Friday, 15 November 2013
People For Schapelle Corby
CHOGM, HUMAN RIGHTS & SCHAPELLE CORBY
National leaders and ministers, who attend Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGMs), are invariably expert at producing lofty and apparently profound speeches. Communiqués are rich with impressive sound bites. The event itself is polished on presentation, and ideal for providing a platform for preening politicians seeking popularity via media familiarity.
The 2011 meeting, in Perth, was laced with apparent intent, with the final communiqué urging members to: “consider becoming parties to all major international human rights instruments; to implement fully the rights and freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as those human rights treaties to which they are a party; to uphold these rights and freedoms; to share best practice and lessons learned, including from the United Nations Universal Periodic Review process; and to continue to support the work of National Human Rights Institutions”
Words, however, are usually cheap, particularly when action may disturb a powerful voice within the organization, and a major net financial benefactor.
AN ACID TEST
Some months ago, a difficult report landed in the desk of the Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma. This had been submitted to the Commonwealth Secretariat by citizens from across the Commonwealth itself. It related to Schapelle Corby, the proven malversation of Australian ministers, and the abuse of her human rights.
This was particularly difficult to handle, as it didn’t comprise allegation or suspicion, but conclusive documentary proof, the sort rarely available for such serious matters.
A copy of the submission was also published online, in downloadable PDF format.
The report was accompanied by a huge 750 page dossier, which contained dozens of items of ministerial correspondence, diplomatic cables, and other material internal to the Australian government.
Researchers from The Expendable Project also breached the outer ring of the headquarters of the Secretariat building itself, at Marlborough House in London, to hand the material to the Commonwealth Human Rights Director, Ms Zarinah Davies in person.
What did the Commonwealth Secretariat do with this wealth of conclusive information?
Nothing. It retreated behind a wall of silence, presumably courtesy of a whisper in the ear from Canberra, and a resolve not to ruffle the feathers of one of the most influential and important member states.
Where does this leave those grand commitments on integrity and the protection of human rights? The answer perhaps lies in the words of a member of the public, who wrote the following to the Secretary-General earlier this week:
I would respectfully ask how, if such a precisely documented instance of abuse is ignored, the secretariat can expect due credibility on less visible and more general cases? Could I also ask how you expect the public to take statements made through CHOGM seriously, when, in practical terms, the secretariat turns a blind eye to gross malversation?
Could I suggest that the many signatories to the submission document, who hail from across the Commonwealth on Nations, also deserve better?
If a relatively wealthy and gross benefactor member state, like Australia, is allowed to openly flaunt Commonwealth commitments, what message do you believe this sends to others?
Does it not render CHOGM statements to be viewed as worthless, by the wider public?
These are extremely serious matters, and the apparent abrogation of responsibility on this, and similar cases, directly feeds negative perceptions regarding the role of the Commonwealth in general.
These questions, of course, will remain unanswered. However, at the end the current CHOGM, which is being held in Sri Lanka, expect a brand-new compilation of meaningless and hollow ‘commitments’.
Posted by Irishgreeneyes at 01:00