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'The politics of fear'

by the stormy present Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 06:38:34 AM EST

Amnesty International's 2007 annual report is out.

Today far too many leaders are trampling freedom and trumpeting an ever-widening range of fears: fear of being swamped by migrants; fear of "the other" and of losing one's identity; fear of being blown up by terrorists; fear of "rogue states" with weapons of mass destruction.

Fear thrives on myopic and cowardly leadership. There are indeed many real causes of fear but the approach being taken by many world leaders is short-sighted, promulgating policies and strategies that erode the rule of law and human rights, increase inequalities, feed racism and xenophobia, divide and damage communities, and sow the seeds for violence and more conflict.

What, you were expecting good news?

A few relevant excerpts:

'War on terror'

Further evidence emerged of a systematic pattern of abuse by the USA and its allies in the context of the "war on terror", including secret detention, enforced disappearance, prolonged incommunicado and arbitrary detention, and torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. At the end of 2006, thousands of detainees continued to be held in US custody without charge or trial in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Despite several adverse judicial rulings, the US administration persisted in pursuing policies and practices inconsistent with human rights standards. The US Congress, despite some positive initiatives, gave its stamp of approval to human rights violations committed by the USA in the "war on terror" and turned bad executive policy into bad domestic law.

In sharp contrast to positive developments in Latin America, there was a continued failure to hold senior US government officials accountable for torture and ill-treatment of "war on terror" detainees, despite evidence that abuses had been systematic.

A shift in the balance of power in the US Congress as a result of the November mid-term elections raised the possibility of greater congressional oversight and investigation of executive actions, and of improved legislation.

Meanwhile, in Europe:

Issues of statehood, security and migration continued to be major preoccupations across the region.

Many countries remained a magnet for those attempting to escape poverty, violence or persecution. Changing migration patterns from Africa saw over 30,000 people arrive on the Canary Islands, with an unknown number of others feared lost on the journey in unsafe boats. However, European states continued to disregard the rights of refugees and migrants, adopting repressive approaches to irregular migration that included forcible detention and expulsion without access to fair and individualized asylum procedures. In the context of the "war on terror", governments also violated their international obligations by returning people to countries despite the risk that they faced serious human rights violations including torture.

Two further countries - Bulgaria and Romania - were set to join the European Union (EU) at the beginning of 2007. While enlargement continued to profile human rights as a prime symbol of candidates' readiness to join, the EU as a beacon "union of values" looked increasingly ambivalent. Further evidence emerged of the EU Council's reluctance to confront the USA in its conduct of the "war on terror" and its failure to "practice what you preach" in relation to migration. An institutional minimalist approach to human rights within the EU's borders, which saw the establishment of a Fundamental Human Rights Agency largely barred from addressing human rights abuses by member states, added to the erosion of credibility domestically and globally on human rights issues.

Racism and discrimination continued across the region. There was a failure of leadership in many countries to convincingly challenge racist and xenophobic ideas and ideologies, to implement comprehensive programmes to combat them, and to act with due diligence to prevent, investigate and prosecute racially motivated attacks. In some countries it was the authorities themselves that discriminated against minorities by failing to uphold their rights. Discrimination was frequently on grounds of identity and legal status - or lack of it - and led to barriers in access to a range of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.

Security and human rights

Further evidence emerged of complicity by Europe's governments in the US programme of renditions - an unlawful practice in which numerous men have been illegally detained and secretly flown to countries where they have suffered additional crimes, including torture and enforced disappearance. It became increasingly clear, including through inquiries actively pursued by the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, that many European governments had adopted a "see no evil, hear no evil" approach when it came to rendition flights using their territory.

Some were willing partners with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in facilitating abuses. Complicity by states such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Italy, Macedonia, Sweden and the UK ranged from acceptance and concealment of renditions, secret detentions and torture or other ill-treatment (and use of information gained from such treatment) to direct involvement in abductions and illegal transfers. There was evidence, furthermore, that security forces of Germany, Turkey and the UK had taken advantage of the situation by interrogating individuals who had been subjected to rendition.

The Europe & Central Asia regional breakdown is here, with country-specific reports.

I don't have a shred of time today to go through the regional breakdowns in any detail, so please consider this a collaborative effort and start highlighting things you feel strongly about in the comments.

A few facts & figures:


185 states have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

62 have placed reservations on clauses

9 have not signed

1 has signed but not ratified - the USA
Domestic Violence

At least 1 in 3 women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Usually, the abuser is a member of her own family or someone known to her.


2 million people are trafficked every year - the majority women and girls

137 countries receive them, mostly in Western Europe, Asia and Northern America

127 countries send them, mostly in Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, West Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

Women in Conflict

70% of the casualties in recent conflicts have been non-combatants - most of them women and children

Tens of thousands of women and girls have been subjected to rape and other sexual violence since the crisis erupted in Darfur in 2003

0 people are known by Amnesty International to have been convicted in Darfur for these atrocities

Source: Amnesty International, UNICEF, UNIFEM, UN, WHO, Médecins Sans Frontières


1,250,000 people joined the Million Faces photo petition demanding tougher controls on the arms trade

153 governments voted in December to start work towards an international Arms Trade Treaty

24 countries abstained

1 voted against the Treaty - the USA


US$22bn is spent on arms on average by countries in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa each year

US$22bn would have enabled these countries to give every child a place in school and reduce child mortality by two thirds by 2015

85% of killings recorded by Amnesty International involve the use of small arms and light weapons

60% of the world's firearms are in the hands of private individuals

2 bullets are produced for every man, woman and child on the planet each year

Source: Amnesty International, Small Arms Survey 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, UN Human Development Report 2005, UN Comtrade data, International Finance Facility proposal, January 2003, HM Treasury, UNAIDS Global Report 2004, US Congress

 Control Arms is a campaign jointly run by Amnesty International, the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and Oxfam: www.controlarms.org


20,000 people are estimated to be on death row across the world

3,861 people were sentenced to death in 55 countries

1,591 [2] prisoners were executed in 25 countries; this fell from 2,148 prisoners executed in 22countries in 2005

128 countries do not execute people (having abolished the death penalty in law or practice)

99 of whom have abolished the death penalty in law for all ordinary crimes - the Philippines became the 99th in 2006

91% of all known executions took place in 6countries: China, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Pakistan and the USA

69 countries still use the death penalty

65 people were known to be executed in Iraq in 2006

3 had been executed in 2005

[1] Figures presented for executions and sentences include only those known to Amnesty International; the true totals are higher.

[2] This figure is higher than that published in the Amnesty International Report 2007 as it includes information received in the last few weeks.

 Source: Amnesty International


144 states have ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

102 countries had cases of torture and ill-treatment by security forces, police and other state authorities documented in the Amnesty International Report 2007
"War on Terror"

400 detainees from more than 30 nationalities were still held at Guantánamo Bay - the public symbol of the injustices in the "war on terror" - at the end of 2006

200 have staged hunger strikes since the camp opened

40 have attempted suicide

3 died in June 2006, after apparent suicides

An unknown number of detainees are held in other, secret, detention centres or "black sites" around the world

Source: Amnesty International

information updated to include 1 January - 1 May 2007

International Criminal Court (ICC)

104 countries have ratified the Rome Statute of the ICC

100 states have concluded an "impunity agreement" with the USA - which excludes US citizens from prosecution

6 warrants of arrest have been issued

3 situations are under investigation - Northern Uganda; Democratic Republic of the Congo; and Darfur, Sudan

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

161 people have been indicted for serious violations of international humanitarian law

Special Court for Sierra Leone

10 people are standing trial, including Charles Taylor who was transferred to the Special Court in March 2006

All have pleaded not guilty - they are charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other violations of international humanitarian law

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

27 judgments have been handed down, involving 33 people

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 06:51:05 AM EST
Via slashdot:


The Visible Man: An FBI Target Puts His Whole Life Online

Hasan Elahi whips out his Samsung Pocket PC phone and shows me how he's keeping himself out of Guantanamo. He swivels the camera lens around and snaps a picture of the Manhattan Starbucks where we're dinking coffee. Then he squints and pecks at the phone's touchscreen. "OK! It's uploading now," says the cheery, 35-year-old artist and Rutgers professor, whose bleached-blond hair complements his fluorescent-green pants. "It'll go public in a few seconds. "Sure enough, a moment later the shot appears on the front page of his Web site, TrackingTransience.net.

There are already tons of pictures there. Elahi will post about a hundred today -- the rooms he sat in, the food he ate, the coffees he ordered. Poke around his site and you'll find more than 20,000 images stretching back three years. Elahi has documented nearly every waking hour of his life during that time. He posts copies of every debit card transaction, so you can see what he bought, where, and when. A GPS device in his pocket reports his real-time physical location on a map .

Elahi's site is the perfect alibi. Or an audacious art project. Or both. The Bangladeshi-born American says the US government mistakenly listed him on its terrorist watch list -- and once you're on, it's hard to get off. To convince the Feds of his innocence, Elahi has made his life an open book. Whenever they want, officials can go to his site and see where he is and what he's doing. Indeed, his server logs show hits from the Pentagon, the Secretary of Defense, and the Executive Office of the President, among others.

by Laurent GUERBY on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 07:39:06 AM EST
This miserable man needs medical help.  

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 11:00:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or the FBI off his back.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 24th, 2007 at 02:48:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't believe that one encounter with the FBI is an indication they are on his back.  I can't see the FBI wasting time on someone like this.  His reaction is way over the top, unless there is a lot more to his story than what appeared in the article.  It's easy to understand that a mix up occurred when his name was added to the terrorist watch list, but who would reasonably think that someone legitimately on that list would be (1) allowed to enter the country, and (2) remain at large.  My gut reaction is that he has been cleared and just doesn't know/believe it. I guess it's good publicity for those who wish others to think that the "man" is everywhere.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Fri May 25th, 2007 at 09:19:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Um,  "allowed to enter the country"?  He's a US citizen.  Who. had. done. nothing. wrong.

And it wasn't just a single encounter with the FBI:

Elahi's life for the next few months involved dozens of interviews with the FBI, finally culminating in nine back to back polygraphs, which finally "cleared" him.

If I were a professional visual artist who'd been through that, I'd feel required to make art about it.  I think the site is brilliant.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat May 26th, 2007 at 07:12:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I missed that part - poor reading habits.  However, he was cleared by the PG and that's usually enough to keep most institutions like the FBI off one's back.  It's not unusual to have multiple polygraphs during that process when one has had unusual contacts that could be cause for suspicion.  The fact that he was a citizen guarantees entry into the US, but puts more pressure on authorities to ensure that he was not up to something.  Again, I don't know the details, but I would guess that he may have volunteered for the polygraphs and interviews just to clear his name.  I didn't read that he was arrested and detained (but again I may have missed it). I know that sounds harsh (it happened to a friend of mine also), but the FBI is just doing its job.  I can't think of a better alternative when there are so many people around who are not exactly being honest about their intentions.  The only things I would hope is that each person, like this gentleman, is treated with respect and dignity and that due process is followed.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sat May 26th, 2007 at 10:12:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Again, he had no unusual contacts.  He's a college professor who teaches art in Pennsylvania.  He was reported to the FBI because he was a man "of Middle Eastern appearance" who had rented a storage space in Tampa, where he was teaching at the time.

And I will note that, having been born in Bangladesh, he is not actually Middle Eastern and probably doesn't very much look like it.  But he is probably brown, and it's likely that he's a Muslim, at least nominally.  So I guess that, combined with that subversive act of renting a storage space, is certainly enough to "justify" months of harrassment by the FBI?

Hey, wait a minute.  I've rented a storage space.  And although I'm not Arab, or even brown, and I'm not a Muslim, but I have been to the Middle East.  Perhaps the FBI should come talk to me.  Maybe I'll call them up and volunteer for a polygraph, just to be on the safe side.  Because if having a storage space is enough to put someone on the terrorist watch list, I'm in trouble.

I think you're missing the point.  It's art.  And social criticism.  And both of those things are important.

At any rate, the last time I checked, we did still have a First Amendment, although I know it's probably "under review" by the Bush administration.  But for now, it's still there.  So if the FBI has the "right" to question this guy dozens of times and subject him to nine polygraphs for the high crime of renting a storage space while brown, then he has the right to draw the world's attention to it.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun May 27th, 2007 at 04:52:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, Hasan Elahi teaches in New Jersey (at Rutgers), not Pennsylvania.

This guy teaches in Pennsylvania, however.

Because of my recycling, the bomb squad came, then the state police. Because of my recycling, buildings were evacuated, classes were canceled, the campus was closed. No. Not because of my recycling. Because of my dark body. No. Not even that. Because of his fear. Because of the way he saw me. Because of the culture of fear, mistrust, hatred and suspicion that is carefully cultivated in the media, by the government, by people who claim to want to keep us "safe."
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun May 27th, 2007 at 05:46:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry Stormy, didn't mean to beat a dead horse.  I agree with you, it is all about art.  Elahi just wants exposure for his cause/work.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sun May 27th, 2007 at 01:13:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wish I had something useful to add, something constructive to say. An analysis that offered hope.

But it's almost impossible to maintain a sense of purpose or optimism when you're crushed by inevitabilities like these. I'm sorry.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 05:08:51 PM EST
Once again, AI fails to include what is perhaps the most important issue for the Palestinian people, the right of refugees to return home.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 05:59:49 PM EST
At some level, I think the world would be a better place if refugees were helped to integrate in their host country instead of being penned in refugee camps for indefinite periods of time waiting for repatriation. Which doesn't, of course, negate the right of return nor the moral responsibility of those who cause the refugees to flee in the first place.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 06:02:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One might want to go one step further and suggest that a number of countries that have some responsibility either directly or indirectly stop refusing to allow Palestinians to enter as refugees.

Canada anyone?

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 06:05:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I just suggested the same in "Palestine, Israel, and the Abuse of History".

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 07:38:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, I almost missed the obvious response: Blame Canada!

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 07:39:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh! I wasn't suggesting "Blame Canada" as in Southpark.

Blame Canada

I was suggesting that Canada has had its own fingers in the middle east, supporting Israel at the expense of both democracy and the Palestinian people.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 08:26:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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