Tuesday, December 30, 2008

CFP: "Human Rights in the USA"



A Conference at the University of Connecticut

October 22-24, 2009.

We invite scholars from the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Law to submit abstracts of papers on the application of human rights laws and norms in the USA. Panels will address issues such as children's rights, civil rights, health care, environmental justice, human rights and security since 9/11, domestic violence, gender and sexuality, American literature and human rights, the history of equal rights, immigration, social welfare provision and economic rights. The Human Rights Institute will pay panelists' accommodation and registration expenses.

Please submit a one paragraph abstract and one page resume by February 28, 2009.

Conference Organizer: Richard A. Wilson, Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut humanrights@uconn.edu

For more details, visit: http://humanrights.uconn.edu/conferences/2009.php

Petition Calling for Release of Liu Xiaobo Picked Up by Media

The NY Times recently reported on a petition to free Liu Xiaobo, one of the main players behind Charter 08. Scholars, anthropologists, Nobel laureates, and others signed the petition calling for Xiaobo's release and the need to preserve the basic civil and human right to express one's views.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sixty-six States Support Statement Declaring Equal Rights

Sixty-six nations of the UN General Assembly supported a statement extending international human rights protections to individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities. According to Human Rights Watch, "The statement condemned killings, torture, arbitrary arrest, and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health." The statement won broad support in Europe and Latin America, but was opposed by the US, Russia, China, and others. Homosexuality remains banned in 80 countries, and is punishable by the death penalty in six nations. There is still much work to be done to promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and the Triple A remains dedicated to protecting human difference in all its forms.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Petition in Support of Charter 08

[Circulated through the human rights listserv:]

Dear colleagues,

We, the undersigned, are writing to ask your help.

Appended below is an appeal letter to China's president, Hu Jintao, expressing "deep concern with the ongoing arbitrary detention of literary critic and former professor of literature Liu Xiaobo" and urging for his immediate release. The letter notes that "For the international community to take seriously China's oft-stated commitment to respect human rights and the rule of law, and for China's own citizens to trust the judicial system to redress legitimate grievances, it is urgent that China's central leadership ensure that no one be arrested or harassed simply for the peaceful expression of his or her views."

Please note, we are not seeking signatures from the general public but are confining our request to academics, lawyers, and recognized members of the international human rights community. In short, we want to send a clear message from prominent individuals around the world concerned with the impeded growth of civil society in China. After the appeal is sent to President Hu, it will be made public.

May we add you to the list below of those who have already signed? If so, please send an e-mail to petition.lxb@gmail.com stating your willingness to do so and including your academic affiliation and your post or other identifying information relevant to your profession.

December 17, 2008

President Hu Jintao
People's Republic of China
Zhongnanhai, Xichengqu, Beijing
People's Republic of China

Dear President Hu Jintao,

We, the undersigned scholars, writers, lawyers and human rights advocates write to share our deep concern with the ongoing arbitrary detention of literary critic and former professor of literature Liu Xiaobo.

Mr. Liu, a prominent and highly-regarded intellectual both in and outside of China, was taken away from his home in Beijing by public security officers on the evening of December 8. During the accompanying search of his apartment, which lasted for several hours, police seized his computers, mobile phones, and most of his personal papers.

No official reason has been given for Mr. Liu's arrest. In violation of China's own laws and regulations, the police have failed to inform either his relatives or his lawyer of his whereabouts or the reasons for his detention.

Because of the fact that Mr. Liu's arrest came half a day before the publication of a public appeal to promote human rights and democracy in China entitled "Charter 08," and because the police detained and questioned several other "Charter 08" signatories at the same time, the presumption is that Mr. Liu has been arrested solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under China's constitution and international law.

Mr. Liu's activities have always been peaceful and according to law. Although he was twice arbitrarily detained for several years for writing articles criticizing the government, he has never been convicted of any crime. In recent years, Mr. Liu's reputation grew as his essays on current affairs in China and his principled defense of human rights and democracy circulated widely. Mr. Liu has consistently opposed recourse to violence. In his articles, he has lauded the amendments to the constitution that stipulate respect for human rights and property rights. He has written strongly in favor of the development of a free civil society in China.

As President of the People's Republic of China, you have yourself often pledged to strengthen China's legal system, stressing recently that "the rule of law is important for the promotion, realization and safeguarding of a harmonious society." We urge you to honor your commitment to ensure the civil rights of citizens who peacefully express their views on public affairs.

For the international community to take seriously China's oft-stated commitment to respect human rights and the rule of law, and for China's own citizens to trust the judicial system to redress legitimate grievances, it is urgent that China's central leadership ensure that no one be arrested or harassed simply for the peaceful expression of his or her views.

It is equally urgent that judicial authorities throughout China cease to use China's anti-subversion law to prosecute peaceful critics such as Mr. Liu Xiaobo, who should be released immediately without conditions.


The signatories

For more information, please contact:
In Hong Kong, Nicholas Bequelin (English, French, Mandarin): +852-8198-1040 (mobile)
In Paris, Jean-Marie Fardeau (English, French, Portuguese): +33-6-45-85-24-87 (mobile)
In London, Brad Adams (English) +44-79-0872-8333 (mobile)
In New York, Minky Worden (English, Cantonese): +1-917-497-0540 (mobile) or wordenm@hrw.org

Related Links
For the full text of the letter and signatories, please visit:

For an English translation of Charter 08, please visit:

Human Rights Watch news release, "Nobel Laureates, China Scholars Call for Liu Xiaobo's Release," please visit: http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/12/22/nobel-laureates-china-scholars-call-liu-xiaobo-s-release

Human Rights Watch news release, "China: Retaliation for Signatories of Rights Charter," please visit:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Brazil's Tikuna Struggle Against Drugs

The NY Times released a story on the struggle of Brazil's Tikuna Indians against increasing drug and alcohol abuse. The Tikuna of Mariaçu, a region of the Amazon that borders Colombia and Peru, are increasingly acting as drug traffickers. Young Tikuna are seduced by the lucrative pay offered to smuggle drugs, and many become addicted to the cocaine they help transport. Tikuna enjoy certain exemptions from Brazilian law, but Mariaçu's two chiefs have asked police to intervene and crack down on traffickers and abusers in their communities. The chiefs are concerned that the young are destroying what is left of traditional Tikuna culture.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brazil Votes to Create Indigenous Reserve

After 15 years and a recent vote suspension, a decision has finally been made in favor of the creation of Brazil's Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous reserve. Eight of eleven Supreme Court judges voted in favor of the four million acre reserve. The reserve, soon to be one of the largest of its kind, is nestled in the Amazon and borders Venezuela. Farmers, ranchers, miners, etc. who have occupied the reserve and had violent clashes with its indigenous inhabitants will be evicted. According to the NY Times, the debate over the reserve "set off a sharp controversy over property rights, the limits of government authority and the rights of Indians to their original lands." The AAA congratulates members and advocates who have worked diligently to support and protect the rights of Brazil's indigenous peoples.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Originally drafted on Dec. 10, 1948 by the UN, the declaration established a set of rights and freedoms entitled to all peoples and nations of the world.

The American Anthropological Association has developed a Declaration that we believe has universal relevance:

"People and groups have a generic right to realize their capacity for culture, and to produce, reproduce and change the conditions and forms of their physical, personal and social existence, so long as such activities do not diminish the same capacities of others. Anthropology as an academic discipline studies the bases and the forms of human diversity and unity; anthropology as a practice seeks to apply this knowledge to the solution of human problems.

As a professional organization of anthropologists, the AAA has long been, and should continue to be, concerned whenever human difference is made the basis for a denial of basic human rights, where "human" is understood in its full range of cultural, social, linguistic, psychological, and biological senses."

The AAA definition reflects a commitment to human rights consistent with international principles but not limited by them. Human rights is not a static concept. Our understanding of human rights is constantly evolving as we come to know more about the human condition. It is therefore incumbent on anthropologists to be involved in the debate on enlarging our understanding of human rights on the basis of anthropological knowledge and research.

Of course, there are some who attack the concept of universal rights as a Western construct, Barbara Crosette wrote in The Nation. Louise Arbour, former UN high commissioner for human rights, said, "Probably one of the existential issues in international human rights currently is the rise of cultural relativism and a pushback against the concept of universality." Some note that this view stems from governments in the US and Western Europe that more often observe human rights when it comes to freedom of conscience than to freedom of want.

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Climate Change Predicted to Uproot Millions

According to a top U.N. official, climate change could uproot almost six million people annually and the effects of global warming might displace 200-250 million people by mid-century. Steps to adapt to and reduce climate change, while important, will not prevent a rise in weather-related disasters and conflict over scarce resources. The world's most underprivileged populations are often the first to feel the impact of climate change, but they are unable to fully prepare for these impending crises. The U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees claimed that aid agencies will need to increase their relief supplies 10- or 20-fold in order to respond to future catastrophes.

University of Washington anthropologist Holly Barker provides insight into this dilemma in her CounterPunch op-ed, "The Inequities of Climate Change and the Small Island Experience."