The hits just keep on coming for the anti-racism Durban Review Conference scheduled to kick off next week. Germany will join Australia, Canada, the United States, and Italy in boycotting the conference. I think it is safe to say that our expectations about what this conference will achieve should be substantially lowered. As in other UN forums, a disunified Europe plus non-participation by the commonwealth and the United States generally means that more regressive regional blocs will hold sway. Such is the consequence of non-participation. Things could get ugly next week.
The world’s largest democracy goes to the polls today for the first phase of multi-stage parliamentary elections. By mid May, 714 million voters will cast ballots at 800,000 polling stations. There are, all told, 1,715 candidates for office. But one of these political hopefuls is unlike any other candidate India has ever seen. Her name is Daya Rani Kinnar and she is a transsexual activist.
From the Hindustan Times:
Kinnar is a popular figure in Ghaziabad and will stand for election as an independent candidate. “I don’t mind taking on all the political heavyweights. I was born in Ghaziabad and people know me. I don’t have children. I will work only for people. I am going to give a tough fight to Rajnath Singh, who is an outsider. The sitting MP did nothing for the constituency,” Kinnar said.
Kinnar, founder of Sarva Samaj Sewa Samiti (a welfare organisation), promises a safe, developed Ghaziabad district.
Although illiterate, Kinnar is confident. City roads are already lined with her banners and hoardings. In these, she appears with a bindi on her forehead and head draped in a sari.
She is banking on the electorate’s disenchantment with politicians. “I am just like a ‘no-vote option’ button on electronic voting machines,” she said.
Unfortunately, the Indian press identifies her as a “eunuch.” Still, just the fact that she feels empowered to put herself in the public lime light is itself a remarkable achievement in a society known for conservative cultural mores. This video from Russia Today reminds me that one courageous person can help break these barriers.
Via Reuters, the Israeli government communicated to the UN Human Rights Council that it will not cooperate with an investigation into alleged Israeli and Hamas crimes surrounding the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli incursion into Gaza. The inquiry is to be lead by Judge Richard Goldstone, a highly regarded South African jurist and international humanitarian law scholar.
This is a shame. A decision to not cooperate with the investigation implies that Israel believes it has something to hide. I say this because Goldstone is the type of person who has no agenda but to get at the truth.
Over the long run, a public accounting of what did and did not happen during Operation Cast Lead can help lay the foundation for a lasting peace in the region. Let the man do his job.
The brutality of this story is unsettling:
Taliban gunmen executed a young couple in southern Afghanistan for trying to elope, shooting them with rifles in front of a crowd in a lawless, militant-controlled region, officials said Tuesday.
The woman, 19, and the man, 21, were accused by the militants of immoral acts, and a council of conservative clerics decided that the two should be killed, said Ghulam Dastagir Azad, the governor of the southwestern province of Nimroz.
Riflemen in the remote district of Khash Rod shot the man and woman with AK-47s Monday during a public execution, said Sadiq Chakhansori, the chief of Nimroz’ provincial council.
This line alone makes one’s blood boil: “a council of conservative clerics decided that the two should be killed.” How hideously mundane that sentence sounds: just like that, ‘decide’ to snuff out two young lives – for the crime of being in love. Absolutely heinous.
A terrible story out of Iraq:
In the past two months, the bodies of as many as 25 boys and men suspected of being gay have turned up in the huge Shiite enclave of Sadr City, the police and friends of the dead say. Most have been shot, some multiple times. Several have been found with the word “pervert” in Arabic on notes attached to their bodies, the police said.
“Three of my closest friends have been killed during the past two weeks alone,” said Basim, 23, a hairdresser. “They had been planning to go to a cafe away from Sadr City because we don’t feel safe here, but they killed them on the way. I had planned to go with them, but fortunately I didn’t.”
“Homosexuality is against the law,” said Lt. Muthana Shaad, at a police station in the Karada district, a neighborhood that has become popular with gay men. “And it’s disgusting.”
For the past four months, he said, officers have been engaged in a “campaign to clean up the streets and get the beggars and homosexuals off them.”
This kind of hate isn’t confined to Iraq.
Why Jonah Goldberg and Anne Bayesfky Should Support the US Decision to Join the Human Rights Council
Rather predictibly, Jonah Goldberg is displeased with the Obama administration’s decision to join the UN Human Rights Council.
The Obama administration, which passionately believes in the U.N. as a force for good, thinks it can change the council simply by being on it. “We have a record of abject failure from having stayed out. We’ve been out for the duration, and it has not gotten better. It’s arguably gotten worse,” Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told Politico. “We are much better placed to be fighting for the principles we believe in … by leading and lending our voice from within.”
But such thinking is only possible if you think the U.N. is a democratic, deliberative body. It isn’t. Some of the member nations are liberal democracies. Some are backward, cruel regimes with well-coiffed front men who only do their masters’ bidding. Valuing villains as equal to democrats is a recipe for moral rot.
Whether Jonah Goldberg likes it or not, the Human Rights Council exists and continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The point of joining the Human Rights Council is so that the United States can exert influence over the body, help steer its decisions, and protect the interests of itself and its allies.
To that later end, I’m sort of shocked by some of the outrage directed at this decision from erstwhile friends of Israel. Would not Jonah Goldberg and Anne Bayefsky prefer a staunch defender of Israel to join the Council? After all, some of the decisions of the Human Rights Council have real world consequences. For example, the Human Rights Council recently agreed to send Judge Richard Goldstone to examine alleged war crimes stemming from Operation Cast Lead. As I noted in an earlier post Goldstone is not easily dismissed as someone with an anti-Israel agenda–he is a lion of international law and has strong ties to the country.
As a consequence of action at the Human Rights Council, the Israeli government is in the tough spot of having to decide whether or not to cooperate with Goldstone’s inquiry. If it does not cooperate, it faces further international isolation. If it does cooperate, then perhaps Goldstone will come to conclusions that embarrass Israel? (For the record, I am in favor of cooperation; a thorough accounting of what happened during Operation Cast Lead could help provide the foundation for a lasting peace.)
Still, I’m sure that this is a decision the Israeli government would prefer it did not have to make. Presumably, if the United States held a seat on the Council, Washington would be better positioned to prevent such an outcome in the first place.
Now, I don’t mean to concern troll. I support the United States joining the Council because I believe a strong international human rights regime is in America’s best interests and in the interests of humanity. But surely even skeptics like Bayesfky and Jonah Goldberg see that there are good “reasons of state” for American ascension to the Council?
(Image from Flickr of the Human Rights Torch Relay)
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.