Friday, July 18, 2008

AAA Endorses the End Racial Profiling Act

As recently reported by the Associated Press, rules being considered by the Justice Department may permit the FBI to institute new guidelines allowing the agency to investigate Americans based upon their race, ethnicity, religion, and/or travel patterns. Not only is this a violation of basic civil rights, but it stems from and helps propagate negative stereotypes and inequalities that pervade American society. AAA has written to both Senate and House Judiciary Committees calling for them to take action on the End Racial Profiling Act of 2007 (HR 4611; S 2481), which is currently awaiting subcommittee review.

As anthropologists are well aware, present-day “racial” inequalities are the products of historical and contemporary social, economic, educational, and political circumstances. It is a basic tenet of anthropological knowledge that human beings have the capacity to learn any cultural behavior. The proposed FBI guidelines would condemn individuals to certain practices based solely upon their physical characteristics. Readers are encouraged to write to the Judiciary Committees regarding this issue. Please feel free to use our letters as a template.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Great Apes Receive Human Rights

The NY Times reported that the environment committee of the Spanish Parliament approved the extension of certain human rights to great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans). Should the bill pass it would become illegal for Spanish citizens to kill apes, except in self-defense. Torture and imprisonment would also be forbidden, although the 300 or so apes in Spanish zoos would not be freed. Religious beliefs that place humans above all animals have caused some, such as the country’s Catholic bishops, to protest the vote. Scientists who use chimpanzees in medical studies are also disturbed by the committee’s decision. Anthropologists recognize that great apes can greatly contribute to our understanding of human evolution, and their continued protection is vital to the discipline.

BBC Story

Thursday, July 10, 2008

CfHR Issues Statement on Tibet Protests

AAA's Committee for Human Rights issued a statement on the protests that spread throughout China’s Tibetan regions over the past several months. The statement details major concerns about how the Chinese government has reacted to the protests, and urges the People’s Republic to address some of the underlying cultural, economic, political, and religious issues that fueled the violence. CfHR issued a number of requests to the Chinese government, those being: (1) End the use of force against Tibetans in China and allow them to exercise their international rights to freedom of speech and assembly; (2) acknowledge the level of discord in Tibet and work to alleviate these conditions; and (3) continue serious talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama, and treat him with the courtesy and respect due to a global leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Italy Targets Roma

Italy’s interior minister proposed that the government conduct a census of the Romani people, widely known as Gypsies, living in camps throughout Italy. The census would include the fingerprinting of all Roma. The proposal was made a part of Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative campaign to crack down on street crime. The proposal has already been accused of being racist and discriminatory, and the UN Children’s Fund has expressed “surprise and grave concern” regarding the proposal. Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis said, “While I believe the Italian democracy and its institutions are mature enough to prevent any such ideas becoming laws, I am nevertheless concerned that a senior member of the government of one of [the] Council of Europe member states is reported to have made such a proposal.”

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wireless Technologies & Human Rights

Experts gathered at the International Summit for Community Wireless Networks, hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in late May. Attendees examined the potential benefits that wireless technology can have for human rights, particularly in the developing world. While the digital divide and strict political environments may prevent many in these nations from accessing the internet, cell phones and other wireless communication technologies offer a way for individuals to access information and report human rights abuses. Individuals may also use wireless technology to address issues of free expression and democracy. AAAS’ Science and Human Rights Program has undertaken a Wireless Communication Technologies and Human Rights Project to promote the reach and impact of human rights groups.