Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chinese Dissident Faces 15 years of Prison

Liu Xiaobo, a university professor and prominent Chinese dissident, will find out in 30 days if he will face charges for "inciting subversion" and if he is likely to face the maximum 15 years in jail that comes with the charge.

Liu Xiaobo was arrested on December 8th 2008 because of his online petition called Charter 08 which was based on Charter 77 (written by a former Czech president). Charter 08 was signed by over 10,000 people, including over 300 journalists, writers and intellectuals that were all subsequently arrested and/or questioned by the communist authorities.

Mr. Liu is no stranger to Chinese jails seeing as he was jailed following his participation in the Tienanmen Square protests of 1989. Later he also spent 3 years in a re-education and labor camp.

Charter 08 might seems very inoffensive to those of us living in democratic countries, but in a place like China where the government has the very last word on everything, it is a very provocative essay that challenges the very foundation of authoritarian rule... Here are a few excerpts from Charter 08:

" Human rights. Human rights are not bestowed by a state. Every person is born with inherent rights to dignity and freedom.(...)

Freedom. Freedom is at the core of universal human values. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom in where to live, and the freedoms to strike, to demonstrate, and to protest, among others, are the forms that freedom takes. (...)

Democracy. The most fundamental principles of democracy are that the people are sovereign and the people select their government. (...)

Civic Education. In our schools we should abolish political curriculums and examinations that are designed to indoctrinate students in state ideology and to instill support for the rule of one party. (...)

Freedom of Expression. We should make freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and academic freedom universal, thereby guaranteeing that citizens can be informed and can exercise their right of political supervision. (...) "

Human Rights, Freedom of Expression and the Right to Self-Government are things that we often take for granted and seldom take time to appreciate unless we've seen first hand the repression that people face in countries where thoughts on government have to be whispered behind closed doors to very close friends.

At the end of the day, Mr. Liu arrest and the pending charge have probably brought more attention to Charter 08 than it ever would have gotten if the communist authorities would have left him alone. Mr Liu's voice from behind the wall is now being heard around the world and hopefully others inside China and other countries will follow his lead and "incite subversion".

Hopefully the international media will continue to cover the story of Mr. Liu and inspire others to join his cause.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Time for an Inquiry

It's high time for an inquiry about this whole Afghan detainee torture business.

Referring back to a post I did a few days ago where Peter MacKay, our Minister of Defense, contradicted (and is still contradicting) sworn affidavits by Canadian soldiers and military officers that a prisoner handed over to the Afghan authorities was severely beaten and tortured.

For once I agree with NDP leader Jack Layton:
“Now more than ever the majority of members in this House are calling for a public inquiry. And it’s legitimate. We need to put an end to this cover-up. … When will we have a public inquiry?”

And with Michael Ignatieff
“We cannot trust a word that comes out of the mouth of the minister. When will the Prime Minister fire him and call a full, independent public inquiry?”

In a country that has all out public inquiries for everything, from the Mulroney-Shreiber Airbus deal, to the Sponsorship Scandal. I think it's time we have a serious inquiry into Mr. MacKay's statements and into the integrity of his office.

At least the Chretien and the Mulroney scandals were about money... I mean money is important and everything. But this one? This one would be about violating the Geneva Convention, trying to deny it and willingly putting the lives of people and their health in serious jeopardy. I think that lives are worth more than a few Airbus planes don't you?

The image of Canada is taking a beating every day that Prime Minister Harper lets Mr. MacKay keep his job. What kind of credibility will we have when we criticize other countries such as Burma, North Korea, Cuba or China on their Human Rights records? Not very much.

I, for one, do not want to see this great land's name dragged through the mud and there is an easy way to stop this from happening. Mr. MacKay must admit his mistake and step down, or better yet, Stephen Harper needs to ask for his resignation. Maybe just maybe, will the Conservative government, the country and our military be able to save face.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Sea of Green is back

A day of protests in Iran ended in tears and arrests again, mostly due to the tear gas hurled into the crowds by Revolutionary Guards.

Foreign media was ordered to remain in their offices for 3 days and were told they were not to report on the events currently happening in Iran. Mobile networks in downtown Tehran were shut down. The internet was slowed to a crawl or didn't work at all.

All this because of a planned student protest. A protest aimed at getting the message out that the election results from Iran's last election are illegitimate and that the deaths, beatings, executions and abuses of the regime following said election would not be forgotten.

Police surrounded universities in an attempt to silence the protesters, fired tear gas into crowds and many people claiming to be witnesses have reported beatings by Basij militiamen. But the crowds were relentless and protested hard.

Without a doubt, the Sea of Green has returned.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Screw the Geneva Convention

"In no circumstances shall a protected person be transferred to a country where he or she may have reason to fear persecution for his or her political opinions or religious beliefs."
Article 45 of the Geneva Convention

Canadian officials have vehemently denied knowing that some Afghan prisoners transfered to the ANP (Afghan National Police) risk being beaten, tortured or executed since a story broke in 2007 about alleged prisoner abuse.

Peter McKay, Canada's Minister of Defense, has been quoted time and time again saying that there has not been a single documented case of torture following a transfer of prisoners to the ANP. Even as late as last month he said:
Not a single Taliban prisoner turned over by Canadian Forces can be proven to have been abused. That is the crux of the issue.” (Halifax on Nov. 22)

But that was last month, before sworn a sworn affidavit from Colonel Steve Noonan (from 2007) was published and before corroborating testimony from Brigadier-General Joseph Deschamps and before field notes from a master-corporal also confirmed an incident. Is McKay changing his tune?

He has said what he has said based on the advice of generals and senior officials in the department.” (Dan Dugas, spokesman for Mr McKay yesterday)

Both Canada and Afghanistan a signatories of the Geneva convention and as such should obey it to the letter. Don't get me wrong, I have no love for the Taliban, but the bottom line is that Canada is supposed to lead by example. How can we win the people of Afghanistan over when we let things like this happen. Not to mention our image on the world stage, when our Minister of Defense is out there flat out denying things and contradicting some of our most trusted military commanders?

How can Canada accuse other countries of assaults on Human Rights and mistreatment of their citizens and prisoners if we cannot guarantee that those in our custody will not be mistreated.

McKay needs to man up and face the music, no matter how unpleasant the tune may be, because this whole affair is a major blemish on Canada's reputation abroad and leaves a sour taste in all of our mouths.

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