Mike Beversluis

Friday, March 13, 2009

More translations

Another opinion piece from the Corriere della Sera, Diritti umani l'ora di cambiare. Note that in the piece the journalist uses the first plural person sometimes to refer to Italy or Italians in general, sometimes to refer to himself, obeying to a stilistical rule (to which I do not subscribe very much) that aims at toning down the protagonism of who writes. I also did not distinguish between the two uses but it is quite evident when it is each case.

Human rights, time for a change

by Franco Venturini

Yesterday, the day marking the 50th anniversary of the Lhasa uprising, the House of Representatives*1 expressed a bi-partisan yes to the motion proposed by the Radical Party about the respect of human rights in Tibet. The text commits the Italian government, which is often quite reluctant to expose itself in these issues, to query China for guarantees of free access to the region and for a constructive dialogue with the Dalai Lama "inside the framework of the Chinese constitution". But apart the details the motion approved in Montecitorio*2 brings to the forefront, and not just for Italy, the perduring conflict between the moral sphere (the defense of human rights) and the poltical-diplomatic sphere (the protection of one's own interest) that lately has been, at times, quite acute. First Hillary Clinton went to China and "forgot" about the repression of internal dissent. Then the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against the Sudanese president al-Bashir and was because of this widely criticized. And now the issues of Tibet come back to the spotlight, the almost general silence of the governments notwithstanding.

Quite different cases that re-propose the same question: how should the value-based community called West behave when confronted with the sistematic violation of its own principles? Is waving the flag of our own identity a right and a duty or is it just a self-damaging gesture that characterizes as "candid souls" those who make it?

We believe we should take our start exactly from our own identity. Sarkozy, who is quite in a position of strength, received in the past months the Dalai Lama and the Chinese threats for retaliations faded off without any consequence. Barroso, who is in a weaker position even if he represents in theory the whole Europe, got himself a public reprimand by Putin for having expressed some bafflements about a Russia that does not find the murderers of Politkovskaya and that is now submitting Khodorkovsky to a second political-based trial. But Putin, too, did not go beyond a reprimand. And what ever would have the Chinese done had Clinton sticked faithfully to her own role? They would have just issued an official note. Here you are the true problem: the West self-censors itself undervaluing the fact that concrete interests are mutual. And in this way it ends up not expressing neither through the whole community nor through each individual those identity-defining values without which it risks to stop existing.

Someone will object that affirming justice is a task for the International Criminal Court. Let us leave aside that the U.S. did not underscribe its creation, and let us look to what happened with the warrant against al-Bashir (the first against a head of State in-office). In the Darfur region at least three hundred thousand people have been massacred. Two million people have been displaced. Those who are left are regularly attacked, with a particular taste (typical also of the Congo war) for rape-based ethnical cleansing. The responsiblity of al-Bashir has been thoroughly proved and documented. What should the ICC have done, hide its head in the sand in order not to fuel the reactions that have predictably come from the strong man in Khartoum?

We are aware that these reactions (in particular the expulsion from the country of a large number of ONGs that are active in the distribution of food and medications) will bring new suffering onto the population. We are also aware that arresting al-Bashir, if nothing unpredictable happens, will be impossible.

But should we look at this just as a mis-step of the ICC, a purely demonstrative gesture that is just laden with negative consequences? The Court, since it exists, has to do its job. In a quite incomplete and imperfect way, as we know it is in reality, but without relinquishing its duties. Where is, rather, the political world? Had not been approved, at the UN, an interventionist formula called "responsibility to protect"? Had not the UN itself decided to send to Darfur an armed force close to 20.000 men strong? Isn't it true that the deployment never happened, that very few Countries offered troops, that there are no helicopters, that to sum it up al-Bashir can keep on doing as he pleases?

To maintain that the ICC has been incautious is just a fig leaf to cover the absence, more precisely the outright retreat of the political world. The political world has now the duty to maintain its commitments and react to the expulsion of ONGs, without blaming a Court who had to fill in for cowardly Governments.

Our Radical Party did very well to promote the quite rare bi-partisan action yesterday at the House. But at the first occasion (and occasions certainly will not be lacking) something more will be needed, just because China, with its grave deficiencies in the theme of civil rights, is an important ground for the affirmation of our liberal and democratic identity. Are we being too naive, and are we forgetting that in these times of financial crisis the Chinese have a stranglehold on the US and therefore on us too? We are rather quite convinced that the Chinese need the other Countries as well, and cannot afford, themselves, to run too many risks in their relationship with the West. This as long as the West becomes reliable, and stops fearing to just be itself.

*1 The Italian one
*2 The historical palace which is the seat of the Italian House of Representatives


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