Do not obviate the socioeconomic context of the platinum mine killings in South Africa

On 16 August, 34 workers were killed and at least 78 injured after police opened fire on striking miners at the Lonmin-owned platinum Marikana mine in South Africa. Over the years, South Africans have witnessed several instances of confrontation between police forces and striking workers. However, this bloody episode in Marikana exceeds anything seen before in the last two decades and has been deemed “the worst incident of state violence since the apartheid era”.

The day after the shootings, President Zuma announced the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the circumstances of the killings. Amnesty International called for a judicial oversight of the investigation. Human Rights Watch stressed out that the commission should look at the “background and underlying events leading to the violence (…) including the deaths of police at the hands of miners”. As observed by Bonita Meyersfeld, Jackie Dugard and Nikki Naylor, three leading South African human rights advocates, “underlying the question of police conduct, there is a deeper issue”. Continue reading “Do not obviate the socioeconomic context of the platinum mine killings in South Africa”

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“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”

Added value

A few days ago, Sir John Tusa asked himself and his readers: Is Amnesty in a mid-life crisis? Amnesty International is the largest human rights organisation and this year celebrates its 50th anniversary. Tusa looks back at AI founder Peter Benenson‘s dream:

“The absurd act of faith that writing letters about prisoners of consciencemight have an effect on the most hardened of dictators.”

For Tusa, AI may now be victim of its own success. The work on socioeconomic rights over the last decade and its current global campaign on human rights and poverty, (((Demand Dignity))), show in his opinion that Amnesty hast lost sight of the dreams of its founder:

“It is rather like a secular church, though many would feel uncomfortable with such a thought. Even its friends say it is a bit colonial too. Can it be truly internationalised?

More simply, is Amnesty trying to do too much? Is it now simply: too much about everything?

Does it need to reconnect to the original single simple improbable vision of its founder Peter Benenson?”

Continue reading “Added value”