OPINION

Human Rights Groups: Soldiers of Liberty

July 31, 2007
Shantanu Dutta

Human rights groups are people we in India love to hate. The instruments of the State are particularly uncomfortable with the finger pointing that group like Amnesty International often do as they take stands against terrorism of all kinds and state sponsored terrorism especially.

The government is quite happy if finger pointing is done at extremist groups like the Naxalites or others but feels disquieted if any accusations are made against the instruments of the government. Naturally though groups like Amnesty are impartial or are largely perceived to be so and they don’t really care about cozying up to the powers that be.

Yet in the release of Dr. Haneef from prison, activist groups and human rights groups had a big part to play. Australia's Law Council and Amnesty International had expressed concern at the detention of Indian doctor Mohammed Haneef, who was held without charge for over a week by police in connection with the terror plot in Britain. Australia-based Amnesty spokeswoman Nicole Bieske said, "The whole case against Haneef undermines the presumption of innocence...This situation has become far worse than we originally feared when the (Australian anti-terror laws were) introduced."

Mind you, it is not that the Indian government did not do any thing. Remember the Prime Minister talked about his sleepless nights on television. But Australian Prime Minister John Howard, facing elections in a few months and needing a strong plank to fight on, was unlikely to have lost much sleep on Haneef’s case, had it not been for the relentless pressure from his own country’s civil rights groups about the crassness of the government’s action.

Now that the man has finally been released, as usual the human rights groups and their crucial work has been forgotten. At least the Indian government does not consider it fit to acknowledge their efforts. According to the External Affairs Ministry, the glory is all theirs. The Australian government's move to clear Mohamed Haneef of all charges of supporting terrorism is a "diplomatic success", say officials in the ministry of external affairs who have been batting for "fair and just treatment" of the India doctor.

The only one who has acknowledged their role publicly, it would seem, is Haneef’s wife Firdaus Arshiya who has thanked the human rights activists in Australia among others for their campaign in highlighting the issue.

In India, as elsewhere, being a civil rights activist or a human rights lawyer is a largely thankless role, taking on the might of the government and the increasingly stringent anti terror laws giving draconian powers to the security apparatus. There was a time when human rights groups were largely considered pro western bodies as they were founded there, their Head Quarters were usually there and their main scope of operations was in the communist police states. Not so any longer.

Post cold war and even more importantly post 9/11, the so called liberal democracies have become increasingly like a quasi-police state, so strong is their paranoia against terrorism. Be it trying to release a Dr Binayak Sen in India or a Dr. Haneef in Australia, human rights workers will always make more enemies than friends perhaps, but we owe it to them to acknowledge, as Dr. Haneef’s wife did, that our freedom is often guarded by such unsung soldiers of liberty.

 

Shantanu Dutta is a medical doctor by training and a development professional by vocation. His writings mostly deal with change, complexity and conversion and tries to look at a changing world through heaven's eyes.
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#1
Sanjay
July 31, 2007
12:43 AM

What a joke Shantanu Dutta's writings are. The issue is not about criticism against the govt security forces, but rather the totally one-sided and slanted criticisms. The fact is that India lives in a tough neighborhood, and those groups who are practicing violent confrontation with security forces have done so as a first resort and not a last resort.

Show me which other country has suffered things like the Bombay bombings? These happened not once, but TWICE!

Furthermore, you'll never see these left-wing critics on human rights every acknowledging the clear track record of free market economics in providing quality of life, as contrasted with the left-run socialist countries which are invariably totalitarian dictatorships.

Sorry, but a lot of the human rights NGOs that Shantanu Dutta is trying to defend are indeed taking money from foreign govts and other motivated institutions, which have conflicts of interest with those of India.

Sorry, but somebody drove that SUV into the Glasgow airport, and the self-righteous holier-than-thou Shantanu Dutta won't tell us who. If you can do a better job than the police, DON'T JUST SIT THERE SMUGLY LECTURING OTHERS -- GO OUT AND DO THAT BETTER JOB, INSTEAD OF WRITING ABOUT HOW IT COULD HAVE BEEN DONE BETTER. Go on, Shantanu! Show us how it's done, you ARMCHAIR EXPERT!

#2
Siffer
July 31, 2007
05:17 AM

If I want to spy on some country or I want some political leader to be cornered.

What is the best way?

I either pay couple of Human Rights guys to create some nuisance or spy for me.

Amnesty International for example vehemently supports Section 498a of IPC which considers people "guity till proven innocent".

Why? Because, someone inside it has a vested interest in some direction.

If you want a State of India to screw up foreign investment so that you get it in your state, you pay some human rights activists and some NGOs to create social unrest and prepare media to propagate nuisance.

You can easily achieve your goals.

There is such a big hue and cry about Haneef.

What about thousands of innocents and poor people spending months and years in Indian jails.
I do not remember any chief minister meeting them and I do not see anyone doing any press conference.





#3
Siffer
July 31, 2007
05:21 AM

"In India, as elsewhere, being a civil rights activist or a human rights lawyer is a largely thankless role, taking on the might of the government and the increasingly stringent anti terror laws giving draconian powers to the security apparatus."

There must not be stringent anti-terror laws.

There must only be stringent anti-family laws.

Terrorist suspects have the right to roam freely.
Only innocent old and sick have to be termed terrorists and jailed.

The word "Lawyer" is more dirty than the word "politician".

Most lawyers piggyback on HRights to boost their business.

#4
Atlantean
URL
July 31, 2007
11:04 AM

What nonsense! Human rights groups world over havent done ANYTHING of substance. How much have they achieved in preventing human rights violations? Whichever country they are in, human rights violations CONTINUE to happen and at a large scale. All that these groups can manage is to strip and shout in the streets, write silly articles, hold candle light vigils and prevent policemen and armymen from doing their duty.

How many terrorist groups have they approached and requested not to violate human rights of innocent people? How many human rights groups poured into the streets to ask terrorists to be punished for being responsible for violating the human rights of the 200 Mumbai train blast victims last years? How many candlelight vigils and how many street protests?

And please! Dont use the word SOLDIER in describing human rights activists and denigrate that noble profession. A soldier is someone who has a strong sense of duty, sacrifice, courage and conviction in what he is doing - which is why he even puts his life on the line. The very fact that none of these activists have the BALLS to go to a terrorist and protest asking him to stop violating human rights of individuals shows that they are a bunch of chickenhearted, hypocritical, chance-pe-dance individuals who lack courage, lack a sense of duty, lack a sense of sacrifice and above all lack conviction in what they are fighting for and so, dont deserve the high title of "soldier."

If they had all these, Osama bin Laden would've been visited by all these nutcases long ago, endangering their lives for their beliefs and convictions. Only THEN the appelation "SOLDIER" would've been apt! Not when they cry foul when govts. do their job in providing security to citizens sitting in A/C rooms and keep ABSOLUTELY SILENT when a terrorists triggers a bomb in a crowded train!

Now that the man has finally been released, as usual the human rights groups and their crucial work has been forgotten.

No offence intended but it is downright foolish to give the credit for human rights groups for Haneef's absolvement. What saved Haneef was not human rights groups but the supposedly draconian Australian law itself. The law took its own course and the law dictated that a person against whom there's no sufficient evidence should be set free as according to the law, no one can be punished till proven guilty. Human rights groups have first launched a largely unnecessary campaign and are now trying to pat themselves on the back for it. Nothing wrong because they would generate funds by attracting donations from gullible people. So high are their moral standards!

Post cold war and even more importantly post 9/11, the so called liberal democracies have become increasingly like a quasi-police state, so strong is their paranoia against terrorism.

Darn darn darn! So paranoid these countries are! Why are they so paranoid about broken glass, torn limbs and twisted metal? Arent there more important matters like Muslim quotas and Sachar committee recommnedations. Those train blasts in Mumbai last year, what was so great about them that the media and right wing groups went so paranoid about it? What was so paranoid about the Dec. 13, 2001 attack that the families of the security guards killed in that attack had to return their gallantry medals? Sheesh! So damn paranoid these people are. Such threat to human rights they are that dare to aim their guns at terrorists who are doing what they do only because of oppression. They should've simply let them shoot around and kill for all they are doing is fighting OPPRESSION. The paranoid Indian govt. shouldnt employ these human rights violating police in the interest of human rights.

Such paranoia! Sheesh!

#5
Ruvy in Jerusalem
July 31, 2007
07:22 PM

Antlantean,

Hear hear! Well said, well spoken! What you said applies to Israel as well as India. The only people that "human rights" groups here have trouble recognizing as human are Jews...

#6
affirmingflame
August 1, 2007
03:09 AM

Good! So according to Sanjay and Atlantean (and presumably also Siffer, if you can discern an argument through the fog of his incoherence), human rights groups should criticize and attack terrorists rather than the state for destroying terrorists. In fact, they would presumably go further and say there's no need for HR groups if everyone supports the state in doing whatever it takes to keep us safe. These posters presumably enjoy living in democracies, but would LOVE to live under totalitarian regimes where there is no one to question the state as long as people are "safe".

There were no "human rights groups" in Nazi Germany, where Germans for a time felt safe, as long as they weren't Jewish. But Sanjay, Siffer, Atlantean and Ruvy from Jerusalem too would have been cheering on the Nazi judges as they sent the Scholl brother and sister off to be executed, because, like today's HR groups, they were exposing the criminality of the regime they lived under. According to the logic of this brave band of posters, the Scholls should have been cheering the state for ridding Germany of the "Jewish vermin", and "soldiering" with the Einsatzgruppen in their genocidal rampage through Europe.

Before anyone distorts my arguments, I am NOT saying that the Indian government is Nazi, NOR that all HR groups are lily-white in their moral purity. What I am saying is that the success of a democracy depends crucially, if not entirely, on the degree of critical vigilance exercised on the state by free-thinking citizens. But Atlantean and Company would have none of THAT - no sir, they would march right behind the state, even when it comes knocking on the doors of innocent people to haul them off to jail, as the state inevitably does when it starts exercising power without responsibility, accountability or transparency.

#7
Ruvy in Jerusalem
August 1, 2007
07:06 AM

Affirmingflame...

You've done a good job of twisting words; I'll give you that much.

I have no problem with human rights commissions that actually do their jobs - like condemning and exposing the slavery practices that occur in Arabia, the Phillipines and Thailand, or the human rights abuses that Christians are forced to suffer at the hands of Moslems throughout the Arab ruled parts of Israel, or which document the human rights abuses the Israeli government foments and commits against its own Jewish citizens.

But human right groups in this country have no interest in any such an agenda. Saying bad things about Thailand and the Phillipines would discourage Israelis with a conscience from spending their money there, documenting the abuse that Arab Christians suffer at the hands of Arab Moslems would go against the unspoken idea of saying nothing to disturb the narrative of "the poor Palestinian;" documenting the abuse of the police against religious Jews in Israel would upset the secular pigs who run this country.

No, Oxfam, AI and all the other interfering scum have their agendae which must be kept intact.

Please don't raise the issue of the Nazis here. We Jews have suffered enough at the hands of the real Nazis. We do not need your fake version paraded around in front of us...

I leave the issues that apply to India and Pakistan with respect to dishones "human rights" groups to folks like Atlantean and Sanjay to deal with - their knowledge of them far outstrips mine.

#8
Ruvy in Jerusalem
August 1, 2007
09:59 AM

Let's nail the point home about what fakes the "human rights" groups are with this to the July Digest of the NGO Monitor. Again, this deals with MY neck of the woods, but gives an idea of how AI, Human Rights Watch, B'tzelem and other so-called "human rights" groups all have a pro-Arab agenda.

Also, note who funds ICAHD. This is interference by the EU in the sovereign affairs of another country. Jeff Halper is very lucky that I'm not prime minister in Israel. His outfit would be shut down and he himself would be expelled to Minnesota where he came from and forbidden ever to return to this country.

#9
Atlantean
URL
August 1, 2007
11:05 AM

affirmingflame,

You put words in my mouth and go about attacking me for "saying" those words.

Go to #4 and do a thorough read. My comment was addressing the issue in this article - that human rights groups are soldiers of liberty. My entire comment was dedicated to prove this statement wrong. All that I have said is that human rights groups dont deserve the title of "soldier" and have also given the reasons why.

I have said nothing about supporting genocidal regimes like Nazi Germany. And its a little ironic to include Ruvy in the "brave band of posters" according to whom "the Scholls should have been cheering the state for ridding Germany of the 'Jewish vermin', and 'soldiering' with the Einsatzgruppen in their genocidal rampage through Europe" as Ruvy comes from the same ethnoreligious group which was targetted by the Nazis.

Nor have I expressed that democratic states shouldnt be questioned and held accountable by free thinking persons.

I hold the belief that the freedom that the citizens of democratic states enjoy did not fall out of the sky. These rights have been fought for. Unspeakable amount of blood has been spilled and innumerable atrocities were endured to gain all these rights and we feel that since these rights have been gained through intense struggle, they are worth protecting. Gandhi was nonviolent but British lathis werent! Lots of Gandhi's followers stood up to British constables and took blows to their heads. Blood spilling and heads breaking was a routine affair during the last 100 years of British India.

To me, radical Islam and its foot soldiers pose a great threat to these freedoms. Where do I have have issue with human rights groups? That none or very few human rights groups or civil liberties groups actually go to Islamic terrorists and ask them to abandon their violent agenda. If they had firm conviction in what they are fighting for - which is freedom in its broadest sense - they should ALSO direct their anger at the terrorists It is not hard to see why.

I'd believe the sentence "Human rights groups - soldiers of liberty" when the human rights guys have the balls to walk up to a terrorist, catch hold of him by his dirty beard and ask him... no demand him to STOP human rights violations of innocent people.

I have no problem with human rights groups and their issues but I have issue with people calling them soldiers of liberty and when these human rights groups interfere with legitimate activites of states, like Australia's detention and interrogation of Mohammad Haneef.

Tolerance of intolerance, which is what these groups suggest us free citizens in the free world should do, is not tolerance.

#10
affirmingflame
August 1, 2007
05:47 PM

Atlantean, true, you didn't SAY those words, but I was only drawing out some of the logical implications of your position. In #4, you suggest that HR groups are unnecessary, and they would better serve the public by opposing terrorists rather than the governments that are trying to destroy them. IF you still stick by that position, THEN everything that I wrote earlier follows from your position. In Nazi Germany, people with your mindset were busy reporting those protecting enemies of the state to the authorities, or directly participating in killing them. If you are unable to accept the implication of your argument, then you should withdraw or modify the argument. Is this point of logic too subtle for you?

Ruven, what's "fake" about the example from Nazi Germany that I cited? Or are you suggesting that I am "faking" sympathy for the Jews in Europe of that time? My purpose in using the Nazi example to was to highlight the absurdity of your (and Atlantean's) arguments that HR groups are a waste of time, and should be supporting governments in their efforts to fight terrorism.

None of you seem to acknowledge that ALL states have abused powers that they have created for themselves under the threat of terrorism. Who is going to guard against the abuse of the guardians? You seem to suggest that this vigilance is unnecessary and traitorous. I say that if it were not for groups like Amnesty and HRW and many others ("interfering scum" in your telling words, Atlantean), our tenuous democracies would have turned into tyrannies long ago.

Ruven, I also note that you have a problem with my reference to Jewish suffering. Is this because like all true Zionists, you think that the Holocaust was so unique in the suffering that it caused that only Jews can talk about it? And that because you think all other acts of violence pale in comparison to the Holocaust, Israel's actions against Palestinians and Lebanese are implicitly justified? That "Never again" applies only to Jews, and to no one else? Then read some authors from your own country, like Yitzhak Laor, and see the interview in Haaretz with Avram Burg at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/868385.html

It's clear you cannot stand groups like B'Tselem and ICAHD and many others that prevent Israel from descending into Zionazism, although people like you are presumably there to ensure that the descent is swift and irrevocable.

You also seem to have a problem with any one defending the human rights of Muslims. Do you remember these words? "If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that." (Shylock in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice).

And finally, spare me the NGO Watch reference. They are financed by the same shady Wechsler Family Foundation that funds the extreme right-wing think tank called the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The JCPA is one of the extreme Zionist groups, along with AIPAC and other warmongers, currently baying for a nuclear war with Iran. Both NGO Watch and JCPA are just the respectable versions of Masada2000 - very reliable if you want a glimpse into the mindset of incurable Zionist nutcases.

#11
Ruvy in Jerusalem
August 1, 2007
07:17 PM

Affirmingflame,

I do not know what flame you claim to affirm but rather than waste time retyping my views, I'll refer you to this analysis of events in my neck of the woods, and to my writers page at Blogcritics Magazine. Read at your leisure before you assume you know anything about what I think.

#12
temporal
URL
August 2, 2007
07:01 AM

ruvy well said:)

I have no problem with human rights commissions that actually do their jobs - like condemning and exposing the slavery practices that occur in Arabia, the Phillipines and Thailand, or the human rights abuses that Christians are forced to suffer at the hands of Moslems throughout the Arab ruled parts of Israel, or which document the human rights abuses the Israeli government foments and commits against its own Jewish citizens.

;)

ah, that explains why Israel is not a occupation force but just a victim


also, this is incomplete

the human rights abuses the Israeli government foments and commits against its own Jewish citizens....


without this addition to be fair and just:

the human rights abuses the Israeli government foments and commits against its own Jewish citizens....and upon civilians in its occupied territories

shalom

#13
Atlantean
URL
August 6, 2007
07:42 AM

Affirmingflame,

I stick to my position in #9. I reproduce what I have written there:

You put words in my mouth and go about attacking me for "saying" those words.

Go to #4 and do a thorough read. My comment was addressing the issue in this article - that human rights groups are soldiers of liberty. My entire comment was dedicated to prove this statement wrong. All that I have said is that human rights groups dont deserve the title of "soldier" and have also given the reasons why.


My comment wasnt saying anything about human rights organisations better serving "the public by opposing terrorists rather than (my emphasis) the governments that are trying to destroy them."

I never asked for a RATHER THAN. I asked for an ALSO. Dont misrepresent my comments and attack them yourself. Your extrapolations of my comments to what I would've done in Nazi Germany arise from these misrepresentations.

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