By guest contributors Dhanshitha Ravi* and Rishabh Guha**
“...because here it’s easier to rain bullets than put food on tables.” - A Colombian protestor
In April of 2021, Colombian conservative President Ivan Duque Marquez introduced tax reforms to bridge the fiscal deficit exacerbated by the pandemic which sparked the Paro Nacional 28A protests fueled by rampant corruption and inequality in healthcare across the country, the epicenter of which is traced to Cali. The President, an anathema to the netizens, deployed military personnel, the infamous mobile anti-riot squad (ESMAD) and labelled the peaceful protestors as 'terrorists.' Instances of police brutality were recorded leading to deaths, disappearances, and injuries using unrestrained force - violating human rights, contravening the Colombian Constitution and a multitude of international human rights conventions.
Firstly, in Operation Siloe, the guards used venom-system grenade launchers to fire directly into a candlelight vigil. The Popayan Court had previously ordered that such launchers firing non-lethal armaments like teargas must not be fired directly into...
By Claudia Kania, guest blogger from Reavis high school
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) released a statement in 2000 that acknowledged “the place of the Roma communities among those most disadvantaged and most subject to discrimination in the contemporary world.” Such socially and institutionally-accepted xenophobia is perhaps most clearly epitomized by the European school system. Although academic institutions are often portrayed as “the great equalizers,” a system founded on the principles of ignorance and prejudice frequently separates Roma, one of the largest minority groups in Europe, from reaping the benefits of education.
The right to education is universally established as a fundamental guiding principle within international human rights discourse. It is recognized as a human right by Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as Articles 28, 29, and 40 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. To further contextualize the premise of academic equity, UNESCO put...
By Michelle Eberhard, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University
Established in 2007, the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation is dedicated to the creation of an international genocide prevention network. To fulfill its mission, the Institute has developed several education programs, most notably its Raphael Lemkin Seminar, as well as a genocide prevention network in Latin America in 2012. Following the signing of an agreement with the African Union in February 2013, the Institute will soon be developing a similar network amongst African countries. Below is an interview with Executive Director of the Auschwitz Institute, Tibi Galis.
Michelle Eberhard: How did you become interested in working in genocide prevention?
Tibi Galis: I grew up in a transition country, in Romania, so it was very interesting to experience in person the impact political change can have on society, and that is why I started being rather passionate about transition studies. There was a very easy path from transition studies to transitional justice, which...
By Hal Levy, undergraduate student at Columbia University
The White House moved with uncharacteristic speed to announce a surprising foreign policy initiative two days after President Obama’s reelection. He was going to Burma and it was happening right now, less than two weeks after the votes were counted, and because he decided that everything would happen so quickly it was far too late to haggle over his itinerary, which by the way was already in place. “Why scrutinize this?” was the implicit message to human rights activists, “because we don’t want your input this time.”
However, this landmark engagement with the current Burmese regime warrants scrutiny and at the very least revision if it is to go forward. Burma is finally opening to Western investment, but Obama must not abandon America’s responsibility to protect potential Burmese workers in favor of geopolitical games and economic opportunity. Fraudulent elections held in 2010 transferred power to a mixture of civilians and military-appointed candidates in name...
By Amanda Barrow, M.A. candidate in Human Rights Studies at Columbia University
Which is more heavily regulated: the global trade of bananas or AK-47s?
In late June, activists led by Amnesty International (AI) highlighted a striking reality: there are more international regulations governing the export and import of bananas than there are on the trade of arms and ammunition. This is particularly problematic when considering the fact that the easy availability of weaponry—rather than, say, bananas—is what facilitates innumerable human rights abuses throughout the world. The indiscriminate transfer of arms undermines economic development, jeopardizes stability and security, and results in hundreds of thousands of deaths every year.
You need not look further than Syria, where repressive ruler President Assad has had his will enacted through the use of heavily armed, violent force. Describing Russia’s continued arms sales to Syria in the midst of this crisis, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Susan Rice argued,“It is not technically a violation of international law since...
Kyrgyzstan, a small mountainous country in Central Asia, is sandwiched between China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In the twenty years since independence from the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan has seen three regimes. The first post-Soviet President, Askar Akaev, was an early reformer but, after increasing corruption and authoritarianism, was ousted during the ‘Tulip Revolution’ in March 2005. His successor, Kurmanbek Bakiev, promised to rewrite the Constitution and undo the excesses of the Akaev era, but ultimately consolidated power and resources. Bakiev was overthrown in April 2010 (see pictures), setting in motion the first effort to create a parliamentary democracy in Central Asia.
Researching the contributions of the Kyrgyz human rights community
In summer 2011 I was lucky enough to receive a Kathryn Davis fellowship to study Russian at Middlebury College and also to receive a Harriman Institute fellowship to conduct research in Kyrgyzstan in the late summer and early fall for my Master’s thesis. My research interest was to further understand the contributions...
By Deborah Brown, former student at Barnard College
Late last year, with little fanfare, the UN General Assembly voted to reinstate Libya’s membership to the Human Rights Council (HRC). Libya was suspended from the body last winter amid the mass killings of protestors and other egregious human rights abuses perpetrated by Muammar Qaddhafi’s regime and credible threats of continued violence.
For human rights advocates interested in reforming and improving the HRC, the way in which Libya’s membership was restored represents a lost opportunity to build the credibility of the institution by creating stronger criteria for reinstating suspended members.
An unprecedented step
On March 1, 2011, the General Assembly unanimously took the bold step of suspending Libya’s membership from the Council for committing “gross and systemic violations of human rights.” This action was historic as it marked the first time that a member state was suspended from either the HRC or its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, for violating human rights. It also helped to...
An Interview with Filmmaker Pamela Yates
By Jennifer Wilmore, student at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs
Pamela Yates is an American documentary filmmaker and co-founder of SkylightPictures, a company dedicated to creating films and digital media tools that advance awareness of human rights and the quest for justice. In 1982, at the age of 24, she traveled to Guatemala to shoot footage of the hidden war unfolding there between the military government and guerrilla forces. While in Guatemala, Yates also witnessed the government’s genocidal campaign being carried out against the Mayan people mostly, in which at least 200,000 individuals were killed, “disappeared” or forced into exile. Skylight Pictures used this footage to create a film called When the Mountains Tremble, which won the Special Jury Award at the 1984 Sundance Film Festival.
Since then, Yates has created films on a variety of issues, including poverty and homelessness in the United States, terrorism, and the International Criminal Court. Her current Sundance offering, Granito: How To Nail a Dictator, takes viewers...