Stephen Zunes : Human Rights

A Tale of Two Human Rights Awardees
2 December 2009

I have worked with both Jenni Williams and Aminatou Haidar. They are both deserving of the RFK Prize, and they both deserve the support of the U.S. government as well. A test of a government’s sense of justice is whether it sees human rights as a universal principle or simply as a political tool to advance its foreign policy agenda. The Obama administration appears to have opted for the latter. It is easy to support human rights activists like the women of WOZA, since they are battling against a regime opposed by the United States. When it comes to human rights activists who challenge a U.S. ally, however, the Obama administration appears no different than previous administrations in tolerating their oppression.

The Power of Nonviolent Action in Honduras
8 November 2009

The massive nonviolent movement that put pressure on the coup government may be only the first chapter of an important and prolonged struggle for justice in one of Latin America’s poorest and most inequitable countries

Republicans and Democrats Come Together to Launch Unprecedented Attack on International Law
5 November 2009

In a stunning blow against international law and human rights, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a resolution on Tuesday attacking the report of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict. The report was authored by the well-respected South African jurist Richard Goldstone and three other noted authorities on international humanitarian law, who had been widely praised for taking leadership in previous investigations of war crimes in Rwanda, Darfur, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. Since this report documented apparent war crimes by a key U.S. ally, however, Congress has taken the unprecedented action of passing a resolution condemning it. Perhaps most ominously, the resolution also endorses Israel’s right to attack Syria and Iran on the grounds that they are “state sponsors of terrorism.”

The Goldstone Report: Killing the Messenger
7 October 2009

On October 1, the Obama administration successfully pressured the Palestinian delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva to drop its proposal to recommend that the UN Security Council endorse the findings of the Goldstone Commission report. The report, authored by renowned South African jurist Richard Goldstone, detailed the results of the UNHRC’s fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict. These findings included the recommendation that both Hamas and the Israeli government bring to justice those responsible for war crimes during the three weeks of fighting in late December and early January. If they don’t, the report urges that the case be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for possible prosecution.

Weapons of Mass Democracy
16 September 2009

On the outskirts of a desert town in the Moroccan-occupied territory of Western Sahara, about a dozen young activists are gathered. They are involved in their country’s long struggle for freedom. A group of foreigners—veterans of protracted resistance movements—is conducting a training session in the optimal use of a “weapons system” that is increasingly deployed in struggles for freedom around the world. The workshop leaders pass out Arabic translations of writings on the theory and dynamics of revolutionary struggle and lead the participants in a series of exercises designed to enhance their strategic and tactical thinking. These trainers are not veterans of guerrilla warfare, however, but of unarmed insurrections against repressive regimes. The materials they hand out are not the words of Che Guevara, but of Gene Sharp, the former Harvard scholar who has pioneered the study of strategic nonviolent action….

Showdown in ‘Tegucigolpe’
10 July 2009

One of the hemisphere’s most critical struggles for democracy in 20 years is now unfolding in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa (nicknamed “Tegucigolpe” for its long history of military coup d’états, which are called golpes de estado, in Spanish). Despite censorship and repression, popular anger over the June 28 military overthrow of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya is growing. International condemnation has been near-unanimous, and the Organization of American States has suspended Honduras, the first time the hemisphere-wide body has taken so drastic an action since 1962.

How Not to Support Democracy in the Middle East
8 June 2009

President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo to the Muslim world marked a welcome departure from the Bush administration’s confrontational approach. Yet many Arabs and Muslims have expressed frustration that he failed to use this opportunity to call on the autocratic Saudi and Egyptian leaders with whom he had visited on his Middle Eastern trip to end their repression and open up their corrupt and tightly controlled political systems….

Remembering Tiananmen Square
4 June 2009

Twenty years ago, on June 4, I was at Camp Thoreau in New York’s Catskill Mountains. Though I had already become a full-time academic, I was still involved in the topical folk music circles in which I had hung out for much of the previous decade and had come down from Ithaca to join this annual gathering of politically-conscious folk musicians for a weekend of workshops, jam sessions and performances….

Defending Israeli War Crimes
28 May 2009

In response to a series of reports by human rights organizations and international legal scholars documenting serious large-scale violations of international humanitarian law by Israeli armed forces in its recent war on the Gaza Strip, 10 U.S. state attorneys general sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defending the Israeli action. It is […]

Pelosi the Hawk
27 April 2009

Reports by international human rights groups and from within Israel in recent weeks have revealed the massive scale of war-crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law, committed by Israeli forces during their three-week offensive against the Gaza Strip earlier this year. Despite this, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has steadfastly stood by her insistence that the U.S.-backed Israeli government has no legal or moral responsibility for the tragic consequence of the war….