Thursday, February 26, 2015

They Tell Us That This is Democracy

The legacy of 2014 will likely be that the world suffered a "historic failure" in human rights, according to Amnesty International's annual assessment.
Released Wednesday, the human rights report says that the year had been "devastating" for civilians caught in the cross-hairs of war and that governments "failed miserably" to protect those most in need.

The report broadly condemns violence and oppression, whether from international bodies or from violent extremists. Further, Amnesty charges that government crackdown in response to such violence further exacerbates the dangers by suppressing civil society and other human rights efforts. But one doesn't need to be living in a war torn area or a refugee camp to grasp the level of horror or simply the difficulties of day to day living in such places. Violence and oppression can also be witnessed around the globe in countries free from internal conflict or outright war, on the streets of towns and cities where peaceful demonstrations in support of many causes are trampled on by domestic 'security' bodies. National and local laws are regularly and incrementally being tightened to make any kind of protest by civilians a criminal act. Physical protest, written protest, spoken protest – more and more are assaulted, arrested, imprisoned and/or fined for trying to express disagreement. They tell us we live in democracies but what kind of democracy is it where dissent is disallowed?

"From Washington to Damascus, from Abuja to Colombo, government leaders have justified horrific human rights violations by talking of the need to keep the country 'safe'," states the report. "In reality, the opposite is the case. Such violations are one important reason why we live in such a dangerous world today. There can be no security without human rights."
The report cites such events as the ongoing crisis in Syria, the war against Gaza, the rise of non-state aggressors such as the Islamic State and Boko Haram, the Ukrainian conflict, and disappearances in Mexico as the more significant conflicts of the year. It says that millions of civilians were killed last year while the number of displaced people around the world exceeded 50 million for the first time since the end of World War II.

Within this international scenario each reader of this blog, from a variety of countries spread across the globe, will immediately be also aware of incidents much closer to home where millions have been displaced by economic reasons: loss of employment, home foreclosure, land rights grabbed, displacement by international corporations bent on profit from building mega-dams, mega-farms and mines, people losing access to securing their own futures while profits are accrued elsewhere. Millions die (or are they killed?) from poverty or from diseases related to poverty because poverty gives no access to necessary food and cures. Representation is sorely lacking on all levels.

The report also highlights the failure of Western countries to welcome and protect the millions of refugees. The human rights group particularly singles out the European Union's immigration policy, which Amnesty says has turned the continent into "fortress Europe, putting lives at risk."
"Those governments who have been most eager to speak out loudly on the failures of other governments have shown themselves reluctant to step forward and provide the essential assistance that those refugees require," the report states.
According to the report, by the end of 2014, only 150,000 of over 4 million Syrian refugees were living in EU states, while 3,400 refugees and migrants died in the Mediterranean Sea trying to make their way to Europe. And this number will surely grow now that the Mare Nostrum rescue programme has finished and rescue operations have been severely cut. The reason being it's too expensive to continue. That tells us quite clearly where people fit on the scale of desirables. But will these serious odds of drowning actually prevent those who can see no other way out from trying for a better life?

The human rights group also criticizes the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, which include Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S.. Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said the countries have "consistently abused" their veto right to "promote their political self-interest or geopolitical interest above the interest of protecting civilians."
Backing a proposal agreed upon by roughly 40 other governments, Amnesty is calling for the UN Security Council to "adopt a code of conduct agreeing to voluntarily refrain from using the veto in a way which would block Security Council action in situations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity." Whether as individuals we would agree or disagree with this proposal, or indeed have any other proposals is not open for discussion. As with most decisions taken, at local, national or international level, we are not a party to be considered, except maybe when it's time to catch a few votes to further self-interest.

It is the depth and breadth of the lack of engagement civil society has in any meaningful manner with those who actually make our laws and who proceed with plans that, quite clearly in so many cases, majorities don't agree with is so astonishingly breathtaking when told that it is democratic. Democracy, self-determination, is being withheld by those who uphold the system which benefits the minority. Capitalism will never yield democracy to us. We have to take it for ourselves.

source material from here

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