The Vatican appears to have joined in the clamour of religious zealots to claim ‘persecution’ for being ever increasingly prevented (at least in the developed world) from discriminating against gay people. Given their history of covering up paedophilia in their own ranks, it’s perhaps no surprise that they feel that an offence is a good defence, but this really takes the cake. From Archbishop Silvio Tomasi, Catholicism’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations to the Human Rights Council of all places:
for the purposes of human rights law, there is a critical difference between feelings and thoughts, on the one hand, and behaviour, on the other. A state should never punish a person, or deprive a person of the enjoyment of any human right, based just on the person’s feelings and thoughts, including sexual thoughts and feelings. But states can, and must, regulate behaviours, including various sexual behaviours. Throughout the world, there is a consensus between societies that certain kinds of sexual behaviours must be forbidden by law. Paedophilia and incest are two examples.
And how predictable of the bastard to lump paedophilia, incest and homosexuality (by implication) together. Just how should homosexuality be regulated, more to the point why should it be regulated, when national medical and psychological bodies in every country in the developed world agree homosexuality is inherent and not harmful? It’s one of many reminders that the Vatican, this accident of history, remains bound to religious ‘law’ and isn’t playing on the same civil law playing field as the rest of those of us in the 21st century.
But he goes on:
the Holy See wishes to affirm its deeply held belief that human sexuality is a gift that is genuinely expressed in the complete and lifelong mutual devotion of a man and a woman in marriage. Human sexuality, like any voluntary activity, possesses a moral dimension : it is an activity which puts the individual will at the service of a finality; it is not an “identity”. In other words, it comes from the action and not from the being, even though some tendencies or “sexual orientations” may have deep roots in the personality. Denying the moral dimension of sexuality leads to denying the freedom of the person in this matter, and undermines ultimately his/her ontological dignity. This belief about human nature is also shared by many other faith communities, and by other persons of conscience.
Who gives a toss what this moron believes? Does he actually appreciate he’s addressing a human rights council? Does he not appreciate his audience actually knows sexual orientation is inherent? He can philosophise his bigotry all he likes – it doesn’t make him right and it certainly doesn’t give him the right to try to suggest that human rights law shouldn’t cover sexual orientation. Then again this is the Catholic Church, and they have tried every trick in the book to keep themselves from being held to account for their genuine crimes, and Tomasi predictably continues by claiming persecution against Catholics:
People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behaviour between people of the same sex. When they express their moral beliefs or beliefs about human nature, which may also be expressions of religious convictions, or state opinions about scientific claims, they are stigmatised, and worse — they are vilified, and prosecuted.
Expressing a viewpoint doesn’t get anyone prosecuted. What gets people prosecuted is discrimination, which under European law is illegal in the provision of goods and services. The theist line is so damned tedious. As I’ve pointed out time and time again in this blog, in this era of conflicting rights claims and legislation, religion’s rights to discriminate lose out every time, now that almost all western government have concluded that protection of gay people from any discrimination is more important. This, whatever Tomasi would like you to believe, is not an attack on religion itself. It’s time to start ignoring the hate persistently spewed by the Vatican; it’s entirely out of step with the modern world.
Julian #Assange has shown, through the Wikileaks revelations of the last year, that the international order has no interest whatsoever in the rule of law. It’s hardly surprising then that the man who leaked so much of the information which has led to the calls for witchhunts against Wikileaks should be treated with the severity which many expect awaits Assange himself. Glenn Greenwald reports:
Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime. Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months — and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait — under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture. Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning’s detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed, establishes that the accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries.
Since his arrest in May, Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems. He nonetheless was declared from the start to be a “Maximum Custody Detainee,” the highest and most repressive level of military detention, which then became the basis for the series of inhumane measures imposed on him.
From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day — for seven straight months and counting — he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he’s barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he’s being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs. Lt. Villiard protested that the conditions are not “like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole,” but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.
This can’t be right. It just can’t. This man has revealed murders committed by the US military, which they tried to pretend never happened. He has revealed our governments are guilty of war crimes they don’t want us to know about, for fear we might actually hold them to account. Brad Manning is a fucking hero who should be protected, not prosecuted. Of his leaks, a group of German newspapers has said:
Journalism has not only the right but the duty to control the state and to elucidate the mechanisms of governance. It creates transparency. Without transparency, there is no democracy. The state is not an end in itself, and must withstand a confrontation with his own secrets.
We, the initiators and signatories demand a stop to the persecution of Wikileaks, contrary to international law. We call on all States and all companies, to oppose the campaign against civil rights. We urge all citizens, public figures or not, in political positions or as individuals, to take action to stop the campaign against freedom of expression and freedom of information. We invite everyone to participate in the call for media freedom.
I couldn’t agree more. In the post-1945 world of codified human rights it cannot be right that a soldier who whistleblows on atrocities committed by his government should be treated in this way. It’s a complete betrayal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And now, thankfully the UN is intervening:
The United Nations is investigating a complaint on behalf of Bradley Manning that he is being mistreated while held since May in US Marine Corps custody pending trial. The army private is charged with the unauthorised use and disclosure of classified information, material related to the WikiLeaks, and faces a court martial sometime in 2011.
The office of Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur on torture based in Geneva, received the complaint from a Manning supporter; his office confirmed that it was being looked into. Manning’s supporters say that he is in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day; this could be construed as a form of torture. This month visitors reported that his mental and physical health was deteriorating.
These countries actually support the summary execution of gay people:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Brunei Dar-Sala, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Comoros, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Where do I start with this? Let me give you the context quickly:
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and ARC International are deeply disappointed with yesterday’s [16th Nov] vote in the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly to remove a reference to sexual orientation from a resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. The resolution urges States to protect the right to life of all people, including by calling on states to investigate killings based on discriminatory grounds. For the past 10 years, the resolution has included sexual orientation in the list of discriminatory grounds on which killings are often based.
The removed reference was originally contained in a non-exhaustive list in the resolution highlighting the many groups of people that are particularly targeted by killings – including persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, persons acting as human rights defenders (such as lawyers, journalists or demonstrators) as well as street children and members of indigenous communities. Mentioning sexual orientation as a basis on which people are targeted for killing highlights a situation in which particular vigilance is required in order for all people to be afforded equal protection.
The amendment removing the reference to sexual orientation was sponsored by Benin on behalf of the African Group in the UN General Assembly and was adopted with 79 votes in favor, 70 against, 17 abstentions and 26 absent.
I don’t know where to take this other than to say I’m aghast. I’m also shocked to see South Africa, which has gay equality enshrined in its post-apartheid constitution, on the list of 79. It’s otherwise a pretty comprehensive list of Christian and Muslim fundamentalist countries, whose motivations for such a move can only surely be interpreted as sinister. It still freaks me out to see anti-gay attitudes so prevalent in the modern world – Uganda of course is still at work trying to make homosexuality a capital offence – when what we know about homosexuality in the 21st century wipes out any justification for religious-based homophobia. As ever homophobia, like misogyny and other forms of discrimination, is without doubt a tool for specific groups to maintain their power bases within, in many cases, very deprived societies. What’s frightening is its scope and the international ambitions these groups (largely religious in name if not in nature) now have. I understand that because this vote came from the UN’s General Assembly it’s not a dark development within the United Nations Organisation itself (and can’t be overturned or suppressed), but it’s small comfort and many people won’t appreciate the difference.
The new president of the United Nations General Assembly Ali Abdussalam Treki opened the General Assembly’s 64th session last week with a press conference. When asked for his views about last December’s non-binding Declaration for the Universal Decriminalisation of Homosexuality, Treki said:
“That matter is very sensitive, very touchy. As a Muslim, I am not in favour of it . . . it is not accepted by the majority of countries. My opinion is not in favour of this matter at all. I think it’s not really acceptable by our religion, our tradition.
“It is not acceptable in the majority of the world. And there are some countries that allow that, thinking it is a kind of democracy . . . I think it is not,” he added.
So much for human rights. Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro and and Dario Picciau, co-Presidents of EveryOne group, the international human rights organisation, in response said:
“Ali Abdussalam Treki made a very serious statement which cannot in any way be justified. Like every other Member of the General Assembly, the President has a duty to represent the principles and the aims of the United Nations, according to the Charter adopted on June 26, 1945 in San Francisco with its respect for Human Rights and fundamental freedom for all the human beings (art. 1).
In fact, with such a declaration, the president of the General Assembly has legitimised the violence, the imprisonment and the death penalty for thousands of homosexual people all over the world.
Malini, Pegoraro and Picciau are appealing to the General Secretary and to the Security Council – whose duty it is to solve controversies in the General Assembly regarding the principles of the United Nations – to immediately remove Ali Abdussalam Treki from his role of President for his non-compliance to the aims and principles of the UN.
I couldn’t agree more. If the UN institutions are to mean anything in the post-Rwanda, Bosnia & Iraq eras are to mean anything, they have to be true to their purpose. If the president of the General Assembly is homophobic and prepared to speak out about it, he’s clearly not suitable to hold a post of such stature and influence. More than 50 nations opposed the Declaration, which supports gay people’s human rights, and as Peter Tatchell points out, no human rights convention to this day acknowledges our rights.