Brand new year, same old nonsense. This week:
The Burmese military admitted that it did indeed extrajudicially kill 10 suspected Rohingya militants in September, but clarified that it was simply because it would have been waaaay too much trouble to take them to the police station for processing. Predictably, the U.S. government has described this farce as “an important step” because it suffers from a chronic inability to differentiate between empty gestures and actual human rights progress. (See, e.g., Sri Lanka’s “transitional justice process”.)
Speaking of Sri Lanka, the president’s political party (you know, the one that keeps promising to protect the “war heroes” from the aforementioned transitional justice) is campaigning in the Tamil-dominated north by playing the songs of the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Meanwhile, Tamils who possess or share LTTE materials can still be arrested on suspicion of attempting to revive the insurgency. Aren’t post-conflict politics fun?
And if you ever wondered what it looks like when the government of Botswana trolls a sitting US president, the answer is this:
Need a holiday gift for the literally infinite number of sketchy af men in your life? The authors of “Where Does Your Penis Belong?” have got you covered.
Tanzania’s government pardoned two child rapists, while calling for pregnant schoolgirls (who are already banned from attending school) to be arrested. Children’s rights: you’re doing it wrong.
An 85 year old scholar is on trial in Thailand for (seriously) questioning the accuracy of historical accounts of a 16th century elephant battle. Under Thailand’s lese majeste law, he faces up to 15 years in prison for this offense.
And a VICE investigation has revealed that the UK is training Sri Lanka’s notorious Special Task Force, a militarized police unit implicated in torture and extrajudicial killings. A manager of Police Scotland’s international training unit had this to say in defense of the program: “We didn’t teach them in that [torture], we taught, erm…”
I’m going to skip right over the fact that a US Congressman is resigning because he asked female subordinates to serve as gestational surrogates. And the fact that Hun Sen and Rodrigo Duterte have both been nominated for the Confucious Peace Prize. AND the fact that an ostensibly serious academic journal published a book review that uses the phrase “lady author” four times in nine paragraphs.
Instead, a very personal WTF:
It’s not that weird for me to spot a friend’s name (or my own, for that matter) in my daily “genocide” Google Alert. Usually they’re not being accused of supporting genocidaires, though. So I was pretty surprised to see Golriz Ghahraman, who was recently elected as New Zealand’s first refugee MP, described as a “straightforward genocide denier”. According to a pro-Rwanda internet troll named Phil Quin (who apparently thinks “UN defence lawyers” are a thing), Golriz’s work as a member of Simon Bikindi’s defense team at the ICTR calls into question “her suitability for public office”.
This is nonsense from start to finish.
Golriz is a dedicated human rights lawyer who served as a prosecutor at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. Her experiences interning on both the prosecution and defense side at the ICTY and ICTR are what qualified her for that job. Quin’s accusations suggest that he has failed to grasp the core concept of the international justice system; namely, that adjudicating responsibility for serious international crimes through a credible legal process is critical to restoring respect for human rights and rule of law in the aftermath of mass atrocities and preventing future cycles of violence (YMMV). Without competent attorneys on both sides, this would be impossible.
Over at Opinio Juris, Kevin Jon Heller points out that of all the defense counsel who have served at the ICTR, “Quin finds only one worthy of attack: the female refugee MP from the Green Party”. Go f-ing figure.
Another week, another mountain of evidence that human men are a terrible idea. I just can’t even.
In other news:
After 3,472 years in power, it looks like Robert Mugabe is on his way out. Western audiences seem to be welcoming the coup, having apparently forgotten everything about every coup ever.
Saudi Arabia legit stole Lebanon’s prime minister, apparently in a gambit to provoke a war with Iran? Seems like that’s going to end well for everyone.
The Burmese army has been cleared of charges it’s committing atrocities against the Rohingya by… the Burmese army. I know I’m convinced.
Oh hey, and did you know that victims have to go through “counseling, mediation and a 30-day ‘cooling off period'” before they can officially file a sexual harassment claim against a member of Congress? Seriously #BanMen.
Honestly. Every one of these weeks is like a thousand years long. I could add FFS Saturday and JFC… Tuesday (?) and it’d still barely be the tip of the iceberg. But soldier on we must.
Burundi ordered all unwed couples to marry by the end of the year, or else. (Else = fines and jail time.) The campaign is part of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s efforts to “moralize” Burundian society. Because obvs people dating is a way bigger moral threat than all the crimes against humanity and whatnot. (h/t: Stephanie Schwartz)
News broke that the UN released war crimes suspects in the Central African Republic ahead of the 2015 election to “appease the electoral process”. One for Team Peace in interminable Peace vs. Justice debate?
Our old friend Duterte, whose government is currently engaged in a jaw-droppingly bloody campaign to wipe out the drug trade, has offered to host a world summit on “how we can protect human rights”. I have a suggestion…
And somehow, against all odds, Drake got even Drake-ier this week:
I really need “collecting Birkin bags for your future wife” to become shorthand for a particular sort of allegedly-romantic-but-actually-self-centered-and-performative male behavior. Can we make that happen?
WTF Friday is back by popular demand. (By which I mean the 12 of you who won’t shut up about it.) But honestly guys, I don’t know. Basically every day for the last year has been WTF-Whatever-Day-It-Is. Who can keep up?
Some of this week’s highlights:
Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to a robot, demoting women to, what, like seventh class citizens? (h/t Matt Simonson)
In what may be the world’s most puzzling crime, a Bosnian Serb has been arrested after attempting to sell a copy of the Dayton Accords. Black markets for everything, I guess. (h/t Ben Denison)
And closer to home, a man in Chicago shot himself in the penis while robbing a hot dog stand, which is definitely not any kind of a metaphor for the current American political moment.
Happy now, jerks?
Everything is basically awful.
We’re rapidly running out of giraffes, American life expectancy dropped for the first time in over two decades, and 2016 continues its merciless extermination campaign against all the good celebrities.
Russia is moving new nuclear-capable missiles to the Baltic, hate crimes have replaced baseball as the new American pastime, and atrocities continue unchecked in Iraq, Syria, Burma, and South Sudan.
On the bright side, though, against all expectations, Gambia’s lunatic dictator Yahya Jammeh conceded defeat in last week’s election. And somewhere, a lion cub and an otter are inexplicably living together in a people house:
You never know what’s going to push you over the edge. For me, it was this quote from the Burmese militant monk and hate-monger Wirathu:
“The world singled us out as narrow-minded. But as people from the country that is the grandfather of democracy and human rights elected Donald Trump, who is similar to me in prioritizing nationalism, there will be less finger-pointing from the international community.“
It’s been a bad, bad weak for America’s democratic ideals. The incoming administration has selected a white supremacist propagandist for chief strategist and an unhinged Islamaphobe for national security advisor. And meanwhile, congratulations have poured in from a who’s who of the world’s dictators and demagogues, all gloating about America’s forthcoming abandonment of the human rights agenda.
But Wirathu’s comment is particularly galling. Once described by Time Magazine as “The Face of Buddhist Terror“, he is an extremist who has fomented hate speech and ethnic cleansing against Burma’s Muslim Rohingya minority.
Burma’s government is currently engaged in a vicious crackdown on the Rohingya that has left over 100 dead. Victims and human rights advocates allege that the security forces have conducted a campaign of systematic rape and destruction. But the government refuses to allow journalists or human rights monitors access to the area, and its representatives have claimed that the locals are burning down their own homes, and that Rohingya women are too “dirty” and “unhygienic” to rape.
And now a vocal proponent of this violence thinks it’s totally plausible that Americans might wish to learn from Burma’s treatment of Muslims:
“In America, there can be organizations like us who are protecting against the dangers of Islamization. Those organizations can come to organizations in Myanmar to get suggestions or discuss …Myanmar doesn’t really need to get suggestions from other countries. But they can get ideas from Myanmar.“
This is our reality now, everyone.
WTF doesn’t even begin to cover it.
On Tuesday, Americans voted on the following four questions:
- Do presidents need any governing experience or policy knowledge?
- Is sexual assault a bad thing to do?
- Is it a problem to run on a platform of revoking the rights of broad classes of citizens?
- Can women be in charge of stuff?
Turns out the answer to all of them was a resounding “no, not so much”.
This result is a disaster for so many people. For people of color, for women, for religious minorities, for the LGBT community, for immigrants and refugees, for people with disabilities, and for anyone who cares about someone in one or more of these categories. It’s cold comfort to know that our president-elect will hate the task of governing and that the GOP leadership will spend four miserable years struggling to work with someone they despise.
But if Hillary Clinton could get up off the mat and make the graceful and moving concession speech she gave on Wednesday, and if America’s classiest couple can grit their teeth and welcome the epitome of tackiness into their home, then perhaps the rest of us can sack up too. Maybe. Eventually. When we finally stop crying.
In the meantime, a moment of silence for the death of all of our hopes and dreams.
*Image screengrabbed from The Washington Post.
This week’s standout “WTF” was South Africa’s sudden withdrawal from the International Criminal Court. My thoughts, coauthored with Stephanie Schwartz: Is this the end of the International Criminal Court?
Here’s the blurb: