WTF Friday, 5/22/2015

So:

  • Gambia offered to take the Rohingya off Southeast Asia’s hands. Clearly a sincere gesture, given how universally revered President Jammeh’s government is for its human rights record. Oh wait
  • Political science all-the-way exploded over the news that a widely-reported study showing that contact with openly gay canvassers changes people’s attitudes towards gay rights was based on fraudulent data.
  • And the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor got in a Twitter fight with the spokesman of Burundi’s president.Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 1.58.36 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-22 at 2.02.09 PM

    Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 2.05.02 PM

    Going by the retweets and favorites, I think Malinowski’s won this round. (That’s how we judge the success of public diplomacy, right?)

#HumanityFail

More than 300 Rohingya refugees are missing somewhere in the Andaman sea. Their boat was last seen on Saturday, May 16th when the Thai navy towed it away from Thailand towards Indonesia. It had previously been batted back and forth across the maritime border between Malaysia and Thailand; with neither country’s government willing to let the refugees land.

They are part of a mass exodus of Burmese Rohingya, fleeing ethnic violence and political repression aboard rickety wooden boats. But a recent crackdown by regional authorities has upped the risk to the smugglers who pilot the boats, leading them to abandon the refugees at sea. Thousands of people are now stranded, floating somewhere in the waters of Southeast Asia with rapidly dwindling food and water supplies.

None of Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia are parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which would obligate them to protect refugees on their territory. (Not that the obligation necessarily prevents governments from pushing boats full of desperate refugees out of their waters. Ahem, Australia.) They’ve also all already taken in hundreds of Rohingya, and apparently feel that they’ve done enough.

Amid high level regional talks about how to handle the crisis, the Philippine government announced today that it was willing to help. It may already be too late for the people aboard the missing boat.

WTF Friday, 5/8/2015

Last week the news broke that French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic sexually abused homeless children begging for food at a Bangui refugee camp.

We know about this because a UN staffer passed an internal report on the allegations to French authorities, who launched their own inquiry. The staffer was suspended for leaking confidential information, but temporarily reinstated on Wednesday by the United Nations Dispute Tribunal pending a full review of the case.

That’s already chock full of WTF-ery, but on top of that, the media has apparently decided to designate this a “sex for food scandal” (see Exhibit A, below).Screen shot 2015-05-08 at 7.50.51 AMIt strikes me as just a touch… something (sanitizing? anodyne? dishonest?) to refer to it this way. Surely forcing children to perform sex acts for food (or for any reason) is in fact a “child rape scandal”.

But further investigation reveals that this is the standard practice for discussing sexual abuse of indigent children by peacekeepers, apparently because the wordplay on “oil for food” is just tooooo tempting. See Exhibits B-E: former “sex for food” scandals in 2002 (West Africa), 2004 (DRC), 2006 (Liberia), and 2011 (Côte d’Ivoire).

It really says it all that we have enough datapoints on this to infer a pattern, doesn’t it?

 

WTF Friday, 4/24/2015

This just in via The Wall Street Journal: “China Says Please Stop Hiring Funeral Strippers“.

Apparently, inviting erotic dancers to your loved ones’ funerary rites is a time-honored method of improving attendance. But China’s government is not cool with it. They’ve “been trying to fight the country’s funereal stripper scourge for some time now” and will now be working with the police to crack down more firmly.

You know what phrase should not exist? “Funeral strippers.” I’m kind of okay with “funereal stripper scourge”, though. Anyone need an album title?

h/t: Dan Hetherington. Thanks, Dan!

WTF Friday, 4/17/2015

Australia’s track record with refugees is not great. Highlights include locking them up on a rape-y island and handing them back to oppressive regimes from which they were trying to escape.

But now Australia has a new plan to get rid of pesky refugees attempting to assert their legal right to asylum: ship them off to Cambodia. The arrangement, which Human Rights Watch said in September would “undermine refugee protection in the region”, cost Australia 35 million USD.

A letter recently distributed by immigration officials to refugees detained on Nauru explains:

The opportunity to settle in Cambodia is now available to you. The first flight from Nauru to Cambodia for refugees will be as soon as 20 April 2015. Moving to Cambodia provides an opportunity for you and your family to start a new life in a safe country, free from persecution and violence, and build your future.

It elaborates:

“Cambodia is a safe country, where police maintain law and order. It does not have problems with violent crime or stray dogs.”

Look, this whole thing is ridiculous (not least because Cambodia is an impoverished dictatorship with catastrophic human rights issues of its own), but that last bit is a straight-up fabrication. Cambodia has SO MANY stray dogs. They’re so thick on the ground that multiple times during the months I lived there I looked down and discovered that my hand was actually inside of a dog’s mouth.

Let’s try to keep the lies within reason, Australia.

Blast from the Past

This morning I went looking for evidence of a really awesome idea for a reality TV show that I had once, and discovered that our first two weeks of posts never made the transition from Blogspot to WordPress. I also discovered that back in 2008 we used to post multiple times per day. Crazy.

So I’m in the process of bringing them over manually, and have got the first ten up. Please enjoy these deep cuts from the Wronging Rights archive:

  1. Welcome to Our Blog
  2. Your Correspondents
  3. “Dictator House”
  4. MSM on Africa – Round 1: Evolution of a Story
  5. Hard Choice Feminism
  6. Human Rights Don’ts
  7. UPDATE: MSM on Africa – Round 1: Evolution of a Story
  8. Fun with Footnotes
  9. Paying for Justice
  10. Equality of Arms

WTF Friday, 3/27/2015

Hello again, internets. I’ve been out of commission for the last few weeks with the flu and then bronchitis. While I was busy coughing:

  • South Sudan geared up to sue UNICEF for its totally accurate claim that state security forces have conscripted “dozens of children”;
  • Customs agents seized 30 crates of “radioactive maxi pads” at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri airport. The Chinese manufacturers of the pads apparently bill their product as chock full of “air vitamins” that are “beneficial to human health”; and
  • The Khmer Rouge Tribunal charged three more suspects despite heavy opposition from the Cambodian government. Two of them are reportedly in their 70s, bringing the average age of the court’s indictees down a bit from its previous level of 317.

WTF Friday, 3/6/2015

Here is a small selection of confusing and horrifying things going on in the world:

The UK Home Office rejected LGBT activist Aderonke Apata’s asylum claim on the grounds that she can’t be a REAL lesbian because she has children. Here’s the thing, though. This isn’t just absurd for the obvious reasons. (Like, say, the fact that straight sex isn’t a magic, gay identity destroying bullet.) It’s also absurd as a matter of asylum law. It doesn’t actually matter whether Apata is, in fact, gay. What matters is whether, if sent back to Nigeria where homosexuality is a crime, she would face serious persecution on the basis of perceived gay identity. Given her high profile advocacy and open relationship with a woman, along with the fact that she has already been the target of anti-gay violence, this is an easy question to answer. Do better, UK Home Office. (Via Amanda.)

From Australia: The Queensland Liberal National party women’s group has decided to celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8th) with a lunch in a men’s club. (Presumably women will be admitted for the day.) The organization’s vice president, who apparently booked the venue because it’s a bargain, said she didn’t have a problem with the club’s exclusion of women. She added:

“[H]ow can we celebrate international women’s day knowing that there’s not an international men’s day – and then when the men do want to have something that’s for themselves, we can’t respect it?”

And then, because things in Australia are truly upside down, Prime Minister Tony Abbott lauded the decision as an example of the ladies “smashing the glass ceiling”. (h/t GG.)

Oh, and ISIS is now chucking gay people (and those suspected of gayness) off of roofs. Ugh.

 

Law & Order

Imagine you are Zambia’s chief prosecutor Mutembo Nchito.

You’ve been director of public prosecutions since 2011 and things seem to be going pretty well. You may or may not have taken advantage of your position for some constructive grafting. Then, in late 2014, disaster strikes. The president who appointed you dies in office. He’s replaced by a new guy after a campaign season focused on corruption and cost of living.

Nevertheless, you, Mutembo Nchito, are shocked when the police show up at your door. They arrest you on a host of charges, including corruption and forgery.

So what do you do?

You’re the chief prosecutor! You drop the charges.

h/t: Ben, formerly in Lusaka.

WTF Friday, 2/27/2015

I’m not sure why I’m bothering, given that the entire internet is occupied with dress-related content today, BUT: Someone is wrong on the internet about the International Criminal Court, and I simply cannot let that pass.

The individual in question is Stephen Rademaker, a former Bush (both H.W. and W.) administration official who drafted the legislation creating the Frankenstein’s Monster known as the Department of Homeland Security. And the substance of his wrongness is contained in his recommendation that:

Congress should make it a federal criminal offense for an official of the ICC, or a foreign government acting under authority of the ICC, to indict, prosecute, detain, or imprison American military personnel or government officials for alleged war crimes.

He is literally suggesting that we make a federal case out of the vanishingly slim possibility of ICC prosecutions of Americans.

Over at Justice in Conflict, Mark Kersten highlights a number of problems with this “breathtakingly absurd” proposal. It’s silly, it’s hypocritical, and it would sabotage the U.S.’s reasonably functional, if uneasy, relationship with the Court.

Personally, I think it’s kind of cute that paranoid Republicans still think of the ICC as some kind of all-powerful, avenging justice monster, despite all the evidence to the contrary. (Remember that time it took 10 years and 600 plus pages of judicial opinionating to sentence one guy for one war crime?)

But what strikes me as truly insane about Rademaker’s proposal is his blithe disregard for immunities. Because you know what you can’t do under U.S. law? Prosecute foreign officials, or representatives of international organizations, for conduct undertaken in the course of their official duties. (This is called “functional” or “act” immunity.) And I really can’t think of anything much more official than fulfilling the obligations contained in a treaty that over 120 countries have ratified. So unless Rademaker is suggesting that ICC prosecutions are jus cogens violations (there appears to be an emerging exception to immunity for universally-agreed-to-be-serious crimes like genocide, torture, and slavery), this makes no sense.

And frankly, if ANYONE should be in favor of robust, no-exceptions-allowed, functional immunity, shouldn’t it be former Bush administration officials?