International Conference hits rights violations

COMMISSION 3: Human Rights in the Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Fields

On February 14, 2008, Guatemalan indigenous rights leader Ramiro Choc was arrested by six armed soldiers and sentenced to six years on trumped up charges of aggravated robbery, land stealing, and kidnapping. On the third year of his incarceration, three of Choc’s colleagues at Encuentro Campesino, a peasant organization he helped form, were found dead, each shot multiple times. Choc is one of the 592 cases of criminalization of defenders of human rights in Guatemala between 2004 and 2009, according to Unidad de Defensores/as de Derechos Humanos en Guatemala (UDEFGUA).

In the Philippines, peasant leader Dario Tomada survived an assassination attempt in Kanangga, Leyte but ended up in jail on July 22, 2010. He was charged with murder that took place almost three decades ago. Tomada is but one of the more than 340 political prisoners languishing in 67 detention centers in the Philippines.

In Iran, prison guards are reportedly facilitating rape of young opposition activists by giving out condoms to criminals. In its 2010 report, Amnesty International documented the rape of male and female detainees by security officials.

In Burma, despite the release of a handful of political prisoners, many continue to serve unduly harsh and extreme prison terms with over 200 serving 20- to 50-year sentences, 54 serving 51-to 106-year sentences, and 91 serving life sentences.

At the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, suspected terrorists undergo severe forms of torture including sleep deprivation, exposure to hot and cold, bright lights, and loud music during interrogations.

These tales of torture, maltreatment and imprisonment based on fabricated charges are carried out by state security forces of governments waging wars against their own peoples. In its May 2011 report, Amnesty International reported that there are 98 countries who practice torture and other ill-treatment, unlawful restrictions on freedom of expression in 89 countries, and prisoners of conscience in 48 countries.

In the case of United States, the entire world has become a war zone. With its “targeted killing” program, the Obama administration has authorized a program for the killing of suspected terrorists anywhere.

In its review of the 18 months of the Obama administration, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said: “Indeed, on a range of issues including accountability for torture, detention of terrorism suspects, and use of lethal force against civilians, there is a very real danger that the Obama administration will enshrine permanently within the law policies and practices that were widely considered extreme and unlawful during the Bush administration.”

In May, Obama signed a four-year extension of the USA Patriot Act that allows private security firms under the supervision of the government to monitor and search American citizens’ phone conversations, email communications, medical, financial and official records to discover “potential terrorism-related threats and foil the probable plots which can jeopardize the country’s domestic security.” Roving wiretaps, court-ordered searches of business records and conducting surveillance of individuals engaged in terrorism-related activities without being linked to renowned terrorist organizations are allowed.

Since the September 11, 2001 attack, the U.S. government prodded other countries to enact so-called anti-terrorist legislations that contain similar draconian measures.

Since the 9/11 attacks, too, U.S. special forces have nearly doubled in number, their budget nearly tripled, and their overseas deployments quadrupled. The Special Operations Command’s overall strength now stands at roughly 60,000 in 79 countries. They are engaged in counterinsurgency operations that aim, according to the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, to “disrupt terrorist plots and training facilities, thin out the terrorist ranks, and pre-empt insurgencies before they can escalate into threats to U.S. security.”

The U.S. government also continues to support repressive regimes such as Israel that has occupied Palestinian territories. Despite condemnation of Israel’s offensive attacks such as the attack on a flotilla attempting to break the Gaza blockade on May 31, 2010, Israel remains the largest overall recipient of foreign aid from the United States since World War II, receiving US$2.775 billion in military aid in 2010.

In the Philippines, the new Aquino government adopted the US Counterinsurgency Guide. Even as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) portrays itself to be respecting human rights with its psywar tactics, at least 48 have been victims of extrajudicial killings, five were victims of enforced disappearances and hundreds were victims of harassment and threats. Like Israel, the Philippines is a recipient of US military assistance, receiving US$32 million in fiscal year 2009-2010 under Foreign Military Financing for procurement of US military equipment, services, and training.

As in the past, the US has instigated state terrorism. It provides indoctrination, strategic direction, officer training and military equipment to the state apparatus of repression.

The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), in its fourth assembly in Manila, Philippines this July, condemns all these human rights violations perpetrated by the US and its client states.

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