¿Por qué prohibir la tortura si vamos a seguir torturando?

obama_tortura_cia-webLa semana pasada, el Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos condenó a Polonia por permitir en su territorio interrogatorios y retenciones secretas de la CIA en el marco de la llamada “Guerra contra el Terror”. Según la agencia Reuters, un portavoz del Gobierno polaco dijo: “La sentencia sobre las cárceles de la CIA es vergonzosa para Polonia y supone una carga para nuestro país, tanto económica como para nuestra imagen”. Casos relativos a otros países europeos están pendientes de resolución en Estrasburgo. Hace unos meses, el Senado estadounidense votó a favor de la desclasificación de un informe sobre el programa de detención e interrogatorios de la CIA. Se espera que la Casa Blanca lo permita próximamente, pero el propio Obama ya ha reconocido lo que todo el mundo sabe: Estados Unidos utilizó la tortura. El Gobierno británico está dando muestras de nerviosismo ante la próxima difusión de dicho informe, que a buen seguro acreditará la complicidad de sus servicios secretos. La organización de derechos humanos británica Reprieve ha denunciado que el Gobierno de David Cameron está instigando para retrasar la publicación de este informe y censurar apartados comprometedores del mismo.

Se supone que hay una prohibición internacional absoluta sobre la tortura. Sería lo que los expertos en la materia denominan una “norma de ius cogens”. La prohíbe la Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos de 1948, el Convenio Europeo de Derechos Humanos de 1950 y el Pacto Internacional de Derechos Civiles y Políticos de 1966, además naturalmente de la Convención Contra la Tortura de 1984, ratificada por 155 países. Sin embargo, Amnistía Internacional ha documentado y denunciado prácticas de tortura y otros malos tratos en 141 países en los últimos cinco años. Casi la mitad de las 21.000 personas encuestadas por Amnistía en 21 países de todo el mundo reconocieron temer ser torturadas si son detenidas. Continue reading “¿Por qué prohibir la tortura si vamos a seguir torturando?”

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International Liberalism and R2P. Have liberalists given up on the ICC?

bashar-al-assad-650x433Granted. The title is a little unfair. The truth is that I am only referring to Michael Ignatieff, but I have the impression that the point is extendible to other international liberals, or rather liberalists. This is pure perception. I would be very happy to be proven wrong. I encourage you to use the space below for that.

The UN inquiry mission on Syria has expanded their list of suspected war criminals. When they presented their report at the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, they assured that their evidence is solid enough to prepare any indictment at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Syria has not ratified the Rome Statute, but the case could be referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council, as it did unanimously with Libya in 2011 (Resolution 1970).

Michael Ignatieff gave an eloquent lecture at King’s College London on Monday. The title was “Legality, Legitimacy & Intervention After Ukraine”. Initially it said “Syria”, but I guess the organisers (or the speaker) decided to adapt the name to the most current events. In any case, Ignatieff talked about both countries.

At first he assured he was not going to advocate an intervention, but I suppose he could not help it and in the end he supported an action based on the idea of “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P), a concept proposed in 2001 by the ICISS, a commission he was member of. Continue reading “International Liberalism and R2P. Have liberalists given up on the ICC?”

Ruggie versus Ecuador: Will a human rights norm ever emerge regardless of Western support?

unhrcIn September 2013, a number of countries issued a joint statement in favour of an international treaty on business and human rights. The statement was drafted by Ecuador and signed also by the African Group, the Arab Group, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela and Peru. These countries believe that a legally binding treaty “would clarify the obligations of transnational corporations in the field of human rights” and “provide for the establishment of effective remedies for victims in cases where domestic jurisdiction is clearly unable to prosecute effectively those companies”. More than 90 national groups, international NGOs and trade unions have expressed their support for this initiative.

On 28 January, John Ruggie, Professor of International Relations at Harvard University and UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights between 2005 and 2011, released a response to the mentioned statement. Thereby he defends the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework developed during his mandate as Special Representative and praises the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights that he himself drafted and were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011. The Guiding Principles were severely criticised by several civil society organisations that deemed them overtly ineffective to regulate the human rights responsibilities of transnational companies. However, Professor Ruggie is pleased with his own framework and expresses in this way why he believes Ecuador and the NGOs are mistaken: Continue reading “Ruggie versus Ecuador: Will a human rights norm ever emerge regardless of Western support?”

Rights as Democracy? A short response to Bellamy

Last week a few members of King’s College London held the first session of our reading group on Law and Social Sciences. We discussed Richard Bellamy’s “Rights as Democracy” (2012), and we also read Isaiah Berlin’s seminal “Two Concepts of Liberty” (1958) with Skinner’s critique, “A Third Concept of Liberty” (2002).

In his article, Bellamy opposes the traditional liberal justification of human rights as a set of prepolitical liberties and entitlements. Bellamy conceives rights in line with the republican notion of non-domination and claims that they require a democratic justification, which is by definition a political process. From that premise Bellamy works out the argument for a “rights-based judicial review of legislation”, that takes judicial hermeneutics away from professional and non-democratic courts and gives this power to “the people themselves” (I am indebted to my friend Donald Bello Hutt for introducing this concept to me).

For Bellamy, a political process to claim and justify rights must possess three important features. “First, it must show equal respect for the different views of individuals as rights bearers. Second it should also demonstrate equal concern for their capacity to employ their rights on the same terms as others. (…) Third, it will have to answer to the ‘traditional purpose’ of rights as means for holding power to account and marking its limits”.

I must start by saying that I find Bellamy’s argument both powerful and persuasive. Continue reading “Rights as Democracy? A short response to Bellamy”

El sexismo cotidiano y la cara de vergüenza

no the man doesnt know the womanHace unos días una amiga puso esta foto en su perfil del Facebook. Junto a ella escribió “No, este hombre no conoce a esta mujer”. Ese mismo día, o quizás la víspera, entré en el vagón de metro y me senté sin pensarlo frente a un chico joven. Justo antes de partir entró una atractiva mujer y se sentó junto a la puerta, dos lugares a mi izquierda. Abrí mi libro, pero por reflejo levanté la mirada y vi cómo aquel chico la observaba fijamente. El tren prácticamente no había salido de la estación cuando la mujer se levantó y rápidamente fue a sentarse al otro extremo del vagón. El chico hizo un gesto, que yo interpreté como una mezcla de sorpresa y desgana, y volvió a su periódico gratuito.

Hace ya tiempo la profesora de francés nos hizo unas preguntas para provocar el debate entre los cuatro alumnos de la clase: dos mujeres jóvenes, un hombre mayor y un servidor. El hombre tenía la costumbre de ser el primero en contestar. Aquel día, cuando se le agotaban las ideas mirándome con interés decía: “a lo mejor Koldo tiene algo que añadir”. Las otras dos personas eran al parecer nuestras convidadas de piedra. Continue reading “El sexismo cotidiano y la cara de vergüenza”

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

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