Monday, May 07, 2007

Dobbin: Harper's disdain for human rights

What do Afghan detainees, Lebanese, Palestinians, Burmese activists, gays and lesbians, and even Canadian soldiers have in common. According to Murray Dobbin, the mistreatment or lack of treatment by the Harper government show a consistent disdain for human rights in many respects. Thus, his lack of regard for the rights of the Afghan detaineees is merely the continuation of a disturbing pattern.

But when it comes to international human rights either enshrined in the UN Charter or the Geneva Convention, Harper has shown disdain. The Geneva Convention also states that it is illegal to target civilians in war. But this is precisely what Israel did in its catastrophic (for everyone) invasion of Lebanon. The rights of the Lebanese didn't count for anything as Harper stated that Israel's brutal assault on a defenceless Lebanese population was "a measured response." Measured by what standard? Certainly not by the standards set out by the Geneva Convention.

And what about the human rights of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip? Not a word here, either, even though UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said last year: "The violation of human rights I think in this territory is massive." She said that what she had seen in Beit Hanoun convinced her that Palestinians are suffering from "catastrophic human-rights violations" at the hands of Israel. But the Palestinians seem virtually not to exist in Harper's U.S.-designed foreign policy.

There are many other examples. Does Canada's new prime minister express concern over the hideous human rights record of Burma? In the fall, the UN added to the long list of condemnations, this time for the harassment and arrest of student leaders, and the continuing house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition National League for Democracy. Nope, no problem here, if Mr. Harper's silence means anything.

The few occasions in which he does call for respect for human right are situations in which his government is ideologically motivated to do so.

This nurturing of his key constituency also serves to explain the single real exception in Stephen Harper's human rights record. Regarding China, the government is making real noise about the appalling case of Huseyin Celil. Here Canada seems -- rightly so -- to be risking good relations with the Asian giant over the case of a single individual.

But why China? To answer that question you need to go back a ways in Stephen Harper's history and understand the perversity of the right wing of the anti-abortion movement. No country in the world is so hated by evangelical anti-abortionists as China because of its vigorous efforts at population control and the widespread availability of free abortion. Back in 1995 one of Stephen Harper's Reform Party colleagues issued a statement calling on the Canadian government to condemn China for policies she claimed endorsed the "consumption of human fetuses as health food." These people still populate Harper's caucus and form a critical part of his core base. And he is representing them.

Read the whole article here.

I am a proud member of Amnesty International. I want to make it clear here that I am not speaking on their behalf but rather as a private citizen. Anyway, at Amnesty, we have a saying, "Human rights for all, no exceptions." Well, by my standards, they are doing very poorly in that regard.

And yes, the Chretien and Martin regimes left a lot to be desired in this area, but the Harper regime sickens me with the openness and relentlessness of their disdain for human rights.