Tag Archives: human rights

UN Human Rights Council Affirms Traditional Values

By Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

(GENEVA – C-FAM) Delegations from European Countries and the United States suffered a setback last week when the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution affirming a positive link between traditional values and human rights. The European and U.S. delegations view traditional values as threats to women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual persons.

This is the third resolution on traditional values to pass since 2009. Russia successfully pressed the resolution forward despite attempts by other UN member states to stifle their initiative.

The current resolution, tabled by Russia and co-authored by more than 60 states (not all members of the Council), affirms that traditional values common to all humanity have a positive role in the promotion and protection of human rights. It states that “a better understanding and appreciation of traditional values shared by all humanity and embodied in universal human rights instruments contribute to promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms worldwide.”

Echoing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it stresses “that human rights derive from the dignity and worth inherent in the human person” and recognizes the positive role of the family, community and educational institutions in promoting human rights, calling on states to “strengthen this role through appropriate positive measures.”

European countries and the United States voiced opposition to the concept of traditional values when a resolution under that title was first proposed by Russia in 2009. They also voted against a resolution requesting a report on the interconnectedness of traditional values and human rights from the Advisory Committee of the Council in March last year. When that measure passed, they took control of the Advisory Committee’s efforts to produce a report that was contrary to the intention of the resolution.

The European and U.S. delegations repeatedly complained that “traditional values” is a vague concept used to justify violence and discrimination against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) persons. But having failed to sway enough countries with that argument, they sought to halt the resolution by asking the Council to wait for the report from the Advisory Committee, the same one they originally opposed.

Russia tabled the resolution anyway, confident that it would have the necessary votes. The resolution was adopted with 25 in favor, 15 against, and 7 abstentions.

Upon its adoption, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement declaring “The Russian Federation, together with the opinion allies, will continue promoting the idea of [the] inseparable connection of human rights and traditional moral values in the Human Rights Council.”

Noting that “there were states that voted against the draft (in particular, the USA and European Union)” Russia lamented that “(the) negative position of these countries, their unwillingness to work at the text and fanciful arguments against the resolution draft cause regret.”

Last year President Obama ordered all federal agencies dealing with U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance to promote LGBT rights. Support for traditional values is deeply troublesome to LGBT groups, as the Gay Star News reports. They are worried it will be used to defend the natural family, and fear they will be unable to de-criminalize homosexuality worldwide.

Stefano Gennarini is Director of the Center for Legal Studies at the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) located in both New York City and Washington, D.C. Gennarini’s article first appeared in the Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM.

Moscow Bans LGBT Parade

By Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

(GENEVA – C-FAM) Likely the Russians are furious. Last year the Russian government initiated a process at the Human Rights Council in Geneva that was supposed to lead to a resolution touting traditional values. They rediscovered what they likely already knew, that such debates at the UN are fraught with danger, particularly for those who want to support traditional values. The constellation of forces hostile to traditional values is large and aggressive.

The Russians had hoped their resolution could find a positive link between traditional values and human rights generally. A drafting committee offered a preliminary study last February that was acceptable to pro-family delegates. But opposition quickly formed. Homosexual groups were particularly vocal in opposing the draft report. Opponents charged that the draft failed to address what they consider to be a conflict between traditional values and human rights.

The preliminary study emphasized universal traditional values shared by all people, in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It highlighted the connections between traditional values and human rights, maintaining that the normative force of human rights has its roots in the moral force of traditional values. It contained explicit references to the right to life, the role of the family in society, as well as major religions.

But the United States and some European countries objected that the rights of women and homosexual and transgender persons are frequently undermined by traditional values and religion, and that something should be said in the study about the conflict. The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) joined the criticisms.

Following this objection, the Chinese expert on the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council (HRC), Chung Chinsung, re-wrote the study, omitting positive references to the right to life, the family, and religion. The new draft study was discussed last week in Geneva, and countries, experts, and NGOs that had complained were overall satisfied with the changes.

The new draft drops the universalistic approach. In fact, the new draft does not even recognize the existence of universal traditional values, dismissing the quest for universality as a red herring. Instead, it points out that multiple traditional values exist, and they are constantly evolving. Some are consonant with human rights. But others are not.

This new approach puts human rights squarely above and against traditional values. In the draft study, the Advisory Committee declares which traditional values are in conflict with human rights, and which ones are not.

The new draft makes the case that traditional values undermine the rights of women and minorities. It finds that certain traditions and religions spread “stereotypes about femininity, sexual orientation and the role and status of women in society.” It also lists some “best practices” to show how, in some circumstances, traditional values can reinforce human rights. None of these examples are from western countries. In fact, the new draft finds that “traditional and cultural values in Western countries propagate harmful practices, such as domestic violence.”

The new study was scheduled to appear during the September session of the HRC. But it clearly requires some further polishing, and the Committee has asked the HRC for more time.

“Gay parades banned in Moscow for 100 years” 17 August 2012

Moscow’s top court has upheld a ban on gay pride marches in the Russian capital for the next 100 years.

Earlier Russia’s best-known gay rights campaigner, Nikolay Alexeyev, had gone to court hoping to overturn the city council’s ban on gay parades.

He had asked for the right to stage such parades for the next 100 years.

He also opposes St Petersburg’s ban on spreading “homosexual propaganda”. The European Court of Human Rights has told Russia to pay him damages.

On Friday he said he would go back to the European Court in Strasbourg to push for a recognition that Moscow’s ban on gay pride marches – past, present and future – was unjust.

The Moscow city government argues that the gay parade would risk causing public disorder and that most Muscovites do not support such an event.

In September, the Council of Europe – the main human rights watchdog in Europe – will examine Russia’s response to a previous European Court ruling on the gay rights issue, Russian media report.

In October 2010 the court said Russia had discriminated against Mr Alexeyev on grounds of sexual orientation. It had considered Moscow’s ban on gay parades covering the period 2006-2008.

This article written by Stefano Gennarini, who is Director of the Center for Legal Studies at the Catholic Family and Human Right Institute (C-FAM), first appeared in FridayFax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM. C-FAM is a New York and Washington DC-based research institute (http://www.c-fam.org).

Amnesty International Uses Maternal Deaths to Push for Unrestricted Abortion

By Elizabeth Charnowski

(New York – C-FAM) Amnesty International, a human rights organization that used to be abortion neutral, is now using the problem of maternal mortality to advocate for abortion. In a new report, ostensibly on medical care for maternal health, Amnesty calls on governments to repeal abortion laws and conscience protection for medical workers who may object. They also call for public health systems to train and equip health care providers to perform abortions.

Amnesty’s “Maternal Health is a Human Right” campaign focuses attention on four countries: Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Peru, and the United States. Amnesty argues that maternal mortality will decrease if it is treated as a human rights issue, if costs to health care are covered by governments, and if a right for women to control their reproductive and sex lives is established.

The United States’ maternal mortality ratio is only 21 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to Burkina Faso’s 300 and Sierra Leone’s 890 deaths per 100,000 births.

The Amnesty’s report that in Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, and Peru, that women face death because of inadequate medical conditions and corruption. But then the report goes further arguing that abortion is needed, too.

Even though Amnesty says the United States has the best health care system in the world, the group urges that abortion services be expanded and obstacles eliminated, including what they call racial and cost barriers. They say abortion services are restricted for Native Americans and women on Medicaid since abortions are only paid for by the government in cases of rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger. These women can still obtain an abortion, but it would not be covered by federal insurance.

Amnesty takes issue with restraints on abortion, including conscience clauses and laws that allow health care providers and institutions to decline to commit an abortion if it is against their religious or moral beliefs.

Elsewhere Amnesty has called for small steps towards the legalization of abortion. The group submitted a report to the UN Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) calling for the legalization of abortion in Mexico for women who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest.

According to its official position, “Amnesty International believes that where women’s access to safe and legal abortion services and information is restricted, their fundamental human rights may be at grave risk.”

At the time Amnesty changed its position, many long-time Catholic supports left the group and at least one Vatican Cardinal called upon Catholics no longer to support the group. In the intervening years Amnesty has become an aggressive public campaigner for a right to abortion and even makes the claim that abortion is a human right in international law.

Elizabeth Charnowski is a Blackstone Intern, a wonderful program of the Alliance Defending Freedom, at the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM). This article was originally published in Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM,a New York and Washington DC-based research institute (http://www.c-fam.org/).

2012 AnthropoGraphia Human Rights Through Visual Storytelling Competition, June 15 Deadline

Anthropographia is a volunteer-run non-profit organization that generates awareness of under publicized human rights issues through visual story telling. The volunteer board of directors and advisors consist journalists, photo journalists, professors of photography, and leaders in the multimedia industry.

The Anthropographia Award for Human Rights gives photojournalists working in various communities and cultures opportunity to share their story or stories of witnessed human rights issues with an international audience.

The Call for Entries for the 2012 Anthropographia Award for Human Rights is now open. This competition, which is free to all, offers an opportunity for photographers to exhibit their work and demonstrate their commitment to human rights issues.

Submission deadline: June 15, 2012
Opening of the exhibition in Montreal September 6, 2012
Exhibition traveling internationally from mid-October 2012 to mid-July 2013

For the 2012 edition of the Anthropographia Call for Entries, we will be selecting 12 photo-essays and 6 multimedia projects out of the entries submitted. These will be selected by a team of curators, including Matthieu Rytz, Founder of Anthropo-Graphia, and our 2 guest curators : Tina Ahrens – Co-Founder of emphas.is and James Estrin – senior Staff Photographer for the New York Times and co-editor of Lens. From the selected photo-essays and multimedia projects, two awards will be granted by the team of curators that recognizes the particular achievements of two photographers in representing human rights issues.

These awards are:
The Anthropographia Award for Photography and Human Rights
The Anthropographia Award for Multimedia and Human Rights

For more info, visit the Anthropographia website.

USCIRF Alarmed By Blasphemy Amendments in Kuwait


The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today expressed grave concern over the Kuwaiti Parliament’s approval last week of severe new penalties for blasphemy. The Emir of Kuwait has 30 days to approve these penalties before they would become law. The new provisions would impose the death penalty on Muslims who refuse to repent after being found to have insulted God, the Prophet Mohammad, his wives, or the Qur’an. For non-Muslims, the punishment would be up to 10 years in prison; for Muslims who repent, the punishment would be up to five years or a fine.

“These penalties are alarming and contrary to international human rights standards. It is particularly regrettable that a strong ally of the United States and a member of the UN Human Rights Council has taken these steps,” said Leonard Leo, USCIRF Chair. “The Kuwaiti parliament’s approval is especially unfortunate in light of the new consensus resolutions at the Human Rights Council – adopted in both 2011 and 2012 — that focus on fighting religious intolerance, discrimination, and violence without restricting speech.”

USCIRF urges the United States to work with Kuwait to address concerns about intolerant speech through counter-speech and positive measures, including education and outreach, as provided for in Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18. The U.S. government also should urge the Emir of Kuwait to reject the pending blasphemy law amendments and focus instead on criminalizing only incitement to imminent violence. Such a reform would make Kuwaiti law consistent with international human rights standards and the intolerance resolutions that Kuwait supported at the UN.

“These draconian provisions should be rejected because they would place individuals’ lives in jeopardy for exercising their internationally-guaranteed freedoms of religion and expression,” said Leo. “As has been evident during the years USCIRF has monitored religious freedom violations around the world, blasphemy laws do not promote religious harmony as their proponents assert; rather, they exacerbate religious intolerance, extremism, and violence.”

China Cracks Down on Journalists for the First Time in 14 Years

Respected journalist Melissa Chan of Al Jazeera English was forced to board a flight out of Beijing this week after Chinese officials refused to renew her visa. Chai Ling, founder of All Girls Allowed, commended Chan for boldly pursuing leads on stories of human rights abuses. “Melissa Chan is a model for investigative reporting in China,” said Chai. “I hope others will follow her lead in giving a voice to the voiceless and fulfilling the highest calling in journalism.”

In 2010, Chan documented the immediate aftermath of a forced abortion. She interviewed a mother after officials beat her severely, restrained her, and then injected chemicals that aborted her pregnancy at 8 months. During Chan’s interview, the mother was in the hospital waiting to undergo a surgery that would remove the dead infant.

Censorship in China is nothing new, but Beijing has typically refrained from taking the dramatic step of expelling a journalist. The last time this happened was in 1998. “The action speaks for itself,” said Chai. “They do not plan to end the One-Child Policy and other abuses any time soon, so they threaten and remove the journalists who bravely expose these things to the public.”

“Chinese authorities are trying to intimidate the press to extend the reach of their censorship overseas,” said Chai.

It is a tactic that has worked well before, especially with regard to criticism of the One-Child Policy. For fear of losing their visas, other journalists may now be more hesitant to delve into topics that might raise the ire of the Chinese government. Chai Ling is concerned that this will affect coverage of the One-Child Policy and forced abortion, especially following the Chinese government’s embarrassment at the coverage last week of lawyer Chen Guangcheng’s extralegal detention and escape.

Chen was imprisoned because of his advocacy for women who faced forced abortions and sterilizations, but the media coverage of his escape has barely touched upon the stories of these women. Chai Ling said: “I call upon journalists to continue sharing the stories of the women that Chen sought to protect—the same stories that Melissa Chan exposed so boldly. To remain silent on these ongoing abuses is to give a victory to those who impose them. Silence also brings a further defeat to Chinese citizens who are pushing for the reforms that their country desperately needs.”

All Girls Allowed invites journalists who are interested in sharing these women’s stories to contact our office at the address and number below. We welcome your inquiries and look forward to hearing from you.

All Girls Allowed (http://www.allgirlsallowed.org) was founded by Chai Ling in 2010 with a mission to display the love of Jesus by restoring life, value and dignity to girls and mothers in China and to reveal the injustice of the One-Child Policy.

Read more: http://www.allgirlsallowed.org/china-cracks-down-journalists-first-time-14

Human Trafficking Awareness

Yesterday was Human Trafficking Awareness Day. This day was set by a resolution of Congress in hopes Americans would understand that the fight for freedom is not over. This fight is part of our national heritage and identity. It compelled our ancestors to colonize this continent.

Unless Americans remember the right of liberty is rooted in the nature of humanity’s equality and dignity, no legitimate reason exists for continued efforts to liberate enslaved people.

What is the nature of human equality and dignity? The Declaration of Independence defines as created by nature’s God. Because the human best reflects the nature of God, the dignity of every human being is of inestimable worth. Acts of injustice and cruelty reflect the worst of human thought and behavior.

It will take more than one day each year for Americans to reeducate themselves about God, equality, liberty, and law out of which American freedom originated.

At the beginning of this month, President Obama declared January as human trafficking prevention month. During his proclamation, Pres. Obama stated:

As a Nation, we have known moments of great darkness and greater light; and dim years of chattel slavery illuminated and brought to an end by President Lincoln’s actions and a painful Civil War. Yet even today, the darkness and inhumanity of enslavement exists. Millions of people worldwide are held in compelled service, as well as thousands within the United States. During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we acknowledge that forms of slavery still exist in the modern era, and we recommit ourselves to stopping the human traffickers who ply this horrific trade….

Fighting modern slavery and human trafficking is a shared responsibility. This month, I urge all Americans to educate themselves about all forms of modern slavery and the signs and consequences of human trafficking. Together, we can and must end this most serious, ongoing criminal civil rights violation.

Indeed, it is a crime against God and humanity.

There are a number of organizations and on-line educational sites. They include Polaris Project, A-21 Campaign, humantrafficking.org, Human Trafficking Blog to name a few.

To understand the problem truly, one must retrace the history of the struggle of liberty. A good place to start would be with the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, it tells of the ancient struggle for freedom and how it has been achieved. This is one of the key texts that informed the Protestant reformers, Puritans, English reformers, colonists, preachers, theologians, moral philosophers, lawyers and their laws of nature and of nations, and even our national founding. Human nature and human rights cannot be fully understood without understanding the sacred text about human bondage and freedom.

Rutherford Institute Urges U.S. Supreme Court to Hold Corporations Accountable for Human Rights Abuses in Keeping with the Rule of Law

(WASHINGTON, DC) — The Rutherford Institute has filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that will determine whether U.S. courts are open to persons who are victims of human rights abuses by international corporations. The Institute’s brief in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. asks the Court to reverse a federal appeals court ruling that corporations are not subject to liability under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), a 200-year-old law that allows victims of violations of the law of nations to recover damages from the persons responsible for the violations.

In their brief, Institute attorneys argue that U.S. courts should do all they can to prevent and remedy human rights abuses and that it is contrary to established principles and the rule of law to allow corporations to escape responsibility for heinous crimes that violate established international standards simply because they are not “natural” persons. The Rutherford Institute’s brief in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. is available at www.rutherford.org.

“Permitting corporations to escape civil liability for crimes against humanity is a fundamental departure from the constitutional theory of the rule of law upon which the U.S. Constitution rests,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “We have operated too long under a double standard that favors corporations, recognizing them as persons for the purposes of profit but failing to hold them equally accountable for their abuses. The Supreme Court needs to rectify this discrepancy and ensure that corporations are not given carte blanche to operate above the law.”

The case involves a lawsuit by residents of the Ogoni Region of Nigeria, where Royal Dutch Petroleum and its subsidiaries have been involved in oil exploration since 1958. The residents alleged that Royal Dutch, in cooperation with the Nigerian government, began a campaign of repression and terror after residents organized to protest and resist the exploration efforts because of its environmental effects upon the region. According to the complaint, the campaign involved the shooting and killing of Ogoni residents, attacking Ogoni villages, and beating, raping, torturing and arresting residents and destroying or looting of property by Nigerian military forces, allegedly with the aid and assistance of Royal Dutch and its affiliates.

Several Ogoni residents filed suit in a New York federal district court in 2002 under the Alien Tort Statute, which was enacted in 1789 by the First Congress and which provides federal courts with jurisdiction over “any civil action by an alien for tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” Insisting that only natural persons are subject to federal court jurisdiction under the ATS, the corporate defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case, which the district court denied. On appeal, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling, holding that corporations and other “juridical” entities, while considered “persons” under the law of the United States, are not considered persons under the ATS. However, a federal appeals court ruling in another, unrelated, case held that corporations are subject to the ATS.

In light of the conflict between the circuits, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. In weighing in on the issue, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute are urging the Supreme Court to “affirm the foundational principle that corporations are not above the rule of law and are not available as a vehicle to circumvent domestic or international laws that punish participation in egregious human rights violations.”

Ohio Reaches First Milestone in Personhood Amendment Drive

Personhood Ohio held a press conference on Friday morning at the Attorney General’s office in Columbus to announce the submission of the required number of initial petition signatures. The state of Ohio requires that at least 1,000 signatures be verified before the official citizen-led initiative drive can begin. Personhood Ohio is expected to turn in over 2,000 valid initial petition signatures.

The Ohio Personhood Amendment will define the words “person” and “men,” as used in the Ohio Constitution, to “apply to every human being at every stage of the biological development of that human being or human organism, including fertilization” irrespective of one’s age, race, gender, or disability.

“The scientific consensus is that every person’s life began at fertilization. It is not a subjective opinion, rather a verifiable fact,” said Personhood Ohio Director and Zanesville family physician Dr. Patrick Johnston. “The question for the citizens of Ohio is: Are we a people that will recognize and respect the inalienable and equal rights of every person?”

News Flash! UN Officials Wrong. No Right to Abortion. New Expert Document Issued at United Nations

Tomorrow morning at the UN press briefing room, internationally recognized scholar Professor Robert George of Princeton and former US Ambassador Grover Joseph Rees will challenge claims made by UN personnel and others that there exists an international right to abortion in international law.

As recently as a few weeks ago the UN Special Rapporteur on Health, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Secretary General have all said such a right exists. And, according to Human Rights Watch the CEDAW Committee has directed 93 countries to change their laws on abortion.

Professor George, Ambassador Rees and 30 other international experts are releasing the San Jose Articles to refute these claims and to assert the rights of the unborn child in international law.

Other signatories to the Articles include Professor John Finnis of Oxford, Professor John Haldane of the University of St. Andrews, Francisco Tatad, the former majority leader of the Philippine Senate, Javier Borrego, former Judge of the European Court of Human Rights, and Professor Carter Snead of UNESCO’s international committee on bioethics.

“The San Jose Articles were drafted by a large group of experts in law, medicine, and public policy. The Articles will support and assist those around the world who are coming under pressure from UN personnel and others who say falsely that governments are required by international law to repeal domestic laws protecting human beings in the embryonic and fetal stages of development against the violence of abortion” said Professor George.

Ambassador Grover Joseph Rees, former US Ambassador to East Timor, said, “When I was in Timor I witnessed first-hand a sustained effort by some international civil servants and representatives of foreign NGOs to bully a small developing country into repealing its pro-life laws. The problem is that people on the ground, even government officials, have little with which to refute the extravagant claim that abortion is an internationally recognized human right. The San Jose Articles are intended to help them fight back.”