Category Archives: Right to equal treatment

The nuts and bolts of racial discrimination, Zionist style

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2015/May-11/297484-israels-west-bank-housing-policy-by-numbers.ashx

Israel’s West Bank housing policy by numbers

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Since seizing the West Bank in 1967, Israel has held full control over all planning matters for both Palestinians and Jewish settlers in an area covering over 60 percent of the territory.

Although settlers can secure building permits with ease, the opposite applies for Palestinians who are forced to build illegally, with Israel bulldozing hundreds of such structures every year, rights groups say.

Villages vs. settlements Over 60 percent – around 360,000 hectares – of the West Bank is classified as Area C, which Israel aims to retain under any final settlement. This is where Israel has full control over security and also civilian affairs which are managed by the Civil Administration.

U.N. figures show there are an estimated 298,000 Palestinians living in Area C, in 532 residential areas. There are also 341,000 Israelis living in 135 settlements and 100 or so unauthorized outposts.

Less than 1 percent of Area C is designated for Palestinian development, compared to 70 percent which falls within the domain of local settlements, the U.N. says. Palestinian construction in the rest of Area C is subject to severe restrictions and almost impossible to carry out.

Demolition orders vs. permitsSince the 1993 Oslo autonomy accords were signed, Israel has issued more than 14,600 demolition orders, according to Israeli planning rights watchdog Bimkom.

So far, about 2,925 structures have actually been demolished.

Bimkom architect Alon Cohen Lifschitz estimates there are an average of two structures per order, meaning that over the past two decades, Israel has issued demolition notices to nearly 30,000 Palestinian-owned structures.

Last year, Israel issued 911 demolition orders on grounds of a lack of building permits. There are currently more than 9,100 outstanding demolition orders which can be implemented, Bimkom says.

Structures can include anything from a house to an animal shed, a road or fence, foundations, infrastructure, cisterns, cemeteries and solar panels. Since 1996, Israel has granted only a few hundred building permits for Palestinian structures.

According to Amnesty International, there were 76 building permits issued to Palestinians between 1996 and 1999. And from 2000-2014, only 206 building permits were issued, Bimkom says. In 2014, Israel granted a single permit.

Two-tier planning system

In Area C, a two-tier planning system operates based on ethnic-national background: a civil and representative system for Jewish settlers, and a military system without representation for Palestinians, Israeli NGO Rabbis for Human Rights says.

In planning for Palestinian villages, the objectives are to limit land use and encourage dense construction, whereas in the settlements, the trend is often the opposite – to include as much area as possible, producing low density, it says.

The quantum mechanics of Israeli totalitarianism

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/05/quantum-mechanics-israeli-totalitarianism-150507072609153.html

The quantum mechanics of Israeli totalitarianism

To understand how it feels to be a Palestinian, you need to think like a particle physicist, not a social scientist.

Mark LeVine, Al Jazeera, 7 May 2015

With the coalition government formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu easily the most ultranationalist and conservative government in Israel’s history, even the most cockeyed optimist would shrink from imagining that Oslo can still be revived, if only the right treatment were concocted.

The problem today is not that anyone but the most self-interested Israeli, Palestinian or US officials still pretends that the peace process is functioning. Rather, it’s that hardly anyone in a position of power can explain precisely when, how and especially why it died. To do so requires moving far more deeply into the dynamics of the endlessly troubled peace process than most policy-makers or commentators are willing to delve, into what I term the “quantum mechanics” underlying Oslo’s fatally flawed structures.

Israel has long claimed uniquely democratic credentials in a region besot with authoritarian regimes.

The unending occupation, the sheer chutzpah with which the Israeli government continues to expand its presence in the West Bank while sieging Gaza, the escalating protests by minorities inside the country’s 1967 borders, and the composition of the new government, all put the lie to such claims today.

Matrix of control

What’s still poorly understood by most non-Palestinians is just how deep the level of control has long been. Even if you’ve spent decades travelling through the West Bank and Gaza, the intensity of that control remains hard to grasp.

As I walked through the Jordan Valley last month near the front-line village of Fasayel, I began to understand how one reason why it’s been so difficult to explain the intensity and all-encompassing scope of Israel’s “matrix of control” over the Occupied Territories is that even its critics don’t use strong enough language to describe it.

Israel is not just an “occupier” or a “coloniser”. However democratic it may (or may not) be inside its 1967 borders, in the Occupied Territories Israel’s rule is nothing short of totalitarian.

In calling Israeli rule totalitarian, I am not arguing that the government mimics the worst policies of thought control and ideological purism practised by the 20th century’s Fascist and Communist states such as Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia or Maoist China (although Israel’s constant harassment and imprisonment of Palestinian activists does reflect a desire to control how Palestinians think and act, at least publicly).

Rather, I’m talking about a much deeper level of control, at what can only be described as the quantum level of Palestinian daily life.

To understand how it feels to live as a Palestinian today you need to think like a particle physicist, not a social scientist. Moving through the space of Israel/Palestine involves negotiating a host of forces that the average Palestinian has about as much control over as the average electron or proton does of the nuclear and quantum forces determining its path. And it’s through this near total control of the space that Israel is able, in George Orwell’s description of totalitarianism, to “control the past as well as the future”.

Israeli geographer Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) coined the “matrix of control” to describe these forces. The name evokes numerous overlapping layers of control, including the physical infrastructure of settlements and their security corridors and zones, bypass roads, closed military areas and even “nature reserves”. The matrix also includes the bureaucratic and legal/planning levels, and the use of large-scale violence and imprisonment to control people’s behaviour and movement.

With its matrix of control, Israel has achieved an unparalleled and uniquely successful synergy of “bio” and “necro”-politics, controlling life and death at most every scale of Palestinian existence. The matrix is continuously adjusted with as much care as Israel has adjusted the caloric intake of Gazans during its periodic intensifications of the Gazan siege.

Three, four and five dimensions

A look at the group of detailed maps created by ICAHD reveals upwards of two dozen parameters of control that can intersect at any given coordinate on the map. But the map is only a two dimensional representation of a multidimensional and multi-levelled reality. It’s not just various forces meeting on the ground. When you’re walking through the 97 percent of the West Bank that is in Areas B or C and thus under Israel security control, you realise that the matrix extends both under the ground you’re walking on and above your head.

Below ground, Israel controls all the water resources in the West Bank, and for 50 years has systematically taken most every possible well, stream, aquifer or other water source from Palestinians (in direct violation of international law, it must be remembered).

It also controls the airspace above Palestinians’ heads, as the constant buzz of Israeli fighter jets training overhead in the Jordan Valley, and the ubiquitous presence of drones and helicopters almost everywhere at any time, and the prohibitions on building new floors on existing structures makes clear.

In whatever direction Palestinians look or want to step or reach – left or right, forwards or backwards, above or below them – the land, air and water surrounding them is largely outside their permanent control.

Blink of an eye

But it is not just that most of their territory is out of Palestinian hands. The quantum physics of Israel’s matrix of control also has its own Heisenberg, or uncertainty principle.

In quantum mechanics this principle asserts that it is impossible to know with precision the exact state of a particle because the very act of observing it changes its state. In the same way, merely by changing their location Palestinians change the state of territory upon which they are moving.

On the one hand, despite the rockiness of the landscape, the geography of the West Bank can be among the most liquid on earth. It changes as one moves through it, depending on who you are – Jew or Palestinian, settler or refusnik, soldier or international. Spaces that seems open and free can suddenly be surrounded by military forces and closed off, declared off limits for any length of time for a variety of reasons merely because Palestinians moved into and through it or used it for grazing, water, or other normal activities.

Moreover, their very movement through the geography can change it not just for a moment, but permanently. At the same time, the uncertainty principle can also operate with a time lag. If Palestinians decide to walk through a Jordan Valley village, for example, or to plant trees on their land in the hills around Hebron or Jenin, it’s not at all uncommon for the Israeli military to issue demolition or confiscation orders a few days later.

In particular, the movement of Jews has an even more profound effect than Palestinians especially when establishing an outpost or settlement. Once land is claimed even on the flimsiest of pretexts the military usually moves in and declares a still larger area a security zone, making it impossible for Palestinians to access the land for months, years or even decades.

And so, it seems that land in Palestine can change states from liquid to solid almost instantly, freezing in place whatever Israel decides it wants frozen, from people to legal categories. The quantum physics of Palestinian geography can thus produce permanent changes not just in the three normal dimensions of space, but in the conflict’s “fourth dimension” as well, namely time.

But however many dimensions one considers, the goal remains the same: to achieve, in the words of the Palestinian-Israeli hip-hop group DAM, “Maximum Jews on maximum land; minimum Arabs on minimum land.”

Neoliberal policies

There is even a fifth, economic dimension in which the physics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict operates. The neoliberal policies imposed on the Occupied Territories under Oslo have ensured that when Palestinians aren’t being displaced by Israeli settlers or bombs, they are fixed in place as objects of development, whose economic life is confined to small spaces that remain largely under Israeli control. The possibility of their becoming subjects able to shape their own destinies is, it seems, outside the laws of physics operating in the Holy Land.

It is the changeling nature of the political, physical and economic geographies of the Israeli-controlled Occupied Territories that has made it so difficult for Palestinians and their supporters internationally (including in Israel) to develop effective strategies of resistance, nevermind transcending the occupation.

With Oslo’s final demise, Palestinians don’t just need new strategies for resisting an occupation without end; what’s needed is an entirely new physics as well.

Indeed, it has long been argued that Palestinians are still waiting for their Ghandi. It might well turn out that to overcome decades of totalitarian Israeli rule, a long-dead peace process, and ineptitude, corruption and authoritarianism internally, Einstein would be a far more useful figure.

Mark LeVine is a professor of Middle Eastern History at University of California, Irvine, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lund University.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
 
Source: Al Jazeera

Israeli blood-hounds try to muzzle Palestinian MP

http://electronicintifada.net/content/israel-moves-outlaw-palestinian-political-parties-knesset/13998

Israel moves to outlaw Palestinian political parties in the Knesset
Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, Nazareth
4 November 2014

The Israeli parliament voted overwhelmingly last week to suspend Haneen Zoabi, a legislator representing the state’s large Palestinian minority, for six months as a campaign to silence political dissent intensified.

The Israeli parliament, or Knesset, voted by 68 to 16 to endorse a decision in late July by its ethics committee to bar Zoabi from the chamber for what it termed “incitement.”

It is the longest suspension in the Knesset’s history and the maximum punishment allowed under Israeli law.

At a press conference, Zoabi denounced her treatment as “political persecution.”

“By distancing me from the Knesset, basically they’re saying they don’t want Arabs, and only want ‘good Arabs.’ We won’t be ‘good Arabs,’” she said.

The Knesset’s confirmation of Zoabi’s suspension comes as she faces a criminal trial for incitement in a separate case and as the Knesset considers stripping her of citizenship.

But Zoabi is not the only Palestinian representative in the firing line. Earlier this year the Knesset raised the threshold for election to the parliament, in what has been widely interpreted as an attempt to exclude all three small parties representing the Palestinian minority. One in five citizens of Israel belong to the minority.

In addition, it emerged last week that a bill is being prepared to outlaw the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, the only extra-parliamentary party widely supported by Palestinian citizens.

Along with Zoabi, the Islamic Movement’s leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, has been among the most vocal critics of Israeli policies, especially over the al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem.

Death threats

Zoabi was originally suspended after legislators from all the main parties expressed outrage at a series of comments from her criticizing both the build-up to Israel’s summer assault on Gaza, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” and the 51-day attack itself, which left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians.

In particular, fellow members of Knesset were incensed by a radio interview in which she expressed her disapproval of the kidnapping of three Israeli youths in the occupied West Bank, but refused to denounce those behind it as “terrorists.” The youths were later found murdered.

Zoabi faced a wave of death threats and needed to be assigned a bodyguard for public appearances.

During the Knesset debate on her appeal against the suspension, Zoabi said: “Yes, I crossed the lines of consensus — a warlike, aggressive, racist, populist, chauvinist, arrogant consensus. I must cross those lines. I am no Zionist, and that is within my legal right.”

Under attack

Zoabi, who has come to personify an unofficial political opposition in the Knesset against all the main parties, is under attack on several fronts.

Last week she was informed that the state prosecution service had approved a police recommendation to put her on trial for criminal incitement for “humiliating” two policemen.

She is alleged to have referred to the policemen, who are members of the Palestinian minority, as “collaborators” as she addressed parents of children swept up in mass arrests following protests against the Israeli assault on Gaza over the summer.

Faina Kirschenbaum, the deputy interior minister in the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, has also drafted two bills directly targeting Zoabi.

The first would strip someone of the right to stand for the Knesset if they are found to have supported “an act of terrorism,” while the second would strip them of their citizenship.

Because ministers are not allowed to initiate private bills, the task of bringing the measures to the floor of the parliament has been taken up by the Knesset’s Law, Constitution and Justice Committee.

Intentional subversions

Zoabi further infuriated fellow members of Knesset this month when she compared the Israeli army to the Islamic State, the jihadist group that has violently taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq and has become notorious for kidnapping westerners and beheading them.

In an apparently intentional subversion of Netanyahu’s recent comparison of the Islamic State and Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement, Zoabi described an Israeli Air Force pilot as “no less a terrorist than a person who takes a knife and commits a beheading.” She added that “both are armies of murderers, they have no boundaries and no red lines.”

Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, was among those who responded by calling Zoabi a “terrorist.”

“The law must be used to put the terrorist — there is no other word for it — the terrorist Haneen Zoabi in jail for many years,” he told Israel Radio.

A poll this month found that 85 percent of the Israeli Jewish public wanted Zoabi removed from the Knesset.

“There is a great deal of frustration among Israeli politicians and the public at their army’s failure to defeat the Palestinian resistance in Gaza,” said Awad Abdel Fattah, the secretary general of Balad, a political party representing Palestinians in Israel. “At times like this, the atmosphere of repression intensifies domestically.”

Silencing all political dissent

The initiatives against Zoabi are the most visible aspects of a wider campaign to silence all political dissent from the Palestinian minority.

Last week, Lieberman instructed one of his members of Knesset, Alex Miller, to initiate a bill that would outlaw Salah’s Islamic Movement.

The legislation appears to be designed to hold Netanyahu to his word from late May. Then, the Israeli media revealed that the prime minister had created a ministerial team to consider ways to ban the movement.

At the same time, the Israeli security services claimed that Salah’s faction was cooperating closely with Hamas in Jerusalem.

After Israel barred the Palestinian Authority from having any presence in Jerusalem more than a decade ago and expelled Hamas legislators from the city, Salah has become the face of Palestinian political activism in Jerusalem.

Under the campaign slogan “al-Aqsa is in danger,” he has taken a leading role in warning that Israel is incrementally taking control of the most sensitive holy site in the conflict.

Last month it emerged that the Knesset is to vote on legislation to give Jewish religious extremists greater access to the mosque compound. Already large numbers of Jews, many of them settlers, regularly venture on to esplanade backed by armed Israeli police.

They include Jewish extremists that expressly want to blow up the al-Aqsa mosque so that a replica of a Jewish temple from 2,000 years ago can be built in its place.

Last week, Yehuda Glick, a leader of one of these extremist groups, was shot and wounded in Jerusalem. In response, Israel shut down al-Aqsa for the first time since the outbreak of the second intifada fourteen years ago. Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, called it a “declaration of war.”

According to the text of Lieberman’s bill, the northern wing of the Islamic Movement “subverts the State of Israel’s sovereignty while making cynical use of the institutions and fundamental values of the Jewish and democratic state.”

It also blames the movement for “an eruption of violence and unrest among the Arab minority in Israel, while maintaining close relations with the terrorist organization Hamas.”

Raising the threshold

The attacks on Zoabi and the Islamic Movement come in the wake of legislation in March to raise the electoral threshold — from 2 percent to 3.25 percent — for a party to win representation in the Knesset.

The new threshold is widely seen as having been set to exclude the three Palestinian parties currently in the Knesset from representation. The minority’s vote is split almost evenly between three political streams.

Zoabi’s Balad party emphasizes the need for the Palestinian minority to build its own national institutions, especially in education and culture, to withstand the efforts of Israel’s Zionist institutions to strip Palestinian citizens of their rights and erase their identity. Its chief demand has been for “a state for all its citizens” — equal rights for Jewish and Palestinian citizens.

Balad’s chief rival is the joint Jewish-Arab party of Hadash, whose Communist ideology puts a premium on a shared program of action between Jewish and Arab citizens. However, its Jewish supporters have shrunk to a tiny proportion of the party. It too campaigns for equal rights.

And the final party, Raam-Taal, is a coalition led by prominent Islamic politicians.

The three parties have between them eleven seats in the 120-member Knesset, with one held by a Jewish member of Knesset, Dov Chenin, for Hadash.

Abdel Fattah said his Balad party had been urging the other parties to create a coalition in time for the next general election to overcome the new threshold.

So far it has faced opposition from Hadash, which is worried that an alliance with Balad would damage its image as a joint Jewish-Arab party. A source in Hadash told Israeli daily Haaretz in late September: “Hadash is not an Arab party, and there’s no reason it should unite with two Arab parties.”

Abdel Fattah said Hadash’s objections were unreasonable given that both Balad and the Islamic faction believed it was important to include Jewish candidates on a unified list. “Eventually they will have to come round to a joint list unless they want to commit political suicide,” he remarked.

Falling turnout

Balad has been under threat at previous general elections. The Central Elections Committee, a body representing the major political parties, has repeatedly voted to ban it from running. Each time the decision has been overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court.

In 2007 the party’s former chairman, Azmi Bishara, was accused of treason while traveling abroad and has been living in exile ever since.

But the representation of all the parties is now in danger from the raised threshold. Over the past thirty years, turnout among Palestinian citizens has dramatically fallen to little more than half of potential voters, as the minority has seen its political demands for equality greeted with a wave of laws entrenching discrimination.

Among the anti-democratic measures passed in recent years are laws that penalize organizations commemorating the Nakba, the Palestinians’ dispossession of their homeland in 1948; that provide a statutory basis to admissions committees, whose function is to prevent Palestinian citizens living on most of Israel’s territory; and that make it impossible for most Palestinian citizens to bring a Palestinian spouse to live with them in Israel.

Uncompromising stance

Last week, Balad MKs boycotted the opening ceremony of the Knesset, following the summer recess, in protest at Zoabi’s treatment.

At a press conference in the parliament, her colleague, Basel Ghattas, warned: “The day is approaching when Arab MKs will think there is no use participating in the political sphere. We are discovering more and more that we are personae non gratae at the Knesset.”

On Facebook, Lieberman responded that he hoped the Arab MKs would “carry out this ‘threat’ as soon as possible.”

The increasingly uncompromising stance towards all the Palestinian minority’s political factions marks a shift in policy, even for the right.

Although no Israeli government coalition has ever included a Palestinian party, and the Nasserist al-Ard movement was banned in the 1960s, Jewish politicians have generally viewed it as safer to keep the Palestinian parties inside the Knesset.

Analyst Uzi Baram observed in Haaretz that even Menachem Begin, a former hardline prime minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party, believed it would be unwise to raise the threshold to keep out Arab parties. If they were excluded, Baram wrote, it was feared “they would resort to non-parliamentary actions.”

“Paving the way toward fascism”

Zoabi petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court against her suspension from the Knesset in early October. However, the judges suggested she first use an arcane appeal procedure before the Knesset’s full plenum to demonstrate she had exhausted all available channels for lifting the suspension.

Israeli legal scholars have noted the irregularities in the ethics committee’s decision to impose a record-long suspension on Zoabi. The committee’s task is to regulate parliament members’ behavior inside the Knesset, not political speech outside it.

Aeyal Gross, a constitutional law professor at Tel Aviv University, warned that the Knesset’s treatment of Zoabi was “paving the way towards fascism and tyranny.”

Gross noted the extreme severity of the committee’s punishment of Zoabi, contrasting it with that of another MK, Aryeh Eldad. In 2008 he called for Ehud Olmert, the prime minister at the time, to be sentenced to death for suggesting that parts of the occupied territories become a Palestinian state.

Eldad was suspended for just one day, even though it was a clear example of incitement to violence in a country where a former prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was murdered by a right-wing extremist, citing similar justification for his actions.

Tyranny of the majority

The Supreme Court, which has shifted rightwards in recent years, may not be sympathetic to Zoabi’s appeal against her suspension.

In September the court jailed Said Nafaa, a former MK from her Balad party, for one year after he was convicted of visiting Syria in 2007 with a delegation of Druze clerics and meeting a Palestinian faction leader in Syria.

The crime of making contact with a foreign agent is the only one in Israeli law in which the defendant must prove their innocence.

The court may also be wary of making unpopular rulings at a time when it is under concerted attack from the Israeli right for being too liberal.

Ayelet Shaked, of the settler Jewish Home party, which is in the government coalition, has introduced a bill that would allow a simple majority of the Knesset to vote to override Supreme Court rulings.

Human rights lawyers warned that the bill would further erode already limited protections for minority rights.

Debbie Gild-Hayo, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, warned that protections for minorities from the tyranny of the majority would be in severe jeopardy as a result. “These proposals wish to break down the checks and balances that are fundamental to democracy,” she said.

Zoabi remained defiant. She noted that, while she was being hounded, the legal authorities had ignored genocidal remarks made by Jewish politicians against Palestinians during the summer attack on Gaza.

“They’re putting me on trial over a trivial, meaningless matter, while ministers and MKs who incited to racism and incited to violence and even to murder aren’t being investigated, even after complaints were filed against them.”

She added: “If I am indicted, I’ll turn the hearings into the most political trial in Israel’s history.”


Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilizations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is jonathan-cook.net.

Discrimination of children because of parents (Egypt)

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/21/egypt-judicial-authorities-prosecutors-classism-parents-university-education

Egypt in classism row over prosecutors sacked because parents had no degrees
Officials refuse to reinstate 138 prosecutors sacked last year because their parents did not attend university

Patrick Kingsley
The Guardian, Tuesday 21 October 2014

The excluded prosecutors have asked for the intervention of Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, whose parents lacked a university education. Photograph: Reuters

Fresh concerns have been raised about Egypt’s judicial system, after officials refused to reinstate dozens of young prosecutors who were sacked because their parents lacked a university education.

Just months after they were appointed, 138 new prosecutors were removed from office in September 2013 following a ruling from the judiciary’s governing body that said only those born to parents with undergraduate degrees could join the state prosecution.

The sacked prosecutors – mostly law graduates who left university last summer – accuse the judiciary of classism, and of infringing both Egypt’s constitution, which bans discrimination, as well as international labour laws. A year on, after failing to overturn the decision in the courts, they have asked for the intervention of the president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, whose parents did not attend university.

The deadlock is “a disaster to social justice”, Mohamed Kamal-Eddin, one of the excluded prosecutors, told Ahram Online, the English-language version of Egypt’s flagship state newspaper. “This condition is a punishment to the parents for not having received university education. Judges are supposed to be the guards of justice. It is absurd that they decide such a condition.’’

The justice ministry declined to comment when contacted by the Guardian. So did two spokesmen for the 138 prosecutors, saying the issue was an exclusively Egyptian matter that should not interest foreign media.

Speaking on Egyptian television, a senior judge and former member of the board that banned the prosecutors said the decision was aimed at upholding the quality of the judiciary. “We have nothing against the job of garbage collectors, but their sons belong in other fields than the judiciary, because it’s a sensitive job,” said Justice Ahmed Abdelrahman.

The conflict is the latest in a string of cases to overshadow Egypt’s legal system in recent months, including the politicised trial of three al-Jazeera journalists jailed in June.

Egypt’s judiciary has been criticised for allowing what amounts to the arbitrary detention of tens of thousands of political prisoners, hundreds of whom are held in a secret prison north-east of Cairo. In one notorious case, hundreds were sentenced to death in a single day this April, in two consecutive court cases that lasted just two sessions each.

“The trials themselves are a death sentence to any remaining credibility and independence of Egypt’s criminal justice system,” said Amnesty’s Egypt researcher, Mohamed el-Messiry, at the time.

Egypt’s government insists that its judiciary is independent and impartial, and that the country is governed by the rule of law.

Palestinian Children Tortured, Used As Shields By Israel, UN Says

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/palestinian-children-tortured-used-as-shields-israel-un_n_3471009.html

Palestinian Children Tortured, Used As Shields By Israel, UN Says

06/20/2013
By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, June 20 (Reuters) – A United Nations human rights body accused Israeli forces on Thursday of mistreating Palestinian children, including by torturing those in custody and using others as human shields.

Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, are routinely denied registration of their birth and access to health care, decent schools and clean water, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said.

“Palestinian children arrested by (Israeli) military and police are systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture, are interrogated in Hebrew, a language they did not understand, and sign confessions in Hebrew in order to be released,” it said in a report.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it had responded to a report by the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF in March on ill-treatment of Palestinian minors and questioned whether the U.N. committee’s investigation covered new ground.

“If someone simply wants to magnify their political bias and political bashing of Israel not based on a new report, on work on the ground, but simply recycling old stuff, there is no importance in that,” spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

Kirsten Sandberg, a Norwegian expert who chairs the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, said the report was based on facts, not on the political opinions of its members.

“We look at what violations of children’s rights are going on within Israeli jurisdiction,” she told Reuters.

She said Israel did not acknowledge that it had jurisdiction in the occupied territories, but the committee believed it does, meaning it has a responsibility to comply with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The report by its 18 independent experts acknowledged Israel’s national security concerns and noted that children on both sides of the conflict continue to be killed and wounded, but that more casualties are Palestinian.

Most Palestinian children arrested are accused of throwing stones, which can carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, the committee said.

The watchdog examined Israel’s record of compliance with the children’s rights convention as part of its regular review of the pact from 1990 signed by 193 countries, including Israel. An Israeli delegation attended the session.

The U.N. committee regretted what it called Israel’s persistent refusal to respond to requests for information on children in the Palestinian territories and occupied Syrian Golan Heights since the last review in 2002.

“DISPROPORTIONATE”

“Hundreds of Palestinian children have been killed and thousands injured over the reporting period as a result of (Israeli) military operations, especially in Gaza,” the report said.

Israel battled a Palestinian uprising during part of the 10-year period examined by the committee.

It withdrew its troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but still blockades the Hamas-run enclave, from where Palestinian militants have sometimes fired rockets into Israel.

During the 10-year period, an estimated 7,000 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17, but some as young as nine, had been arrested, interrogated and detained, the U.N. report said.

Many are brought in leg chains and shackles before military courts, while youths are held in solitary confinement, sometimes for months, the report said.

It voiced deep concern at the “continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants”, saying 14 such cases had been reported between January 2010 and March 2013 alone.

Israeli soldiers had used Palestinian children to enter potentially dangerous buildings before them and to stand in front of military vehicles to deter stone-throwing, it said.

Almost all had remained unpunished or had received lenient sentences, according to the report.

Sandberg, asked about Israeli use of human shields, said: “It has been done more than they would recognise during the dialogue. They say if it happens it is sanctioned. We say it is not harsh enough.” (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Allyn Fisher-Ilan in Jerusalem; editing by Alistair Lyon and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Racism is the Foundation of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge

http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/18732/racism-is-the-foundation-of-israels-operation-prot

Racism is the Foundation of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge
Jul 30 2014, by Joel Beinin

On 30 June Ayelet Shaked, chairwoman of the Knesset faction of the ultra-right wing ha-Bayit ha-Yehudi (Jewish Home) Party, a key member of the coalition government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, posted on her Facebook page a previously unpublished article written by the late Uri Elitzur. Elitzur, a pro-settler journalist and former chief-of-staff to Netanyahu, wrote:

Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism… They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now, this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They must follow their sons. Nothing would be more just. They should go, as well as the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.

Shaked’s post appeared the day the bodies of three abducted settler teens­—Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach—were discovered. It has since received more than 5,200 “likes.”

For over two weeks, Netanyahu and the media whipped the country into a hysterical state, accusing Hamas of responsibility for abducting the teens without providing evidence to support the claim and promoting hopes that they would be found alive, although the government knew that the boys were likely murdered within minutes of their abduction. Their deaths provided a pretext for more violent expressions of Israeli anti-Arab racism than ever before.

The viciousness of Mordechai Kedar, lecturer in Arabic literature at Bar Ilan University, was even more creative than Shaked and Elitzur’s merely genocidal proposal. “The only thing that can deter terrorists like those who kidnapped the children and killed them,” he said, “is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped.” As a university-based “expert,” Kedar’s heinous suggestion is based on his “understanding” of Arab culture. “It sounds very bad, but that’s the Middle East,” he explained, hastening to add, “I’m not talking about what we should or shouldn’t do. I’m talking about the facts.”

Racism has become a legitimate, indeed an integral, component of Israeli public culture, making assertions like these seem “normal.” The public devaluation of Arab life enables a society that sees itself as “enlightened” and “democratic” to repeatedly send its army to slaughter the largely defenseless population of the Gaza Strip—1.8 million people, mostly descendants of refugees who arrived during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and have been, to a greater or lesser extent, imprisoned since 1994.

Conciliatory gestures, on the other hand, are scorned. Just two days after Shaked’s Facebook post, Orthodox Jews kidnapped sixteen-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir from the Shu‘afat neighborhood of East Jerusalem and burned him alive in the Jerusalem Forest. Amir Peretz (Hatnua) was the only government minister to visit the grieving family. For this effort he received dozens of posts on his Facebook page threatening to kill him and his family. Meanwhile, vandals twice destroyed memorials erected to Abu Khdeir on the spot of his immolation.

The international community typically sees the manifestations of Israel’s violent racism only when they erupt as assaults on the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, or Lebanon. But Israel’s increasingly poisonous anti-Arab and anti-Muslim public culture prepares the ground of domestic public opinion long before any military operation and immunizes the army from most criticism of its “excesses.” Moreover, Israeli anti-democratic and racist sentiment is increasingly directed against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise twenty percent of the population.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beytenu (Israel Is Our Home) Party made his political reputation on the slogan “No Loyalty, No Citizenship”—a demand that Palestinian Israelis swear loyalty oaths as a condition of retaining their citizenship. Since 2004 Lieberman has also advocated “transferring” Palestinian-Israelis residing in the Triangle region to a future Palestinian state, while annexing most West Bank settlements to Israel. In November 2011 Haaretz published a partial list of ten “loyalty-citizenship” bills in various stages of legislation designed to “determine certain citizens’ rights according to their ‘loyalty’ to the state.”

While Lieberman and other MKs pursue legal channels to legally undermine the citizenship of Palestinian-Israelis, their civil rights are already in serious danger. In 2010 eighteen local rabbis warned that the Galilee town of Safed faced an “Arab takeover” and instructed Jewish residents to inform on and boycott Jews who sold or rented dwellings to Arabs. In addition to promoting segregated housing, Safed’s Chief Rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, tried to ban Arab students from attending Safed Academic College (about 1,300 Palestinian-Israelis are enrolled, some of whom live in Safed). The rabbinical statement incited rampages by religious Jews chanting “Death to the Arabs,” leading Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy to dub Safed “the most racist city” in Israel. In Karmiel and Upper Nazareth—towns established as part of Israel’s campaign to “Judaize the Galilee”—elected officials have led similar campaigns.

Palestinian Israeli Knesset members receive regular verbal abuse from their Jewish “colleagues.” For example, Hanin Zoabi (National Democratic Alliance), who participated in the 2010 Freedom Flotilla to the Gaza Strip, which Israeli naval commandos attacked, killing nine Turks (one of whom also held US citizenship), has been particularly targeted. In the verbal sparring over the murder of the three teens Foreign Minister Lieberman called her a “terrorist.” Not to be outdone, Miri Regev (Likud) said Zoabi should be “expelled to Gaza and stripped of her [Knesset] immunity.” Other Knesset members—some from putatively “liberal” parties—piled on. [Update: Yesterday—29 July—Hanin Zoabi was suspended from Knesset].

Violence against Arabs in and around Israeli-annexed “Greater Jerusalem” is particularly intense. Much of it is the work of Orthodox Jews. The Jewish Defense League, banned in Israel in 1994 and designated a terrorist organization by the FBI in 2001, and several similar groups regularly assault and harass Arabs. The day of the funeral of the three abducted teens, some two hundred Israelis rampaged through the streets of Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs.” The previous evening, hardcore fans of the Betar Jerusalem football club, known as La Familia, rallied chanting, “Death to the Arabs.”  The same chant is frequently heard at games of the team, which is associated with the Likud and does not hire Arab players. Hate marches, beatings and shootings of Arabs, and destruction of their property, long common in the West Bank, have become regular events in Israel-proper in the last month.

The citizenship-loyalty bills, Safed’s designation as “the most racist city,” the attacks volleyed at Palestinian elected officials, and mob violence against Arabs all took place before Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on 8 July. The operation—more aggressively dubbed “Firm Cliff” in Hebrew—constitutes Israel’s third assault on the Gaza Strip since 2008. As of yesterday, 29 July, the Palestinian death toll in that operation has reached over 1,200, the great majority of them civilians. Thirty-two Israeli soldiers and three civilians have also died. Israeli security officials sardonically call these operations “mowing the lawn” because well-informed observers know that Hamas cannot be uprooted and is capable of rebuilding its military capacity. There is no long-term strategy, except, as Gideon Levy put it, to kill Palestinians. Major General (res.) Oren Shachor elaborated, “If we kill their families, that will frighten them.” And what might deter Israel?

[This piece originally appeared in a special weeklong series on the Stanford University Press blog, and is reposted here in partnership with SUP blog. The entire ten-part series can be found on the SUP blog.]

Surveilling UK Muslims ‘cradle to grave’

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/02/surveilling-uk-muslims-cradle-grave-201422575943406757.html

Surveilling UK Muslims ‘cradle to grave’

New report details ‘McCarthy-like’ police surveillance and discrimination against the Muslim community
Simon Hooper – 26 Feb 2014 12:21
 
London, United Kingdom – Muhammad still does not know for sure why British counter-terrorism police came to the door of his east London home shortly before dawn one morning in March 2012.

It was 5:30am on the day of Muhammad and his wife’s third wedding anniversary. The couple’s two young children were sleeping in their cots, and his elderly parents were also visiting.

“My mum woke me up, saying: ‘There are police at the door. Get up! Get up!’ My wife grabbed her headscarf and we all went into the living room,” Muhammad told Al Jazeera, requesting only his first name be used for legal reasons.

“I counted 12 police officers in there and there were others lurking in the other rooms. They said they had a warrant to raid my house and my car.”

As police searched the property, Muhammad’s father suffered a heart attack. An ambulance was called to take him to hospital. The police eventually left at 2am the following morning, taking with them money, documents, electrical equipment, phones and Muhammad’s passport.

Muhammad, a British-born Muslim of Bangladeshi origin in his late 20s, was not arrested, detained or questioned as a result of the raid. His father made a full recovery. But the incident has turned his life upside down.

He has subsequently been routinely stopped and questioned at airports under Schedule Seven counter-terrorism powers, making his work as a guide escorting British pilgrims to Saudi Arabia on Hajj increasingly untenable. In October last year he said he was held for 26 hours at Riyadh airport before being deported back to the UK without explanation.

Pressure to inform

Last August, he was invited to visit a London police station to collect the belongings and money seized from his house almost a year and a half earlier.

“Two officers from SO15 [the London Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism unit] were waiting for me. You know they play good cop, bad cop? Well, that day they were both playing good cop, just chatting about stuff. As I was going to walk out they said: ‘Hold on, there’s someone that quickly needs to speak to you.'”

Muhammad was shown into a room where two men he said he believes worked for MI5, the UK’s internal security service, were waiting. He said they put him under pressure and offered him incentives to inform for them.

“They asked me about my friends, about Syria, stuff like that. They said they believed there were people who wanted to come back and cause mayhem in the UK. I said I had no intention of going to Syria. They gave me a phone number and told me to call if I heard anything.”

Muhammad’s story, according to the civil liberties group CAGE, is merely one case demonstrating how many British Muslims are becoming ensnared by increasingly intrusive and illiberal counter-terrorism policies targeting those deemed to be “extreme” in their faith.

In a report published this month into the UK government’s Prevent counter-terrorism strategy, CAGE warned that Muslim communities were being subjected to “cradle-to-grave” levels of surveillance and discrimination that go beyond the policies used against suspected communist sympathisers in the United States at the height of the Cold War.

It highlighted how Prevent had put mosques, Muslim institutions and charities under scrutiny and how public officials, including teachers, lecturers, chaplains and healthcare workers, were being urged to inform on schoolchildren, students and patients deemed to be at risk of radicalisation.

CAGE’s director is Moazzam Begg, who was arrested on Tuesday for alleged terrorism offences related to Syria.

The former Guantanamo Bay detainee was captured in Pakistan in 2002 by US forces. He was released from the American prison camp in Cuba in 2005 without ever being charged.

In December Begg wrote about how he had been continually harassed by the British government and members of its security services and had his passport confiscated because of his investigations into British complicity in rendition, and because of his work supporting humanitarian-aid efforts for Syria.

In a statement CAGE said it was “outraged” by the detention.

“We do not accept involvement by Moazzam Begg in any form of terrorism,” it said. “He is simply one of many individuals and charities involved in Syria being viewed with suspicion in an effort to send a message to the wider Muslim community that working in Syria is no go area for them.”

‘Deprogramming’

The CAGE report highlighted the case of a nine-year-old boy alleged to have shown signs of extremism who was referred to authorities for “deprogramming”. Police figures show a steady increase in referrals among young people, with 748 referred for assessment in 2012-2013, compared with 580 a year earlier and more than 2,600 in total since 2006.

In other cases, youth groups and mental health projects aimed at Muslim communities found that access to public funding was conditional on sharing data and information with law enforcement agencies, while university Islamic societies have faced pressure to hand over membership lists and other data to counter-terrorism police.

“There has been nothing like the Prevent policy since the McCarthy era, but Prevent goes a lot further; it goes into every aspect of Muslim life,” Jahangir Mohammad, the co-author of the report, told Al Jazeera. “Prevent has created a climate of fear and alienation in the Muslim community. People feel they can’t challenge this stuff and they don’t have any rights.”

Yet recent proposals to further toughen the UK’s counter-terrorism laws in the aftermath of the killing of British soldier Lee Rigby last May, and amid current concerns over the security risk posed by British Muslims travelling to Syria, could make Prevent even more draconian.

In December, Theresa May, the British home secretary, announced plans to introduce legislation that would place the policy on a statutory footing. While local authorities, mosques, universities and other institutions are currently under no legal obligation to cooperate with Prevent, such a move would force them to do so by law.

Critics argue the government’s efforts to enshrine Prevent in law are driven by a neo-conservative ideology that conflates conservative interpretations of Islam with a heightened risk of violent radicalisation.

“Teachers, doctors, police officers, civil servants and local government officers are effectively being trained and indoctrinated with a politicised understanding of Islam,” the CAGE report states. “It is a policy to silence Muslims and pacify/de-politicise their faith. In short, it criminalises political dissent or alternative political thought.”

Alienation

Many of those on the sharp end of Prevent measures believe the policy has already proved counter-productive by alienating, rather than engaging, Muslim communities.

Shakur Rahman, an imam at the Redbridge Islamic Centre in east London, told Al Jazeera that he and other mosque officials had been regularly visited by Prevent officers voicing concerns about invited speakers and other events.

“We have people claiming to be Special Branch [SO15] coming in and demanding a meeting with the imam and saying: ‘If you do not comply we are going to make your life difficult,'” Rahman said.

“The implication is: ‘We are watching you. We have got our eye on you and we are going to be keeping our ears to the ground.’ Then you find certain people coming along to the community and asking strange questions. They turn up every now and then and then they disappear.

“We know, as every imam knows, that if you say something which they do not like you could be raided that night. They are creating that fear so that we are afraid to speak about fundamental issues that pertain to our community. If the whole strategy of Prevent is to minimise problems in the community then it is doing the exact opposite.”

Al Jazeera contacted the London Borough of Redbridge’s Prevent officer but she declined to comment. A spokesperson for the council said queries regarding Prevent should be directed to the Home Office.

A Home Office spokesperson told Al Jazeera: “Our Prevent strategy challenges extremist ideology, helps protect institutions from extremists, and tackles the radicalisation of vulnerable people.

“We work closely with local authorities to engage with faith institutions, civil society groups and other organisations and ensure they have the support and advice they need. We are also giving additional support to local communities on the frontline of tackling extremism by supporting integration projects and setting up a dedicated public communications platform.”

It’s UK government policy for spokespeople not to be named.

Under watch

The only reason that Muhammad can think of to explain why the police raided his home is that he had been collecting money for a Syrian aid appeal outside his local mosque the previous Friday.

“There was a group of brothers and they asked me to hold a tin for them,” he recalled. “Maybe MI5 was watching someone at the mosque and I was with that person and that’s how I got dragged in. The raid has made me fearful of going to mosques. I think, what if I go and it makes the situation worse?”

Muhammad is convinced he is still under surveillance. He has started wearing casual clothes rather than traditional Islamic dress to avoid drawing attention to himself. He often gets unknown calls on his phone, but the line is silent when he answers.

“Even when I came here tonight [for the interview] I saw a car parked up. You can tell what police look like when they are undercover. I have MI5 on my back, I have SO15 taking my stuff, and I am fearful. There is a question mark at the end of this because I don’t know what is going to happen to me.”

Follow Simon Hooper on Twitter: @simonbhooper

General Comment 28, Art. 3 (ICCPR) (Gender equality)

GENERAL COMMENT No. 28


EQUALITY OF RIGHTS BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN, (Art. 3)

1. The Committee has decided to update its General Comment on Article 3 of this Covenant and to replace General Comment 4 (thirteenth session 1981), in the light of the experience it has gathered in its activities over the last 20 years. This revision seeks to take account of the important impact of this article on the enjoyment by women of the human rights protected under the Covenant.

2. Article 3 implies that all human beings should enjoy the rights provided for in the Covenant, on an equal basis and in their totality. The full effect of this provision is impaired whenever any person is denied the full and equal enjoyment of any right. Consequently, States should ensure to men and women equally the enjoyment of all rights provided for in the Covenant.

3. The obligation to ensure to all individuals the rights recognized in the Covenant, established in articles 2 and 3 of the Covenant, requires that State parties take all necessary steps to enable every person to enjoy those rights. These steps include the removal of obstacles to the equal enjoyment each of such rights, the education of the population and of state officials in human rights and the adjustment of domestic legislation so as to give effect to the undertakings set forth in the Covenant. The State party must not only adopt measures of protection but also positive measures in all areas so as to achieve the effective and equal empowerment of women. States parties must provide information regarding the actual role of women in society so that the Committee may ascertain what measures, in addition to legislative provisions, have been or should be taken to give effect to these obligations, what progress has been made, what difficulties are encountered and what steps are being taken to overcome them.

4. State parties are responsible for ensuring the equal enjoyment of rights without any discrimination. Articles 2 and 3 mandate States parties to take all steps necessary, including the prohibition of discrimination on the ground of sex, to put an end to discriminatory actions both in the public and the private sector which impair the equal enjoyment of rights.

5. Inequality in the enjoyment of rights by women throughout the world is deeply embedded in tradition, history and culture, including religious attitudes. The subordinate role of women in some countries is illustrated by the high incidence of pre-natal sex selection and abortion of female fetuses. States parties should ensure that traditional, historical, religious or cultural attitudes are not used to justify violations of women’s right to equality before the law and to equal enjoyment of all Covenant rights. States parties should furnish appropriate information on those aspects of tradition, history, cultural practices and religious attitudes which jeopardise, or may jeopardise, compliance with article 3, and indicate what measures they have taken or intend to take to overcome such factors.

6. In order to fulfil the obligation set forth in article 3 States parties should take account of the factors which impede the equal enjoyment by women and men of each right specified in the Covenant. To enable the Committee to obtain a complete picture of the situation of women in each State party as regards the implementation of the rights in the Covenant, this general comment identifies some of the factors affecting the equal enjoyment by women of the rights under the Covenant, and spells out the type of information that is required with regard to these various rights.

7. The equal enjoyment of human rights by women must be protected during a state of emergency (article 4). States parties which take measures derogating from their obligations under the Covenant in time of public emergency, as provided in article 4, should provide information to the Committee with respect to the impact on the situation of women of such measures and should demonstrate that they are non-discriminatory.

8. Women are particularly vulnerable in times of internal or international armed conflicts. States parties should inform the Committee of all measures taken during these situations to protect women from rape, abduction and other forms of gender based violence.

9. In becoming parties to the Covenant, States undertake, in accordance with article 3, to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the Covenant, and in accordance with article 5, nothing in the Covenant may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights provided for in article 3, or at limitations not covered by the Covenant. Moreover, there shall be no restriction upon or derogation from the equal enjoyment by women of all fundamental human rights recognized or existing pursuant to law, conventions, regulations or customs, on the pretext that the Covenant does not recognize such rights or that it recognizes them to a lesser extent.

10. When reporting on the right to life protected by article 6, States parties should provide data on birth rates and on pregnancy and childbirth-related deaths of women. Gender-disaggregated data should be provided on infant mortality rates. States parties should give information on any measures taken by the State to help women prevent unwanted pregnancies, and to ensure that they do not have to undertake life-threatening clandestine abortions. States parties should also report on measures to protect women from practices, that violate their right to life, such as female infanticide, the burning of widows and dowry killings. The Committee also wishes to have information on the particular impact on women of poverty and deprivation that may pose a threat to their lives.

11. To assess compliance with article 7 of the Covenant, as well as with article 24, which mandates special protection for children, the Committee needs to be provided information on national laws and practice with regard to domestic and other types of violence against women, including rape. It also needs to know whether the State party gives access to safe abortion to women who have become pregnant as a result of rape. The States parties should also provide the Committee information on measures to prevent forced abortion or forced sterilization. In States parties where the practice of genital mutilation exists information on its extent and on measures to eliminate it should be provided. The information provided by States parties on all these issues should include measures of protection, including legal remedies, for women whose rights under article 7 have been violated.

12. Having regard to their obligations under article 8, States parties should inform the Committee of measures taken to eliminate trafficking of women and children, within the country or across borders, and forced prostitution. They must also provide information on measures taken to protect women and children, including foreign women and children, from slavery, disguised inter alia as domestic or other kinds of personal service. States parties where women and children are recruited, and from which they are taken, and States parties where they are received should provide information on measures, national or international, which have been taken in order to prevent the violation of women’s and children’s rights.

13. States parties should provide information on any specific regulation of clothing to be worn by women in public. The Committee stresses that such regulations may involve a violation of a number of rights guaranteed by the Covenant, such as: article 26, on non-discrimination; article7, if corporal punishment is imposed in order to enforce such a regulation; article 9, when failure to comply with the regulation is punished by arrest; article 12, if liberty of movement is subject to such a constraint; article 17, which guarantees all persons the right to privacy without arbitrary or unlawful interference; articles 18 and 19, when women are subjected to clothing requirements that are not in keeping with their religion or their right of self-expression; and, lastly, article 27, when the clothing requirements conflict with the culture to which the woman can lay a claim.

14. With regards to article 9 States parties should provide information on any laws or practices which may deprive women of their liberty on an arbitrary or unequal basis, such as by confinement within the house. (See General Comment No 8 paragraph 1.)

15. As regards articles 7 and 10, States parties must provide all information relevant to ensuring that the right of persons deprived of their liberty are protected on equal terms for men and women. In particular, States parties should report on whether men and women are separated in prisons and whether women are guarded only by female guards. States parties should also report about compliance with the rule that accused juvenile females shall be separated from adults and on any difference in treatment between male and female persons deprived of liberty, such as, for example, access to rehabilitation and education programmes and to conjugal and family visits. Pregnant women who are deprived of their liberty should receive humane treatment and respect for their inherent dignity at all times surrounding the birth and while caring for their newly-born children; States parties should report on facilities to ensure this and on medical and health care for such mothers and their babies.

16. As regards article 12, States parties should provide information on any legal provision or any practice which restricts women’s right to freedom of movement as, for example, the exercise of marital powers over the wife or parental powers over adult daughters, legal or de facto requirements which prevent women from travelling such as the requirement of consent of a third party to the issuance of a passport or other type of travel documents to an adult woman. States parties should also report on measures taken to eliminate such laws and practices and to protect women against them, including reference to available domestic remedies (See General Comment No 27 paragraphs 6 and 18)

17. States parties should ensure that alien women are accorded on an equal basis the right to submit reasons against their expulsion, and to have their case reviewed as provided in article 13. In this regard, they should be entitled to submit reasons based on gender specific violations of the Covenant such as those mentioned in paragraphs [10 and 11] above.

18. State parties should provide information to enable the Committee to ascertain whether access to justice and the right to a fair trial, provided for in article 14, are enjoyed by women on equal terms to men. In particular States parties should inform the Committee whether there are legal provisions preventing women from direct and autonomous access to the courts (Case 202/1986, Ato del Avellanal v. Peru (views of 28 October 1988).; whether women may give evidence as witnesses on the same terms as men; and whether measures are taken to ensure women equal access to legal aid, in particular in family matters. States parties should report on whether certain categories of women are denied the enjoyment of the presumption of innocence under article 14, paragraph 2, and on the measures which have been taken to put an end to this situation.

19. The right of everyone under article 16 to be recognized everywhere as a person before the law is particularly pertinent for women, who often see it curtailed by reason of sex or marital status. This right implies that the capacity of women to own property, to enter into a contract or to exercise other civil rights may not be restricted on the basis of marital status or any other discriminatory ground. It also implies that women may not be treated as objects to be given together with the property of the deceased husband to his family. States must provide information on laws or practices that prevent women from being treated or from functioning as full legal persons and the measures taken to eradicate laws or practices that allow such treatment.

20. States parties must provide information to enable the Committee to assess the effect of any laws and practices that may interfere with women’s right to enjoy privacy and other rights protected by article 17 on the basis of equality with men. An example of such interference arises where the sexual life of a woman is taken into consideration to decide the extent of her legal rights and protections, including protection against rape. Another area where States may fail to respect women’s privacy relates to their reproductive functions, for example, where there is a requirement for the husband’s authorization to make a decision in regard to sterilization, where general requirements are imposed for the sterilization of women, such as having a certain number of children or being of a certain age, or where States impose a legal duty upon doctors and other health personnel to report cases of women who have undergone abortion. In these instances, other rights in the Covenant, such as those of articles 6 and 7, might also be at stake. Women’s privacy may also be interfered with by private actors, such as employers who request a pregnancy test before hiring a woman. States parties should report on any laws and public or private actions that interfere with the equal enjoyment by women of the rights under article 17, and on the measures taken to eliminate such interference and to afford women protection from any such interference.

21. States parties must take measures to ensure that freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the freedom to adopt the religion or belief of one’s choice — including the freedom to change religion or belief and to express one’s religion or belief – will be guaranteed and protected in law and in practice for both men and women, on the same terms and without discrimination. These freedoms protected by article 18, must not be subject to restrictions other than those authorized by the Covenant, and must not be constrained by, inter alia, rules requiring permission from third parties, or by interference from fathers, husbands, brothers or others. Article 18 may not be relied upon to justify discrimination against women by reference to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; States parties should therefore provide information on the status of women as regards their freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and indicate what steps they have taken or intend to take both to eliminate and prevent infringements of these freedoms in respect of women and to protect their rights against any discrimination.

22. In relation to article 19 States parties should inform the Committee of any laws or other factors which may impede women from exercising the rights protected under this provision on an equal basis. As the publication and dissemination of obscene and pornographic material which portrays women and girls as objects of violence or degrading or inhuman treatment is likely to promote these kinds of treatment of women and girls, States parties should provide information about legal measures to restrict the publication or dissemination of such material.

23. States are required to treat men and women equally in regard to marriage in accordance with article 23, which has been elaborated further by General Comment 19 (1990). Men and women have the right to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent, and States have an obligation to protect the enjoyment of this right on an equal basis. Many factors may prevent women from being able to make the decision to marry freely. One factor relates to the minimum age for marriage. That age should be set by the State on the basis of equal criteria for men and women. These criteria should ensure women’s capacity to make an informed and uncoerced decision. A second factor in some States may be that either by statutory or customary law a guardian, who is generally male, consents to the marriage instead of the woman herself, thereby preventing women from exercising a free choice.

24. A different factor that may affect women’s right to marry only when they have given free and full consent is the existence of social attitudes which tend to marginalize women victims of rape and put pressure on them to agree to marriage. A woman’s free and full consent to marriage may also be undermined by laws which allow the rapist to have his criminal responsibility extinguished or mitigated if he marries the victim. States parties should indicate whether marrying the victim extinguishes or mitigates criminal responsibility and in the case in which the victim is a minor whether the rape reduces the marriageable age of the victim, particularly in societies where rape victims have to endure marginalization from society. A different aspect of the right to marry may be affected when States impose restrictions on remarriage by women as compared to men. Also the right to choose one´s spouse may be restricted by laws or practices that prevent the marriage of a woman of a particular religion with a man who professes no religion or a different religion. States should provide information on these laws and practices and on the measures taken to abolish the laws and eradicate the practices which undermine the right of women to marry only when they have given free and full consent. It should also be noted that equality of treatment with regard to the right to marry implies that polygamy is incompatible with this principle. Polygamy violates the dignity of women. It is an inadmissible discrimination against women. Consequently, it should be definitely abolished wherever it continues to exist.

25. To fulfill their obligations under article 23, paragraph 4, States must ensure that the matrimonial regime contains equal rights and obligations for both spouses, with regard to the custody and care of children, the children’s religious and moral education, the capacity to transmit to children the parent’s nationality, and the ownership or administration of property, whether common property or property in the sole ownership of either spouse. States should review their legislation to ensure that married women have equal rights in regard to the ownership and administration of such property, where necessary. Also, States should ensure that no sex-based discrimination occurs in respect of the acquisition or loss of nationality by reason of marriage, of residence rights and of the right of each spouse to retain the use of his or her original family name or to participate on an equal basis in the choice of a new family name. Equality during marriage implies that husband and wife should participate equally in responsibility and authority within the family.

26. States must also ensure equality in regard to the dissolution of marriage, which excludes the possibility of repudiation. The grounds for divorce and annulment should be the same for men and women, as well as decisions with regard to property distribution, alimony and the custody of children. The need to maintain contact between children and the non-custodian parent, should be based on equal considerations. Women should also have equal inheritance rights to those of men when the dissolution of marriage is caused by the death of one of the spouses.

27. In giving effect to recognition of the family in the context of article 23, it is important to accept the concept of the various forms of family, including unmarried couples and their children and single parents and their children and to ensure the equal treatment of women in these contexts (General Comment 19 paragraph 2 last sentence). Single parent families frequently consist of a single woman caring for one or more children, and States parties should describe what measures of support are in place to enable her to discharge her parental functions on the basis of equality with a man in a similar position.

28. The obligation of states to protect children (article 24) should be carried out equally for boys and girls. States should report on measures taken to ensure that girls are treated equally to boys in education, in feeding and in health care, and provide the Committee with disaggregated data in this respect. States should eradicate, both through legislation and any other appropriate measures, all cultural or religious practices which jeopardize the freedom and well-being of female children.

29. The right to participate in the conduct of public affairs is not fully implemented everywhere on an equal basis. States must ensure that the law guarantees to women article 25 rights on equal terms with men and take effective and positive measures to promote and ensure women’s participation in the conduct of public affairs and in public office, including appropriate affirmative action. Effective measures taken by States parties to ensure that all persons entitled to vote are able to exercise that right should not be discriminatory on the grounds of sex. The Committee requires States parties to provide statistical information on the percentage of women in publicly elected offices including the legislature as well as in high-ranking civil service positions and the judiciary.

30. Discrimination against women is often intertwined with discrimination on other grounds such as race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. States parties should address the ways in which any instances of discrimination on other grounds affect women in a particular way, and include information on the measures taken to counter these effects.

31. The right to equality before the laws and freedom from discrimination, protected by article 26, requires States to act against discrimination by public and private agencies in all fields. Discrimination against women in areas such as social security laws – Case 172/84, Broeks v. Netherlands (views of 9 April 1987; case 182/84, Zwaan de Vries v. The Netherlands, (views of 9 April 1987); case 218/1986, Vos v. The Netherlands (views of 29 March 1989) -., as well as in the area of citizenship or rights of non-citizens in a country – Case 035/1978, Aumeeruddy-Cziffra et al v. Mauritius (views adopted 9 April 1981) -, violates article 26. The commission of so called “honnour crimes” which remain unpunished, constitutes a serious violation of the Covenant and in particular of articles 6, 14 and 26. Laws which impose more severe penalties on women than on men for adultery or other offences also violate the requirement of equal treatment. The Committee has also often observed in reviewing States reports that a large proportion of women are employed in areas which are not protected by labor laws, that prevailing customs and traditions discriminate against women, particularly with regard to access to better paid employment and to equal pay for work of equal value. States should review their legislation and practices and take the lead in implementing all measures necessary in order to eliminate discrimination against women, in all fields, for example by prohibiting discrimination by private actors in areas such as employment, education, political activities and the provision of accommodation, goods and services. States parties should report on all these measures and provide information on the remedies available to victims of such discrimination.

32. The rights which persons belonging to minorities enjoy under article 27 of the Covenant in respect of their language, culture and religion do not authorize any State, group or person to violate the right to equal enjoyment by women of any Covenant rights, including the right to equal protection of the law. States should report on any legislation or administrative practices related to membership in a minority community that might constitute an infringement of the equal rights of women under the Covenant – Case 24/1977 Lovelace v. Canada, (views adopted July 1981) – and on measures taken or envisaged to ensure the equal right of men and women to enjoy all civil and political rights in the Covenant. Likewise, States should report on measures taken to discharge their responsibilities in relation to cultural or religious practices within minority communities that affect the rights of women. In their reports, States parties should pay attention to the contribution made by women to the cultural life of their communities.

General Comment 18, Art. 2 (Right to equal treatment)

Human Rights Committee, General Comment 18, Non-discrimination (Thirty-seventh session, 1989), Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1 at 26 (1994).

1 Non-discrimination, together with equality before the law and equal protection of the law without any discrimination, constitute a basic and general principle relating to the protection of human rights. Thus, article 2, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights obligates each State party to respect and ensure to all persons within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the Covenant without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Article 26 not only entitles all persons to equality before the law as well as equal protection of the law but also prohibits any discrimination under the law and guarantees to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

2. Indeed, the principle of non-discrimination is so basic that article 3 obligates each State party to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of the rights set forth in the Covenant. While article 4, paragraph 1, allows States parties to take measures derogating from certain obligations under the Covenant in time of public emergency, the same article requires, inter alia, that those measures should not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin. Furthermore, article 20, paragraph 2, obligates States parties to prohibit, by law, any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred which constitutes incitement to discrimination.

3. Because of their basic and general character, the principle of non-discrimination as well as that of equality before the law and equal protection of the law are sometimes expressly referred to in articles relating to particular categories of human rights. Article 14, paragraph 1, provides that all persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals, and paragraph 3 of the same article provides that, in the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled, in full equality, to the minimum guarantees enumerated in subparagraphs (a) to (g) of paragraph 3. Similarly, article 25 provides for the equal participation in public life of all citizens, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2.

4. It is for the States parties to determine appropriate measures to implement the relevant provisions. However, the Committee is to be informed about the nature of such measures and their conformity with the principles of non-discrimination and equality before the law and equal protection of the law.

5. The Committee wishes to draw the attention of States parties to the fact that the Covenant sometimes expressly requires them to take measures to guarantee the equality of rights of the persons concerned. For example, article 23, paragraph 4, stipulates that States parties shall take appropriate steps to ensure equality of rights as well as responsibilities of spouses as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. Such steps may take the form of legislative, administrative or other measures, but it is a positive duty of States parties to make certain that spouses have equal rights as required by the Covenant. In relation to children, article 24 provides that all children, without any discrimination as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property or birth, have the right to such measures of protection as are required by their status as minors, on the part of their family, society and the State.

6. The Committee notes that the Covenant neither defines the term “discrimination” nor indicates what constitutes discrimination. However, article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination provides that the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life. Similarly, article 1 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women provides that “discrimination against women” shall mean any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.

7. While these conventions deal only with cases of discrimination on specific grounds, the Committee believes that the term “discrimination” as used in the Covenant should be understood to imply any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference which is based on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, and which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by all persons, on an equal footing, of all rights and freedoms.

8. The enjoyment of rights and freedoms on an equal footing, however, does not mean identical treatment in every instance. In this connection, the provisions of the Covenant are explicit. For example, article 6, paragraph 5, prohibits the death sentence from being imposed on persons below 18 years of age. The same paragraph prohibits that sentence from being carried out on pregnant women. Similarly, article 10, paragraph 3, requires the segregation of juvenile offenders from adults. Furthermore, article 25 guarantees certain political rights, differentiating on grounds of citizenship.

9. Reports of many States parties contain information regarding legislative as well as administrative measures and court decisions which relate to protection against discrimination in law, but they very often lack information which would reveal discrimination in fact. When reporting on articles 2 (1), 3 and 26 of the Covenant, States parties usually cite provisions of their constitution or equal opportunity laws with respect to equality of persons. While such information is of course useful, the Committee wishes to know if there remain any problems of discrimination in fact, which may be practised either by public authorities, by the community, or by private persons or bodies. The Committee wishes to be informed about legal provisions and administrative measures directed at diminishing or eliminating such discrimination.

10. The Committee also wishes to point out that the principle of equality sometimes requires States parties to take affirmative action in order to diminish or eliminate conditions which cause or help to perpetuate discrimination prohibited by the Covenant. For example, in a State where the general conditions of a certain part of the population prevent or impair their enjoyment of human rights, the State should take specific action to correct those conditions. Such action may involve granting for a time to the part of the population concerned certain preferential treatment in specific matters as compared with the rest of the population. However, as long as such action is needed to correct discrimination in fact, it is a case of legitimate differentiation under the Covenant.

11. Both article 2, paragraph 1, and article 26 enumerate grounds of discrimination such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The Committee has observed that in a number of constitutions and laws not all the grounds on which discrimination is prohibited, as cited in article 2, paragraph 1, are enumerated. The Committee would therefore like to receive information from States parties as to the significance of such omissions.

12. While article 2 limits the scope of the rights to be protected against discrimination to those provided for in the Covenant, article 26 does not specify such limitations. That is to say, article 26 provides that all persons are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law without discrimination, and that the law shall guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any of the enumerated grounds. In the view of the Committee, article 26 does not merely duplicate the guarantee already provided for in article 2 but provides in itself an autonomous right. It prohibits discrimination in law or in fact in any field regulated and protected by public authorities. Article 26 is therefore concerned with the obligations imposed on States parties in regard to their legislation and the application thereof. Thus, when legislation is adopted by a State party, it must comply with the requirement of article 26 that its content should not be discriminatory. In other words, the application of the principle of non-discrimination contained in article 26 is not limited to those rights which are provided for in the Covenant.

13. Finally, the Committee observes that not every differentiation of treatment will constitute discrimination, if the criteria for such differentiation are reasonable and objective and if the aim is to achieve a purpose which is legitimate under the Covenant.

General Comment 4, Article 3 (ICCPR) (Gender equality)

Human Rights Committee, General Comment 4, Article 3 (Thirteenth session, 1981), Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1 at 4 (1994).


1. Article 3 of the Covenant requiring, as it does, States parties to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights provided for in the Covenant, has been insufficiently dealt with in a considerable number of States reports and has raised a number of concerns, two of which may be highlighted.

2. Firstly, article 3, as articles 2 (1) and 26 in so far as those articles primarily deal with the prevention of discrimination on a number of grounds, among which sex is one, requires not only measures of protection but also affirmative action designed to ensure the positive enjoyment of rights. This cannot be done simply by enacting laws. Hence, more information has generally been required regarding the role of women in practice with a view to ascertaining what measures, in addition to purely legislative measures of protection, have been or are being taken to give effect to the precise and positive obligations under article 3 and to ascertain what progress is being made or what factors or difficulties are being met in this regard.

3. Secondly, the positive obligation undertaken by States parties under that article may itself have an inevitable impact on legislation or administrative measures specifically designed to regulate matters other than those dealt with in the Covenant but which may adversely affect rights recognized in the Covenant. One example, among others, is the degree to which immigration laws which distinguish between a male and a female citizen may or may not adversely affect the scope of the right of the woman to marriage to non-citizens or to hold public office.

4. The Committee, therefore, considers that it might assist States parties if special attention were given to a review by specially appointed bodies or institutions of laws or measures which inherently draw a distinction between men and women in so far as those laws or measures adversely affect the rights provided for in the Covenant and, secondly, that States parties should give specific information in their reports about all measures, legislative or otherwise, designed to implement their undertaking under this article.

5. The Committee considers that it might help the States parties in implementing this obligation, if more use could be made of existing means of international cooperation with a view to exchanging experience and organizing assistance in solving the practical problems connected with the insurance of equal rights for men and women.

 

 

Granting Diplomatic Immunity to State Terrorists in Canada

Bill C-35: Granting Diplomatic Immunity to State Terrorists
By Richard Sanders, Coordinator, Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade.

The Liberal government is quietly trying to pass a law that will extend diplomatic immunity to include foreign officials in Canada, even if they are known criminals or terrorists. This is being done under the cover of an innocuous-looking, so-called “housekeeping” measure called Bill C-35. This bill, to amend the “Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act,” (1) was first debated in the House of Commons on October 5, 2001. (2) By protecting foreign government representatives from prosecution under Canadian laws, Bill C-35 directly contradicts the so-called anti-terrorist Bill C-36.

Bill C-35 will also serve to consolidate and extend the power of the RCMP to thwart protests against foreign government officials who will soon be given special immunity from Canadian laws.

During the House of Commons debate, Svend Robinson, the NDP Foreign Affairs critic, speaking for his party, offered unequivocal opposition to Bill C-35. He pointed that: “the bill raises grave questions about the extent to which we are prepared to not only codify existing police powers in law but significantly enhance them. Many Canadians, including myself and my colleagues in the New Democratic Party caucus, are concerned about the growing criminalization of dissent in Canada. We have seen an alarming trend toward giving more powers to the police. Bill C-35 is part of that trend.” (ibid.)

He also criticized the bill because it is “unacceptable to suggest that an individual who is a government representative, part of a delegation to an international conference, or for that matter a world leader, should not be required to obey the law and submit to the same requirements with respect to ministers’ permits as anyone else.” (ibid.)

During the same Commons debate, Canadian Alliance MP Gurmant Grewal, critiqued the bill but indicated that his party would support the Bill if amended. He said that in the case of “a leader known to have committed human rights abuses or supported terrorism, the government would have the authority to admit him or her on political grounds, if they thought it furthered Canadian interests…. This is giving the red carpet treatment for potential terrorists, spies from other countries, criminals or even brutal dictators.” (ibid.)

Francine Lalonde, the Bloc Quebecois spokesperson, and Progressive Conservative MPs, Peter MacKay and Gary Lunn, offered their parties’ strong support for the passing of Bill C-35.

The Canadian government is creating laws to apprehend terrorists, even suspected ones, unless they happen to be known terrorists working for foreign governments, in which case the RCMP will protect them by persecuting peaceful protesters.

One will recall that before the APEC conference in Vancouver, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy “apologised” to Indonesian Prime Minister Ali Alatas for a campaign in Canada portraying Indonesia’s brutal dictator Suharto as a criminal on a Wanted Poster. Axworthy said “It was outrageous and excessive and not the way Canadians behaved.” (3) Axworthy later assured Alatas that General Suharto that he would not suffer the indignity of being in close proximity to any protests. (4)

The RCMP’s subsequent crack down on peaceful dissent at APEC led to the Hughes report. The excessive use of pepper spray and rubber bullets against protesters at the FTAA meetings in Quebec further demonstrated that the RCMP can treat Canadian protesters as criminals in order to protect foreign officials, even those officials who preside over security forces that systematically arrest, torture and even kill their own protesters back home.

Bill-35 will help to entrench such unjust contradictions into Canadian law. The Pinochet’s of the world will soon be more confident than ever when deciding whether to attend international events in Canada. Bill C-35 will allow them to feel secure during their visit here because they’ll know that Canadian law:

  1. exempts them from prosecution for their crimes and
  2. mandates the RCMP to protect them from protesters.

Because they generally control their domestic security and legal systems back home, the world’s state terrorists have impunity from their own countries’ laws. Bill C-35 will extend that immunity from prosecution during visits to Canada.

Ironically, Bill C-35 is coming at a time when our government is very publicly pushing Bill C-36, with all of its sweeping new powers that may threaten the civil liberties of innocent Canadians. While giving much attention to this upcoming anti-terrorism law, the media has completely ignored the other new law that may be used to offer protection to foreign state terrorists during official visits.

Our government knows very well that violent and undemocratic rulers, like Pinochet and Suharto, are often Canada’s best business partners. Such rulers create the social, economic, political and legal conditions in which Canadian other foreign profiteers can thrive. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for these despots to be treated with great dignity during their visits to our country. Canadian business opportunities abroad rely heavily on unrestricted access to cheap labour and natural resources. Unfortunately, for Canadian companies, foreign workers do not always bow gracefully while working as virtual slaves in factories, mines and other Canadian-owned enterprises.

Activists in those repressive regimes, who struggle to improve labour rights, promote other human rights or protect their environment from unscrupulous polluters, are often targets of persecution. Many such activists have been arrested, tortured and killed for the crime of peacefully trying to improve their working and living conditions. That’s fairly routine in many of the violent and repressive regimes that are armed courtesy of Canadian military exporters and their friends in our Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Such countries include: Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Korea, Morocco, Philippines, Thailand, Turkey and Venezuela. (5)

It is no coincidence that Canada’s anti-terrorist and pro-terrorist bills are arriving at the same time. With all of the hype about new security powers designed to crack down on terrorism, there is a special need to reassure the world’s state terrorists that our government can be relied upon to protect them during their visits to Canada. The Canadian government, like the governments of its allies, relies heavily on repressive regimes to make the world safe and profitable for big business. Canadian corporations have always reaped huge rewards by exploiting human and natural resources in countries where violent military regimes rule. Violent, undemocratic foreign leaders are often seen as our country’s best friends because they ensure “stability.” They do this by tightly controlling unruly activist movements that are seeking more equitable and just socio-economic conditions. The tried and true method of making extreme profits from foreign business operations is to ensure that the governments in those countries keep close control over their dissidents.

Bill C-35 is what Canadian Alliance MP Gurmant Grewal, calls a “power grap” by Canada Minister of Foreign Affairs because it gives him the power to supercede the Minister of Immigration in order to allow foreign government officials with criminal backgrounds, to enter Canada. Once here, these foreign representatives will be protected from embarrassing protests and from prosecution.

Through Bill C-36, the Liberal government wants sweeping new powers to undermine the civil liberties of Canadians, such as allowing security forces greater ease in authorizing surveillance and the ability to carry out preventative arrests against suspects. Meanwhile, Bill C-35 means that foreign government representatives will be granted immunity from Canadian laws, including the anti-terrorist legislation.

The Liberals say that this new law will not supercede laws concerning crimes against humanity and war crimes. However, Bill C-35 would allow the government to grant special protection to foreign government officials who have committed any or all other crimes. So, as long as their crimes fall short of the most heinous international crimes against humanity and war crimes, they’ll be granted immunity in Canada. Even this is not reassuring considering Canada’s long history of harbouring Nazi war criminals.

The government’s concern that Bill C-15 may be unpopular is demonstrated by the very sneaky way in which they presented it to Parliament:

  1. the government is pretending that the bill deals with innocuous, mundane “housekeeping” matters,
  2. opposition MPs had only two and a half days to examine the bill before the first debate in the House of Commons (Oct. 5),
  3. that first debate in the House was conveniently timed to occur on a Friday when many MPs are not in attendance,
  4. no legislative summary or explanation was provided with the bill, and
  5. the government’s briefing on the bill was unsubstantial.

The Liberals know that Bill C-35 would be very controversial law, if the media were to expose it. They know that it contradicts their foreign and domestic policies, especially their anti-terrorism law, Bill-35. They know that the Canadian public has very little tolerance for the whole concept of diplomatic immunity, which allows foreign representatives to drink, drive and thereby cause the accidental deaths of Canadian citizens.

The only known media references to Bill C-35, have focused on this angle, i.e., the possibility that officials exempted under the new law may be responsible for deaths or injuries as a result of drinking and driving. (6)

One would hope that Canadians would be even less tolerant of our government’s efforts to offer legal protection to foreign dignitaries who have supported the torture, kidnapping and murder of innocent people. However, because the mainstream media may never expose the broader dangers and contradictions associated with Bill C-35, we may never know what the Canadian public’s attitude is towards granting diplomatic immunity to state terrorists.

Footnotes:

(1) BILL C-35, An Act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
http://www.parl.gc.ca/37/1/parlbus/chambus/house/bills/government/C-35/C-35 _1/C-35TOCE.html

(2) House of Commons Debate (October 5, 2001),
VOLUME 137, NUMBER 093, 1st SESSION, 37th PARLIAMENT

Text version: http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:zeWL83sImnI:www.parl.gc.ca/PDF/37/1/pa rlbus/chambus/house/debates/han093-E.pdf+canada+%22bill+c-35%22+diplomatic+i mmunity&hl=en

PDF version: http://www.parl.gc.ca/PDF/37/1/parlbus/chambus/house/bills/government/C-35_ 1.pdf

(3) Memo Re: meeting between Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy and Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas (July 30th, 1997) http://www.cs.ubc.ca/spider/fuller/apec/pmo/docs/meeting_memo.html

(4) Lloyd Axworthy’s letter to Minister Alatas (September 3rd, 1997) http://www.cs.ubc.ca/spider/fuller/apec/pmo/docs/ax_letter.html

(5) Press for Conversion!, issue #44, April 2001 Published by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade http://www.ncf.ca/coat/our_magazine/links/issue44/issue44.htm)

(6)

(a) Manley Moves to Boost Number Eligible for Diplomatic Immunity FindLaw, Legal News and Commentary (Associated Press article, Nov. 1, 2001)

(b) CBC Radio News, Nov. 6, 2001.

Richard Sanders, Coordinator, Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) (A network of individuals and NGOs across Canada and around the world)

Tel.: 613-231-3076
Fax: 613-231-2614
Email: ad207@ncf.ca
Web site: http://www.ncf.ca/coat