Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights’

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Are We Crazy?

May 28, 2009

U.A.E Video Slows Nuclear Pact in U.S.

Wall Street Journal 15 May 09

By JAY SOLOMON

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is delaying submitting legislation to Congress on U.S. nuclear cooperation with the United Arab Emirates because of a graphic video showing an Abu Dhabi sheikh abusing an Afghan trader, officials said.

Any protracted White House delay could imperil efforts by U.S. power companies to win contracts estimated at $20 billion that the U.A.E. is scheduled to award by this fall.

General Electric Co. and Westinghouse Electric Co. are among the U.S.-based companies competing with French and South Korean firms to build the Emirates’ first fleet of nuclear reactors. The agreement authorizing cooperation between the U.S. and U.A.E. needs to be passed into law before U.S. companies can sell nuclear technologies to the Emirates.

“It would harmful for both the U.A.E.’s and U.S.’s long-term interests if American firms were to be taken out of the competition at this stage,” said Yousef Al Otaiba, the U.A.E.’s ambassador to Washington. He added that several U.S. firms made it through the qualification phase and were in contention for the final contract.

The U.A.E. is seeking formal assurance from Washington in the coming weeks that U.S. firms will be able to participate.

President Barack Obama has touted the U.A.E. deal as a model for peaceful development of nuclear power and previously was expected to submit the cooperation bill to Congress last month, said officials involved in the deliberations.

However, the airing of the video on U.S. television networks in recent weeks has generated outrage among some U.S. lawmakers and led to the White House delaying the bill’s submission.

In the 2004 video, Sheikh Issa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a half-brother of Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, is seen abusing an Afghan trader who allegedly cheated him in a business transaction.

Sheikh Issa, with the assistance of uniformed men, abuses the Afghan man with a cattle prod, forces sand into his mouth, beats him with a wooden plank with a nail, and pours salt in his wounds. A sport-utility vehicle then repeatedly runs over the man in an undisclosed desert location. The man survived.

The Abu Dhabi government says it detained Sheikh Issa and opened a formal criminal investigation into the incident. It established a unit within its Public Prosecutors’ Office to investigate and prosecute human-rights complaints.

A number of U.S. lawmakers say they still doubt Emirati courts will deal with the matter properly. They have seized on the issue to question whether the U.A.E. can be trusted to safely run a nuclear-power program.

“A country where the laws can be flouted by the rich and powerful is not a country that can safeguard sensitive U.S. nuclear technology,” Rep. Edward Markey (D., Mass.) said Wednesday.

A congressional commission on human rights convened Wednesday to focus on the Sheikh Issa video and the issue of U.A.E. human rights.

White House and State Department officials declined this week to set a firm timeline for submitting the U.A.E. legislation to Congress, saying the agreement is under review.

They also said nuclear cooperation and the U.A.E.’s human-rights record should be kept separate. “We think it’s an important agreement, but, as I said, we are right now in the stage of having consultations with Congress,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Wednesday.

U.S. officials and industry executives said they remain confident that the White House will eventually move the legislation forward, given its importance to American companies and President Obama’s wider nonproliferation agenda. Officials said the legislation could still be submitted to Congress this month.

U.S. officials praise the U.A.E.’s nuclear program because, unlike Iran, it is adhering to standards set by the United Nations atomic-energy agency.

The U.A.E. has agreed not to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium, significantly eliminating the possibility that nuclear fuels could be diverted for military purposes.

—Tim Alberta contributed to this article.

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Tyrants get Another U.N. Platform

May 28, 2009

Wall Street Journal 24 April 09

By SAAD EDDIN IBRAHIM

Geneva

In 1948, the United Nations recognized the “inherent dignity” and “the equal and inalienable rights” of all human beings when it ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Though this week’s U.N. conference in Geneva claimed to stand for these noble values, the world’s dictators were the real winners.

Too many official country delegates didn’t come to Geneva to stand up for the oppressed. They came to condemn the “colonial powers” of the West and Israel. In so doing, they sought to guard against exposing their own regimes’ human-rights records. While the delegates met in the official conference hall, the true defenders of human rights — civil society organizations and dissidents — gathered at their own conference where they examined today’s most pressing human-rights issues.

The deep divide between those who seek to expose human-rights abuses and those who only use the language of human rights as a shield is not new. It started during Rio’s Earth Summit in 1992, where, for the first time, the U.N. agreed to host two forums: one for government representatives and one for NGOs. The divide between government and NGOs, and between the Third World and the West, reached an apex in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. The central wedge issue was the treatment of the state of Israel.

Eight years ago, the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action (DDPA) singled out Israel for the harshest rebuke of any country. It was not that Israel was totally innocent of charges about its continued occupation of the Palestinians. But the vehemence with which the delegates issued this condemnation, and their manner of voting on it — the delegates cheered “Down With Israel” — led many to conclude that the DPPA bordered on anti-Semitism.

What compounded this sentiment is that most of the governments that pile on to condemn Israel and the so-called “neocolonial” West have terrible human-rights records. These include tyrannical regimes such as Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Libya, Iran, Syria and Egypt (my home country). Their atrocious violations have been widely reported by organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

But members of like-minded voting blocs — such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Organization of African Unity and the League of Arab States — comprise more than two-thirds of the U.N. membership votes. Together, they can railroad through any resolution, no matter how absurd. It was this Afro-Islamic-Arab bloc that made sure Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be the keynote speaker in the opening session of this year’s U.N. World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance.

Rightly anticipating that the Geneva conference would be a forum for anti-Western and anti-Israel propaganda, the U.S. and a score of Western democracies boycotted the conference entirely. More countries — such as Britain, Germany and Holland — walked out of the conference when Mr. Ahmadinejad delivered his usual anti-Israel tirade, calling the Jewish state a “most cruel and racist regime.”

Unfortunately, lost in this circus were the real victims who suffer at the hands of autocratic and theocratic regimes. The most vulnerable groups — the poor, women, children, migrant and stateless people — were ignored this week in Geneva.

Though the decision to boycott the conference was understandable, I believe it was a mistake. The U.S. and other democracies should have attended and fought back. An overwhelming majority of mankind would have applauded their moral courage.

I spent three years alone in an Egyptian prison for the crime of “tarnishing Egypt’s reputation.” Today, prisoners like Roxana Saberi in Iran languish in jails for crimes they did not commit. It is the job of true human-rights advocates to strengthen such victims by standing up to dictators.

Rather than letting Mr. Ahmadinejad steal the headlines, I would have liked to have seen the universally popular President Barack Obama take on the hypocrites who speak in the name of Islam and want to sacrifice such basic rights as freedom of speech by outlawing “Islamophobia.” Mr. Obama could have rescued the human-rights agenda from those who have hijacked it.

Though it didn’t happen in Geneva, I look forward to a campaign, led by Mr. Obama, to return the cause of human rights to its rightful owners.

Mr. Ibrahim was incarcerated by the Mubarak regime from 2000 to 2003. He is now a visiting professor at Harvard.

– The problem might be that Obama is the problem.  His life beliefs are contrary to American policy since our founding.