News Release

Human Rights Day

Monday, December 10 is Human Rights Day, marking the day the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948. The following human rights advocates are available for interviews:

JAMES JENNINGS
Jennings is president of Conscience International, an Atlanta-based humanitarian aid/human rights organization. He has worked on human rights problems and relief efforts in many countries including Iraq, Sudan, Senegal, Iran, India, Indonesia, Haiti and Honduras. He said today: “Tragically, millions of people worldwide — especially children, women, and the aged — are denied their basic rights as human beings every day. Beyond the struggle to survive in harsh conditions, there is for many people the added, intolerable burden of political and economic oppression. Governments, supposedly the protectors of citizens’ rights, are actually the worst violators of human rights. In such cases it is incumbent on individuals, religious groups, and non-governmental organizations to make their voices heard, to act to defend the defenseless, and often to take the risk of opposing their own governments.”
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LORETTA ROSS
Founder of the National Center for Human Rights Education, Ross said today: “Instead of Bush agitating for war against Iran, we need a war against the economic problems people are facing, whether relating to housing or health care — they are human rights. Instead, victims of Katrina are being evicted from FEMA trailers and Bush vetoed the child health insurance program.”

The Washington Post reports: “The CIA made videotapes in 2002 of its officers administering harsh interrogation techniques to two al-Qaeda suspects but destroyed the tapes three years later, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said yesterday.”

Said Ross: “The ‘war on terror’ has morphed into a war on human rights — we have not only human rights violations in Guantanamo, but also violations of civil rights with detainees not having access to real trials.

“Of course, there are a whole host of human rights violators around the world, some aligned with Bush and some not, and all need to be confronted.

“In the public discussion surrounding the recent speech by Mitt Romney, some seem to be ascribing our rights to a specific deity while others are saying they stem from something particular to the USA. But the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says they are universal to all humanity without being bound to any religion — indeed, affirming the human right not to have anyone else’s religion imposed on us.”
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JUDITH CHOMSKY
Chomsky is an attorney working with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which stresses pursuit of violators as a method of ensuring human rights. On Monday, Human Rights Day, the Center for Constitutional Rights is filing a class action lawsuit against a former head of the Israeli Defense Forces Intelligence, Lt. General Moshe Ya’alon (ret.) for the 1996 shelling of a United Nations Compound in Qana, Lebanon that left 106 civilians dead. The suit charges Ya’alon with several violations of international law including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment pursuant to the Alien Tort Statute and extrajudicial killing under the Torture Victim Protection Act.

Said Chomsky: “In 1996, the residents of Qana fled to the UN compound believing that they could be safe there, and the Israeli forces intentionally struck this refuge. One of the perpetrators of that attack came to enjoy the benefits of living in the United States. The U.S. should not be a safe haven for those responsible for a deadly attack on unarmed civilians.”
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TIGHE BARRY
MEDEA BENJAMIN
The activist group CodePink reports that Barry and Benjamin were deported at gun point on Wednesday from Pakistan after protesting for pro-democracy forces there. Upon their return, they went to a Senate Foreign Relations hearing today regarding assistance to Pakistan. Appalled by the State Department spokesperson’s defense of the Musharraf government, Barry spoke up and was arrested.

Said Barry: “Musharraf has beaten lawyers and students, destroyed the judiciary, and censored the press. The U.S. must freeze all funding to this military government until emergency rule is lifted, the independent judiciary is reinstated, the censorship of the media is lifted, and all judges, lawyers, students and human rights defenders are released.”

Barry was pulled out of the hearing room today, handcuffed, and put in a paddywagon. “I felt compelled to do this for the sake of my friends in Pakistan,” he said as he was taken away. “Pakistanis risk their lives standing up to their government; I have to stand up to mine.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167.