Category Archives: Right to human dignity

Greece: Truth Committee on Public Debt – Preliminary Report

Truth Committee on Public Debt
 
Preliminary report
 
 
The Truth Committee on Public Debt (Debt Truth Committee) was established on April 4, 2015, by a decision of the President of the Hellenic Parliament, Ms Zoe Konstantopoulou, who confided the Scientific Coordination of its work to Dr. Eric Toussaint and the cooperation of the Committee with the European Parliament and other Parliaments and international organizations to MEP Ms Sofia Sakorafa.
 
Members of the Committee have convened in public and closed sessions, to produce this preliminary report, under the supervision of the scientific coordinator and with the cooperation and input of other members of the Committee, as well as experts and contributors.
 
The preliminary report chapters were coordinated by:
 
Bantekas Ilias
Contargyris Thanos
Fattorelli Maria Lucia
Husson Michel
Laskaridis Christina
Marchetos Spyros
Onaran Ozlem
Tombazos Stavros
Vatikiotis Leonidas
Vivien Renaud
 
With contributions from:
Aktypis Héraclès
Albarracin Daniel
Bonfond Olivier
Borja Diego
Cutillas Sergi
Gonçalves Alves Raphaël
Goutziomitros Fotis
Kasimatis Giorgos
Kazakos Aris
Lumina Cephas
Mitralias Sonia
Saurin Patrick
Sklias Pantelis
Spanou Despoina
Stromblos Nikos
Tzitzikou Sofia
 
The authors are grateful for the advice and input received from other members of the Truth Committee on Public Debt as well as other experts, who contributed to the Committee’s work during the public sessions and hearings and the closed or informal consultations.
 
The authors are grateful for the valuable assistance of Arnaoutis Petros Konstantinos, Aronis Charalambos, Bama Claudia, Karageorgiou Louiza, Makrygianni Antigoni and Papaioannou Stavros.
 
 
Executive Summary
 
In June 2015 Greece stands at a crossroads of choosing between furthering the failed macroeconomic adjustment programmes imposed by the creditors or making a real change to break the chains of debt. Five years since the economic adjustment programme began, the country remains deeply cemented in an economic, social, democratic and ecological crisis. The black box of debt has remained closed, and until a few months ago no authority, Greek or international, had sought to bring to light the truth about how and why Greece was subjected to the Troika regime. The debt, in the name of which nothing has been spared, remains the rule through which neoliberal adjustment is imposed, and the deepest and longest recession experienced in Europe during peacetime.
 
There is an immediate democratic need and social responsibility to address a range of legal, social and economic issues that demand proper consideration. In response, the President of the Hellenic Parliament established the Truth Committee on Public Debt (Debt Truth Committee) in April 2015, mandating the investigation into the creation and the increase of public debt, the way and reasons for which debt was contracted, and the impact that the conditionalities attached to the loans have had on the economy and the population. The Truth Committee has a mandate to raise awareness of issues pertaining to the Greek debt, both domestically and internationally, and to formulate arguments and options concerning the cancellation of the debt.
 
The research of the Committee presented in this preliminary report sheds light on the fact that the entire adjustment programme, to which Greece has been subjugated, was and remains a politically orientated programme. The technical exercise surrounding macroeconomic variables and debt projections, figures directly relating to people’s lives and livelihoods, has enabled discussions around the debt to remain at a technical level mainly revolving around the argument that the policies imposed on Greece will improve its capacity to pay the debt back. The facts presented in this report challenge this argument.
 
All the evidence we present in this report shows that Greece not only does not have the ability to pay this debt, but also should not pay this debt first and foremost because the debt emerging from the Troika’s arrangements is a direct infringement on the fundamental human rights of the residents of Greece. Hence, we came to the conclusion that Greece should not pay this debt because it is illegal, illegitimate, and odious.
 
It has also come to the understanding of the Committee that the unsustainability of the Greek public debt was evident from the outset to the international creditors, the Greek authorities, and the corporate media. Yet, the Greek authorities, together with some other governments in the EU, conspired against the restructuring of public debt in 2010 in order to protect financial institutions. The corporate media hid the truth from the public by depicting a situation in which the bailout was argued to benefit Greece, whilst spinning a narrative intended to portray the population as deservers of their own wrongdoings.
 
Bailout funds provided in both programmes of 2010 and 2012 have been externally managed through complicated schemes, preventing any fiscal autonomy. The use of the bailout money is strictly dictated by the creditors, and so, it is revealing that less than 10% of these funds have been destined to the government’s current expenditure.
 
This preliminary report presents a primary mapping out of the key problems and issues associated with the public debt, and notes key legal violations associated with the contracting of the debt; it also traces out the legal foundations, on which unilateral suspension of the debt payments can be based. The findings are presented in nine chapters structured as follows:
 
Chapter 1, Debt before the Troika, analyses the growth of the Greek public debt since the 1980s. It concludes that the increase in debt was not due to excessive public spending, which in fact remained lower than the public spending of other Eurozone countries, but rather due to the payment of extremely high rates of interest to creditors, excessive and unjustified military spending, loss of tax revenues due to illicit capital outflows, state recapitalization of private banks, and the international imbalances created via the flaws in the design of the Monetary Union itself. Adopting the euro led to a drastic increase of private debt in Greece to which major European private banks as well as the Greek banks were exposed. A growing banking crisis contributed to the Greek sovereign debt crisis. George Papandreou’s government helped to present the elements of a banking crisis as a sovereign debt crisis in 2009 by emphasizing and boosting the public deficit and debt.
 
Chapter 2, Evolution of Greek public debt during 2010-2015, concludes that the first loan agreement of 2010, aimed primarily to rescue the Greek and other European private banks, and to allow the banks to reduce their exposure to Greek government bonds.
 
Chapter 3, Greek public debt by creditor in 2015, presents the contentious nature of Greece’s current debt, delineating the loans’ key characteristics, which are further analysed in Chapter 8.
 
Chapter 4, Debt System Mechanism in Greece reveals the mechanisms devised by the agreements that were implemented since May 2010. They created a substantial amount of new debt to bilateral creditors and the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), whilst generating abusive costs thus deepening the crisis further. The mechanisms disclose how the majority of borrowed funds were transferred directly to financial institutions. Rather than benefitting Greece, they have accelerated the privatization process, through the use of financial instruments.
 
Chapter 5, Conditionalities against sustainability, presents how the creditors imposed intrusive conditionalities attached to the loan agreements, which led directly to the economic unviability and unsustainability of debt. These conditionalities, on which the creditors still insist, have not only contributed to lower GDP as well as higher public borrowing, hence a higher public debt/GDP making Greece’s debt more unsustainable, but also engineered dramatic changes in the society, and caused a humanitarian crisis. The Greek public debt can be considered as totally unsustainable at present.
 
Chapter 6, Impact of the “bailout programmes” on human rights, concludes that the measures implemented under the “bailout programmes” have directly affected living conditions of the people and violated human rights, which Greece and its partners are obliged to respect, protect and promote under domestic, regional and international law. The drastic adjustments, imposed on the Greek economy and society as a whole, have brought about a rapid deterioration of living standards, and remain incompatible with social justice, social cohesion, democracy and human rights.
 
Chapter 7, Legal issues surrounding the MoU and Loan Agreements, argues there has been a breach of human rights obligations on the part of Greece itself and the lenders, that is the Euro Area (Lender) Member States, the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, who imposed these measures on Greece. All these actors failed to assess the human rights violations as an outcome of the policies they obliged Greece to pursue, and also directly violated the Greek constitution by effectively stripping Greece of most of its sovereign rights. The agreements contain abusive clauses, effectively coercing Greece to surrender significant aspects of its sovereignty. This is imprinted in the choice of the English law as governing law for those agreements, which facilitated the circumvention of the Greek Constitution and international human rights obligations. Conflicts with human rights and customary obligations, several indications of contracting parties acting in bad faith, which together with the unconscionable character of the agreements, render these agreements invalid.
 
Chapter 8, Assessment of the Debts as regards illegitimacy, odiousness, illegality, and unsustainability, provides an assessment of the Greek public debt according to the definitions regarding illegitimate, odious, illegal, and unsustainable debt adopted by the Committee.
 
Chapter 8 concludes that the Greek public debt as of June 2015 is unsustainable, since Greece is currently unable to service its debt without seriously impairing its capacity to fulfill its basic human rights obligations. Furthermore, for each creditor, the report provides evidence of indicative cases of illegal, illegitimate and odious debts.
 
Debt to the IMF should be considered illegal since its concession breached the IMF’s own statutes, and its conditions breached the Greek Constitution, international customary law, and treaties to which Greece is a party. It is also illegitimate, since conditions included policy prescriptions that infringed human rights obligations. Finally, it is odious since the IMF knew that the imposed measures were undemocratic, ineffective, and would lead to serious violations of socio-economic rights.
 
Debts to the ECB should be considered illegal since the ECB over-stepped its mandate by imposing the application of macroeconomic adjustment programmes (e.g. labour market deregulation) via its participation in the Troika. Debts to the ECB are also illegitimate and odious, since the principal raison d’etre of the Securities Market Programme (SMP) was to serve the  interests of the financial institutions, allowing the major European and Greek private banks to dispose of their Greek bonds.
 
The EFSF engages in cash-less loans which should be considered illegal because Article 122(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) was violated, and further they breach several socio-economic rights and civil liberties. Moreover, the EFSF Framework Agreement 2010 and the Master Financial Assistance Agreement of 2012 contain several abusive clauses revealing clear misconduct on the part of the lender. The EFSF also acts against democratic principles, rendering these particular debts illegitimate and odious.
 
The bilateral loans should be considered illegal since they violate the procedure provided by the Greek constitution. The loans involved clear misconduct by the lenders, and had conditions that contravened law or public policy. Both EU law and international law were breached in order to sideline human rights in the design of the macroeconomic programmes. The bilateral loans are furthermore illegitimate, since they were not used for the benefit of the population, but merely enabled the private creditors of Greece to be bailed out. Finally, the bilateral loans are odious since the lender states and the European Commission knew of potential violations, but in 2010 and 2012 avoided to assess the human rights impacts of the macroeconomic adjustment and fiscal consolidation that were the conditions for the loans.
 
The debt to private creditors should be considered illegal because private banks conducted themselves irresponsibly before the Troika came into being, failing to observe due diligence, while some private creditors such as hedge funds also acted in bad faith. Parts of the debts to private banks and hedge funds are illegitimate for the same reasons that they are illegal; furthermore, Greek banks were illegitimately recapitalized by tax-payers. Debts to private banks and hedge funds are odious, since major private creditors were aware that these debts were not incurred in the best interests of the population but rather for their own benefit. The report comes to a close with some practical considerations.
 
Chapter 9, Legal foundations for repudiation and suspension of the Greek sovereign debt, presents the options concerning the cancellation of debt, and especially the conditions under which a sovereign state can exercise the right to unilateral act of repudiation or suspension of the payment of debt under international law. Several legal arguments permit a State to unilaterally repudiate its illegal, odious, and illegitimate debt. In the Greek case, such a unilateral act may be based on the following arguments: the bad faith of the creditors that pushed Greece to violate national law and international obligations related to human rights; preeminence of human rights over agreements such as those signed by previous governments with creditors or the Troika; coercion; unfair terms flagrantly violating Greek sovereignty and violating the Constitution; and finally, the right recognized in international law for a State to take countermeasures against illegal acts by its creditors, which purposefully damage its fiscal sovereignty, oblige it to assume odious, illegal and illegitimate debt, violate economic self-determination and fundamental human rights. As far as unsustainable debt is concerned, every state is legally entitled to invoke necessity in exceptional situations in order to safeguard those essential interests threatened by a grave and imminent peril. In such a situation, the State may be dispensed from the fulfilment of those international obligations that augment the peril, as is the case with outstanding loan contracts. Finally, states have the right to declare themselvesunilaterally insolvent where the servicing of their debt is unsustainable, in which case they commit no wrongful act and hence bear no liability.
 
People’s dignity is worth more than illegal, illegitimate, odious and unsustainable debt.
 
Having concluded its preliminary investigation, the Committee considers that Greece has been and still is the victim of an attack premeditated and organized by the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission. This violent, illegal, and immoral mission aimed exclusively at shifting private debt onto the public sector.
 
Making this preliminary report available to the Greek authorities and the Greek people, the Committee considers to have fulfilled the first part of its mission as defined in the decision of the President of the Hellenic Parliament of 4 April 2015. The Committee hopes that the report will be a useful tool for those who want to exit the destructive logic of austerity and stand up for what is endangered today: human rights, democracy, peoples’ dignity, and the future of generations to come.
 
In response to those who impose unjust measures, the Greek people might invoke what Thucydides mentioned about the constitution of the Athenian people: “As for the name, it is called a democracy, for the administration is run with a view to the interests of the many, not of the few” (Pericles’ Funeral Oration, in the speech from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War).

Guantanamo inmate claims he underwent medical experiments

Guantanamo inmate claims he underwent medical experiments

A German-Turkish man, who spent over four years imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, has claimed US guards regularly carried out medical experiments on inmates. The allegations follow revelations made by a US website.

Murat KurnazKurnaz spent over four years in Guantanamo

Former Guantanamo inmate Murat Kurnaz has accused guards at the US-run detention camp, of subjecting him and other prisoners to medical torture.

In an interview with the daily Berliner Zeitung, Kurnaz claimed that he was given medicine against his will several times a month throughout the four and a half years he spent in Guantanamo Bay.

Kurnaz, who is of Turkish origin, was released in 2006 and then returned to Germany, where he had grown up.

His assertions correlate with the results of two separate studies by American lawyers and the US news website Truthout. They revealed that inmates in the prison camp in Cuba were forced to take high doses of drugs, without any medical need.

Mysterious injections

Kurnaz told the Berliner Zeitung that he was regularly given injections without being told what they were for.

“I felt really terrible,” Kurnaz said.

Rights groups claim medical experiments took place in Guantanamo

Although there was no danger of malaria in the camp, he alleges he was forced to take anti-malaria tablets, which made him tired and breathless.

Kurnaz alleges that some of his fellow inmates blew up like ballons under the influence of the drugs.

“They had swollen heads, swollen hands, everything was full of water,” Kurnaz said.

Kurnaz claims that all the inmates he spoke with were convinced that newly developed medicines or drugs were being tested on them.

“We were guinea pigs, although no one told us,” Kurnaz said.

‘Pharmaceutical waterboarding’

The American organization Truthout last December published details of three cases of suicide at Guantanamo Bay. Truthout claimed that government documents from 2006 showed that all inmates were being administered high doses of the oral anti-malaria drug mefloquine. The dose was apparently five times the normal usage. Truthout described the practice as “pharmaceutical waterboarding.”

Kurnaz’s lawyer said the effects his client experienced correlate with the known side-effects of mefloquine.

“Sometimes he felt lightheaded, other times he was sick, and he also had nightmares,” Bernhard Docke told Deutsche Welle. “That conforms to the effects mefloquine can have on humans, when taken in high doses.”

Mefloquine can lead to sleep disturbance, depression, anxiety, psychosis and hallucination. There are reports of US soldiers displaying episodes of aggression and a higher rate of suicide after taking the drug.

Why speak out now?

Kurnaz was released from Guantanamo five years ago, so some are asking why he has waited until now to speak out. Docke says his client was not seeking publicity. He was only responding to an inquiry by journalist Andreas Förster, following the publication of Truthout’s findings.

“He’s trying to lead a normal life,” Förster confirmed to Deutsche Welle. “That isn’t very easy, because the name ‘Murat Kurnaz’ was in the headlines for a while. There were also reports – particularly in the tabloid press – that he was a dangerous Islamist from whom we needed protection.”

“I think Kurnaz has become very mistrustful of the media,” Förster added, “because he’s scared people won’t believe what he went through.”

Author: Joanna Impey
Editor: Susan Houlton

Deutsche Welle

PFLP salutes the Black struggle in the US: The empire will fall from within

http://pflp.ps/english/2014/08/19/pflp-salutes-the-black-struggle-in-the-us-the-empire-will-fall-from-within/

PFLP salutes the Black struggle in the US: The empire will fall from within

August 2014

In light of the police murder of the martyr Michael Brown and the ongoing struggle in Ferguson, Missouri, in the United States, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine salutes and stands firmly with the ongoing struggle of Black people and all oppressed communities in the United States.

Comrade Khaled Barakat said in an interview with the PFLP media outlets that “Police brutality, oppression and murder against Black people in the U.S., and against Latinos, Arabs and Muslims, people of color and poor people, has never been merely ‘mistakes’ or ‘violations of individual rights’ but rather are part and parcel of an integral and systematic racism that reflects the nature of the political system in the U.S.”

“Every time a crime is committed against Black people, it is explained away as an ‘isolated incident’ but when you see the massive number of ‘isolated incidents’ the reality cannot be hidden – this is an ongoing policy that remains virulently racist and oppressive. The U.S. empire was built on the backs of Black slavery and the genocide of Black people – and upon settler colonialism and the genocide of indigenous people,” said Barakat. “The people of Ferguson are resisting, in a long tradition of Black resistance, and we support their legitimate resistance to racist oppression.”

“As people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Arab World see the brutality of the United States outside its borders, these communities confront its racist and colonial oppression within the borders of the U.S. The two are inextricably linked,” said Barakat. “We also see U.S. exploitation and plunder of people’s resources around the world. And inside the United States, Africans, Latinos, Filipinos, Afghans, Arabs who have suffered war and imperialism at the hands of the United States outside its borders are the same communities who face criminalization, brutality, exploitation, isolation and killings and murder at the hands of the state. We see the targeting of migrants and refugees inside the U.S. after their countries have been ravaged by imperialism, war and exploitation by the same ruling forces.”

Barakat noted that “Mass imprisonment and incarceration has been a central tool of racist control in the United States. One out of every three Black men in the U.S. will be imprisoned; every 28 hours a Black person is killed by the state or someone protected by the state. Palestinians know well the use of mass imprisonment to maintain racist domination and oppression and breaking the racist structures of imprisonment is critical to our liberation movement. We salute Mumia Abu-Jamal and all of the political prisoners of the Black liberation movement in U.S. jails and call for their immediate freedom.”

Furthermore, he said, “since the earliest days of the Black movement in the U.S., from slaves revolting for freedom to the civil rights movement and beyond, Black people, organizations and movements have faced severe state repression, targeting, incarceration and killings at the hands of the state. U.S. domestic intelligence agencies such as the FBI, who target Palestinian and Arab communities for state repression, have for years focused on attacking Black movements, leaders and communities as a central project.”

“Racism, poverty and oppression are the predominant scene faced by oppressed nations and communities in the United States. Black people in the United States are in fact under siege. And just as we demand the end of the siege on our Palestinian people, in Gaza and everywhere, we demand an end to the siege of institutionalized racism and oppression in education, jobs, social services and all areas of life, and support the Black movements struggling to end that siege.”

“When we see the images today in Ferguson, we see another emerging Intifada in the long line of Intifada and struggle that has been carried out by Black people in the U.S. and internationally. The Palestinian national liberation movement salutes the Black liberation movement, and has learned so much from the experiences of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglass, the Black Panthers, Sojourner Truth, and generations of Black revolutionaries who have led the way in struggling for liberation and self-determination,” said Barakat.

“The struggle inside the United States is an integral part of the struggle against imperialism – in fact it is central, as it is taking place ‘in the belly of the beast.’ This is also the case for the struggle of Indigenous peoples and nations throughout North America, where settler colonial powers have been built through land theft and genocide, yet where indigenous people have always resisted and continue to resist today,” he said.

“Every victory inside the United States and political achievement by popular movements and liberation struggles is a victory for Palestine and a victory for a world of human liberation. Those who think that the fate of people in the United States lies with the ruling class parties, the Republicans and Democrats, until the end of time, are living in an illusion. So too are those who believe Palestine can find freedom by seeking alliances or guarantees by those who oppress Black people,” said Barakat.

“The Black struggle is leading the world in the struggle for an alternative political system that will bring U.S. empire to defeat. We know that this will happen only through struggle, through organization of people, emerging from uprisings and communities rising in anger against injustice,” said Barakat.

“The anti-racist movement and anti-Zionist movement are not and cannot be separated. Fighting against racism means fighting capitalism; fighting against capitalism means fighting for socialism,” Barakat said.

The Front encourages all Palestinians, and especially our Palestinian community in the United States, to continue and intensify their efforts in support of the Black liberation movement, from joining actions in support of Ferguson and in honor of Michael Brown, to long-term and sustained joint struggle and mutual solidarity with the Black movement. There are long histories of this work, and it is critical for all of our communities to expand and deepen our links of struggle and solidarity.

The PFLP sends its revolutionary greetings, its solidarity message and its salutes to the struggling people of Ferguson on the front lines confronting U.S. empire, and to the generations upon generations of Black struggle. Our Palestinian liberation movement is part of one struggle with the Black liberation movement. This has been a position of principle for the Front since its founding; we reaffirm this stand today and will always do so until both of our peoples – and our world – are liberated.

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.]

Aborted babies incinerated to heat UK hospitals

Aborted babies incinerated to heat UK hospitals

The remains of more than 15,000 babies were incinerated as ‘clinical waste’ by hospitals in Britain with some used in ‘waste to energy’ plants

By Sarah Knapton, Science Correspondent (sic)
The Telegraph 24 Mar 2014 [The article elicitied 1837 comments within 3 days]

The bodies of thousands of aborted and miscarried babies were incinerated as clinical waste, with some even used to heat hospitals, an investigation has found.

Ten NHS trusts have admitted burning foetal remains alongside other rubbish while two others used the bodies in ‘waste-to-energy’ plants which generate power for heat.

Last night the Department of Health issued an instant ban on the practice which health minister Dr Dan Poulter branded ‘totally unacceptable.’

At least 15,500 foetal remains were incinerated by 27 NHS trusts over the last two years alone, Channel 4’s Dispatches discovered.

The programme, which will air tonight, found that parents who lose children in early pregnancy were often treated without compassion and were not consulted about what they wanted to happen to the remains.

One of the country’s leading hospitals, Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, incinerated 797 babies below 13 weeks gestation at their own ‘waste to energy’ plant. The mothers were told the remains had been ‘cremated.’

Another ‘waste to energy’ facility at Ipswich Hospital, operated by a private contractor, incinerated 1,101 foetal remains between 2011 and 2013.

They were brought in from another hospital before being burned, generating energy for the hospital site. Ipswich Hospital itself disposes of remains by cremation.

“This practice is totally unacceptable,” said Dr Poulter.

“While the vast majority of hospitals are acting in the appropriate way, that must be the case for all hospitals and the Human Tissue Authority has now been asked to ensure that it acts on this issue without delay.”

Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS Medical Director, has written to all NHS trusts to tell them the practice must stop.
The Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, has also written to the Human Tissue Authority to ask them make sure that guidance is clear.

And the Care Quality Commission said it would investigate the programme’s findings.
Prof Sir Mike Richards, Chief Inspector of Hospitals, said: “I am disappointed trusts may not be informing or consulting women and their families.

“This breaches our standard on respecting and involving people who use services and I’m keen for Dispatches to share their evidence with us.

“We scrutinise information of concern and can inspect unannounced, if required.”

A total of one in seven pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, while NHS figures show there are around 4,000 stillbirths each year in the UK, or 11 each day.

Ipswich Hospital Trust said it was concerned to discover that foetal remains from another hospital had been incinerated on its site.

A spokeswoman said: “The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust does not incinerate foetal remains.”
She added that the trust “takes great care over foetal remains”

A spokesman for the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said that trained health professionals discuss the options with parents ‘both verbally and in writing.’

“The parents are given exactly the same choice on the disposal of foetal remains as for a stillborn child and their personal wishes are respected,” they added.

Channel 4 Dispatches, Amanda Holden: Exposing Hospital Heartache, airs tonight (Monday March 24) at 8pm

U.S. Treatment of Homeless Persons Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Say UN Experts

March 14, 2014

U.S. Treatment of Homeless Persons Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Say UN Experts

Geneva, Switzerland – On Thursday, March 13, the U.N. Human Rights Committee reviewed U.S. compliance with a major human rights treaty, raising concerns of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment for the practice of criminalizing homeless people for performing necessary life functions such as sleeping and eating in public when they have no private alternatives.
 
The criminalization of homelessness in the U.S. is documented in a report, Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading: Homelessness in the United States Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, submitted to the Committee by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (“NLCHP”) and the Allard K. Lowenstein Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School.

The U.S. review, which takes place periodically under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the last review was in 2006), follows a U.S. report to the Committee, submitted on December 30, 2011.

“I appreciate that the federal government is acknowledging that the criminalization of people living on the street for everyday life activities, such as eating, sleeping, sitting in particular areas…raises serious human rights concerns…,” said Walter Kaelin, a Swiss member of the Committee, “There are ample reports about how criminalization of the homeless is discriminatory; how, as stressed by several UN Special Rapporteurs, and also federal agencies, how such instances of criminalization often raises concerns of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.”

Kaelin continued with specific questions, “Do you already provide, or do you plan to provide incentives for decriminalization? Do you plan to withdraw funding for local authorities that continue to criminalize the homeless in a discriminatory way, in a way that may amount to inhuman treatment, degrading treatment? Do you plan to sanction criminalization policies, or are your activities really limited just in sensitizing local authorities, something very important, but probably not sufficient.”

Rather than responding to the specific questions, Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, US Department of the Interior, responded with a general list of issues being worked on by the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, including efforts to encourage cities not to criminalize homelessness, exactly the sort of efforts the Committee said were “important, but not sufficient”.

“The U.S. government knew these topics would be on the Committee’s agenda since last March, when they put it on their list of issues for discussion, and last July, we held a meeting to discuss specific recommendations for action,” said Jeremy Rosen, Policy Director at NLCHP, in Geneva for the review. “The lack of specificity in the government’s response is pretty disappointing.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker continued on behalf of the U.S. delegation by explaining his city’s more constructive approach of providing housing rather than criminalizing, which has led to a 75% decline in chronic homelessness in the state. The mayor said this makes him “surprised when he hears homeless even in the same breath as criminalization.”

However, as documented in the report submitted to the Committee by NLCHP , Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading: Homelessness in the United States Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights-one of the “ample reports” of criminalization to which Kaelin referred-the approach demonstrated by Salt Lake City is far from universally implemented.

“As homelessness becomes more visible in American communities, some, like Salt Lake City, have made generally positive responses,” said Mr. Rosen. “Unfortunately, we’ve also seen an increase in communities passing ordinances banning camping or sleeping outdoors, despite providing no alternative, forcing people to make the cruel choice between sleep and being arrested.”

“Sleep deprivation and hunger are widely recognized as techniques that are cruel, inhuman and degrading when used against prisoners. It shouldn’t matter if the prison is bricks and mortar, or one of economic policies and draconian ordinances,” said Eric Tars, Director of Human Rights and Children’s Rights Programs at NLCHP. “As Committee Member Kaelin stated, the federal action on this issue so far is ‘not sufficient,’ and our government must do more to protect homeless people from these policies.”

“We expected more concrete responses from the federal government at this review,” Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director at NLCHP, concluded. “But we look forward to working with the government on additional-and stronger– measures in response to the concerns and questions raised by the Committee.”

The Committee will issue its final recommendations to the U.S. government, called Concluding Observations, on March 26.  
 
###

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 20, Art. 7 (Protection of individual dignity)

Human Rights Committee, General Comment 20, Article 7 (Forty-fourth session, 1992), Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1 at 30 (1994).

1. This general comment replaces general comment 7 (the sixteenth session, 1982) reflecting and further developing it.

2. The aim of the provisions of article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is to protect both the dignity and the physical and mental integrity of the individual. It is the duty of the State party to afford everyone protection through legislative and other measures as may be necessary against the acts prohibited by article 7, whether inflicted by people acting in their official capacity, outside their official capacity or in a private capacity. The prohibition in article 7 is complemented by the positive requirements of article 10, paragraph 1, of the Covenant, which stipulates that “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person”.

3. The text of article 7 allows of no limitation. The Committee also reaffirms that, even in situations of public emergency such as those referred to in article 4 of the Covenant, no derogation from the provision of article 7 is allowed and its provisions must remain in force. The Committee likewise observes that no justification or extenuating circumstances may be invoked to excuse a violation of article 7 for any reasons, including those based on an order from a superior officer or public authority.

4. The Covenant does not contain any definition of the concepts covered by article 7, nor does the Committee consider it necessary to draw up a list of prohibited acts or to establish sharp distinctions between the different kinds of punishment or treatment; the distinctions depend on the nature, purpose and severity of the treatment applied.

5. The prohibition in article 7 relates not only to acts that cause physical pain but also to acts that cause mental suffering to the victim. In the Committee’s view, moreover, the prohibition must extend to corporal punishment, including excessive chastisement ordered as punishment for a crime or as an educative or disciplinary measure. It is appropriate to emphasize in this regard that article 7 protects, in particular, children, pupils and patients in teaching and medical institutions.

6. The Committee notes that prolonged solitary confinement of the detained or imprisoned person may amount to acts prohibited by article 7. As the Committee has stated in its general comment No. 6 (16), article 6 of the Covenant refers generally to abolition of the death penalty in terms that strongly suggest that abolition is desirable. Moreover, when the death penalty is applied by a State party for the most serious crimes, it must not only be strictly limited in accordance with article 6 but it must be carried out in such a way as to cause the least possible physical and mental suffering.

7. Article 7 expressly prohibits medical or scientific experimentation without the free consent of the person concerned. The Committee notes that the reports of States parties generally contain little information on this point. More attention should be given to the need and means to ensure observance of this provision. The Committee also observes that special protection in regard to such experiments is necessary in the case of persons not capable of giving valid consent, and in particular those under any form of detention or imprisonment. Such persons should not be subjected to any medical or scientific experimentation that may be detrimental to their health.

8. The Committee notes that it is not sufficient for the implementation of article 7 to prohibit such treatment or punishment or to make it a crime. States parties should inform the Committee of the legislative, administrative, judicial and other measures they take to prevent and punish acts of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in any territory under their jurisdiction.

9. In the view of the Committee, States parties must not expose individuals to the danger of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment upon return to another country by way of their extradition, expulsion or refoulement. States parties should indicate in their reports what measures they have adopted to that end.

10. The Committee should be informed how States parties disseminate, to the population at large, relevant information concerning the ban on torture and the treatment prohibited by article 7. Enforcement personnel, medical personnel, police officers and any other persons involved in the custody or treatment of any individual subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment must receive appropriate instruction and training. States parties should inform the Committee of the instruction and training given and the way in which the prohibition of article 7 forms an integral part of the operational rules and ethical standards to be followed by such persons.

11. In addition to describing steps to provide the general protection against acts prohibited under article 7 to which anyone is entitled, the State party should provide detailed information on safeguards for the special protection of particularly vulnerable persons. It should be noted that keeping under systematic review interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices as well as arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment is an effective means of preventing cases of torture and ill-treatment. To guarantee the effective protection of detained persons, provisions should be made for detainees to be held in places officially recognized as places of detention and for their names and places of detention, as well as for the names of persons responsible for their detention, to be kept in registers readily available and accessible to those concerned, including relatives and friends. To the same effect, the time and place of all interrogations should be recorded, together with the names of all those present and this information should also be available for purposes of judicial or administrative proceedings. Provisions should also be made against incommunicado detention. In that connection, States parties should ensure that any places of detention be free from any equipment liable to be used for inflicting torture or ill-treatment. The protection of the detainee also requires that prompt and regular access be given to doctors and lawyers and, under appropriate supervision when the investigation so requires, to family members.

12. It is important for the discouragement of violations under article 7 that the law must prohibit the use of admissibility in judicial proceedings of statements or confessions obtained through torture or other prohibited treatment.

13. States parties should indicate when presenting their reports the provisions of their criminal law which penalize torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, specifying the penalties applicable to such acts, whether committed by public officials or other persons acting on behalf of the State, or by private persons. Those who violate article 7, whether by encouraging, ordering, tolerating or perpetrating prohibited acts, must be held responsible. Consequently, those who have refused to obey orders must not be punished or subjected to any adverse treatment.

14. Article 7 should be read in conjunction with article 2, paragraph 3, of the Covenant. In their reports, States parties should indicate how their legal system effectively guarantees the immediate termination of all the acts prohibited by article 7 as well as appropriate redress. The right to lodge complaints against maltreatment prohibited by article 7 must be recognized in the domestic law. Complaints must be investigated promptly and impartially by competent authorities so as to make the remedy effective. The reports of States parties should provide specific information on the remedies available to victims of maltreatment and the procedure that complainants must follow, and statistics on the number of complaints and how they have been dealt with.

15. The Committee has noted that some States have granted amnesty in respect of acts of torture. Amnesties are generally incompatible with the duty of States to investigate such acts; to guarantee freedom from such acts within their jurisdiction; and to ensure that they do not occur in the future. States may not deprive individuals of the right to an effective remedy, including compensation and such full rehabilitation as may be possible.

Criminalization of Poverty in Canada

Criminalization of Poverty in Canada

by OWJN, July 2008
http://www.owjn.org/owjn_2009/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=62&Itemid=67 

 

What is Poverty?

In Canada, poverty is commonly defined by the low income cut-offs (LICOs) established by Statistics Canada. LICOs represent the poverty line in Canada and “convey the income level at which a family may be in straitened circumstances because it has to spend a greater proportion of its income on necessities rather than the average family of similar size.” The after-tax LICO in 2005 for a single person in an urban area of more than 500,000 people was $17,219, while the line was drawn at $32,556 for a family in the same urban area. In Toronto, nearly one in four households has an income lower than the LICO.

The United Nations Statistics Division similarly defines “poverty line” as “an income level that is considered minimally sufficient to sustain a family in terms of food, housing, clothing, medical needs, and so on.” The United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights provides a broader definition of poverty: “a human condition characterized by the sustained or chronic deprivation of the resources, capabilities, choices, security and power necessary for the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living and other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.” Furthermore, “economic deprivation – lack of income – is a standard feature of most definitions of poverty. But this in itself does not take account of the myriad of social, cultural and political aspects of the phenomenon. Poverty is not only deprivation of economic or material resources but a violation of human dignity too.”

From the above definitions of poverty, it is clear that poverty is pervasive and difficult to escape. Poverty affects every element of a person’s life by restricting their choices and chances. Poverty can mean anything from having a daily struggle to pay the bills, to being unable to afford to feed yourself or your family, to being homeless. Living in poverty may also include receiving social assistance. The Canadian Council on Social Development suggests that most people at or below the LICO are on some type of social assistance and notes that “low-paying and precarious jobs, particularly part-time jobs, just do not provide enough income to replace even low social assistance benefits.” Poverty and homelessness are more than mere economic problems ‚Äì they are social problems created and maintained by social, economic and political systems.

Poverty as a Social Problem

Canada has an individualistic culture that promotes the idea that individuals who work hard advance. This cultural idea is reinforced by the myth that people deserve their lot in life; the myth that the poor deserve to be poor and that the rich deserve to be rich. To compound the problems that poor individuals and families face, the Canadian Council on Social Development states that there is growing public indifference to the needs of the very poor and marginalized, in addition to a toxic “punish the poor” mentality. Social myths affect individuals, and they also affect society. These widely accepted myths inform social policy and lead to political inaction on issues of poverty. Poverty is a social problem that persists due to the social, political and economic culture.

Criminalization of Poverty and Homelessness

Recently in Canada there has been a rise in poverty and homelessness, particularly in large urban centers like Toronto, where the disparities between the rich and the poor are ever increasing. One of the ways that the government has attempted to deal with poverty, including homelessness, has been to criminalize it.

The criminalization of poverty involves declaring certain acts that are more likely to be committed by poor or homeless people, such as begging and being in public places, a crime. “Living without a home is considered a crime. Sleeping outside or in a car is illegal, soliciting work or conducting unrecognized work on land that you don’t own or pay for is increasingly criminalized and more and more poor workers, homeless people, welfare recipients, undocumented workers and youth in our country face police harassment, abuse and even incarceration for living in poverty” (United States Social Forum). Declaring these things to be crimes places additional burdens on people living in poverty. It also promotes social exclusion and fails to address the root causes of poverty and homelessness.

One example of the criminalization of poverty in Ontario is the so-called “squeegee law” called the Safe Streets Act. Under this law, it is illegal to solicit in an “aggressive manner.” “Aggressive manner” means a manner that is likely to cause a reasonable person to be concerned for his or her safety or security.” The law effectively targets homeless youth who engage in “squeegeeing” to survive. It also captures other homeless people, including the elderly, who ask for money in an “aggressive manner.”

The criminalization of poor and homeless peoples’ behaviour ignores the social realities of poverty. It fails to take into account the circumstances of people’s lives. Bill O’Grady and Robert Bright suggested that for poor and homeless youth, cleaning car windows was a rational response to the circumstances they faced on the streets. In contrast, law-makers characterized the act of squeegeeing as a nuisance and an annoyance.

In a recent Court of Appeal for Ontario decision, Justice Juriansz, for the court, upheld the law as just and constitutional. David Banks and others were convicted of panhandling offences under the Safe Streets Act and Highway Traffic Act. Banks and the other accused admitted that “by squeegeeing on various Toronto roads and soliciting money from cars stopped at red lights, they had committed an offence.” Nonetheless, they asked the court to set aside their convictions, arguing that the legislation was unconstitutional. They claimed that the law was unconstitutional because it infringed on rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Charter, including the right to life, liberty and security, the right to equality, and the right to the freedom of expression.

The court did not agree. Justice Juriansz reasoned that the right to life, liberty and security was not infringed because Banks and the others could have solicited money in other ways that were not prohibited by law. In addition, Justice Juriansz did not find that the appellants were discriminated against, and he found that they had alternative means to express their message.

The court’s decision reinforces the belief that the poor are agents of their own misfortune and fails to address the systemic factors that deny and limit the choices that are available to people living in poverty.

Poverty and Women (and Children)

In 2003, 1.5 million adult Canadian women were living in poverty. Women experience poverty at higher rates than men. Men receive more income than women from all sources, including wages and salaries, investment, retirement, and other income. Single mothers have the most unstable earnings and are among the most impoverished people in Canada. There are several reasons why women (and children) live in poverty:

Discrimination against women in gaining access to paid work and a fair income.

Sex-role stereotypes about women’s involvement in paid work – women account for 70% of all part-time employees and two-thirds of women are employed within traditionally women-dominated occupations.

A change in family composition, such as a divorce, greatly increases a woman’s chance of entering poverty.

Intersectionality: Aboriginal women, racialized women, disabled women and queer women are more likely to live in poverty than white women, able-bodied women and heterosexual women.

In Canada, women are at greater risk of poverty than men because of their gender. Social constructions of gender ‚Äì ideas about what it means to be a woman – also contribute to women’s poverty. Because of stereotypes about women’s nature and their ability and desire to act as caregivers, women are disproportionately responsible for unpaid caregiving labour, for example looking after children or aging or ill family members. Women are frequently dependent on men for financial support, which makes them vulnerable to exploitation and to poverty if the relationship with the man breaks down.

Criminalization of Women

Just as poverty and homelessness are generally criminalized through anti-begging laws and restrictions on public spaces, impoverished women are specifically criminalized as poor women.

Women who live in poverty are often charged with property offences and are criminalized for activities they regard as necessary for their economic survival, including sex work. About 70% of prostitutes are mothers, “mostly single mothers struggling to support families” (Street Sheet). Faced with difficult economic choices and “the evisceration of health, education and social services,” (DisAbled Women’s Network Ontario) women living in poverty may become entangled in the criminal justice system.

Poverty does not necessarily lead to crime, but “poverty is woven into the fabric of these women’s lives, reducing their options, crippling their morale, and rendering them outsiders” (Review of Women, Crime and Poverty). Further, “[w]ith women’s wages still pitched at less than 76% of men’s, most jobs available to women go nowhere near covering the costs of survival. Welfare ‘reform’ has destroyed the safety net which saved many from destitution — over 11 million mainly women-headed families have lost their sole income” (Street Sheet).

Conclusion

Discrimination against poor women threatens women’s ability to provide for themselves and to make choices that promote economic security. The criminalization of poverty limits women’s choices even more and makes them vulnerable to abuse, extreme poverty and homelessness. C. Lochead and K. Scott suggest that “[t]he solution to women’s poverty may lie in providing a range of options that afford women a choice over their lives…Alleviating women’s poverty is ultimately about giving women choice: the choice to pursue paid labour, the choice to care for others or even follow other personal interests without sacrificing their own well-being or the well-being of their families.” The criminalization of poverty does the opposite of what Kochead and Scott recommend ‚Äì further constricting women’s choices and penalizing them for their lack of privilege and social location.

 

References

Canadian Council on Social Development, “A Community Growing Apart: Income Gaps and Changing Needs in the City of Toronto in the 1990s” (October 2001), available online at <http://www.ccsd.ca/pubs/2001/uwgt/index.htm>.

C. Lochead and K. Scott, The Dynamics of Women’s Poverty in Canada (Canadian Council on Social Development, March 2000).

DAWN DisAbled Women’s Network Ontario, “Prisons as Panacea,” available online at <http://dawn.thot.net/kpate1.html>.

Elizabeth Fry Society, “Issues Associated with Increased Criminalization of Women,” available online at <http://www.elizabethfry.ca/eweek08/pdf/issues.pdf>.

Mayor’s Homelessness Action Task Force. Taking Responsibility for Homelessness: An Action Plan for Toronto, (Toronto: Municipality of Toronto, 1999).

Review of Women, Crime, and Poverty by Pat Carlen, Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Winter, 1989), pp.521-524.

Safe Streets Act 1999, S.O. 1999, c. 8.

Statistics Canada, Income in Canada 2005, “Notes and Definitions,” available online at <http://www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/75-202-XIE/2005000/technote1.htm>.

Statistics Canada, Income in Canada 2005, “Table 14.1 Low income after tax cut-offs 2001-2005,” available online at <http://www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/75-202-XIE/2005000/t098_en.pdf>.

Street Sheet (San Fransico) June 2005, p. 7, “The Criminalization of Survival: Poverty, Violence and Prostitution,” available online at <http://www.allwomencount.net/EWC%20Sex%20Workers/CriminalizationSurvivalStreetSheetSf.htm>.

The Court, “Banks: The Criminalization of Povert?” available online at <http://www.thecourt.ca/2007/08/23/banks-the-criminalization-of-poverty/>.

United Nations Statistics Division, available online at <http://unstats.un.org/unsd/cdb/cdb_dict_xrxx.asp?def_code=440>.

United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, Human Rights in Development, “What is Poverty?” available online at <http://www.unhchr.ch/development/poverty-02.html>.

United States Social Forum, “Criminalization of Poverty,” available online at <https://www.ussf2007/org/en/node/1363>.