Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Subjective discussion about principle Human Rights

Without a doubt the most significant right a person has is the right to life. This phrase ‘right to life’ is commonly used in abortion arguments, however, I use it in its most literal sense. The most compelling dilemma a person or group will ever have to face is the killing vs. letting die distinction. This principle has been discussed from human rights philosophers like John Locke—a social contract theorist, whom (deriving and departing from the Hobbesian view of nature) argued that legitimacy in government is gained through protected natural rights (life, liberty, etc.)—to Immanuel Kant and his discussion of human freedom in Critique of Pure Reason. With a seemingly failed attempt at war in the Middle East, exponential warfare technology, and cases of genocide, the discussion of this most basic—yet fundamental—human right is ever more important.
To show the killing vs. letting die distinction and its severe compelling ability I use the following model.
Situation 1: You are between two ponds. In pond ‘X’ there are 5 people drowning. You do not know any of these people. In pond ‘Y’ there are 10 people drowning. You do not know any of these people. Neither pond can swim. You can only save one group of people. Which do you choose? (Hold your answer for now).
Situation 2: You are riding on a train. At the end of the track there is a pond with 10 people drowning. In the middle of the train track there is a person holding the tracks together above a small canyon. You can both stop the train and save that one person holding together the tracks while the 10 people drown or you can kill him and save the 10 people drowning. Which do you choose?
It seems as if situation 1 most people would choose to save the 10 people over the 5. If only because it is more people saved and less life lost. Situation 1 seems easier to answer because in that instance the actor (you) are not killing the 5 people, but you are letting them die. Situation 2, however, is much more difficult because in order to save the 10 lives the actor must kill someone. Obviously, there is a person would experience a dilemma because his or her direct actions would kill someone.
This raises the question of when is it morally acceptable to kill or let die? What if by killing 10 people we could save 100’s or even 1,000’s? Remember the Burundi Civil War between the Hutu and Tutsi, there was no humanitarian intervention there, governments were merely just ‘letting people die’ they weren’t killing them. Some political critics believed that since the Clinton administration had lost 7-10 Green Berets—highly elite Army units—in Sudan that any more losses due to humanitarian intervention would case a domestic backlash. Remember the Kosovo conflict between the Albanians and Serbs; part of NATO’s justification for intervention was on humanitarian grounds that by killing they could ‘save more lives than were lost’. Granted, it has been debated that NATO’s intervention was so that NATO could expand their powers and possibly increase its member base, but they told the world that they were intervening on a humanitarian base, to save lives by killing.
The killing vs. letting die distinction is integrated within domestic and foreign policy. It is apparent in decisions in war and office. Perhaps, we can understand the loss of life better if we use this rational model to unveil people’s decisions to kill or let die? I’d like to know what you all think.

Bill would mandate nicer term for illegals

This article discusses one Florida State legislator who is trying to get a bill passed that would ban the term "illegal alien" in any state documents. "I personally find the word 'alien' offensive when applied to individuals, especially to children," said Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami. "An alien to me is someone from out of space." She believes it is both offensive and degrading to use refer to a person as an "alien". She preferms the term "undocumented" "They are immigrants, through no fault of their own, not aliens." What are your thoughts on this?

ICC is naming the mass murders in Darfur

The ICC is finally beginning to name names for a conflict that started on the 26th of February 2003, when the Darfur Liberation Front (DLF) claimed they attacked the headquarters of Jebel Marra District. On March 25th rebels took the town of Tine along the Chadian border around the time the Second Sudanese Civil War was ending. The rebels experienced heavy losses from air raids. On April 25th 2003, the Sudan Liberation Army and its joint partner attacked. This conflict is mainly between the Darfur region of western Sudan, mainly between the Janjaweed, and the agricultural non-Baggara people. The Darfur Peace Agreement was signed in May of 2006, but fighting still continues. Recently in January, President Al-Bashir and Bill Richardson have agreed to a cease-fire. The Save Darfur claims that they are going to try and improve humanitarian aid in Darfur. The World Health Organization has estimated over 50,000 deaths since the beginning, then—recently—the British Parliamentary Report has estimated over 300,000 deaths. Now the ICC is trying to bring some sense of justice into this abomination of human behavior.

ICC is naming the mass murders in Darfur

The ICC is finally beginning to name names for a conflict that started on the 26th of February 2003, when the Darfur Liberation Front (DLF) claimed they attacked the headquarters of Jebel Marra District. On March 25th rebels took the town of Tine along the Chadian border around the time the Second Sudanese Civil War was ending. The rebels experienced heavy losses from air raids. On April 25th 2003, the Sudan Liberation Army and its joint partner attacked. This conflict is mainly between the Darfur region of western Sudan, mainly between the Janjaweed, and the agricultural non-Baggara people. The Darfur Peace Agreement was signed in May of 2006, but fighting still continues. Recently in January, President Al-Bashir and Bill Richardson have agreed to a cease-fire. The Save Darfur claims that they are going to try and improve humanitarian aid in Darfur. The World Health Organization has estimated over 50,000 deaths since the beginning, then—recently—the British Parliamentary Report has estimated over 300,000 deaths. Now the ICC is trying to bring some sense of justice into this abomination of human behavior.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Albanian fix for Guantanamo dilemma

The article from BBC news tells how some of the detainees at Guantanamo have been accepted by Albania as refugees. The most interesting part about the article relates to the fact that most of the detainees at Guantanamo fear torture in their home countries. The State Department has maintained that it would not send people back to countries where they might face death or severe forms of torture. The problem arises when none of the countries agrees to accept the people at Guantanamo. Some of the detainees who have been cleared of charges have no place to go to. The outcome is that they have to rot in cages. The article appreciates that countries like Albania are making an effort to resettle the prisoners at Guantanamo. At the same time, it also makes a point that perhaps the US administration is being subjected to too much criticism. Yes, Guantanamo should be closed as soon as possible, but the issues discussed in the article show that it is not an easy task that can be achieved overnight. Do you guys think that the criticism over Guantanamo has been blown out of proportion?

Lifetime's Movie- Human Trafficking

There was a great movie on Lifetime this past Sunday called Human Trafficking. I wish I knew it was going to be on so I could have let our class know, I sort of just stumbled upon it. It was a 4-hour mini-series about the human trafficking in the United States. It shows how young women are manipulated into believing they will be traveling to the United States for various reasons, such as modeling, to meet a potential husband, or for work purposes. Once here they are forced into a van and enslaved. It was an excellent movie, I recommend anyone in our class to look it up and see when it will be playing again. There are some real parallels to what we are learning about in class.

'Find the Illegal Immigrant'

What happens when college students take immigration issues into their own hands, you get a campus wide man hunt in which college students pose as immigrants and hide from the other students who poses as the “Boarder Patrol”. The Event was sponsored by the NYU’s College Republicans and was planned to be held in the Washington Square Park.
The Republicans believed-- "The event will open up both vocally and physically the issue of illegal immigration," she said. "That it's not right to come here illegally while others are waiting to come here legally and receive free health care and jobs that undercut wages of American workers and people that are living here legally."
The Democrats believed- "It's the issues they address and the way they address them that seem to always be targeting fellow students and staff at NYU. It's hateful," Toiv said. "Why can't you talk about something that doesn't personally attack several students?"
I like the idea because it mixes protesting up with out attempting to harm people. And it also has a shock value that forces the issue of immigration into the papers and into the minds of people

Monday, February 26, 2007

Oprah Winfrey's Leadership School

I wanted to post about something positive and uplifting ... something that brought me to tears and something truly inspirational and touching. I hope some people watched Oprah's special tonight about her leadership school. She created an academy for underprivileged and poverty stricken girls, to receive free education from 7-12 grade... AND she promised them all she would pay for their college education. AMAZING. Some of the girls highlighted on the show had lost their mothers, their fathers, had seen people die and suffer, and some feared to walk outside their house for fear of being harassed, knifed, shot, or killed. The link takes you to her main website where you can navigate to learn more about her project. I thought her incredible gift to some very smart and special girls in South Africa was a good reminder to us all while taking this class that there are people out there, with big hearts, who are creating change and making sure that human rights are upheld.

Genocide ruling frustrates Bosnia

Bosnian Muslim leaders have voiced disappointment after the top UN court cleared Serbia of direct responsibility for genocide during the Bosnian war.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague said the massacre of 8,000 men in Srebrenica was genocide, but Belgrade was not directly responsible.

But it said Serbia broke international law by failing to stop the killings.

Serbia's president acknowledged the ruling, and urged parliament to condemn the Srebrenica massacre.

The case was the first of a state being charged with genocide. Individuals have been convicted of genocide in Bosnia.

At least 100,000 people died in the 1992-1995 war, triggered by the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. Bosnia's Muslims and Croats wanted to cut ties with Belgrade, a move opposed by Bosnian Serbs.

No reparations

The case, Bosnia and Herzegovina versus Serbia and Montenegro, began a year ago.


It is very important that the parliament adopts a declaration which will clearly condemn the crime committed in Srebrenica
Serbian President Boris Tadic
Bosnia argued that Belgrade incited ethnic hatred, armed Bosnian Serbs and was an active participant in the killings.
Belgrade said the conflict was an internal war between Bosnia's ethnic groups and denied any state role in genocide.

In the ruling, the president of the court, Judge Rosalyn Higgins, said: "The court finds that the acts of genocide at Srebrenica cannot be attributed to the respondent's (Serbia) state organs."

However the court added that the leaders of Serbia failed to comply with its international obligation to prevent the killings and punish hose responsible.

The court also rejected Bosnia's claim for reparations.

"Financial compensation is not the appropriate form of reparation," the ruling said.

The war crimes tribunal in The Hague has already found individuals guilty of genocide in Bosnia and established the Srebrenica massacre as genocide.

Stalled talks

The BBC's Nicholas Walton in Sarajevo says many Bosnian Muslims were hoping for a clear ruling that Serbia as a state was responsible for pursuing a genocide in Bosnia during the 1990s.


HAVE YOUR SAY
I don't understand why the country should be held accountable
Peter, Toronto
The Bosnian Muslim member of the country's tripartite presidency, Haris Silajdzic, told the BBC there was "disappointment" at the outcome.

However he welcomed the fact that the court had "ruled that Serbia and Montenegro had violated the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide by not preventing or punishing the perpetrators of the genocide".

In the Serb Republic, Krstan Simic, a senior member of the governing ruling Union of Independent Social-Democrats, said he was pleased that the judges had taken "real facts " into account.

In Serbia itself, President Boris Tadic urged parliament to pass a declaration "condemning the crime in Srebrenica without any doubt".

The German presidency of the European Union urged Serbia "to use today's judgment as a further opportunity to distance itself from the crimes committed by the Milosevic regime".

The ruling comes with Serbia still facing challenges linked to the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

Admission talks with the EU have been stalled over Belgrade's failure to hand over war crimes suspects for trial.

It is easy to sympathize with the Bosnian Muslims seeing the death toll of the ordeal and the hardships endured. How can the Government not be held responsible for events of Genocide within their borders? Genocide is one the worst types of violence and exhibits the worst qualities of mankind. As leading officials of a nation, it is not only your job, but also one’s duty to protect the lives of those who you reside over. Ethnic and religious differences leading to violence have long plagued the world’s history and have been at the heart of much of the conflict of the past, present, and will be in the future. It is our job to prevent such atrocities and punish those who condone them. I take the decision of the United Nations Court, not condoning the action, but not taking the proper measures to punish those who allowed it to happen. The human right violations in Bosnian from 1993 through to 1995 caused international action, with the United Nations spearheading the operation. This is the type of resolve always needs to be taken to put a stop to the violence and needless deprivation of life throughout the world.

Australia Blocks Asylum Seekers....

It seems that Australia has begun to close down their borders in a similar fashion to the United States. The Australian Navy intercepted a boat with 85 passengers who claimed to be from Sri Lanka, but many of whom turned out to be from Indonesia. The Prime Minister, John Howard, has won 4 consecutive elections with his hard stance against illegal immigration. Howard won't allow these passengers to get to Australia. He has put them in a detention center just off the coast of Australia. It seems that everyone from third world countries wants to seek a better life, but is that really possible? Can anything truly be done about the world issue of poverty and discrimination? What is the proper thing to do in this situation-can you just let everyone in who comes to the boarders? It is a terrible situation for a government to turn people down, but is there anything that can actually be done?
These are some difficult questions because we are so privileged and lucky to be in the situations we currently are in. It is something I struggle with daily when I think about the lives of these people who have nothing. They don't even have the freedom to come to another country and seek a better life because the boarders aren't open with welcoming arms. It is truly a terrible situation, but I ask again, is there anything we can truly do but to make people aware of what is going on?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Two groups compare immigration detention centers to prisons

This is an article from the New York Times that speaks to a similar cause as the last post. A report prepared by the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services states that women at the Hutto center in Texas received inadequate prenatal care and that children received only one hour of schooling a day. At both centers, children as young as 6 were separated from their parents, and separation of families and the threats of separation were used as disciplinary tools.

The study praised the Berks center for providing adequate educational opportunities and allowing families to participate in field trips and outdoor recreation time. But it says both centers are modeled on prisons, even though they hold people who are fleeing persecution or stand accused of violating civil immigration laws, not criminal codes.

This brings us to an important question: how do we think the government should draw a distinction between immigration detainees (who may or may not have criminal charges against them) and criminals? Do we even think drawing this distinction is necessary?