Torture does not obtain truth. It will make most ordinary people say anything the torturer wants. Why, who knows if the men under the CIA’s “waterboarding” did not confess that they could fly to meet the devil. And who knows if the CIA did not end up believing him.

* The Independent
* http://www.independent.co.uk/news/fisk/robert-fisk-torture-does-not-work-as-history-shows-777213.html

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Arnoldo Kraus: Dignidad: breves y efímeras notas

Con alguna frecuencia los diccionarios no definen adecuadamente determinados términos. No por incapacidad, sino porque existen palabras muy complejas –que más que palabras son vivencias–, ya sea por su significado per se, o bien por la multiplicidad y las divergencias de opinión que se tengan acerca del término. Dignidad es uno de ellos. En el Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española (vigésima segunda edición, 2001) se lee: Dignidad. 1. Cualidad de digno. 2. Excelencia, realce. 3. Gravedad y decoro de las personas en la manera de comportarse (siguen otras acepciones). De la palabra digno se dice: 1. Merecedor de algo. 2. Correspondiente, proporcionado al mérito y condición de alguien o algo (siguen otras acepciones). No concuerdo: ¿decoro?, ¿merecedor?, ¿mérito?…

Un breve ejemplo del México vivo y actual como abreboca y para comprender la cortedad del diccionario. La reciente decisión de la Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación en relación con el caso Lydia Cacho, Manuel Marín y el abuso sexual y sicológico de niñas y niños tiene que ver con muchos principios, entre ellos, el de la dignidad. Todos suponíamos que la Suprema Corte era uno de los últimos bastiones donde tenía cabida y se profesaba la dignidad y (casi) todos aseguramos que abusar sexual y comercialmente de niñas es indigno (con toda intención omito temas como ética, justicia).

La actitud de la Suprema Corte, al exonerar al señor Marín, expone bien las diferentes y complejas acepciones del principio dignidad: los ministros consideraron, entre otras cosas, que el comercio sexual no es indigno y, por extensión, que la actitud del gobernador de Puebla y asociados, al no ser indigna, es adecuada (o incluso digna). Esa serie de eventos podría, in extremis, sugerir que nuestros ministros no consideran indigno el tráfico sexual. Si intentamos dejar al lado todo lo que no sabemos, pero suponemos conocer con respecto a la decisión de los magistrados, el affaire Cacho-Marín ilustra algunas de las diatribas del concepto dignidad: lo que es obvio para algunos no los es para otros, ya que la realidad puede interpretarse de formas diversas.

La dignidad humana es esencialmente un principio individual que se caracteriza por conceptos y percepciones adquiridos a lo largo de la vida y de la suma de las experiencias, buenas o malas, que poco a poco determinan la arquitectura del ser; es una vivencia heterogénea que se modifica a través del tiempo y se relaciona con lo que cada sujeto siente y piensa de sí mismo; la dignidad determina, asimismo, lo que cada persona está dispuesta a aceptar o no, tanto como individuo como en sus nexos con la sociedad. Los atributos anteriores tienen también que ver con el respeto hacia la propia persona y hacia la comunidad.

Son muchos los vínculos que se asocian con el concepto dignidad. Entre otros, la clase social, la educación, la época, la religión, las ideas de justicia, derechos humanos y ética, en ciertos países el sexo, en demasiados las preferencias sexuales. El listado anterior explica el porqué de la heterogeneidad y de la multiplicidad de las miradas acerca de este principio.

Suele decirse también que la dignidad es una cualidad que no tiene precio. Kant lo explica bien: “En el reino de los fines, todo tiene un precio o una dignidad. Aquello que tiene precio puede ser sustituido por algo equivalente; en cambio, lo que se halla por encima de todo precio y, por tanto, no admite nada equivalente, tiene una dignidad”. Desde la perspectiva kantiana la dignidad impide que el ser humano sea utilizado, comprado o modificado de acuerdo con los intereses de otras personas; esa noción le permite a la persona conducirse de acuerdo con los principios (me gustaría apellidarlos éticos) que rigen su forma de ser.

La dignidad implica fidelidad hacia uno mismo y por extensión hacia los demás; significa también que las personas no son instrumentos, sino, como también dice Kant, fines en sí mismos; por eso, la consabida idea de que los seres humanos no son ni remplazables ni intercambiables.

La dignidad es un concepto asimétrico que varía entre culturas e individuos. Eso explica la dificultad que tienen los diccionarios cuando explican el tema o la que confrontamos quienes –en medicina es un tema frecuente– pensamos en él. El nunca suficientemente manido ejemplo de la Suprema Corte explica también que al menos para ellos –y para quienes resulten responsables de su decisión– la dignidad no es ni un concepto complejo ni una idea en la cual se deba reparar demasiado.

* La Jornada
* http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2008/01/02/index.php?section=opinion&article=014a2pol

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Víctor Ballinas: Año negro para defensores de derechos humanos

En México es larga la lista de agravios en contra de defensores de derechos humanos registrada a lo largo de 2007, y van desde agresiones, amenazas de muerte, campañas de desprestigio, difamación y atentados, hasta ejecuciones. Por esta situación, el presidente de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), Florentín Meléndez, señaló en abril pasado que “en el país, como en el resto de América Latina, hay un alarmante índice de impunidad en las agresiones contra los defensores”.

Durante su visita de trabajo al país, en abril pasado, el titular de la CIDH presentó en la cancillería el informe Situación de los defensores de los derechos humanos en las Américas, y llamó al gobierno “a adoptar medidas inmediatas y efectivas para proteger la vida y la integridad física de estos actores sociales”.

No obstante, la situación de los defensores no cambió, al contrario, se recrudecieron las agresiones en su contra, tanto que incluso se perpetró un asesinato, persecuciones y encarcelamientos. Las organizaciones civiles y sociales denunciaron estos hechos; en promedio se dio a conocer un ataque al mes.

A continuación, se enlistan algunos casos:

Las organizaciones no gubernamentales denunciaron el 26 de febrero que entre las 9:20 y 9:30 de la mañana fue arrojada una nota al Centro de Investigaciones Económicas y Políticas de Acción Comunitaria, en San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, con el siguiente mensaje: “Disfruta tu último día. Te mataremos; estoy buscándote y ya te encontramos”.

El 9 de abril, en Monterrey, Nuevo León, fue torturado y asesinado en sus oficinas Santiago Rafael Cruz, de 29 años de edad, quien era organizador de asalariados migrantes y trabajaba para la oficina del Foro Laboral del Obrero Campesino.

Cruz tenía apenas mes y medio en esa oficina y antes había estado cuatro años en Ohio, Estados Unidos, ya que su labor consistía en ayudar a los trabajadores agrícolas que cada año viajan desde México hacia Carolina del Norte como trabajadores huéspedes.

El Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social (Cencos) difundió el 11 de julio una alerta relacionada con el activista ambiental Santiago Pérez Alvarado, quien además es promotor de derechos humanos, que “fue acusado de secuestro por defender los recursos naturales de los pueblos indios y campesinos en el estado de México”. La detención de Pérez Alvarado ocurrió el 4 de julio y fue remitido a la prisión de Temascaltepec, donde un juez le dictó auto de formal prisión acusándolo de secuestro.

El siguiente caso se registró el 19 de junio, y tiene que ver con Cristina Auerbach Benavides, quien asesora a familiares de mineros muertos en Pasta de Conchos.

Auerbach Benavides es integrante del Equipo Nacional de Pastoral Laboral y fue amagada por dos hombres armados en el estacionamiento de su casa, de donde se llevaron su camioneta, documentos importantes sobre el mencionado caso y una memoria USB con copia del expediente de la mina.

El 23 de agosto, Amnistía Internacional difundió una alerta por el acoso y agresiones en contra de Fair Pineda, abogado del Frente Amplio Opositor, y Armando Mendoza Ponce, quienes se oponen al proyecto minero en Cerro San Pedro, San Luis Potosí. “El organismo indicó que consideraba que la vida de Pineda y Mendoza estaba en peligro, ya que fueron perseguidos la madrugada del 5 de agosto y desde entonces se intensificaron los acosos contra ellos”.

El 8 de noviembre fue detenido “arbitrariamente” Manuel Olivares, director del Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos José María Morelos y Pavón, organización integrante de la Red Nacional de Organismos Civiles de Derechos Humanos Todos los Derechos para Todos. La detención ocurrió en Chilapa, Guerrero, debido a que el activista participó en un bloqueo vial para exigir a las autoridades respuesta a las demandas de redes de agua potable, revestimiento de caminos y comisarías municipales.

Melanie del Carmen Salgado López, integrante de la organización de derechos humanos Comité Cerezo, “fue agredida y amenazada por un desconocido el 12 de diciembre pasado, cuando se dirigía a su casa”. Anteriormente ya había recibido amenazas por correo electrónico y su domicilio había sido asaltado y registrado en mayo de 2006.

El indígena tzeltal Juan Méndez Hernández, del Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, denunció que el 27 de agosto llegó a su domicilio un desconocido, “quien preguntó por mí, y como le respondieron que no me encontraba les dijo a mis hijos que me advertía que tuviera mucho cuidado porque me iban a matar y que ello ocurriría entre el 7 y el 8 de septiembre”.

La más reciente agresión ocurrió el 20 de diciembre pasado y fue dirigida contra el Centro Diocesano para los Derechos Humanos Fray Juan de Larios, de la diócesis de Saltillo, Coahuila, donde dos hombres sometieron a Mariana Villarreal Contreras, del área jurídica de la agrupación, a quien encerraron en el baño; los individuos, quienes llevaban guantes y el rostro cubierto, revisaron los expedientes de los casos de defensa de derechos humanos seguidos por el obispo Raúl Vera.

* La Jornada
* http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2007/12/27/index.php?section=politica&article=032n1pol

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Christina Patterson: When equality means giving in to extremists

The trouble with miscellaneous job-lots is that they tend to be rather messy. Like the conveyor-belt of consumables in that apogee of Seventies super-camp, The Generation Game, you find kitchen knives nestling against pink fluffy toys, and the spiked forks of a fondue set next to a Teasmade. And so it is with quangos.

Take the Equality and Human Rights Commission. An amalgam, since 1 October, of the Commission for Racial Equality, the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission, it aims to “eliminate discrimination”, “reduce inequality” and “champion equality and human rights for all”.

In the absence of David Cameron’s (alleged) one-legged Lithuanian lesbians, this means balancing the interests of all sorts of groups. Sharia-seeking Muslims, for example, with that long-established oppressed minority (51.4 per cent of the population, actually) known as women. (Yes, here we don’t yet believe in killing or aborting babies on grounds of gender, which is marvellous.)

But, as Nat King Cole so memorably intimated, there may be trouble ahead. The appointment by Trevor Phillips, the commission’s chairman (naughty, naughty), of an evangelical Christian leader as a leading light in the battle for universal justice might just set the cat among the (physically, mentally or genderly challenged) pigeons. For the Rev Joel Edwards, the general director of the Evangelical Alliance, has been a vocal campaigner against legislation banning discrimination against gay men and women. Christians, he has said, do not want to find themselves “coerced” by law into aiding the promotion of homosexuality.

One of his “primary responsibilities”, he added, would be to ensure that “important issues such as respect and tolerance” played “an effective role” in the commission. Indeed. Respect and tolerance for the views of hard line, anti-gay evangelicals, or bikini-banning, burkha-brandishing Muslim clerics, or for the men and women who simply want to be free to acknowledge that they love who they love?

I have been an evangelical Christian. I saw the light, thank God. In that tortured period before I did, when a riotous, multi-prismed world was drained of all colour and shrunk and squeezed into a tiny box, like an early television set in the dainty front room of a 1950s family, I learnt all about homosexuality. To sum up, God hated it. Sodom and Gomorrah was not a metaphor. If people had these “feelings” then they must control them.

Luckily, however, God heals. He healed a homosexual (nothing gay about sin) in my congregation and an ageing spinster snapped him up. For a while, I helped, too. On Friday nights, I would roam the gay pubs of Earl’s Court and tell the leather-clad, moustachioed masses about Jesus. Yes, really.

For all kinds of historical reasons – not that dissimilar to those which drive young men into jihadism – the so-called “black community” is, to use the jargon, “over-represented” in evangelical and Pentecostal churches. Their members may not be threatening a violent war on Western decadence, but you can see why Trevor Phillips might want them on board. And I have no doubt that Mr Edwards, a former probation officer, is as good a spokesperson as any.

But, but, but. I have a dream. That one day our national institutions – Crown (if it’s still limping on), Government, universities and schools – will not only be secular but free not to pander to the views of nutters. Baby, as the Queen didn’t say when opening Parliament this week, dream on.

Clash of the Teutonic titans

All art, said John Ruskin, aspires to the condition of music. He didn’t add that life sometimes does, too. Most notably, perhaps, in the Wagner clan, which is currently locked in a dynastic struggle on a truly Wagnerian scale.

In the real-life version, the Rheinmaidens are no longer happy to share the Ring but are locked in an epic struggle to grab it. Katharina, the daughter of the current director of the Bayreuth Music Festival, Wolfgang Wagner, is the anointed heir, but the Richard Wagner Foundation favours Wolfgang’s eldest daughter, Eva, or his niece, Nike. It can only end in trouble – or perhaps, like Brunnehilde, pinioned to a mountain top, surrounded by fire.

* My grandmother used to send my mother a pound note, with the charming suggestion that she might like to get my father “a nice steak”. My aunt, who has three sons, used to send me flowery nylon knickers. The rest of us get by with bubble bath, socks and the Big Fat Book For Babyish Boys or Gullible Girls.

As part of a new Campaign for Decent Christmas Presents, Dame Helen Mirren has launched an appeal on behalf of the “millions of people who suffer every year from receiving rubbish presents”, urging them to splash out instead on fertiliser, medicines and school books. For people who need them, of course. It’s a worthy idea, and one that a friend already honours by buying his friends and family assorted goats and cows. I can’t, however, help clinging to the idea that charity is something you choose for yourself. And anyway, there’s one gift which nearly always brings delight – 75 years old next week. A portal to a virtual world.Yes, it’s called a book token.

* © The Independent
* http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/christina_patterson/article3138339.ece

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