Category Archives: Human Rights

Assange: Not in jail

Yesterday, Channel 4 News ran an anniversary programme, of sorts:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange – hiding for two years in the Ecuadorian embassy – is in “a prison cell with internet access” and “yearns to walk in the fresh air,” says a close friend.

Today, Slavoj Žižek, writing in the Guardian, seems to think that Julian Assange is hiding out in the Ecuador embassy because of something to do with Wikileaks and whistleblowing.

In August 2010, Julian Assange had sex with two women in Sweden. He was, so they both report, aggressive and unpleasant, and very unwilling to use a condom. When they talked to each other and realised he had had unprotected sex against their will with both of them, they went to the police to discover if they could force Assange to take an HIV test – and the police, listening to their account, realised that Assange had by their testimony committed sexual assault and rape.

Until Julian Assange stepped into the Ecuadorean Embassy, nearly two years after the legal due process began in Sweden, he had every element of the justice system due him. He was even on house arrest rather than in prison, in the confidence that he could be trusted with the large amount of money his friends would lose if he skipped bail.
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Filed under Human Rights, Justice, Uncategorized, Women

The deaths at Tuam: a voiceless testimony

Tuam Babies unmarked graveThere is an unmarked mass grave in Galway which has become briefly famous by the work of historian Catherine Corless, who spent years tracing the death records of each child whose remains may have been buried there. (You can hear her being interviewed about her work on the mass grave here.)

Timothy Stanley, a Telegraph blogger who converted to Catholicism from the Anglican church, argues that the mass grave is “a human tragedy, not a Catholic one”. At more length, Caroline Farrow, a spokesperson for Catholic Voice, explains that first of all, this wasn’t really so bad, and anyway, everyone except the Catholic Church is probably lying. (I note for the record: the sheer quantity of misinformation and distortion provided by both Stanley and Farrow is quite astonishing.)
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Filed under Children, Human Rights, Poverty, Women

46 years of safe legal abortion

Celebrating 46 years of the Aborion ActOn 27th April 1968, 46 years ago, the Abortion Act became law, and women in the UK – except in Northern Ireland – were entitled to get safe, legal abortions. That’s half a lifetime ago. There can be few doctors or nurses still practicing who have first-hand memories of the bad old prolife days.

Every year for the past few years, on the Saturday closest to that date, SPUC stand in a line down Lothian Road, on the Sheraton Hotel side, and express their sorrow and regret for 46 years of health and wellbeing for women.
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Filed under Healthcare, Human Rights, LGBT Equality, Religion, Scottish Constitution, Scottish Politics, Women

Are corporations people?

Corporations Are Not PeopleThe legal definition of a corporation in the UK is:

a body of persons authorised by law to act as one person, and having rights and liabilities distinct from the individuals who are forming the corporation.

A corporation can own property, do business, pays taxes – well, sometimes – be sued, sue individuals and other corporations, and though it can’t be born or die, a corporation usually has a definite beginning and can come to a definite end. A corporation doesn’t have a passport: it may be registered in just one country, but it can exist in many.

But no matter how many legal rights and powers a corporation may acquire, there are things it cannot do: it cannot vote in most democratic electionsthough the richer the corporation is, the more it is likely to get its way regardless of democracy; it cannot have sex or experience orgasm or know love or laughter or tears; and it has neither soul nor conscience – from a religious viewpoint, a corporation is not a person at all.

Or so I always thought.

But apparently, in the US at least, the Catholic Church has ruled that corporations have souls and consciences, and therefore rights of freedom of religion that ought not to be violated.

The American legal definition of a corporation is similar to the UK’s definition. A corporation in the US is an independent legal person, created, organised, and – should that time come – dissolved according to the laws of the state in which it is registered. Each state requires articles of incorporation that document the corporation’s creation and the corporation’s management of internal affairs. Nowhere in the legal definition of a corporation does it explain where in this process the corporation becomes ensouled.
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Filed under American, Human Rights, Women

Because it’s my choice

Over two years ago, I wrote a blogpost outlining why I thought those who were opposed to same-sex marriage were also opposed to safe legal abortion. (Human Rights: Abortion and gay marriage).

In 2004, the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) won the general election and had as a manifesto commitment, lifting the ban on same-sex marriage in Spain. In 2005, Spain became the third country in the world in which same-sex couples can marry. In 2011, the right-wing Partido Popular (PP) won a majority, and had in their manifesto commitments to roll back access to safe legal abortion, and to have the Constitutional Court consider re-imposing a ban on same-sex marriage.

Courts and judges, upholders of law and order, have in general proved to be supporters of keeping marriage legal, because unmaking lawful marriages is disorderly, and to the judicial mind, disorderliness in marriage law is anathema. In 2012, so it proved in Spain: rather than fall into the unutterable confusion of declaring that seven years of marriages would no longer be recognised, the 2005 law was upheld.
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Filed under Healthcare, Human Rights, LGBT Equality, Women

Bears and woods

There in a scene described in the New Testament where Jesus, having been asked who will be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, calls a small child to him, and tells his disciples “This kid is, and you guys need to become more like little kids, and furthermore, anyone who hurts little kids should have a big stone hung round his neck and dropped into the deepest part of the sea, am I clear?”

(I’m paraphrasing.)

Pope FrancisNo one knows how many priests in the Roman Catholic Church have abused children and are still active as priests in their communities. In each diocese, there are files on the priests who worked there which would make that clear if all of them were opened up, but the Catholic Church has steadily refused to do that.

Four hundred priests who have been accused of child molestation by the secular law authorities have been defrocked. I know of no instance where the Church has defrocked a priest and turned him and the evidence they had uncovered of his abuse of children over to the secular law authorities so that the legal authorities could act.
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Immigrants are not the problem

Immigrant scary headlinesCheap-work conservatives don’t like human rights: for the principle of human rights, universal and indivisible, stands against the cheap-work conservative need to exploit, use, and abuse everyone less wealthy than they are or than they aspire to be.

It shouldn’t surprise us that so many cheap-work conservative MPs – of all parties – made greedy use of the MP expenses system, and regarded transparency and control of the system as a new tyranny.

Cheap-labor conservatives support every coercive and oppressive function of government, but call it “tyranny” if government does something for you – using their money, for Chrissake. Even here, cheap-labor conservatives are complete hypocrites.

We live in a country where unemployment is at 7.7% after the Department of Work and Pensions has massaged the figures to exclude unemployed people on mandatory government training schemes, and anyone sanctioned of their benefits. Foodbanks across the UK saw a surge in need during the school holidays, as families struggled to feed their children without the benefit of a free school lunch. Even by the DWP’s massaged figures, there are 2.39 millon people out of work.
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Filed under Benefits, Human Rights, Poverty, Racism

Spain: human rights tragedy

We will care for your women until your government doesSpain has joined Ireland in exporting part of its healthcare system abroad: from now on, a woman who needs an abortion – unless she can “prove” to the healthcare system in time that she was raped or that being pregnant will cause her serious mental or physical damage – will have to go to another country.

Unfortunately, of the main countries closest to Spain: Portugal only allows elective abortion up to 10 weeks and has a 3-day waiting period: and France allows elective abortion up to 12 weeks but usually with a 1-week waiting period. (Italy is about the same: first 90 days with 1-week wait except in cases of emergency.) It seems likely, therefore, that Spanish women who need abortions (if they can afford it) will have to take a cheap flight to the UK and will have to make use of the abortion services here. Those that can’t, will have to find some way of illegally aborting in Spain.
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Filed under Human Rights, Women

Scotland’s for marriage

Elaine Smith MSPElaine Smith MSP, deputy presiding officer in the Scottish Parliament, argued for polygamy in her written evidence to the Equal Opportunities Committee last year, as the Scotland on Sunday anti-gay marriage story this morning quotes:

“Whilst the government has said that it has no intention of allowing polygamous marriages as part of this legislation which changes the essential nature of marriage, it has not explained in any detail and with research analysis its reasons for taking that position.

“Further, if the government is sincere about its support for ‘equal love’ then it appears to have a contradiction on its hands.”

There is “no logical reason” for discriminating against more than two people getting married if the redefinition of marriage is driven by love, Ms Smith adds.

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Filed under Human Rights, LGBT Equality, Scottish Culture, Scottish Politics

On Syria

Iraq WarAs ever, The Onion cuts to the quick of the matter. Given Syria has allies on the Security Council at the UN, there is no legal way for a United Nations member to take military action on Syria.

Just as the 2003 war on Iraq was not lawful.

James Fallows in The Atlantic:

Fact 1: Atrocities are happening in Syria. Fact 2: The United States has bombers, cruise missiles, and drones. Putting those two facts together does not make the second a solution to the first.
….,
Only ten years after the disastrous “what could go wrong?” / “something must be done!” rush to war in Iraq, you would have thought these cautions would not need restatement. They do. In the face of evil we should do something, except when the something would likely make a bad situation worse.

We’ve done all this before.
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Filed under Human Rights, Scottish Politics, War