human-rights-action-center

Campaign to Print the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Into Passports

Given that less than 5% of the world knows of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights existence at this time, it seems that the only way to get the document seriously distributed is through the passports.
What I want is for governments to own their own document. It is for all people, but governments need to acknowledge its existence. Because passports are the official representation of government, if the declaration is in all passports, it becomes an official documentation of the world.
I would like you to WRITE A SIMPLE LETTER of this affect, asking your senator, congressmen and our new government to do this. If the United States Government were to do this, it would send a good signal to the rest of the world that we intend to live by international standards and would signal that the new government is quite serious about protecting the rights of all people.
All it takes to get this done is a presidential order. It doesn't need any new legislation.

Thanks for your support,
Jack Healey

Sign the Petition

human-rights-action-center

05.20

2009

Is There a Doctor in the House? Not in Burma

Jack_headshotPosted by Jack Healey

in The Huffington Post



The military of Burma has crushed the nonviolent monks, uses Burmese children as soldiers, allowed a cyclone and its consequences to sweep over 100,000 Burmese to their deaths, driven a half million from their homes and now the military will not allow the proper medical care for their Nobel Peace Prize winner. Aung San Suu Kyi is ill and not doing well.

Having led the National League for Democracy to a massive victory in 1990, Aung San Suu Kyi could have left Burma and traveled the world, enjoying her freedom and the respect of the world, gathering doctorates and living a reasonably good life. She instead stayed home in Burma. Isolated, surrounded by soldiers who are terrified of a woman who doesn’t even weigh 100 pounds.

But her life and writings are strong. Many see her as the living symbol of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She certainly is the symbol of hope for many outside of Burma, but she is deeply needed inside of Burma. The Burmese military are an out of control government who have the firm support of the Chinese government. Human rights groups of all kinds strain to tell of the brutality and monstrous actions of this government. People like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, REM, Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Bono, Sting, President Obama, the US Senate Women’s Caucus and Peter Gabriel have all sent messages of support.

But still, Burma is far away from us. Few know her name. Fewer can pronounce it. Most do not know where Burma is. So what do we do?

We rally around her, is what we do. Just like we did for Mandela and all the Mandela’s of the world. This is one time that the US government is in advance of the cause. Aung San Suu Kyi has the support of our president and of the Western governments.

My search for my own symbol of hope took me to Burma in February of 1999. My lady and I pretended to be tourists, actually antique dealers, so that we might get a moment with Aung San Suu Kyi. It worked because we spent many an hour walking up and down in front of the little dilapidated headquarters of the National League for Democracy. At that time she was allowed to give rice out to her people once a month. We found her that day and got in line with her followers and finally met her for about 20 minutes. She is a steel flower. Bright, articulate, focused. A no nonsense person, no wonder she won 82% of the vote. We finally took a picture and got her autograph for my stepson. On the way out that night, the customs people tried to find these but to no avail.

A deep fear will and has gone through the Burmese community all over the world. They know she, their Mandela, cannot fall before the fall of apartheid. We all live and we all die… but if the Burmese military denies her medical support appropriate to the problems, and she dies, it will be a devastating blow beyond all comprehension for the decent people of Burma. We must not allow that to happen.

Her father Aung San, the founder of the military of Burma was executed when he was 32. It was a premature death. We must not allow this to occur to his daughter.

The New Non-Human Rights Approach

Jack_headshotPosted by Jack Healey

in The Huffington Post



Amazingly, the Washington Post carried an editorial on March 10 questioning Hillary Clinton’s approach to human rights in her new position as Secretary of State. The Post claims that she undercuts her own State Department’s human rights reporting by praising Turkey and Hosni Mubarek of Egypt at a time when their media is under fire for speaking of human rights abuses. The Post added that she was dismissive of China’s human rights abuses on her recent visit. This act called forth moans and groans from human rights communities around the world, especially from the Tibetan and Burmese refugees.

The Democratic victory of hope and change brought hope and possible change to two areas. The first is how Americans are seen the world over and secondly, how American foreign policy would be altered in an Obama administration. The clarity of the president’s executive order that there will be no torture lifts the spirits of any activist in the world.

Another day of hope for Americans occurred on the first day of the senate hearing for Leon Panetta. The second day, confirming U.S. continuation of rendition, left many of us human rights people confused. Rendition returned on the second day.

Thus, some clarity and some confusion. Nothing new in human rights or American foreign policy.

Let us go back in time, past President Bush. In terms of human rights he is too easy to speak of and too easy to hit with any wild swing. He spread democracy with a gun barrel and drones. The moralism of the right folded under its own mistakes and missteps. A Justice department that approves of torture is just not comprised of that which is decent.

But pre-Bush was an interesting time. Prisoners were moving from their cell-blocks to presidencies. Revolutions were soft, pink, violet, usually non-violent and victorious. The total collapse of the USSR was celebrated with the sounds of hammers and sickles, as the Berlin Wall crumbled into dust. Southern Africa sifted from white minority rule to elections based on majority rule, with little blood shed before or after the change. Latin America, after suffering for decades, was freed of its many military dictatorships. Human rights had been elevated onto the tables of all governments , whether they liked it or not. The people and media remembered by all were not the heads of states, but the people of great proven decency like Biko, Mandela, Tutu, Romero, Aquino, Scharof, and Havel , to name a few. The unique possibility of having a single standard for human rights was looming large in the minds of activists. The United Nations even created a new position of Assistant Secretary of human rights in Vienna at the 1993 Human Rights Conference. Human rights groups began popping up all over the world and growing in numbers. The 90s saw a time of human rights explosion.

Then the war on Iraq hit and democracy became a bullet in the gun of the American foreign policy. Rendition, the act of moving people to other countries to get information through torture, spread, becoming state policy. As did holding people without trials and listening in on whoever the government felt they should. Gitmo and Abu became common words for abuse.

All of these changes after the turn of the century can be argued to have been the result, and the appropriate response, of the 9/11 attack. If so, then we Americans can do whatever we want, if and when we are attacked, or perceived to be attacked. No single standard exists for human rights in such an instance. My guess is many Americans would approve of torture in these circumstances. Water boarding was approved by many, but by none who had ever experienced it.

Next time torture is brought up in the Senate, why not test it publicly on TV?… “Today Senator Bond of Missouri, who approves of water boarding, will give us an example of how this technique works.” Then let Senator Bond testify to the public how this practice does not terrify the depth of one’s soul to the max. Let us see a senator taste it before he approves of it for others. Confusion would not follow. Clarity about a single standard for human rights at the State department and the Senate levels would be achieved. Those in torture chambers in China, Egpyt, Turkey, Burma, etc., would cheer so loud that the new Secretary of state would hear the sound.

Our new administration campaigned for hope and change, but they did not arrive in the White House without the individuals of the U.S. and of the world who supported them and lifted them to this place. The seeds of this change have been sown and it is time for us as a country to guide our leaders towards an ethical standard for human rights, to step out of the darkness of these last few years and re-enter the spirit of MLK Jr, Nelson Mandela, Biko, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi and beyond.

It is possible for prisoners to become rightful leaders, for countries to become democratic, for military dictatorships to fall, for torture victims to be freed. If the new administration were a boat, this ship would leave a strange and wiggly wake. But it is still in its infancy, and with our knowledge of past victories in human rights, it is time for people to take our leaders’ hands and show them the way. The Secretary of State needs to return to her own words she spoke in China, “Women’s rights are Human Rights”.

Almost is Not Enough

Jack_headshotPosted by Jack Healey

in The Huffington Post



As in horseshoes, basketball and love, “almost” does not count. It is either a score, or not, in sports. It is in love, or not in love. It is the same with torture. A government that almost tortures does torture. The act debases the individual suffering torture and breaks the law as well. The torture victim spends the rest of their lives trying to make their shame into their glory. Many do not make it. Many never really come back. Many victims do come back but never is the horror forgotten for long.

Looking into one’s own military for criminal violations of abusing prisoners is hard to do. Here in America, the new administration is not hastening to do that for understandable reasons. It is hard. Harder yet, but necessary, is to avoid looking like they are just chasing and embarrassing the predecessors. But looking back is necessary for two reasons; crimes must be researched and pursued (nature of the law) and we must help victims receive justice.

Looking into the daily use of torture around the world will certainly terrify the toughest of us. The abusing governments on every continent always and forever say, “it is necessary for the safety of the nation.” All nations have “good” reasons to torture until the human rights groups show up– probing, asking, looking at wounds, checking with families, speaking with guards and lawyers looking for patterns of torture.

Today in Burma, the military junta is torturing its people. Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy, won 82% of the votes in the 1990 election. This means she should be Prime Minister of her country. The military placed her under house arrest shortly after this election to prevent her from assuming her role. She is an “almost leader.” There was almost a democracy. But as in horseshoes and basketball and love and torture, almost is not good enough. And the small difference between what should be and what is, has resulted in a human rights crisis. The almost government of Burma is still not representing its people.

Accountability goes with the rule of law, or there eventually is none. If we do believe that torture is necessary in some cases, why not make that a national discussion? Nations have found many ways to handle a human rights crisis. Truth commissions. Presidential pardons. Amnesty after truth. Many nations have found a way to expose the truth and then unite the country around the truth of the past.

A worldwide dialogue with torture victims will bring a tsunami of tears that would wash our shore and embarrass the supporters of torture to no end. Millions are tortured. Some governments call it “physical pressure.” Some call it “getting the truth.” Some know the data gotten from the victim is useless and they know torture is a warning to others, not a device to get correct data. But one must also accept the reality of the victim. The victim always wants the truth to be told. Exceptions are few. When a nation does torture, it joins other nations doing the same. If we eliminate torture and find another way to deal with the offenders, we can join the courageous nations of Chile, Argentina, Rwanda and South Africa who have risen above their horrific pasts to set an example, and finally rid the world of this routine state practice.

Leaders in our country are beginning to wrestle with whether we should prosecute the people of our past. We can find a way to resolve our past and heal our wounds. As we move into the new year, with a new administration and a new outlook on the world, let us work toward “no on torture” both at home and around the world. No more almosts. Almost is not good enough.

Our Hope in Obama, Our Hearts to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jack_headshotPosted by Jack Healey

in The Huffington Post



Dr. Martin Luther King Jr drove this nation to its own truth, namely that all people are created equal. Once equal, then he asks us to dance to the higher tunes; rule of law, nonviolence, protection of the weakest of us. He knew and preached that human service, the taking care of one another, was the highest calling. Enrichment began in healthy and helping exchanges. The poor are not the objects of our affections but the fellow travelers just like us and they have much to give; their time, their love, their poetry, their thoughts, and their very lives. The contract between people to be decent to one another is the thread by which we must live. And not just us, we must demand of our governments the same standards they ask of us.

We miss Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr each day. His day, our day, asks each of us to stand up for decency and justice and non violence in our time, in our community, in our family, and in our world.

The “clarion call” by Causecast for a “day of service” is clear and righteous and I hope spreads across the land that still needs its truth to be practiced in all of our lives, enriched by this single and mighty force called Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Watch me speak of freedom, Dr. Martin Luther King, and my hope in President Elect Obama.

Jack Healey is a Causecast Leader is a dedicated and passionate individual, a change-maker, living each day to make a significant positive impact in our world. Causecast leaders include athletes, celebrities, artists, students, musicians, politicians, teachers, mothers and more — people who are committed to change and give their time, service, resources and influence for the betterment of tomorrow.
12.08

2008

Happy Birthday, Declaration of Human Rights!

Jack_headshotPosted by Jack Healey

in The Huffington Post



Sixty years ago, the best document ever written came together in Paris under the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt. It is called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That’s the good news. The bad news is less than 5% of the world even knows about this document. Worse yet, many governments do not properly adhere to its tenants. This Declaration was written against the horrific backdrop of WWII, when human rights violations reached immense proportion. Although similar levels of human rights violations have remained consistent throughout the world in places like Darfur, Burma, and the Central Congo, the principles discussed in this document still remain ideals, rather than realities.

By the year 2010, 42% of the world will be under the age of 21. As was seen in the recent American election, there is a clamoring for change amongst this demographic. This exists not only for young people at home, but all over the world. When injustice occurs in far corners of the globe, this document empowers the innocent against the oppressor. Just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as an example of justice and equality, so to will this new generation need a rulebook to combat oppression.

Such a rulebook already exists in this Declaration. For 60 years, governments have let this document gather dust in a closet. This anniversary reminds us that this Declaration is living and belongs to every citizen of the world, no matter what nationality, race, gender or creed. It is time to put this Declaration in the hands of the people, for there is an awful lot of suffering in the world.

This document is for, as Bob Dylan wrote, “the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones and worse.” If you are in a far-away land being tortured, raped, censored or held captive, this document is the “the chimes of freedom flashing.”

This is not just idealism. There are practical things you can do right now to honor Eleanor Roosevelt’s greatest achievement, and more importantly, protect the fabric of decency that should exist between governments and their citizens.

Below is a video of artists, activists and children reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — send it to everyone you know.

Sign the petition at www.humanrightsactioncenter.org to get this Declaration printed in every passport.

Write your representatives and encourage them to take the necessary steps to free Aung San Suu Kyi, the present, living-day symbol of Human Rights and the rightful leader of Burma.

Lastly, print a copy of the Declaration of Human Rights and put it in your wallet. Take it from a guy who has met his share of innocent people being abused: you never know when you just might need it.”

- Jack Healey