Human Rights

Wednesday, 22 July 2015 10:27 David Bush Editorial Dept - Human Rights
A year ago this month, Israel commenced Operation Protective Edge, their third major assault on the Gaza strip since 2008. The response from Canada's political parties was a swift and unflinching support for Israel. The 51-day war, or rather display of modern mechanical butchery by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), killed 2,251 Palestinians, over two thirds of whom were civilians, including 500 children. More than 10,000 were injured. By comparison 71 Israelis were killed and only six of them were civilians. Roughly 500 Israelis were injured.

By any account this was a slaughter. But the grim toll of lives and limbs only scratches the surface of the savagery. An estimated 20,000 Palestinian homes were destroyed or suffered major damage (this figure might be very low) and more than 100,000 people were displaced. Twenty-seven government schools, 46 clinics, 15 hospitals, eight fire stations, one ambulance station and over 500 factories and workshops were either completely destroyed or severely damaged. The agricultural sector in Gaza suffered major losses as Israel targeted nearly half of the agricultural sector – driving up food prices. The Israelis also obliterated 73 mosques and partially damaged 200 others, as well as Gaza's only two churches – that is roughly one third of the mosques in Gaza. The IDF didn't just slaughter Palestinians – it destroyed their livelihoods.

Friday, 17 April 2015 15:41 David Camfield Editorial Dept - Human Rights
There has never been more talk about human rights than there is today. Social media is full of calls to sign petitions or send e-mails about human rights causes. Almost no one says they're not supporters of human rights, from radicals on the left to people on the hard right like Stephen Harper. Governments of Western countries justify war in the name of defending human rights. We now have a Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

Defending human rights is necessary. But championing human rights is a completely inadequate way of responding to the biggest crises of our times: the ecological crisis – above all, climate change – and socio-economic crises.

What Are Human Rights?

There's nothing natural about rights – they're human-made. Enforceable rights are those enshrined by governments in the laws of states. In the Canadian state, we have the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and human rights codes.

Wednesday, 01 April 2015 19:48 Reuven Kaminer Editorial Dept - Human Rights
Israel sinks deeper and deeper into an abyss of strident chauvinism and endemic racism. Among its Jewish population there is an almost complete consensus that since Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood it must be always ready on the draw. This consensus is frayed at its edges when social and economic issues are addressed but holds up when security policy is on the table.

The war on Gaza last summer was hardly mentioned during the election campaign but it was just plain naïve to believe that the right could be unseated by concentrating on bread and butter issues while leaving the uneven “security” playing field to Benjamin Netanyahu.

On the surface, Israel has many attributes of a normal liberal democracy. But when push comes to shove the predominant instinct is that of a military region under siege. The clash between the reactionary and liberal Zionists may seem like a typical election battle. But down deep Israel society is similar in essence to one big military base or a giant aircraft carrier.

You can criticize the level of management or efficiency but you cannot convince people to change course or that they can live in peace with their neighbors because they have been successfully conditioned to see them as their mortal enemy. The situation is even more dangerous when the Israeli hawks are enthused by the growing strength and influence of their virtual partners in Washington.

Thursday, 04 September 2014 00:00 Shourideh C. Molavi Editorial Dept - Human Rights
Today the struggle for people of conscience appears to be less about convincing people that Israel is committing war crimes against Palestinians or grossly violating international law. Instead the struggle has become about convincing the world that Palestinians are human beings too. The ongoing televised genocidal attack of Palestinians in Gaza by the Israeli army makes one wonder what the situation would have been like if global powers and mainstream voices saw Palestinians as human beings.

If Palestinians were human beings, they would not lay scattered in the hundreds on the grounds of a crowded marketplace in Shuja'iya after IDF shelling during a four-hour ceasefire declared by Israel.

If Palestinians were human beings, the corpses of those killed in Khuza'a, with skins melted from the intensity of U.S.-made Israeli bombs, would not have been found piled on top of one another in the corner of the bathroom of a house. Many of them have not been identified as their bodies were completely burnt.

If Palestinians were human beings, the medical crews would not have been denied access by Israeli tanks to the dozens of civilian casualties in Khuza'a. These victims of missiles fired from Israeli drones would have been buried instead of scattered in the streets and reportedly eaten by nearby animals.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013 00:00 Editorial Dept - Human Rights
Unchecked Mass Surveillance Threatens Rights - Governments around the world should aggressively protect online privacy through stronger laws and policies as pervasive electronic surveillance increases. There is an urgent need to overhaul national surveillance practices to protect everyone’s privacy, or risk severely limiting the potential of the Internet.

Global growth in digital communications, coupled with increased government computing powers, have fueled expansive, new surveillance practices. Justifying the use of these tactics under outdated legal frameworks has permitted overbroad and highly invasive intrusions on the right to privacy.

To guide countries in modernizing privacy protections, Human Rights Watch has endorsed a set of International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, released on September 20, 2013, by a broad group of civil society organizations in Geneva.

“The shocking revelations of mass monitoring by the US and UK show how privacy protections have not kept pace with technology,” said Cynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch. “As our lives become more digitized, unchecked surveillance can corrode everyone’s rights and the rule of law.”

The International Principles provide immediate guidance to governments and make recommendations to ensure communications surveillance practices are lawful, necessary, proportionate, and subject to adequate safeguards against abuse. The principles, endorsed by over 250 nongovernmental groups, emerged from a year-long consultative process among experts in communications surveillance law, policy, and technology.

Saturday, 30 March 2013 14:06 Basil Venitis Editorial Dept - Human Rights
Obama has just issued an Executive Order on Preventing and Responding to Violence Against Women and Girls Globally to further enhance the Administration's efforts to advance the rights and status of women and girls, to promote gender equality in U.S. foreign policy, and to bring about a world in which all individuals can pursue their aspirations without the threat of violence.

We condemn the gender-based violence against women that is on the rise at all levels of Islam. It began in 2005 with the government's systematic campaign of sexually assaulting and intimidating female activists and journalists. When the regime attacks women and holds no one accountable, it sends out a signal that women are fair game. When the street then attacks women and the police stands by and does nothing, that continues.

Violence against women and girls cuts across ethnicity, race, class, religion, education level, and international borders. Although statistics on the prevalence of violence vary, the scale is tremendous, the scope is vast, and the consequences for individuals, families, communities, and countries are devastating.

An estimated one in three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence experienced by women globally. Other forms of violence include human trafficking, sexual violence, including when used as a tactic of war, and harmful traditional practices, such as early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and honor killings.

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