Thursday, June 30, 2016

Remembering two acts of state terrorism committed by the Castro regime and how they are connected

"State crimes are never an issue exclusive to the families of the victims." - Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo, protesting in front of the Cuban Interests Section on 7/10//14

On February 24, 2016 friends and families observed in silent protest the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down twenty years earlier on a Saturday afternoon when Cuban MiGs launched missiles destroying two civilian airplanes without warning over international airspace, the first at 3:21pm and the second at 3:27pm killing four men.

Twenty years later looking back at the circumstances that led to the shoot down one is drawn to another crime that occurred less than two years earlier on July 13, 1994 when the Castro regime oversaw the massacre of 37 men, women and children when their agents surrounded and sank the "13 de Marzo" tugboat as entire families risked all to live in freedom. Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas reflected on the significance of this crime years later:

Behind the Christ of Havana, about seven miles from the coast, "volunteers" of the Communist regime committed one of the most heinous crimes in the history of our city and of Cuba. In the morning, a group of seventy people in all, fled on a tugboat, led by the ship's own crew; none was kidnapped, or there against their will. They came out of the mouth of the Bay of Havana. They were pursued by other similar ships. When the runaway ship and its occupants stopped to surrender, the ships that had been chasing them started ramming to sink it. Meanwhile, on the deck, women with children in their arms begging for mercy, but the answer of their captors was to project high pressure water cannons against them. Some saw their children fall overboard under the murderous jets of water amid shrieks of horror. They behaved brutally until their perverse mission was fulfilled: Sink the fleeing ship and annihilate many of its occupants.
How are the events surrounding the massacre of February 24, 1996 joined together with the events surrounding the massacre of July 13, 1994? They are joined together by a third date: July 13, 1995. On July 13, 1995 a flotilla of boats sought to enter Cuban national waters in a nonviolent incursion to travel to the spot where the "13 de Marzo" tugboat had been sunk and where the remains of the victims remain to the present day. The objective was to hold a religious service in memory of the 37 who lost their lives seeking liberty.

Things did not go as planned. As the flotilla neared Cuban territorial waters Cuban MiGs and military helicopters flew over head and Cuban gun boats approached the flotilla eventually partially crushing the hull of the lead boat "Democracia" injuring some of the pilgrims.

When the Castro regime's military personnel begin the aggressive move against the flotilla some Brothers to the Rescue planes to distract attention overflew Havana and dropped fliers that read "Comrades No. Brothers" This was the moment that the Castro brothers began plotting the destruction of Brothers to the Rescue. This is how it was outlined in a legal document presented to the United States Department of Justice in Falls Church, Virginia.
On July 13, 1995, two BTTR aircraft over flew Havana. The Cuban government charged that Basulto publicly, openly and patently endeavored to provoke air incidents and violate Cuban territorial sovereignty. On that flight, Hank Tester, a news reporter from Miami, flew aboard Basulto's plane filming as "fighters were in the area." Basulto claimed his intrusion was an act of civil disobedience. (App. Exh.60) The purpose of the July 13 over-flight was to create a diversion for Cuban fighters that were at the time threatening a freedom flotilla off the territorial waters of Cuba. The flotilla in turn was lawfully commemorating the sinking of the tugboat "13 de Marzo" and the tragic loss of forty lives caused by Cuban gunboats ramming the defenseless vessel. (App. Exh.8 and 60) On July 14, 1995, the day after the over flight, the Cuban government first declared its intention to shoot down even peaceful intruders. Cuba would not govern itself by international standards of engagement when dealing with non-military intrusions. 
Both the July 13, 1994 sinking of the "13 de Marzo" tugboat and the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the shoot down where coldly calculated premeditated acts ordered by the Castro brothers and carried out by its intelligence and military apparatus.

Castro spies that had been dispatched to South Florida and infiltrated Brothers to the Rescue in order to provide information such as flight times, and commit sabotage.  This same spy network received warnings from their superiors in Havana to avoid flying during certain dates that included February 24, 1996  and if they had to fly what special maneuvers to make to avoid being shot down.

These crimes also occurred at a time when the United States was seeking to normalize relations with Cuba during the Clinton Administration and unfortunately the pattern has repeated itself on a different scale during the Obama administration and long time opposition leaders have met with death under suspicious circumstances that point to state security involvement.

Author, philosopher, humanist and holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel reminded persons of conscience in his 1986 Nobel Lecture that: "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." In that spirit I ask you to join me on July 13th wherever you are at 12 noon in a 13 minute silent protest on behalf of the victims and martyrs of the Castro regime. Spread the word to others of good conscience and through letters to the editor,  essays for publication and messages on social media take part in this exercise in memory and truth in the defense of justice and true reconciliation.


IYDU statement on the attack at the Istanbul Atatürk Airport

Young conservatives in solidarity with the people of Turkey

We are sickened by yet another attack on Turkey and the NATO alliance. Turkey has become a battleground in the fight against ISIS and radical Islam. As of this afternoon there are 41 dead and over 200 injured from the disgusting suicide bombings that took place yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these innocent victims.

Former President of the United States Ronald Reagan stated in his first inaugural address, "As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it, now or ever."

Those words are just as true today for all freedom loving people as they were in 1981. We stand with the people of Turkey and call for an united effort to defeat the disease of radical terrorism. These continued violent attacks cannot be tolerated.

In freedom,

Jason F. Emert, Esq.
International Young Democrat Union

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Vacation Travel to Cuba: How it shores up a totalitarian dictatorship

“Tourism only fuels the [Castro] regime's repressive machinery.” - Sirley Ávila León

Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet and Ambassador James Cason
 Today at the University of Miami the words of Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet on the current reality in Cuba and its parallels with the Apartheid regime led to a new reflection on tourism to the island.  In the past have written on the fact that the Cuba is a totalitarian dictatorship and visiting it will not lead to a better understanding of the island, but often just the opposite being turned into an agent of influence for the Castro regime. This has happened before to travelers who visited the Soviet Union during Stalin's mass killings and manufactured famines, or Nazi Germany in the midst of Hitler's holocaust. In both cases travelers returned praising the dictatorships and proclaiming that "they worked" and were the future.

Dr. Biscet today at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies explained that freedom to travel in Cuba remains non-existent and all travel is controlled by the Castro dictatorship.  Furthermore as was the case in South Africa during the Apartheid regime Cubans must show identification to travel between provinces, and report to the Committee in Defense of the Revolution if they wish to stay at the home of a friends or family member when traveling in the island.

Ana Margarita Perdigón Brito denied entry to her homeland to see ailing mother
The reality that Cubans do not have the right to enter and exit their homeland was also demonstrated today with Ana Margarita Perdigón Brito. She was born in Sancti Spíritus, Cuba and immigrated to the United States in March of 2012. Ana Margarita was forced to return at 10:00am this morning after having arrived yesterday at 2:00pm at José Martí International Airport. She had traveled to Cuba to see her mother who is ill and may soon die.

Ana Margarita shows cuts from broken glass during scuffle at airport (CubaNet)
The independent news platform CubaNet reported that Ana Margarita Perdigón Brito was an independent journalist who had worked with various independent publications, including CubaNet among them. CubaNet reached her brother, Pablo Perdigón who had gone to pick up his sister only to find as he informed the reporter: "A colonel from the airport told me that she is turned around, that I could not see her. I had to return to Sancti Spiritus, because we rented a car to go get her." Her brother added that the soldier who met with him told him "some glass was broken and she was injured." This was the second time she had tried to travel to Cuba, the first being in March of 2015 when she and her daughter were taken off the plane while it was still in Miami and told that she was not permitted to enter. However her Cuban passport remained valid and she thought she could try again at a future date. Yesterday she learned that was not the case and spent the night detained on the airport in Havana and was sent back to Miami today.

This is not the first time that a daughter born in Cuba is unable to return to see a dying parent. In the summer of 2013 Blanca Reyes, a Cuban national living in Spain was denied permission to see her dying father. Her dad died on October 15, 2013 and the grieving daughter tweeted: "My father died today in Cuba did not see him for 9 years the Cuban government stopped me. UNTIL WHEN MY GOD?"  Three years later and the question continues to resonate. Both Ana Margarita Perdigón Brito and Blanca Reyes were nonviolent civil society activists who respectively practiced journalism and defended human rights as a Lady in White. There is no reason that they should not be able to enter and exit their homeland, especially when a loved one is ill or dying.

However, some of the Cuban Americans that have been granted entry to Cuba ended their visits tragically.
  • Young Cuban American Víctor Barroso lost an arm on November 18, 2012 and spent 28 months falsely imprisoned following a car crash in Cuba. He went to Cuba to visit family and is now trying to raise funds for a prosthetic arm. 
  • On November 22, 2013 Brandon Bjorn Ross, a 31 year old American citizen visiting Cuba with his mother Onelia Ross, who is of Cuban origin, went out to take pictures in the early morning around the Hotel Nacional in Havana. The next time his mom saw him was at the morgue to identify her son's body. Government officials said that he had fallen from the roof of the hotel, but refused to provide Onelia an autopsy report and quickly cremated her son's body without her authorization. 
  • Alberto Romero (age 39), a Tampa based marital and family law attorney, was murdered in Cuba while visiting extended family on January 8, 2015. He was found tied up with a family friend, beaten, stabbed multiple times and with one hand severed.
There have been other cases involving non-Cubans over the years, but the fact that speaking the language and having family there does not guarantee a safe stay should speak volumes to prospective visitors.

Cuba remains an island under the brutal grip of a totalitarian dictatorship with an economy run by the military and the Castro family. This also means that tourism dollars go straight into shoring up the dictatorship's Ministry of the Interior and the Military. There is no due process and the legal system is subject to the arbitrary whims of the dictatorship. Reporting on outbreaks of disease are also subject to the whims of the dictatorship. Independent media are persecuted and outlawed and independent reporting on crime is incomplete and accurate information hard to come by.

Daisy B. Peñaloza, a preschool teacher residing in Bakersfield, California on June 28, 2016 wrote "Thinking about a vacation in Cuba? Don't" in The Bakersfield Californian that summed it up best:
Obama’s rapprochement has not empowered Cuban society. Every dollar that tourists spend in Cuba exclusively strengthens and enriches the billionaire Castro family and literally hurts the Cuban people. Worse yet, as in Nazi Germany, tourists unwittingly become tools of the regime. Communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union was toppled, not by tourism and commerce, but by economic ruin, a globally sustained dissident movement and persistent sanctions.
However she did allow that principled travel to the island could serve a positive purpose.
A humanitarian or religious visit, whereby the seeds of free expression are scattered and left to germinate, is the type of visit that will make a true and lasting difference in the lives of Cubans.
It is important to remember that Cubans do not have the freedom to travel in their own homeland and as Dr. Biscet observed are subjected to an internal pass system reminiscent of the South African apartheid regime. Visiting Cuba for sun and fun while Cubans are being discriminated against in their own country while tourism dollars go to perpetuate their repression is immoral.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The conservative case to save human rights from decline

"Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person." - Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

“…Conservatives have excellent credentials to speak about human rights. By our efforts, and with precious little help from self-styled liberals, we were largely responsible for securing liberty for a substantial share of the world’s population and defending it for most of the rest.” — Margaret Thatcher, State Craft P. 249

Freedom House 2016 charts decade of decline in rights and freedoms

End of the Human Rights Consensus?
The nonviolent end of the Cold War between 1989 and 1991 along with the end of totalitarian communism in Europe coincided with a decade long improvement in human rights and freedoms world wide. This trend over the past ten years has been in the opposite direction and is due to a number of factors, including the rise of China and Russia's return to authoritarianism after a brief democratic spring in the 1990s.

The War on Terror following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, the March 11, 2004 attacks in Spain and the July 7, 2005 attacks in Great Britain led to set backs in human rights in Western countries responding to international terrorism.  However, the geopolitical map and the war on terror do not alone explain this worsening international environment for human rights.

There is a crisis of values reflected in the fragmentation of the international human rights consensus achieved in 1948. What is manifested now had its origins 26 years ago with Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam.  The Iranian representative to the United Nations explained that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a "relativistic secular understanding of the Judeo Christian tradition." However the UN Human Rights Declaration as initially conceived was not relativistic but over time human rights mechanisms have engaged in a proliferation of rights that give that appearance creating a breakdown in the 1948 consensus. Sadly, on the human rights front the practitioners of Islam have not been the only ones alienated but so too have many Catholics.

Human Rights in Decline: the decade long crisis
2016 marks the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations Human Rights Council and also coincides with the tenth consecutive year that human rights are in decline world wide. The United Nations bureaucracy has gotten a lot wrong that has contributed to this worsening situation. The UN Human Rights Council has been described as having been turned into Frankenstein's monster.

Although a contributing factor, the international decline in human rights cannot be laid solely at the feet of the United Nations. The cause goes to the abandonment of the foundations of human rights thought. First principles have been compromised and ignored in the service of expediency. For example, taking a human life can never be a right because human beings have a right to life. Taking a life is at best a necessary evil done in self-defense to save one's own life. The right to an abortion is a contradiction in conflict with universally recognized human rights.
The Left's take over of human rights discourse over the past decades to advance its own agenda has benefited it but at the expense of the pre-existing international human rights consensus. For example, Amnesty International's campaign beginning in 2007 to conflate the right to an abortion with its worldwide campaign to stop violence against women alienated many Catholic supporters, and has been described as anti-Catholic. Catholic bishops, who had been members of Amnesty International, had to resign over the abortion issue because the human rights group had become an abortion lobby group. Catholics generally have been encouraged to boycott the organization. Independent Catholic News reported:
Cardinal Martino, who served as the Holy See's permanent observer at the United Nations, says that this change of position is part of the "pro-death" agenda in modern culture. The cardinal said that Amnesty International's decision means Catholics and Catholic organizations should no longer financially support the group. "The promotion of abortion opens the door to the slippery slope of evil and death, where human rights are taken away from the most innocent and vulnerable children of God," he said. "I believe that, if in fact Amnesty International persists in this course of action, individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support."
Furthermore Article Three of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the right to life, and this is not accidental. This is because this human rights document drafted and signed on December 10, 1948 was not a compromise between liberalism and socialism but lobbied for and drafted by Christian Democrats with the active support of the Catholic Church and all the world's great faith traditions.

Jacques Maritain
Catholic roots of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Pope John Paul II recalled the Roman Catholic Church's role in 1991 in the Papal Encyclical Centesimus Annus published on the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum:
...[A]fter the Second World War, and in reaction to its horrors, there arose a more lively sense of human rights, which found recognition in a number of International Documents52 and, one might say, in the drawing up of a new "right of nations", to which the Holy See has constantly contributed. The focal point of this evolution has been the United Nations Organization.
One of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was Jacques Maritain, a French philosopher who was a profound Catholic and anti-modernist inspired by Christian humanism:
There is but one solution for the history of the world, I mean in a Christian regime, however it may be otherwise. It is that the creature be truly respected in its connection with God and because receiving everything from Him: humanism but theocentric humanism, rooted where man has his roots, integral humanism, humanism of the incarnation.
The formation of the United Nations was an opportunity for Latin Americans to push for international human rights standards. The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man was the first international human rights instrument signed into existence in Bogota, Colombia on May 2, 1948 eight months prior to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December of 1948 where Latin Americans played a major and crucial role, among them the Cuban delegation. The first draft of the Declaration was fashioned from various models collected by the UN Secretariat among them "a model based on a Cuban-sponsored proposal at the San Francisco conference, a proposed first draft offered by the Chilean delegation, and the earlier Panamanian draft."

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is heavily informed and influenced by Catholic social doctrine found in the 1891 Papal Encyclical Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII. The Catholic Church in its social teaching rejects both liberalism and communism embracing a defense of the dignity of human beings grounded in its own metaphysical vision of personhood.

The holistic approach to human rights that embraces both civil/political and social/economic rights was not found in a compromise between the liberal Anglosphere and the socialist Soviet sphere but was the initiative of Catholic thinkers, states and the Holy See that shaped this important document that was embraced by the major faiths around the world that shared its common truths achieving a unanimous human rights consensus with that document.

Bishop Bartolomé De Las Casas
The debate on personhood
Human rights, as an idea, have a conservative pedigree that stretches back to the Middle Ages and to the Catholic Church. The first time in human history that a universal concept of human rights in which they are applied to all living beings on the planet emerged out of a debate concerning the Spanish conquest of the Americas in the 16th century. The modern language of human rights emerges out of the public debate surrounding the treatment of Native Americans  in the first years of the Spanish conquest and led King Charles V to organize a debate between the Catholic Bishop Bartolomé De Las Casas and the humanist attorney Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda in 1550 in which the personhood of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and their ability to govern themselves was recognized as briefly outlined in the following quote by Bishop Bartolomé De Las Casas:
“All the races of the world are men, and of all men and of each individual there is but one definition, and this is that they are rational. All have understanding and will and free choice, as all are made in the image and likeness of God . . . Thus the entire human race is one.” 
Although relatively unknown in the English language Francisco de Vitoria (1483-1546), the founder of the “School of Salamanca,” arrived at the University of Salamanca and was elected the prime chair of theology there in 1526, the University itself had been founded in 1218. Following the debate between De Las Casas and de Sepúlveda, King Charles V would side with neither but followed de Vitoria's council which recognized the humanity of the indigenous people and their right to their own property. The Salamanca School and Bishop De Las Casas would leave a profound mark on Latin American thought and human rights discourse. Despite this history some academics claim that only liberals can have a conception of universal human rights.

The debate on personhood rages today over the unborn and in order to justify abortion claims a difference between human life and moral personhood. Not treating human life and moral personhood as interchangeable opens up the debate not only to abortion but also infanticide because very young babies, according to Oxford University medical ethicists, and some philosophers do not achieve the status of moral personhood.  established through modern philosophical inquiry. This is a slippery slope long rejected by the Catholic Church.

The proliferation of rights, this includes abortion rights are paradoxically undermining fundamental human rights to life, liberty and private property. Meanwhile progressives demonize conservatives, and traditional religious institutions for not joining their "human rights" bandwagon that fractures human identity, cheapens human dignity and undermines human rights while claiming to celebrate them.

Meanwhile history demonstrates that conservative forces led the drive to limit the absolute power of the sovereign in the 13th Century. Remember that on June 15, 1215 forty barons pressured King John into affixing his seal on The Great Charter (Magna Carta in Latin) at a field in Runnymede, England. It was the British aristocracy that initiated this profound change. This document placed the sovereign under the rule of law and established this principle among the English speaking peoples.  730 years later after the catastrophe of WW2 Conservatives and Christian Democrats sought to advance regional and international human rights structures with the aim of strengthening the protection of human rights in Latin America, Europe and Internationally.

Conservative roots of the European Union's Human Rights System
 Dr. Marco Duranti's new book The Conservative Human Rights Revolution:  European Identity, Transnational Politics, and the Origins of the European Convention will be available on December 1, 2016, but the description that is already available points to the key role conservatives, Winston Churchill among them, played in bringing about the EU's human rights system.
"The Conservative Human Rights Revolution radically reinterprets the origins of the European human rights system, arguing that its conservative inventors envisioned the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) not only as an instrument to contain communism and fascism in continental Europe, but to allow them to pursue a controversial political agenda at home and abroad. Just as the Supreme Court of the United States had sought to overturn Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, a European Court on Human Rights was meant to constrain the ability of democratically elected governments to implement left-wing policies that conservatives believed violated their basic liberties."
The Modernist rewrite of human rights history
This history is often overlooked with a preference in modern human rights circles given to documents from the Enlightenment associated with the French Revolution which would be associated with the Left. For example "The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen," also known as the "Declaration of Human and Civic Rights" adopted on August 26, 1789 which is a product of the French Revolution as is the even more egalitarian document produced in 1793 the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen from the Constitution of Year I. Article 1 of the 1789 declaration reads:
"Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good." 
Nonetheless, the fruits of these documents did not offer much in the way of protections or safe guards for French citizens who were subjected to the French Revolution's terror. The French Revolution born of enlightenment liberalism, and a rejection of the Ancien Régime and the Catholic Church, gave Europe its first modern genocide of peasants in which men, women, and children of The Vendee were systematically exterminated, and the end result was the rise of the dictator Napoleon Bonaparte and a world war that took three million lives.

Edmund Burke by James Watson © National Portrait Gallery, London
Failure of the Abstract predicted by the first modern conservative
Edmund Burke was one of the few who foresaw as early as 1790 in his book, Reflections on the Revolution in France, published less than a year into the French Revolution, foresaw where the follies of enlightenment liberalism and its abstractions would end in wholesale slaughter, tyranny and war. 
Burke's concept of human dignity as derived from the creator combined with a concept of man's moral equality has deep roots in the Christian tradition which incidentally is where the very language and concept of human rights first emerged in the 1200s in the Catholic Church and was refined by Thomas Aquinas.  Edmund Burke's defense of the marginalized, the colonized, and the conquered was rooted not in abstract enlightenment theory but a Christian moral vision of the universe combined with respect for tradition and a knowledge of history. According to Burke, in his 1796 Letters on a regicide peace ,man has freedom but it is not absolute:
As to the right of men to act anywhere according to their pleasure, without any moral tie, no such right exists. Men are never in a state of total independence of each other. It is not the condition of our nature: nor is it conceivable how any man can pursue a considerable course of action without its having some effect upon others; or, of course, without producing some degree of responsibility for his conduct.
Enlightenment liberalism constructed abstract models that failed to take into account the full complexity of human nature and its contradictions. The French human rights charter declares men absolutely both free and equal. Edmund Burke and modern conservatives believe that "full equality" outside of the moral and spiritual sphere is unattainable and a dangerous fiction. The same ideas rooted in Christendom that motivated de Vitoria in 1550 in Spain drove Burke's vision 240 years later in Great Britain: the intrinsic dignity of man.

The trouble with absolute equality
First, to permit absolute freedom is to tolerate profound inequalities because people if left to their own devices develop hierarchies naturally. Secondly, to enforce absolute equality requires an all powerful state to repress natural inequalities. The end result is not absolute equality but a small group with great power at its disposal making slaves of the majority. 

This is what happened in the French Revolution and reached its apex with Maximilien Robespierre, in 1794 with his observation that he applied in governance: "The government in a revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny." It is a contradiction in the same way that combining absolute freedom and equality as revolutionary goals are in contradiction and doomed to failure. Robespierre was only applying the logic of enlightenment thinker Jean Jacques Rousseau who wrote of "forcing men to be free."

Descendants of Robespierre confronting and infiltrating human rights institutions today
The communist regime in Cuba has played an active role at the United Nations and in the Americas to undermine human rights standards and institutions. Sadly, it has had some successes in undermining international free speech standards and next month may see a long term objective realized with the crippling of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  The Castro regime's allies in the region: Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela have refused to fund the world's oldest human rights system. Bolivia and Ecuador have called for the elimination of the human rights body.

However the Stalinists of old and the new "Socialists of the 21st Century" who divided humanity along class lines have not had as great an impact as the newest generations of the Left that instead of appealing to a common humanity has further fractured and divided people by race, sex, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability.  The great religions are now to be restricted to the private sphere and any questions that they may raise about the new divisions can be dismissed as "belief-based bigotry."
Civil and political rights and social and economic rights may all be in decline but repressive regimes can pay lip service to the above six areas and improve their ranking while still denying all humans within their territory their civil, political, social and economic rights.

Ireland's Pro-Life stance criticized by the UNHRC in contradiction with the UDHR
The UN Human Rights Committee in March of 2016 criticized Ireland's pro-life laws, but at the same contradicted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its pro-life clause under Article 3. Both Catholicism (1.27 billion) and Islam (1.6 billion) which make up 2.87 billion believers hold strong bioethical considerations about abortion that are also shared with Orthodox Judaism. Post-Christian societies in Western Countries have legalized abortion with varying levels of restrictions with the United States having some of the most extreme pro-abortion laws when compared to Western Europe.

British Section of Amnesty International and its objectives in 1962

Restoring the dynamic tension to the human rights conversation
In 1961 Amnesty International was founded by Peter Benenson and consisted of a board of trustees that included all the major British political parties: Labour, Conservative, Liberal and religions: Roman Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Jewish and Humanist.  

If human rights are to regain their relevance and end its worldwide decline then all parties (and this includes religions) must be invited to the table and not censored beforehand because it does not serve a particular political agenda. Furthermore the right to life, enshrined in both Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in Article 1 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man should apply to all, at all stages of life. Competing rights claims need to be weighed and measured carefully, but recognizing the transcendent importance of the person. 

Finally, human rights defenders instead of focusing on what divides us by race, sex, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and religion should seek to recognize our common humanity with a focus on the dignity of the person and the right to life.

Conservatives need to embrace their human rights legacy and reject attempts by intellectual adversaries who claim that there is only a "liberal conception of human rights." There is a conservative tradition of human rights that stretches back centuries and has a far better track record of success than their liberal enlightenment and revolutionary counterparts. This is because Conservatism respects the past, and informed by it looks to how its actions today will impact future generations.

This is why Conservatism is best positioned to rebuild the international human rights consensus in 2016 that the Left has wrought asunder with its abstract utopian projects.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The UN Secretary General's Regrettable Return to Cuba

The moral bankrupting of international institutions continues

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Nicolas Maduro in Havana
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon returned to Havana, Cuba for the signing of the peace accords in the Colombian Peace Process and met with Venezuelan strong man Nicolas Maduro on June 23, 2016. Regrettably during his visit the Secretary General praised Maduro who has plunged Venezuela into a humanitarian crisis that includes hunger riots and prisoners of conscience
The Secretary-General met today in Havana, Cuba, with Nicolas Maduro Moros, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The Secretary-General commended Venezuela for its support to the Colombian peace process, saying that the example of Colombia sent a great message to the region and the world. He also thanked Venezuela for its important international role as current member of the Security Council and of the Human Rights Council, as well as Chair of the Committee on Decolonization (C24).
One day later the Venezuelan representative to the UN Human Rights Council sought to shut down discussion on the plight of prisoners of conscience from around the world. UN Watch reported on the episode as follows:
Venezuela was overruled by the chair of the UN human rights council today, when its delegate interrupted a UN speech (see below) in a failed bid to stop the reading of an appeal for council members to release political prisoners on the occasion of the council’s 10th anniversary. The appeal, signed by family members of political prisoners in Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Venezuela, Vietnam and Cuba, was read out today in the plenary of the council by Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights group. Venezuela’s delegate interrupted as soon as Neuer mentioned the name of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. “We do not think it is appropriate to raise specific countries,” he said, even though virtually all of the previous 15 NGO speeches had done exactly that. However, the objection was shot down with uncommon firmness by the session chair, who strongly defended UN Watch’s right to speak. “I have the impression that the speaker was perfectly in the context of this agenda item. We are all in favor of participation of civil society, and this was just a civil society group expressing itself,” he said. Many UN diplomats who chair session are leery of siding with activists when it could upset country delegates.
This is not the first time that the Secretary General has engaged in an Orwellian rewrite of history.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during a previous visit to Cuba in January of 2014 whitewashed the Castro regime's human rights atrocities against Cuban women when he praised the dictatorship for its work on violence against women. In the aftermath of his visit the violence against women by the Castro regime worsened with at least one murder and an attempted murder documented.

UNSG Ban Ki-moon applauds Colombian peace process in Cuba

Peace in our time in Colombia?

Castro regime mediating conflict it sustained for decades.

Castro backed guerrillas continue to wreak havoc in Colombia 52 years later
News that peace may finally come to Colombia after fifty two years of continuous conflict should be cause for celebration, but there are reasons to be concerned that it may not be achieved. First of all having the negotiations between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) held in Cuba with the Castro regime as mediator is a bit surprising when one considers the surrounding history.

Colombia has been gripped in a protracted violent conflict since 1948 that in 1964, after a brief respite, returned to bloodshed with the Castro regime providing weapons, training, and financial assistance to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The Castro regime continued funding FARC through the 1970s and 1980s. The rise to power of Hugo Chavez in 1999 led to the FARC reportedly being supplied with up to $300 million by Venezuela with the Chavez regime trading arms and oil with the terrorist group.

In the same year a another guerrilla movement would also emerge plunging Colombia into further violence. The National Liberation Army (ELN), after the FARC, is Colombia’s second largest leftist guerrilla group, also formed in 1964 whose founding members were not only inspired by the Communist Revolution in Cuba and Che Guevarra but were also trained in Cuba when they attended "a Cuban scholarship program known as the Brigada Pro Liberación Nacional." ELN sought to overthrow the Colombian government in favor of one following the Castro model in Cuba.

According to Stanford University's Mapping Militant Organizations the April 19 Movement (M-19) guerilla group in Colombia founded in 1974 was also inspired and aided by the Castro regime. M-19 members "attended military training camps in Cuban military academies where they learned both urban and rural forms of guerilla warfare."

On March 1, 1982 the Castro dictatorship was placed on the list of state sponsors of terrorism less than three months after the U.S. State Department confirmed that the Castro regime was using a narcotics ring to funnel both arms and cash to the Colombian M19 terrorist group then battling to overthrow Colombia’s democratic government.

FARC, ELN and M-19 were all designated terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department and would also be granted safe haven in Cuba by the Castro regime for decades. These guerrilla groups in addition to terrorism also became heavily involved in narcotics trafficking to fund their violence.

Peace in our time: Reboot with Juan Manuel Santos as Chamberlain?
The Economist explains the ambivalence by many in Colombia:
For Colombians, the agreement involves “swallowing toads”, in a local metaphor. The FARC claim to have fought a just war against unequal land ownership. In that cause the country suffered bombings, firefights, murders, kidnapping and extortion. Many people find it hard to accept that FARC leaders accused of crimes against humanity will not go to jail provided they confess. [...]
Nobody knows how much money the FARC has invested from its criminal businesses. Many distrust the sincerity of the FARC’s conversion to democracy. And partly because the peace negotiations have taken so long and missed so many deadlines, Colombians have no love for Mr Santos. In a recent poll his approval rating was just 20%, lower than that of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.
 Now there appears to be a difference between the guerillas and the Colombian government about where the final peace signing will take place. The Colombian government had announced that it would take place in Colombia and the guerillas are insisting that the signing take place in Cuba. Let us hope that this process full of irregularities manages to achieve a lasting peace and not be remembered as the 1938 Munich Agreement, a betrayal in the service of peace that ended in war. 

Prelude to peace in our time in Colombia or something else?