ECONOMIC PRESSURE WORKS

The way you get compliance with human rights is with leverage. You cannot expect foreign nations to roll over unless there is a compelling reason such as an economic loss. In the case of Cambodia, the European Union is threatening to withdraw economic assistance from that nation unless vulnerable women are given more legal rights. The response from the Cambodian government has been contrite and positive.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s promise of free legal benefits including a team of lawyers to provide legal support to female workers is the result of leverage not a change of heart. These potential benefits are particularly helpful to female garment workers who face exploitation. The main issue has been that protesting poor treatment and conditions usually results in a loss of employment. This is why the governments statement that focused on keeping workers on rather than rushing to dismiss them is important.

How this came to be is that the EU has begun the withdrawal procedure for Cambodia’s Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement. Unless Cambodia substantially improves its human rights record, the EU will suspend the EBA. The result will be that all tax benefits to Cambodia when dealing with the EU will be lost. Economic pressure works and the Cambodian government will be hard pressed to prove that it is correcting its human rights record. How they respond will dictate their economic future.

Posted in CAMBODIA, WOMEN | Leave a comment

REPEAL THE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTORATION ACT

Well before the Trump Administration was ever conceived, a Supreme court ruling gave them a tool to enable religious intolerance. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) was in response to Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith (No. 88-1213) that diluted constitutional protections for religious freedom. Now the Trump administration is cherry picking opportunities to use RFRA to discriminate.

Federally funded child welfare agencies are receiving waivers from the Trump Administration that allow them to discriminate or to impose religious beliefs onto others despite the prohibition against it. The intent of the RFRA was to enhance and protect religious expression of minorities and now it is being used to suppress region. New legislation working its way through the House of Representatives would restore the intent of the RFRA and blunt the abuse of it by the Trump Administration.

There is little doubt that the RFRA is being misused as a tool against Muslims who need child care. The Trump Administration in their now infamous “Muslim Ban” made very clear that they had an agenda of hate and the targets were Muslims. Rather than prolong the abuse by passing new legislation only to see it stalled in court for years, the RFRA should be repealed.

Trying to apply a fix in the political environment that the nation now finds itself in is not going to shut down the abuse of the RFRA. There will be court challenges and executive orders reinterpreting the RFRA to make it even more of a burden on Muslims. It’s time that this well-meaning law that is now being used as a weapon is repealed.

Posted in Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 | Leave a comment

ITS TIME TO STOP RESTRAINING CHILDREN IN SCHOOLS

Currently there is no federal law that protects students from the dangers and horror of being forcibly restrained in school. This practice received national attention in 1998 when a 4-year-old autistic girl with cerebral palsy was retrained in a wooden chair by teachers. She was being punished for asking to go to the bathroom. Again in 2003 a 15-year-old autistic boy died after Michigan school officials held him for an hour face down.

The targets of these restraints are usually children with disabilities. The abuse knows no socio-economic group since it happens in public and private schools. State laws are all different and there is no uniform regulation to prevent these practices. The numbers do not support that these are isolated incidents engaged in by poorly trained teachers and administrators. Between 2015 and 2016 disabled students made up 12 percent of enrolled students, but accounted for 71 percent of the students who were restrained.

There is still no federal law to prohibit teachers and administrators from using such restraints. In fact, 27 states do not even require the parents of these children to be notified that they were restrained. What is clearly needed is federal legislation that:

• Prohibit physical restraint except in emergencies when there is an imminent threat of physical and serious bodily injury.
• Restraints must be removed when the emergency ends.
• Parents must be notified within 2 hours of restraint in writing and verbally.
• A certification class for all teachers and administrators with a refresher course every 2 years.
• Mandatory fines and sentences for unlawful restraints, as well as a private cause of action for damages by students and parents.
• Written notice to all parents with details of the law and the rights of their child and them as parents sent to them annually.

The number of incidents and the potential of physical harm and death to a child justify such steps. Restraints used arbitrarily for discipline are violations of the child’s basic human rights (see Article 19 of the American Convention On Human Rights). The only way to stop and prevent these incidents is by prohibiting them through a uniform federal law.

Posted in American Convention On Human Rights, CHILDREN, HUMAN RIGHTS | Leave a comment

REGAIN OUR PLACE AS A MORAL AUTHORITY

Just speaking to the North Korean leader is not leadership. President Trump on behalf of the United States should raise the issue of human rights in North Korea and attach it as a condition to future talks and any potential deal that may emerge from the Hanoi Summit. To do less would be an abdication of the United States moral responsibility to never leave these issues unchallenged.

Could raising human rights turn the potential for denuclearization into an impossibility? Only if you believe that the North Koreans are serious about denuclearization, which they are not. The one issue that can be raised publicly, in front of Kim Jong-Un which has never been done before to his face is the human rights record of his nation.

Strongmen like Kim Jong-Un respect power. The United States could show power and real leadership by publicly chastising him regarding his nation’s human rights record. We cannot be fools and believe that by not doing so the North Korean’s are ever going to denuclearize the peninsula. Private diplomacy has never had a chance since there have only been two summits and neither has public consternation to the face of a North Korean Leader. Because it has never been tried.

The meetings between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un were no doubt looked at by many diplomats as standard where the hard issues are discussed in private. This is not China you’re dealing with where the diplomats expect the issue of China’s abusive policies to come up in private and discussed in public from U.S. soil. China and the United States have done this dance before and there are more dances to come. The United States may never have another dance with North Korea.

It’s expected that the issue of human rights will be raised in private by the United States. It is in our interest to be subtler with the Chinese on this issue yet forceful. It is not in our interest or that of the world to not bluntly tell Kim Jong-Un to his face that he needs to stop killing his own people and depriving them of their basic human rights. We lose nothing other than another summit, but we will regain our place as a moral authority on human rights.

Posted in HUMAN RIGHTS, NORTH KOREA | Leave a comment

THE QUESTION IN CONNECTICUT IS HOW DID WE GET TO THIS POINT?

Certain public policies involving gerrymandering at times beg the question, how did we get to this point? Case in point is how Connecticut counts inmates for the purposes of creating legislative districts. The policy is now being challenged in National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. Merrill 3:18cv1094 (WWE), where the Secretary of the State is being sued for counting inmates as constituents of the legislative district where the prison is located.

This practice dilutes the votes of residents in their home communities by inflating the voting strength of some voters residing in certain Connecticut House and Senate Districts, as compared to the voting strength of persons residing in all other House and Senate districts. As it stands now the practice is a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

The solution would have been to simply count the inmates at their last known address prior to incarceration. Common senses would dictate such a policy because the inmates are incarcerated rather than permanent constituents. The Connecticut Legislature had opportunities in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2016 to amend this policy but failed. That legislation would have counted prisoner’s pre-incarceration addresses. The state filed a motion to dismiss this case which was denied on February 19th 2019. Now the case heads for trial. How did we get to this point?

Posted in 14TH AMENDMENT, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE | Leave a comment

ABUSE OF THE DISABLED IN AUSTRALIA FINALLY BEING ADDRESSED

Australia’s Constitution at section 78 reads as follows: “The Parliament may make laws conferring rights to proceed against the Commonwealth or a State in respect of matters within the limits of the judicial power”. Finally, this power is going to be applied to righting the wrong of abuse to those with disabilities. The Australian Parliament is setting up a Royal Commission to deal with decades of abuse of people with disabilities.

The true scale of this horrific problem is not known, yet it has been known to exist unabated. The human rights of these people have been trampled on for many decades and it will take an amazing effort to right these wrongs. Much of the abuse went unreported or was dismissed, ignored or covered up.

Within the prison system, the number of those with physical, sensory, psychosocial or cognitive disability is enormous totaling half the prison population. This leads to one conclusion which is the solution has been to use the prisons to institutionalize people who need help. Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are also targets of prosecution and have increased the prison population of inmates with disabilities.

In 2018 Australia was elected to the UN Human Rights Council. The term will last until 2021, yet it took them a full year to set up a commission to finally start dealing with this internal problem. From warehousing asylum seekers to ignoring the disabled, Australia does not have a stellar record. We can only wait and see is the Royal Commission rights some of these wrongs and allows for compensation of the victims.

Posted in AUSTRALIA, DISABLED, HUMAN RIGHTS | Leave a comment

THE SYSTEM WORKED

The right of the voters to have free and fair elections has overcome fraud in North Carolina. A bipartisan board’s 5-0 decision to order a new election for a U.S. House seat that hung under a cloud of absentee ballot fraud is a victory for democracy and the voters.

Essentially the Republican candidate Mark Harris had too much evidence against his campaign to contest the institution of new elections. Now the voters in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District will have their say in a free and fair election.

The problems stem from a Harris political operative who ordered Harris campaign workers to fill in absentee ballot request forms then have voters sign them, prior to them being sent in. These forms which were clearly fraudulent, tipped the balance of the election.

Finally, Harris’ when confronted with the evidence and the potential legal ramifications if he had knowledge of the fraud, relented and declined to pursue his challenge to a new election. At the time of the vote Harris led his Democratic opponent Dan McCready by 905 votes out of 282,717.

Election officials were so concerned about the fraud that they refused to certify the results thus leaving the district and its voters without representation since January of this year. The lack of representation in an odd way was the solution that was best for the voters. The system prevented the wrong person from taking office and by extension denying the voters the representation they wanted. The system worked.

Posted in NORTH CAROLINA, VOTER FRAUD | Leave a comment

THE PURGE CONTINUES

The Turkish authorities have continued a purge of anyone they suspect of being involved in the 2016 attempted coup of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The move to round up people has continued for the last three years and has no end in sight. Add this to the already 70,000 jailed during these purges and you have a true threat to human rights and democracy.

Academics, journalist and anyone not in the good graces of the government are not potential targets of arrest. To date 129 academics have been convicted, homes of 295 military personnel have raided and there is no end in sight. One positive sign is movement in the European Parliament which may suspend Turkey’s membership due to the human rights violations.

Turkey is currently in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The government is also in violation of Article 148 of its constitution which provides a legal remedy to address human rights violations to those who wish to do so. They can’t do this if they are in jail. Turkey has a history of ignoring its own laws and the ICCPR. Currently Turkey represses the right of 15% of the population to a primary education in their own language. This is primarily directed at the Kurdish minority.

Unless there are serious efforts that lead to reform of the Turkish legal system, the inability of those who are incarcerated to defend themselves will only worsen. International efforts to hold Turley accountable to the ICCPR and its own constitution must increase and be backed up with economic sanctions if human rights violations and this purge is to ever stop.

Posted in HUMAN RIGHTS, TURKEY | Leave a comment

CHINA USING DNA TO OPPRESS UIGHURS

A U.S. geneticist and a U.S. company were recently confronted by the New York Times over their help to China regarding DNA collection of Uighurs. The geneticist Kenneth Kidd of Yale University was unaware that his knowledge was being used for the purpose of oppressing the Uighurs. Kidd assumed that Chinese doctors were acting lawfully and using the information for lawful purposes.

The company Thermo Fisher of Massachusetts was duped by “scientist” who were tied to if not members of Chinese Security to provide equipment for DNA testing. There is no evidence that either Mr. Kidd or Thermo Fisher acted with intent to help illegally collect DNA from Uighurs. But this episode raises the question how many more U.S. companies and scientist are being used in this way by China?

One way that this can be prevented in the future is through federal legislation that has safeguards related to DNA research or instrumentation going to China. In effect an embargo of the knowledge and technology to Chinese security force doctors and scientist or those affiliated with companies and hospitals controlled by the security forces. This can work similar to a sanctions list that exporters use prior to shipping certain goods to some countries.

This database should be made available to research professionals and companies who conduct business with China. By law this database should be used as a reference prior to engaging in the exchange of any DNA related information or equipment with China.

In lieu of this safeguard, the only other way is to stop the practice outright which is not practical or ethical. What we know about DNA can save or improve lives and to prevent it from being shared for medical purposes is draconian. It must be understood that the right to privacy in the Chinese constitution applies to correspondence not your person. Chapter II, Article 40 reads:

“The freedom and privacy of correspondence of citizens of the People’s Republic of China are protected by law. No organization or individual may, on any ground, infringe upon the freedom and privacy of citizens’ correspondence except in cases where, to meet the needs of state security or of investigation into criminal offenses, public security or procuratorial organs are permitted to censor correspondence in accordance with procedures prescribed by law”.

In other words there is no right to privacy of the person in China even though international law acknowledge one (see Art. 12 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) (‘UDHR’) prohibits arbitrary interference with one’s privacy). The United States is a signatory to the UDHR and it is the duty of the United States to work to adhere to it. That means preventing unlawful DNA collection for the purpose of rounding up certain people or groups like the Uighurs.

There were no safeguards that could have stopped Mr. Kidd or Thermo Fisher from unwittingly providing help to the Chinse government in collecting DNA for the purpose of oppressing the Uighurs. Until there are such safeguards there must be a limited embargo of the exchange of equipment and information related to DNA with China. Even if this slows down the process of abusing the Uighurs it’s a step in the right direction.

Posted in DNA, UYGHURS | Leave a comment

GOVERNOR WHITMER WAS RIGHT TO STOP PRISON SALE

In April of 2018 the Trump Administration announced the policy of separating children from adults who crossed the border illegally. One of the economic beneficiaries of this policy has been Virginia-based Immigration Centers of America who sought to purchase a former state prison in Michigan. Because Immigration Centers of America could not guarantee to not detain adults who are separated from their children or other family members, Michigan has now blocked the sale of that was proposed as the site.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan stopped the proposed sale from proceeding because she did not see how it solved our nation’s immigration crisis. She was correct to do so. This policy of separating children from their parents is a clear human and constitutional rights violation directed at these children and parents. Rather than make Michigan a partner to this folly, Governor Whitmer used her power to stop it.

Rights matter and so do contract stipulations that prohibit the detention of any individual who had been separated from a family member at apprehension. Immigration Centers of America could not stick to the agreement and therefore they cannot purchase the property. States placing conditions on the purchase of facilities to be used by private prisons is legal and perfectly reasonable.

Its even more justified when the end result is the prevention of a continued policy that violates the rights of children and their parents. Governor Whitmer was justified and right in her decision.

Posted in IMMIGRATION, PRIVATE PRISONS | Leave a comment