Human Rights

December 31, 2006

Human Rights Watch

(New York, December 30, 2006) — The execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein following a deeply flawed trial for crimes against humanity marks a significant step away from respect for human rights and the rule of law in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch has for more than 15 years documented the human rights crimes committed by Hussein's former government and has campaigned to bring the perpetrators to justice. These crimes include the killing of more than 100,000 Iraqi Kurds in Northern Iraq as part of the 1998 Anfal campaign.

"Saddam Hussein was responsible for massive human rights violations, but that can't justify giving him the death penalty, which is a cruel and inhuman punishment," said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program.

November 19, 2006

On Feb. 6, 2002, I was arrested for carrying a sign and standing well outside the entrance to a fund-raising party in Evansville featuring Dick Cheney. He was in town to raise money for soon-to-be-private citizen John Hostettler, our congressman at the time.

My sign was simple. "Cheney — 19th Century Energy Man" was apparently too provocative for the Evansville Police officer in charge that day who ordered me arrested.

I was first charged with disorderly conduct, but I was certainly not disorderly. I had to spend a couple of hours in jail — until Cheney left town — and then released, being told to return to court the next morning to be arraigned.

November 19, 2006

Human Rights Watch

(Washington, DC, November 15, 2006) — The US Congress looks likely to renew trade legislation that turns a blind eye to the rights of women workers in developing countries, Human Rights Watch said today.

US lawmakers are due to vote this "lame duck" session on extending the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which allows thousands of products from developing countries to enter the United States duty free. Since 1984, GSP has tied trade benefits to respect for labor rights by requiring beneficiary countries to take "steps to afford internationally recognized worker rights." However, it excludes protection from employment and workplace discrimination from the list of rights.

"This outrageous exclusion in effect says rights for women workers have no place under US trade law," said Carol Pier, senior researcher on trade and labor rights at Human Rights Watch. "In many countries, women produce most of the goods exported to the United States under the preferences system. Yet they often suffer daily discrimination, including sexual harassment and forced pregnancy testing. It's a major problem that Congress should address."

November 5, 2006

With plans to build a wall to separate Mexico from the United States, movements to raise the price of the legalization process and efforts to legislate the denial of public schooling and social services to undocumented immigrants, immigration reform is a hot topic across the nation.

In Bloomington, the White River Central Labor Council (WRCLC) is organizing a public forum on immigration reform on Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the St. Paul's Catholic Center.

"As far as I know, there hasn't been any discussion in the community on this topic, especially a public conversation that tries to lure our community towards a sort of consensus on a sensible, fair and comprehensive approach to immigration reform," said John Clower, labor council secretary.

November 5, 2006

Human Rights Watch

NEW YORK — October 30, 2006 — Several U.S. state laws and regulations on abortion chip away at every woman's right to have a safe and legal abortion, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper released today.

The mounting obstacles to abortion services include in some states a legal requirement to provide medically inaccurate information as part of obligatory pre-abortion counseling. For example, some state regulations compel doctors and nurses to say that abortion leads to breast cancer and that fetuses feel pain throughout the pregnancy. Both claims are scientifically unfounded.

"These regulations undoubtedly are a back-door attempt to curtail women's rights. There is a direct assault on women's right to safe abortion through deliberate misinformation," said Marianne Mollmann, advocacy director in Human Rights Watch's Women's Rights Division.

October 22, 2006

Being gay is hard. Being black and gay is even harder.

In a 2000 study conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), one-half of the 2,645 participants reported that racism was a problem in the white GLBT community.

Anthony Johnson Jr. agrees.

A junior majoring in opera and biology at IU, Johnson said he has faced more racial discrimination inside the white gay community than outside of it.

"I have to be more careful as a black, gay person," he said. "I get more attention drawn to myself simply because of the color of my skin."

September 24, 2006

When K.D. joined the military in 1988 at 17, she had no way of knowing the personal turmoil she would eventually face as a result of her choice.

"I wanted to see the world," she said of her enlistment in the Navy. Originally from Lawrence County, she sought to escape the small-town lifestyle and find something better.

K.D. (not her real name) still remembers the question about homosexuality.

"At the time I was shocked," she said. "But it didn't really mean anything to me because I wasn't aware of my sexuality yet."

September 10, 2006

Lynndi Lockenour

Listed as one spot not-to-be missed by GLBT travel brochures, Bloomington has a superior reputation within the state's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.

However, a recent survey published by the Bloomington Beacon suggests GLBT needs in South-Central Indiana that are going unmet.

Launched in 1997, the Bloomington Beacon is a non-profit organization that works to provide a safe, welcoming and positive space for GLBT and questioning and intersex individuals, their families and allies. For the past two-and-a-half years the Beacon has updated information from surveys periodically handed out at GLBT events.

September 10, 2006

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director
Human Rights Watch

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were not only a tragedy for the victims and their families. They were also a searing reminder that radical groups today can commit acts of enormous violence and impact. The attacks showed with unmistakable clarity the extent to which certain extremist Islamist groups, far from the mainstream yet with global ambitions, have internalized the idea that the ends justify the means, that any civilian living in a state perceived as hostile is a legitimate target.

One might have expected the governmental response to that threat to champion the principle so flouted by the extremists — the importance of not treating people as means to an end but of respecting their rights as individual human beings. Governments should have understood the need to respect human rights not only because it is the right thing to do but also because it provides the only hope of effectively undermining the destructive logic of terrorism.

Sadly, the U.S. government never took that insight to heart. As the target of the attacks five years ago, no government played a more important role in shaping the global response to terrorism. Yet Washington's response instead reinforced the dangerous view that laudable ends can justify brutal means.

August 27, 2006

"PFLAG Flying in Owen County" (Bloomington Alternative, 8/16/06) is a great article. I am thrilled to hear the PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays) chapter is doing so well in Owen County. I know what a struggle it was for me to found the PFLAG Seymour Chapter over 11 years ago.

But I must correct one misimpression: the reason the doors to the building where we hold our meetings in Seymour are locked (and we do allow people to leave — the doors open from the inside without any resistance) is because it is the building's policy that doors be locked on the weekend, not because we fear imminent attack.

We cannot leave the whole building open without supervising the entrance. For years we met in the library (where the outside doors locked after hours also), then a local church and a local hotel without locks, guards or incidents.

Seymour PFLAG has not been cowering in the closet in fear.

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