Meditation Focus #63
Upholding Human Rights Around The World
What follows is the 63rd Meditation Focus suggested for the two consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, April 28, 2002.
UPHOLDING HUMAN RIGHTS AROUND THE WORLD
2. Meditation times
3. More information on this Meditation Focus
4. Peace Watch for the Middle East
Hardly any media coverage has been given last week to a worrying situation vigorously denounced by major human rights groups. In far too many countries human rights violations are continuing unabated and the very U.N. Human Rights Commission that is supposed to act as a global voice of conscience to denounce such abuses has been virtually silenced by a majority of its 53 member states following an arduous 6-week long meeting that ended in Geneva last Friday. A resolution calling for new anti-terrorist measures to conform with international humanitarian law was even withdrawn in the closing hours of the meeting following political pressures from the U.S. Alleged abuses in Zimbabwe, Chechnya, Cuba and Iran will not fall under the scrutiny of the commission because of political maneuvering within the commission itself. The Democratic Republic of Congo where over 2.5 million people have died because of a prolonged war does not have enough human right monitors to prevent thousands of people from being subjected to ongoing horrors. There are reports of rising executions in China as a result of its clampdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement and Muslim minorities and yet China succeeded in preventing this UN commission from looking into this situation. Ordinary civilians have been the main victims of the intensified conflict in Israel - because of suicide bombings - and in the Occupied Territories, particularly in Jenin where a UN fact-finding mission is to begin assessment of allegations of an atrocious carnage of up to 500 civilians during the recent re-occupation of several West Bank cities by the Israeli army. The list of countries where rampant human rights abuses are on the rise is indeed very long.
Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks to contribute in fostering in everyone's mind and heart a profound commitment to uphold the sacredness of all human lives and the dignity of all human beings, no matter where they live and their social status. Empower through unconditional love a global awakening to the innate reality of the brother/sisterhood of all humanity and the growing sense of our Unity with All That Is through the key emotionally charged thoughts of "One Mind, One Heart, Oneness", repeatedly projected. May all essential human rights be upheld around the world, for the Highest Good of All.
This entire Meditation Focus is also available at http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus63.htm
2. MEDITATION TIMES
i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes.
ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.
These times below are currently corresponding to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:
Honolulu 6:00 AM -- Anchorage * 8:00 AM -- Los Angeles * 9:00 AM -- Mexico City, San Salvador & Denver * 10:00 AM -- Houston * & Chicago * 11:00 AM -- Santo Domingo, La Paz, Caracas, New York *, Toronto *. Montreal *, Asuncion & Santiago 12:00 AM -- Halifax *, Rio de Janeiro & Montevideo 1:00 PM -- Reykjavik & Casablanca 4 PM -- Lagos, Algiers, London *, Dublin * & Lisbon * 5:00 PM -- Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Geneva *, Rome *, Berlin *, Paris * & Madrid * 6:00 PM -- Ankara *, Athens *, Helsinki * & Istanbul * & Nairobi 7:00 PM -- Baghdad *, Moscow * 8:00 PM -- Tehran * 8:30 PM -- Islamabad 9:00 PM -- Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM -- Dhaka 10:00 PM -- Rangoon 10:30 PM -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur +12:00 PM -- Seoul & Tokyo +1:00 AM -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne +2:00 AM -- Wellington +4:00 AM
+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time.
* means the place is observing daylight saving time (DST) at the moment.
You may also check at http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/full.html to find your current corresponding local time if a closeby city is not listed above.
3. MORE INFORMATION ON THIS MEDITATION FOCUS
This section is for those who wish to understand in more detail the situation of this Meditation Focus. For those who wish to read on, we would encourage you to view the following information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision you wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mindset, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of healing. We provide the details below because we recognise that the knowledge of what needs healing can assist us to structure our awareness to maximise our healing effect.
Human Rights meeting ends amid criticism and concern (Fri Apr 26)
GENEVA - The annual gathering of the U.N. Human Rights Commission ended Friday amid criticism that it was protecting the oppressors rather than the oppressed.
Describing the six-week meeting as "very difficult" and "very worrying," U.N. human rights chief Mary Robinson said she was concerned about trends to weaken the commission's role as a defender of liberties.
The 53-member commission failed even to discuss reported repression in China. It dropped its criticism of Russian abuses in Chechnya; voted to end a long-running investigation into Iran; and blocked moves to examine alleged abuses in Zimbabwe. Efforts to send a senior human rights team to assess the plight of Palestinians as a result of the Israeli offensive were blocked by Israel.
To the outrage of advocacy groups, a resolution calling for anti-terrorist measures to conform with international humanitarian law was withdrawn in the closing hours of the meeting.
"This is a time to remind ourselves of the essential role of the Commission on Human Rights in protecting human beings against gross violations through highlighting and publicizing those violations; providing a forum for victims to raise their grievances; heeding the voice of conscience from different parts of the world," Robinson said in her final speech.
She named no names, but made it clear that she disagreed with developing countries that argue they are unfairly singled out by the rich.
Non-governmental groups denounced the outcome of the meeting and slammed the fact that the independent experts who monitor abuses had been effectively silenced by having only five minutes each to speak budgetary limits supposedly forced the cancellation of evening sessions and led to chronic time shortages.
"The Commission on Human Rights has become hostage to human rights abusers," said Rory Mungoven of Human Rights Watch. "The Commission's most important tool its capacity to name and shame human rights violators is being eroded," Mungoven said.
He said the European Union spent more time trying to find consensus among its 15 members than putting pressure on countries like China. The United States was not a member this year and so took a lower-profile role than usual, but still lobbied behind the scenes.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists and the International Federation of Human Rights issued a joint declaration of dismay that Mexico had been pressured to withdraw a resolution urging that counter-terrorist measures be compatible with international humanitarian law.
The proposed resolution would have requested the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor and analyze counterterrorist measures.
The United States which has been widely criticized for its treatment of al-Qaida suspects on the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba and detention without trial of Mideast nationals who have violated visa regulations opposed the resolution.
Algeria, which has waged a long and bloody war against its own militants, submitted an amendment that would have knocked the teeth out of the resolution. The European Union, a co-sponsor, backed down under U.S. opposition.
"This could have been one of the most important outcomes from this Commission, but instead has become one of its lowest points," the advocacy groups charged in their statement.
"From Illinois in the United States to Xinjiang in China, counter-terrorist measures have placed human rights at risk," they said. "The Commission's silence on this critical issue sends a dangerous signal that in the fight against terrorism anything goes."
Membership of the commission rotates. This year included an unusually high number of countries which stand accused of violations, including China, Cuba, Congo, Libya, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
Ever since the suppression of the pro-democracy movement in 1989, China has used its lobbying clout among developing countries to block resolutions put forward by the United States and European Union criticizing its record. This year, no country could be found to sponsor a resolution despite reports of rising executions, the clampdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement and Muslim minorities.
After two decades of issuing critical reports about abuses in Iran, the commission voted by a majority of one to end the investigation despite warnings from its own independent expert that the situation remained grave. Also by a majority of one, the commission rejected a resolution criticizing Russian violations in the breakaway republic of Chechnya.
Just a handful of countries now remain singled out for individual attention: Iraq, Israel, Sudan, Myanmar, Cuba, Congo, Burundi, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.
Human Rights Groups Fault Israel for Blocking U.N. Team (Thu Apr 25)
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 24 (IPS) - Human rights organizations criticized the Israeli government Wednesday for challenging the composition and delaying the departure of a U.N. mission to investigate the devastation in the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin.
"Suspects shouldn't be able to choose their investigators," said Hanny Megally of Human Rights Watch. "It is in everybody's interest that the true record of what happened in Jenin be established."
Marty Rosenbluth of Amnesty International said both sides should feel confident in the impartiality of the U.N. team but neither should be given veto power over the composition of the mission. "If the Israelis are given a veto power, then the Palestinians too could make a similar demand," he told IPS. Controversy has raged since Monday, when U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan named the team's three members.
Led by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, the team includes former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata and Cornelio Sammaruga, former head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Annan said he consulted several member states before naming the team. These included Israel, which assured him it would cooperate with the mission.
The 15-member U.N. Security Council unanimously approved Apr. 19 Annan's proposal to send the team to Jenin. "That was our resolution," said a senior U.S. State Department official. "We believe it should be implemented."
By Monday, the Israeli government reversed its decision to cooperate and said the team lacked military and counter-terrorism experts.
Rosenbluth said Amnesty International was "profoundly disappointed" with the Israeli decision and urged the government to reconsider. "An impartial investigation is in everybody's interest," he said, adding the team members are "well known for their impartiality."
In a statement issued in London, the human rights organization also said: "Given that the [Israeli] government has stated that it has nothing to hide, Amnesty International calls on the Israeli government to permit the U.N. fact-finding team to undertake its vital task as planned and without delay."
Last week, the Israeli government also refused to issues visas to a team led by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson to visit Israeli-occupied territories and report to the Commission on Human Rights, currently meeting in Geneva.
Amnesty International said the Israeli government's decision to challenge the composition of the fact-finding team and its refusal to cooperate with Robinson's visit "flies in the face of the desire of the international community to find out the facts of what happened in Jenin."
Megally said that, like Israel, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had objected to the appointment of Roberto Garreton to investigate human rights violations in that country and Burundi had opposed the appointment of Sergio Paulo Pinheiro to head an inquiry there.
"The United Nations and the international community have not bowed to such pressures in the past and they should stand firm today", Megally added.
UN Rights Body Ducks Zimbabwe, Readies for Russia (Fri Apr 19)
GENEVA (Reuters) - The U.N.'s top human rights body Friday ducked a showdown over alleged abuses in Zimbabwe as other states, including Russia, Cuba and Iran went into the dock.
African countries, with the backing of allies in the Middle East and Asia, narrowly won a vote in the 53-state Human Rights Commission to take "no action" on a European Union call to condemn alleged violations by the government of President Robert Mugabe.
The EU, in the first attempt to put Zimbabwe in the dock at the Commission, expressed concern at "continuing violations of human rights and attacks on fundamental freedoms" in Zimbabwe.
It called on the Commission to send its special rapporteurs on torture, the independence of judges, freedom of opinion, arbitrary executions and violence against women to Zimbabwe to prepare reports for the next annual meeting.
Mugabe, a former guerrilla leader who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, won reelection in a highly controversial presidential vote in March. The result triggered a storm of criticism from developed countries which accused Mugabe of preventing a free and fair vote. The 54-nation Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe for a year, but African states refused to condemn the veteran leader.
"It is selective and politically-motivated," Nigerian ambassador Pius Ayewoh said in calling on the Commission to block the EU move.
Group Says 2,000 Arrested in China (Thu Apr 25)
BEIJING (AP) - Authorities have detained 2,000 followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group in a northern Chinese city after a defiant television broadcast by the group, a rights organization said Thursday.
More than 150 followers in Changchun have been sent to "re-education through labor" camps, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said. Changchun's women's labor camp alone has admitted 80 Falun Gong followers over the last six weeks, the Hong Kong-based center said.
Since Beijing banned Falun Gong in July 1999, calling it an "evil cult" that threatens public safety and communist rule, thousands have been detained and Falun Gong supporters abroad say at least 400 have died in custody. China denies killing anyone but says some have committed suicide or died by refusing food or medicine.
Falun Gong was banned three months after Chinese leaders were stunned by an eerie, silent protest on April 25, 1999. Some 10,000 followers gathered around the central Beijing compound where President Jiang Zemin and other top officials live.
Falun Gong members said they were demonstrating against mistreatment by local officials and wanted only to be able to practice the group's slow-motion exercises and meditation in peace. But the demonstration frightened the government by revealing the group's ability to mobilize thousands of people undetected.
Human Rights after 9-11 (18 March, 2002)
The UN Human Rights Commission is meeting in Geneva for its annual session. It's a time-honoured tradition to examine which countries need an international reminder to respect basic rights. Featuring high on the list of the 53-member body are China, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Africa, Colombia and Chechnya.
Conspicuously absent from this year's deliberations is the United States, which failed to get enough votes in last year's secret UN ballot to remain on the Commission. And yet, dominating this year's session will be the aftermath of the September 11th suicide bombings in the United States.
The attacks deeply unsettled many countries, including the US, and triggered a global crackdown on terrorists. But in the view of Amnesty International's Martin MacPherson, terrorists are not the only victims.
"Since the attacks, states have introduced legislation which violates accepted international human rights standards and the risk is then that we may criminalize legitimate activities, for example areas around freedom of association or freedom of expression. People are being detained indefinitely and denied access to the normal criminal justice system. Some countries have established special courts or tribunals to try certain types of so-called terrorist cases and those courts have special rules and evidence, which are different from what is normally accepted in the criminal justice system. There's a risk that they may violate fair trial standards, for example deny defence council access to evidence which is deemed secret or sensitive for the state."
September 11th Pretext
The Amnesty spokesman points to Russia which has used the aftermath of the September 11th attacks to its advantage comparing the US war on terrorism with its own violent crackdown on separatists in Chechnya. He says it's given Israel a similar excuse to use excessive force against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. And in Africa, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe issued new restrictive legislation saying he had to deal insurgents and terrorists in the country.
"There is a risk that governments will ride on the interest to combat terrorism since the 11th of September for their own internal purposes."
Commission on Human Rights
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Civil liberties, human rights (April 25, 2002)
The people who used to light single candles rather than curse the darkness now have searchlights at their disposal.
The Helsinki Accord and other treaties of the 1970s gave rise to a wave of new human rights groups. They labored tirelessly to publicize the failures of totalitarian regimes to uphold rights they had just signed onto. These activists helped end the cold war.
Their movement started small but has grown. "It's a big battalion. It's got troops, it's got divisions. It's got fax machines!" Harvard historian Michael Ignatieff told a recent forum on human rights at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. The annual budget of Human Rights Watch, for instance, has grown from $200,000 to $20 million.
The world's human rights agenda is changing, in part because sovereignty is changing. Governments are more willing to accept international norms. Courts now cite precedents from courts in other countries. Even the historically Euroskeptical British have signed onto European standards of justice. The United States remains out of step with all this. CLIP
Congo: U.N. Monitors Needed
(New York, March 28, 2002) Human Rights Watch called on the U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting today in Geneva to increase the number of monitors reporting on the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo makes her report to the commission today.
All the words in the world do little to help the victims suffering daily from this deadly war, said Alison Des Forges, senior adviser on the Great Lakes in the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. But more monitors in the field could deter some of the worst abuses against civilians. By documenting crimes, outside observers make justice possible and may even make killers and rapists think twice before targeting civilians.
The Field Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has some 20 human rights officers in the Congo, but too few to monitor abuses throughout the vast territory. A U.N. peacekeeping force known as MONUC also has positions allocated for human rights observers, but some of them remain vacant. In addition, observers from the two systems fail to coordinate their actions effectively.
Although the ceasefire established by the Lusaka Agreement has ended fighting along the frontlines, soldiers of the Congolese, Rwandan, and Ugandan armies as well as a number of armed groups continue military operations in the eastern Congo far distant from the front lines. Civilians are regularly targeted in these clashes.
In recent months in the Ugandan-held areas of northeastern Congo, thousands of civilians have died and tens of thousands more been displaced in clashes between Hema and Lendu ethnic militia. Fighting between the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation Movement (RCD-ML) and its rival, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) has aggravated the situation, as has interference by Ugandan soldiers.
Denouncing these horrors is not enough, said Des Forges. The U.N. must find the resources and the political will to put monitors out there so that abusers will be known and can be held accountable for their crimes.
U.N.: Congo peace deal has backing of majority of delegates to talks (Wed Apr 24)
KINSHASA, Congo - A Congo peace accord reached in South Africa has support from most participants in the talks there, the United Nations said Wednesday, urging the key holdout rebel group to the deal to keep talking.
However, government representatives and the Ugandan-backed Congolese Liberation Movement agreed to a power-sharing plan on the sidelines of the talks last week, in the negotiations' closing days. The agreement has since been joined by a splinter rebel group that controls northeastern Congo, delegates representing Congolese civil society, and some in the political opposition.
The power-sharing accord reached by the government and the Ugandan-backed rebels leaves Joseph Kabila as president and gives Ugandan-backed rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba the prime minister's post. Both positions would be in a transitional government intended to lead the country to democracy.
Congo's war has furthered the ruin of the country, resource-rich but plundered by decades of exploitative government. Aid groups say the war has contributed to the deaths of 2.5 million people, mostly through disease and hunger. Many fear fighting will revive full-scale if the Rwandan-backed rebels and their Rwandan allies find themselves isolated by the power-sharing pact.
DR Congo's precarious peace pact (25 April, 2002)
Attacks on Civilians in Ugandan Occupied Areas in Northeastern Congo (February 13, 2002)
Congo: Ituri Civilians Need U.N. Protection
DR Congo: Scores Killed in New Ethnic Fighting
FULL COVERAGE ON THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
FULL COVERAGE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
4. PEACE WATCH FOR THE MIDDLE EAST
Here are some of the latest developments in the Middle East. Please also keep this situation in mind during your meditations in the coming two weeks to help ensure that Peace may eventually prevail in the Middle East.
Palestinian Gunmen Kill 4 Israelis; UN Team on Hold (Sat Apr 27)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Palestinian gunmen killed a five-year-old girl and three other Israelis in a raid on a West Bank settlement, ratcheting up tensions ahead of a U.N. mission to probe Israel's military assault on the Jenin refugee camp.
The attack, in which infiltrators moved house to house shooting people in their bedrooms, took place as the U.N. "fact-finding" team waited in Geneva for the green light for their scheduled flight to the region Sunday.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan agreed to a one-day delay in the team's arrival to give Israel's cabinet time to take a formal decision on the mission, which has drawn Israeli objections over its scope and composition.
The cabinet's deliberations Sunday morning were expected to be complicated by Israeli shock and anger at Saturday's attack, the first deadly raid on a West Bank settlement since the army invaded Palestinian-ruled cities a month ago.
Israel's four-week onslaught, including the devastating operation in the Jenin camp, was supposed to stop such killings. But Saturday's raid on the Adora settlement raised new questions about Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's tough tactics.
RAID FOLLOWS BUSH DEMAND
The attack took place a day after President Bush insisted Israel must end its military offensive "now," following another Israeli incursion defying his earlier demands.
It immediately raised the specter of fresh Israeli retaliation. "The attack this morning against Israeli citizens in the West Bank proves that terror has not yet been eradicated," Israeli government spokesman Aryeh Mekel said.
Hebron was the only big West Bank city not reoccupied in Israel's offensive, perhaps because the army feared a full-scale assault would endanger about 400 Jewish settlers living in heavily guarded enclaves among 120,000 Palestinians.
(...) There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Adora attack.
Israel first accepted the U.N. mission to Jenin, then threatened to block it, apparently fearing it would find itself in the dock. Palestinians say this shows Israel has something to hide.
Beefed up by security advisers at Israel's behest, the U.N. team had been due to leave Geneva earlier in the week. Israel has sought assurances that its mandate would be limited to Jenin and that it would not expose Israeli soldiers to prosecution.
Palestinians say hundreds of civilians may have died in Jenin camp, many in homes flattened by tank fire and bulldozers.
At least 1,315 Palestinians and 458 Israelis have been killed in the 19-month-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.
PEACE MOVEMENT NEWS UPDATES FROM ISRAEL-PALESTINE
From: Gush Shalom (Israeli Peace Bloc) firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: 26 April 2002
17 days of curfew in Dura
The town of Dura, near Hebron on the southern West Bank, has today undergone its seventeenth consecutive day of complete Israeli occupation. Tens of thousands of people, in Dura and dozens of outlying villages around it, remain imprisoned in their homes under tight curfew with no end in sight, suffering from severe disruption of medical services and lack of food. Even in the occasional few hours when the curfew is lifted, the army maintains a tight closure and prevents access to the nearby city of Hebron. In the course of these two and half weeks of curfew, six inhabitants of Dura were killed and dozens wounded in confrontations with the soldiers. (...) A week ago, the government of Israel claimed that its armed forces had been pulled out of all the Palestinian areas occupied in the recent invasion - except for Bethlehem and part of Ramallah. So, Dura should have been evacuated at least five days ago. Somehow, the soldiers occupying it never heard of it.
Israeli Forces Raid West Bank City of Qalqilya
After New Raids, Bush Again Urges Israeli Pullback
FULL COVERAGE OF THE MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT
Several related compilations were also archived these past 2 weeks at http://www.cybernaute.com/earthconcert2000 (scroll near the bottom to find them)
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