Foreign Policy Blogs

Human Rights Round Up

With the holidays coming up and getting the 2009 Year in Review together, we have been a bit light on posting. However here are some links to a few of the human rights stories from this past week.

Detained in Iran, Russia, and China

Last week NPR reported on three human rights stories from Iran, Russia, and China which are now available online. All three deal with the detention of prominent figures under less than ideal circumstances, though the most high profile of the three is likely the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Liu co-authored Charter 08, modeled after Czechoslovakia’s infamous Charter 77, which calls for greater freedoms, protection of human rights, and the introduction of democracy in China. So far the petition has gained more than 10,000 signatures and as a result, Liu is due to go on trial for subversion this Wednesday. The Pen American Center is tracking the progress of Liu’s imprisonment and trial, which is bound to garner more attention than China would like.

Back in the spotlight: The Lord’s Resistance Army and the ICC

Two new reports released by the UN High Commission for Human Rights highlight possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) against civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan. The top leaders of the LRA were indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2005 for their role in the conflict in Northern Uganda, but there has been little progress since then in bringing them to justice. Similarly, peace talks with the LRA stalled over the issue of the ICC indictments. Although the Ugandan government did an about face and asked for the indictments to be dropped in favor of a complete amnesty in exchange for peace, the ICC refused and the conflict continued in much the same fashion as it has since 1987. These new reports will inevitably bring the LRA back into the spotlight, along with the peace versus justice debate that the conflict in Northern Uganda has come to epitomize.

Guatemala: It’s never too late to make right

In a ruling released on Monday, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned the Guatemalan government for failing to adequately investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the 1982 Dos Erres massacre where more than 200 civilians were killed by military forces over a three day period. The Court ordered the government to pay more than $3 million in compensation to survivors and family members of those killed. Despite the fact that the massacre occurred almost three decades ago, the Court also order the Guatemalan government to carry out a legitimate investigation to identify those who had participated in the massacre and the officials who ordered it.

The Dos Erres massacre was one of many that took place during Guatemala’s 26 year long civil war, but for many became emblematic of the general conflict. Although peace talks ended the conflict in 1996, few officials have been brought to justice for their role in the violence that left a quarter million dead, many of them indigenous Maya. The ruling by the IACHR makes it clear that others in the region have not forgotten and are determined not to let Guatemala sweep its bloody past completely under the rug.



Kimberly J. Curtis

Kimberly Curtis has a Master's degree in International Affairs and a Juris Doctor from American University in Washington, DC. She is a co-founder of The Women's Empowerment Institute of Cameroon and has worked for human rights organizations in Rwanda and the United States. You can follow her on Twitter at @curtiskj

Areas of Focus: Transitional justice; Women's rights; Africa