Critical Analysis Five News Articles

Introduction

This commentary identifies 5 news articles on human rights issues and evaluates them in terms of the debate surrounding those issues. It first gives a brief discussion of each article, and then identifies the article’s relevance to the discussion of human rights. It then evaluates the debate surrounding the issue based on social, political and economic theory.

This 2018 article by Li Victory posted in the ABA news journal gives the thoughts of a prominent American Lawyer on a recent decision on a case: Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and whether it may impact on gay rights in the US. The article first describes how the Lawyer, Ted Olson, narrates his role in several other landmark cases e.g. Loving v. Virginia, where he participated oppose the ban on same sex marriage in the US California state. The article then describes Olson’s take on the then on-going developments on LGBTQ rights in the US, with a special focus on the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Ideally, this case involved a professional cake baker who declined to bake a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding based on the reason that his religious background did not allow him to do so. Olson, while commenting about the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, noted that the court’s decision to favor was not of any precedential value and would not determine the outcome of future cases on gay rights, based on two arguments: first, that the right to gay marriage is a fundamental right, and two, that it is a general rule that philosophical or religious objections give business owners the right to deny protected persons access to goods and services – under public accommodations law that are both generally and neutrally applicable. Hence, from the article, it can be extrapolated that during judicial proceedings on cases of gay rights, there is a need to demarcate the boundary between cases of precedential value and those that do not have any precedential value.

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This article is especially relevant to the study of human rights because it draws a line between judicial decisions that set precedence for future judgments on gay rights and those that have non-precedential value, thereby impacting on future cases on gay rights. Its relevance to the issue of gay rights also evident in the way it addresses the legality of the same-sex marriage issue especially in countries like the United States where the issue has sparked a lot of controversies.

Ideally, by highlighting the Onslo’s comments on the fundamental nature and legality of same-sex marriage, the article reinforces the judgment by the US Supreme Court declaring the same-sex-marriage a constitutional right. From a wider perspective, the judgment made by the US Supreme Court on the case of Obergefell v. Hodges declared that gay marriage is a constitutional right protected by the American Constitution. Besides, a majority of the judges delivering the ruling argued that, first, by denying same-sex individuals the right to get married (United Nations Universal Declaration on marriage and family rights); such couples were exposed to a grave and continual harm. Secondly, declaring gay marriage unconstitutional would lock gays and lesbians from the central institution of the country’s society, and that just like normal couples, same-sex couples would like to achieve the purpose of marriage and fulfil their highest meaning in life. Thirdly, apart from being a key element in the social order, it is an individual’s personal choice to which inherently exists within the framework of individual autonomy. Ultimately, it was argued that allowing same-sex marriage will change the society’s perception of the institution of marriage, especially in a society that has been experiencing new dimensions of freedom among its new generation, through a change of perspectives that are first expressed in protest or plea, and then later taken to political or judicial platforms for debate. But on the flipside, Justice John G. Roberts Jr. argued that whereas there is an undeniable appeal to allow same-sex marriage, the government is not compelled by the constitution to allow such marriages, and that allowing same-sex marriage would lead to a lot of issues that could lead to a dramatic social change that is difficult to accept. The dissenting judgment depicts nothing less than the fact that there is still no consensus on the legality of the same-sex-marriage, even within the justice system of some of the most civilized countries in the world.

“Khashoggi killing was a human rights violation by Saudi Arabia, US says”

This article was published by the New Arab & Agencies news article on 13th March 2018, and specifically addressed the issue of the murder of a US-based Journalist Jamal Khashoggi. According to the article, the murder was viewed by the US State Department as a violation of human rights after reports emerged that the renowned Washington Post columnist met his death in the hands of Saudi Arabian agents inside the Kingdom’s Turkish consulate in Istanbul.

This news item on Jamal Khashoggi’s killing is especially relevant to the discourse of human rights and by extension the civil rights of journalists, especially in regards to international relations and coordination. This is because the story covered by the article, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, has largely been analysed from the perspectives of three countries, i.e. the United States, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. Particularly, Saudi Arabia has been part of the discourse due to the allegations that the journalist was murdered by the Saudi’s Crown Prince’s agents. On the other hand, Turkey has largely been involved in the case because the murder occurred within its territory, while the US had been at the centre of the discourse partly because Jamal was a US-based Saudi Arabian Journalist and partly due to its strategic ties with Saudi Arabia. The whole world has therefore been keen on how the three countries handle the issue, as a litmus test to their allegiance to uphold fundamental human rights.

Jamal Khashoggi, a critique of the Saudi regime was apparently tortured to death and dismembered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul Turkey. Consequently, according to The Economist (2018) prominent human rights groups called for a UN probe into the killing in order to prevent a whitewash of the alleged crime. At the same time, several reactions were experienced, including the pulling out of the major guests who had scheduled to attend a major summit in Riyadh on the Future Investment Initiative (Taylor, 2018).

But what draws the attention of most analyst in the difficult position that the US government (i.e. Donald Trump’s administration) in regards to the dilemma of dealing with this serious violation of human rights at the expense of its relationship with Saudi’s regime (Nardello, 2018). As a result, analysts and pundits theorized that the reluctant approach given to the incident by Trump’s administration was clear evidence that the US administration, led by Donald Trump did not care about human rights as long as it maintained its close ties with Saud Arabia for economic benefits (Bouoivour & Salemi, 2018). Another political theory proposed by most analysts is that the United States had been generally reluctant to acknowledge the human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, considering that it was only recently that women in Saudi Arabia were allowed the right to drive cars (The New Arab, 2019). At the climax, the Trump’s administration refused to heed to the Congress’ calls to suspend the US arms deal with Saudi Arabia based on the reason that the US would lose billions of dollars’ worth of income. As simply put by some, Trump’s administration supported a violation of human rights by failing to take action on the alleged killing of Jamal Khashoggi (Johnson, 2018).

Surviving R. Kelly” Kicked Off A #MeToo Movement In East Africa”

This news article by Griffin (2019) talks about the #MeToo movement that has largely been characterized by women coming forward to speak about a number of human rights abuses, majorly sexual harassment abuses perpetrated against them by various prominent personalities. In detail, the article highlights the impact of the #MeTooMovement and how it has enabled other women who were earlier afraid to speak about their experiences of sexual harassment to share such experiences with the public. For instance, the article mentions of as a result of the #MeToo movement, Ethiopian American women have created their version of the movement dubbed ‘#MeTooEthiopia’ where Ethiopian women share their experiences of sexual harassment.

While comparing and contrasting the two movements, the author acknowledges that as opposed to the #MeTooMovement, the ‘#MeTooEthiopia focuses on the cultural barriers that prevent Ethiopian women from speaking about their experiences of sexual harassment i.e. the shame that accompanies it.

This article is relevant to the discussion of human rights issues because it reveals how women are beginning to open up to talk about their sexual harassment experiences (some perpetrated by prominent people), a phenomenon that was earlier not experienced. This article demonstrates how Ethiopian women are using modern platforms of communication such as the social media – especially with the availability of the affordable network, to speak out about their experiences of sexual harassment and violation of their right to privacy. Based on the article’s narrative, it is easier to extrapolate that just because women do not talk about sexual harassment does not mean they never experience it. Nonetheless, with increased enlightenment among victims of sexual harassment to speak about their experiences and register their complaints to the relevant authorities, a major challenge now remains on how fast such complaints are acted upon to deliver justice to the victims.

Ever since the emergence of the #MeTooMovement, a discourse has emerged both at the global and national arena regarding the speed with which complaints about sexual harassment are handled, as well as the efficiency of delivering justice to the persons whose rights have been violated through sexual harassment. For example, in the US Congress, a bill (Member and Employee Training and Oversight on Congress Act) was proposed with an aim of changing how the US justice system responds to and deals with complaints of sexual harassment (Davis, 2017). According to NBC News (2018), the process of dealing with such complaints used to take months of mediation and counselling before actually filling the case. Ideally, the long process would delay the entire process of securing justice to the victims whose rights had been violated. But now, according to Marcos (2017), with the introduction of a new legislation that seeks to sped up the process, it is expected that victims of sexual harassment will receive justice as soon as they raise complain, especially in countries such as the US where women are beginning to open up on the issue.

Written by Kine Phelm and published by Asian Times on 21st March 2019, this news article speaks about the atrocities and crimes against humanity conducted by various State-backed military forces involved in peace-keeping in Myanmar. The author questions the credibility and trustworthiness Myanmar military court created to investigate and charge military officers named by a UN-led commission to have performed an inquiry about the alleged crimes against humanity and their perpetrators.

The author is of the opinion that whereas the formation the Myanmar military court is aimed at conducting a further scrutiny on the issue and to cement the military’s long-term claim that the military operations in Northern Rakhine were legitimate and free of human rights violation, the court will have to make serious efforts in countering evidence produced by the UN investigators showing that there were serious violation of human rights during the counterinsurgency operations – characterized by organizing and executing a mass killing of innocent civilians, as well as forced relocation of the civilians.

This article is relevant to the discussion of human rights issues because it highlights crimes against humanity perpetrated by Myanmar army, and the seemingly feeble efforts by relevant authorities to bring justice to the victims, as well as the debate surrounding the entire issue. It reveals the role of UN in upholding fundamental human rights, particularly under the auspices of United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner’s convention on the non-applicability of statutory limitations to war crimes and crimes against humanity, which considers war crimes and crimes against humanity as one of the gravest crimes in international law Human (Rights Office of the High Commissioner, n.d).

The big debate in this issue is that whereas the UN, through their inquiry, found that there was a serious violation of human rights and crimes against humanity. Besides, according to Emont & Mandhana (2018), Myanmar security forces were deployed in 2017 to massacre and kill the Rohingya population living in northern Rakhine (Press, 2018). Consequently, according to Mahmood (2017), the UN Human Rights Council has considered renewing its scrutiny on the issue, particularly as a response to Myanmar’s failure to meaningfully account for 2017 reported human rights abuses. On the flipside, Myanmar claims that it is already working on the claims and has set up the military inquiry in response to calls by the international community to look into the matter, and to bring back Myanmar to ‘business as usual’ with the international community.

“A Missed Opportunity to Protect Muslims in China”

Published in The New Arab news article on 21st March 2019, and written by Farida Deif, this new article talks about the plight of Turkic Muslims in China including the Uyghurs, who are facing a major crackdown by Chinese government within China’s Xinjiang province. The author begins by narrating how the Muslims are locked up in camps under the pretext of receiving ‘political education’. Besides, the author seems to be worried that even after this issue had made a major headline worldwide; it did not appear as one of the agendas for discussion in a recent meeting held by the foreign ministers of countries forming the Organization for Islamic Corporation (OIC) in Abu Dhabi.

The relevance of this article to the discussion of the human rights issue is unequivocal because it explains how the fundamental human right of freedom of worship is violated by the Chinese government, and the relevant international bodies do not seem to care (Albinia, 2008). It also highlights how OIC as an organization that claims to be the collective voice of Muslim countries has failed to address the issue, despite the fact that it has previously expressed concern over the issue (Deif, 2019).

In the watch of OIC, as well as other international bodies claiming to be conservatives of human rights, the Chinese government has declared the practice of Islam in Xinjiang region illegal (Deif, 2019). Paradoxically, according to Dholakia & Wang (2018), instead of condemning the act and rallying support for Muslim’s fundamental right to worship, OIC has praised efforts by China’s efforts of caring and protecting its Muslim citizens, are resolved to collaborate with China in similar efforts, without uttering even a word of condemnation against the act (Dholakia & Wang, 2018).

The violation of human rights in the entire program of ‘political education’ for Turkic Muslims is clear and unequivocal. While at the camp, the Turkic Muslims are required to learn Mandarin (not their native language) songs and sing propaganda songs. According to Brox & Beller (2014), they are also forbidden from saying Muslim words such as: As-Salaam-Alaikum, and instead, are only required to say Hello in Mandarin. Failure to adhere to these rules warrants an award of fail marks – and any fail attracts punishment. Apart from violating freedom of expression, the program also violates several other fundamental human rights. For example, the Muslims are subjected to punishments such as solitary confinement, few or low supply of food, and physically injuring punishments such as standing on the feet for 24 hours (Philips & Moore, 2009).

While the Chinese government claims that the program is nothing more than delivering political education to the Turkic Muslims, international organizations such as the UN claim that the Chinese government has treated this population with a lot of hostility. According to Brox & Beller (2014), the Chinese government considers the unique identity, the language, culture and religion of Turkic Chinese as symbols of political disloyalty. Indeed, observations by Dholakia & Wang (2018) also reveal that in the past 2 years, the authorities have increased their campaign efforts that are theoretically designed to counter terrorist threats, but in reality, it is being used as a justification of the massive abuse of the population’s rights across the region.

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References

  • Albinia, A. (2008) ‘the illusory freedom of China’s Muslims: the Uighurs of Xinjiang Province’, NEW STATESMAN -LONDON-, p. 56.
  • Bouoiyour, J. and Selmi, R. (2018) ‘The gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi : Saudi Arabia’s new economy dream at risk ?’
  • Brox, T. and Bellér-Hann, I. (2014) On the Fringes of the Harmonious Society : Tibetans and Uyghurs in Socialist China. Copenhagen: NIAS Press (NIAS Studies in Asian Topics).
  • Davis S. (2017) Me Too' Legislation Aims To Combat Sexual Harassment in Congress". NPR; January 21, 2018.
  • Dholakia N. & Wang M. (2018). China’s Crackdown on Turkic Muslims.
  • Deif F. (2019) A Missed Opportunity to Protect Muslims in China, The New Arab
  • Emont, J. and Mandhana, N. (2018) ‘“We’ll Turn Your Village Into Soil”: Survivors Recount One of Myanmar’s Biggest Massacres’, The Wall Street Journal Eastern Edition, p. 1.
  • Johnson, S. (2018) ‘After Killing of Journalist, Colleges Confront Saudi Ties’, The Chronicle of Higher Education, p. 26.
  • Kine P. (2019) Myanmar military’s massacre denial complex. Human Rights Issues.
  • Li V. (2018) Baker’s case won’t govern gay rights, Ted Olson says, ABA journal, 6th March
  • Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967). Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 584 U.S.
  • Marcos C. (2017). "Lawmakers unveil 'ME TOO Congress' bill to overhaul sexual harassment policies". TheHill.
  • Mahmood, S. Z. A.- (2017) ‘Myanmar Refugees Tell of Atrocities: “A Soldier Cut His Throat.”’, The Wall Street Journal Eastern Edition, p. 6.
  • Nardello, D. (2018) ‘Independent investigation into the killing of Jamal Khashoggi is needed’, The Washington Post.
  • NBC news (2018) House unveils landmark sexual harassment overhaul bill". January 22, 2018.
  • Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14-556, slip op. at 23 (U.S. June 26, 2015).
  • Press, A. (2018) ‘The Myanmar Military Hands Down 10-Year Prison Sentences For a Rohingya Massacre’, Time.com, p. 1.
  • Phillips, J. M. and Moore, L. J. (2009) China : Economic, Political and Social Issues. New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
  • Rights Office of the High Comissioner (n.d) Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.
  • The New Arab (2019) Khashoggi killing was a human rights violation by Saudi Arabia, US says, 13th March 2019
  • The Economist (2018) ‘See no evil; The killing of Jamal Khashoggi’, p. 14. Taylor, A. (2018) ‘9 key questions Saudi Arabia hasn’t answered about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi’, The Washington Post.

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