Is Russia a human rights promoter in the Snowden case?

Edward SnowdenIt seems that the former NSA employee Edward Snowden remains in the transit zone of Moscow airport. At least, that´s what President Putin said a couple of days ago in a press conference in Finland. Putin claimed to be as surprised as any other, and argued that Snowden was just a “transit passenger” and therefore didn´t need a visa or any other document. The Russian President also said that, since Snowden “has not crossed” the Russian border and he “has not committed any crime” on Russian soil, there are no grounds for prosecution in Russia or for deportation to the US, with which Russia has no extradition treaty. Considering Snowden has reportedly applied for asylum from Ecuador, when the Russian Premier was asked about the similarities between his case and the one of Julian Assange, Putin responded with another question: “Just like Snowden, (Assange) considers himself a rights advocate and fights for sharing information. Ask yourself: should or should not people like these be extradited to be later put to jail?” Continue reading “Is Russia a human rights promoter in the Snowden case?”


Are human rights claims morally virtuous?

ImageAt the inaugural lecture of Northumbria University last November, Lord Justice Laws provocatively asks “whether human rights make us bad citizens”. (Read the comment by Rosalind English in UK Human Rights Blog). Bearing in mind that the discourse of rights has reached a protagonist role in current political and legal thought, Laws argues that we should not confuse rights with morals.

The entrenchment of rights in the culture of the State carries with it a great danger. It is that rights, a necessary legal construct, come also to be seen as a necessary moral construct. Applied to the morality of individuals, this is a bad mistake. (…) Why is it so malign a force? Let me consider the nature of rights a little more closely. What am I doing when I state that I have a moral right – a right to do something, or a right not to have something done to me? It is not a statement that implies any virtue on my part. I am not good because I assert that I have a right. To claim a right involves no moral action by the claimant. There is nothing virtuous in making the claim. It is not an act of self-sacrifice or self-restraint, kindness or consideration towards anyone else; it is not other-centred; it claims what is due, or what is thought to be due. Systematically, it is a claim about how someone else ougt to behave – or refrain from behaving. Any morality in it is the other person’s morality. If it is morally justified, it is because the other party owes a duty – a moral duty – to make it good. (…) The performance of duty is virtuous; whereas a claim of right is only an insistence that someone else behave virtuously.

I see the point Lord Justice Laws makes here, and I agree to some extent. Continue reading “Are human rights claims morally virtuous?”

Crisis, active citizenship and human rights

If I have learned one thing out of this crisis, it is that the economy is far too important to be granted to economists and democracy is far too precious to be bestowed to politicians.

We must reclaim democracy by reinventing it. Legitimacy in public policy stand up Amnestymaking cannot depend solely on the process by which the authority becomes such. That is not enough anymore. Democracy must be attached to active participation. Post-crisis democratic societies will need transparent processes, open consultations and frank discussions. Different tools will be necessary depending on the level of power: local, national, regional or global. A new approach to governance is required. In other words, apart from making different decisions, we must definitely change the way in which we make decisions. Continue reading “Crisis, active citizenship and human rights”

Other ways to “help”

They are gathering money in London for Sandy’s victims in New York. Based on the initiative “Jeans for Genes”, the idea is that you give £5 and, in return, you’re allowed to wear jeans at work. It seems the campaign is going to be quite successful, obviously only among those who don´t normally wear jeans from Monday to Friday, but rather suits, ties and jackets.

I heard about it yesterday, and immediately I remembered a group of university students I saw in Manchester in March 2011, soon after the Fukushima crisis. Continue reading “Other ways to “help””

“Human rights at war in Syria”: A response to Tarak Barkawi

In an article published on Al Jazeera English a few days ago, titled “Human rights at war in Syria”, Tarak Barkawi criticises human rights organisations (he pinpoints HRW and Amnesty International) for denouncing the abuses committed by rebels in Syria. Barkawi laments that their reports reveal “a systematic bias favouring the official, uniformed armed forces of states”. In his view, by naming and shaming the abuses committed by the armed opposition, human rights groups create a “moral equivalence between the murderous regime of Assad and those who are fighting against the odds to defeat him”. Barkawi asks his readers the following question: “What are we to make of the idea that the violence of the regime and that of the rebels should be measured against the same standard? Does it make sense to be impartial about a war?” Continue reading ““Human rights at war in Syria”: A response to Tarak Barkawi”

A bit of self-criticism in the critiques to #Kony2012, please

Since Monday, more than 70 million people have viewed a film on Youtube about the living conditions of thousands of children in Uganda. According to the film, these children are victims of the violence and revenge of Joseph Kony. Mr Kony and other LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) leaders were charged in 2005 by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity (murder, enslavement, sexual enslavement, rape, and inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering) and war crimes (murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, pillaging, inducing rape, and forced enlistment of children). Despite the arrest warrant, Joseph Kony hasn´t been arrested yet. The film is the business card of a campaign propelled by Invisible Children, a charity that seems convinced that Kony will fall when the world (the American public, mostly) gets to know about him. A hashtag will make all the difference: #Kony2012. Oops, I almost forgot: They ask for money as well. Continue reading “A bit of self-criticism in the critiques to #Kony2012, please”

The domestication of international human rights: An old but current challenge

The European Court of Human Rights is going through hard times at present. UK populist media and several key political figures in the country are leading an elaborated campaign against the Strasbourg-based Court (read, for example, about the story of the ‘powerful’ cat that managed to prevent the deportation of a foreign criminal). A few weeks ago, David Cameron went to Strasbourg to speak about the need to reform the Court. In the Prime Minister’s opinion, it does not serve anymore the purpose it was meant to fulfil when it was created in the post-War era. In Cameron’s view, the Court should abstain from interfering in fully democratic countries that have internal bodies and legislation intended to guarantee fundamental rights and liberties, even if the views expressed by those bodies (above all, the Parliament) do not match the opinions of the Court.

In a much surlier way, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has also criticised the equivalent of the Strasbourg-Court in the Americas, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, after this Court ruled in favour of an opposition political leader who was seeking to challenge Chávez in the next election. A few weeks ago I wrote in this blog that the growing criticism against these two international human rights bodies could be a worrying sign of the decreasing relevance of the idea of human rights in global affairs. Is that so? Is there anything we can do about it? Continue reading “The domestication of international human rights: An old but current challenge”