Mapping human rights or how to sieve governments’ words into the bowl of facts

mapI will be honest with you: I tend to dislike the idea of categorising human rights violations with numbers. If human rights are indivisible and interdependent, how can we say that the violation of this right deserves a “4” while the violation of that one will do with a “2”. Does that mean that two of the latter equal one of the former? It won’t be me telling that to the victim. Continue reading

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Are freedom, social justice, democracy and human rights appealing outside the West?

bricsThe puzzle is probably as applicable to Europe as to the rest of the world. Looking at the way intelligence agencies have been spying over European citizens, or at the “legacy of poverty” that the austerity policies are leaving behind, we can legitimately wonder if freedom, social justice, democracy and human rights are at all appealing within the West itself and, specifically, in Europe. However, the question that I ask myself today is whether these values and norms are still attractive in developing countries, if they ever were.

A few days ago, I attended an event co-organised by Ipsos Mori and KCL International Development Institute, where they presented a research into public perceptions about growth and prosperity in emerging economies. The survey was conducted online and about 6000 people were interviewed in 11 countries: Brazil, Argentina, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, India, China, South Korea, Indonesia and Mexico. When asked about what country/region has the best economic ideas and offer better employment opportunities, the US and China led way ahead (28 and 26%) and the EU came third (16%). In fact, the EU only was first in 2 of the 11 countries: Turkey and South Korea. Interestingly enough, Brazilians, Russians and Indians all agree that China is leading the way among the BRICs. From the perspective of the emerging world, the Chinese model now seems at least as relevant as the American one, and the decline of Europe is just evident.
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En las condiciones actuales, el acuerdo de pesca entre la UE y Marruecos no debería ser aplicable al Sáhara Occidental

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATras el fracaso de las negociaciones en 2011, en febrero de 2012 el Consejo Europeo autorizó a la Comisión Europea para que negociara un nuevo protocolo de pesca con Marruecos. Tanto el Consejo Europeo como el Parlamento Europeo dieron el mandato a la Comisión con el fin de que el nuevo acuerdo de pesca con Marruecos incluyera una “cláusula de derechos humanos”. Sin embargo, debido a la eficaz presión ejercida por Marruecos, el proyecto de protocolo de pesca actualmente en discusión no contiene cláusula alguna en este sentido, lo que le convierte en el primer (proyecto de) acuerdo pesquero de la UE en 3 años que omite una cláusula de derechos humanos.

El lobby español dio sus frutos y el miércoles de la semana pasada el Consejo de la UE dio su visto bueno al protocolo de pesca, aunque al menos cinco países se manifestaron en contra (Suecia, Dinamarca, Finlandia, Reino Unido y Países Bajos). El protocolo todavía tiene que ser sometido a votación en el Parlamento Europeo (que paralizó el proyecto anterior hace ahora dos años), cuya decisión no se espera hasta final de año.

Apenas dos días antes, los servicios jurídicos del Parlamento Europeo remitieron a los europarlamentarios su Opinión Jurídica sobre el protocolo en cuestión (aquí en inglés). Los servicios del Parlamento señalan en su informe que, aunque no ha reclamado expresamente la Zona Económica Exclusiva (ZEE) correspondiente a la costa del Sáhara Occidental en base a la Convención de Montego Bay (artículo 75), Marruecos puede explotar las aguas saharauis dentro de los límites de la ZEE (200 millas náuticas), siempre que respete las obligaciones con respecto a la población del Sáhara Occidental derivadas del derecho internacional y en particular del artículo 73 de la Carta de las Naciones Unidas. Los servicios jurídicos concluyen que el acuerdo de pesca entre la UE y Marruecos puede ser aplicable al Sáhara Occidental siempre que beneficie a la población local.

A mi juicio, si tomamos en cuenta el derecho internacional en su conjunto llegaremos a la conclusión de que confiar en que Marruecos tome medidas simplemente no es suficiente. Continue reading

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Mr. Hague, considering Western Sahara, Morocco is not a strong example of peaceful reform and progress

s300_10535153794_3b1bf41e97_oA few days ago the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, met the Prime Minister of Morocco, Abdelilah Benkirane. In a short press note, the Foreign Office said that “Morocco stands as a strong example of peaceful reform and progress in North Africa, and the UK will continue to support the government’s reform process”.

Perhaps the Foreign Secretary forgot that since the mid-1970s Morocco occupies militarily a territory roughly the size of the UK: Western Sahara. A colony of Spain since the mid-19th century, the territory and its population were left on their own when Spain left shamefully in 1975-1976. Morocco immediately occupied the land upon the Spanish retreat. In an advisory opinion issued in October 1975, the International Court of Justice rejected the Moroccan sovereignty claims over Western Sahara. For fifteen long years, the Moroccan army and the Saharawi national liberation force (Polisario Front) fought a bloody war that scattered landmines across the territory and expelled tens of thousands of refugees to the neighbouring Algeria. The Polisario Front also fought against Mauritania until the latter’s withdrawal in 1979. After some years of military stagnation, in 1991, under the auspices of the United Nations Morocco and the Polisario agreed to a settlement plan that included a referendum where the local Saharawi population would have the chance to determine its own future. A UN mission (MINURSO) was set up to ensure the settlement was respected and fulfilled. However, to this day, Morocco has consistently refused the Saharawis the referendum they are entitled to by international law and the 1991 peace agreement. Morocco uses its military force to retain control over Western Sahara, while around 100.000 people survive in the refugee camps of Tindouf, in the Algerian desert. Those who remained in the occupied territories suffer continuous violations of their human rights, including torture, unresolved disappearances, restrictions to the freedom of association and discrimination in the access to work, education and healthcare. In the meantime, the natural resources of Western Sahara, particularly fisheries and phosphates, are plundered in front of the eyes of the local population, which doesn’t benefit from these industrial activities and doesn’t have a say on them. Continue reading

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NSA surveillance confirms the realist paradigm, and I am not happy about that

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Barack ObamaOnly a few days ago I briefly presented the research of my life, which I have just started and deals with the influence that human rights make on foreign policy making in Europe. In particular, at the moment I am reading and thinking about why countries choose to embrace and foster certain human rights norms rather than others. Right when I was about to accept that principles, ideas and identities play a significant role in the construction of national interests and, therefore, in the way countries interact with each other (“anarchy is what states make of it” and so on), we read in the papers that the US has been spying on foreign allies for a good number of years.

In making sense out of it, no other analyst has been more spot on than Thucydides and his Melian Dialog back in the 5th century BC: “The strong do as they can and the weak suffer what they must”. Continue reading

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The future of the “Parot doctrine” and the one thing that Spain can teach the UK

echrThe Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights issued today its judgment of the case Del Río Prada v. Spain. By 15 votes to 2, the Court held that Spain has violated Article 7 (no punishment without law) of the European Convention of Human Rights, and has unanimously concluded that since July 2008 Ms. del Río’s detention has not been lawful, in violation of Article 5.1 of the Convention. Consequently, the Court has ordered Spain to ensure the release of the applicant as soon as possible.

This case had generated very high expectations in Spain because Ms. del Río had been convicted for a number of terrorist attacks, including several killings. In February 2006, the Supreme Court departed from its previous interpretation of the Spanish penitentiary legislation and adopted a new criterion (known as “Parot doctrine”, due to the name of the first ETA member it was applied to) based on which the release of ETA prisoners sentenced for crimes committed before 1995 (when the current Criminal Code was adopted) would be delayed for some time. Since 2006, the Parot doctrine has also been applied to non-ETA major perpetrators. The rationale of the Strasbourg Court’s decision is that the applicant could not have foreseen either that the Supreme Court would change its case-law or that this change would affect her. Continue reading

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The role of Human Rights in foreign policy making in Europe: 4 questions and 2 observations

bad2013This blog post is a collection of open questions rather than the statement of an opinion. I hereby want to share with you the 4 questions and 2 observations that are inspiring the doctoral project that I have recently started at King’s College London.

In a paper published in 1998, Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink famously presented a model of international norm diffusion based on a three-stage life cycle: emergence, cascade and internalisation. States and international organisations play the main role at the second stage, in the “norm cascade”, when they choose to embrace certain norms, understood as “standards for the appropriate behavior of states” (p. 893). Finnemore and Sikkink argue that “states comply with norms in stage 2 for reasons that relate to their identities as members of the international society” (p. 902). 1st question: Do legitimacy and reputation sufficiently explain the motives behind a given country’s decision to be a international human rights norm promoter? Continue reading

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