Ambrose and Cotler: Bureaucratic barriers are making life even harder for Canada’s allies in Afghanistan

Good bipartisan commentaryÈ

Make no mistake, the Taliban are in control of Afghanistan. Their swift return and seizure of power caught all of us off guard. Afghans who bravely served Canada now find themselves at great risk.

Their lives, and those of their families, are under constant threat of Taliban reprisals. Vulnerable Afghans, including female leaders, human-rights defenders, journalists, persecuted religious minorities and members of the LGBTQ+ community, have been abandoned in a country where they are now completely marginalized and must hide once again from an old enemy.

For the interpreters and their immediate family members who came to Canada under special immigration measures between 2009 and 2011, this remains a crisis. These Canadian citizens are desperate to help the extended families they left behind, knowing that they will continue to be actively targeted because of who they are related to. Shall we wait until disaster befalls before we hasten our efforts to evacuate these deserving Afghans?

Like many Western countries that rushed to get people out, Canada did its part, evacuating 3,700 people at risk. The door was open, briefly; now it is firmly shut. Those left behind are pleading for us to honour our commitments. They believe that Canada is a just and compassionate country, with a free and open society – at least, that is what we told them when we first came asking for their help. All is not lost. We can still live up to that ideal, but we have to act fast as lives hang in the balance.

Various charitable and volunteer groups have rallied behind the government of Canada’s efforts to evacuate and resettle the maximum number of eligible Afghans. We call on the government to fund these groups that help keep these people and their families safe. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) should simultaneously accelerate the vetting process in partnership with these groups. While we wait for borders to open, we need to protect these people through the continued provision of support inside the country and the issuance by IRCC of documentation proving their official link to Canada. The very act of this recognition is a lifeline and protected pathway out of Afghanistan.

For vulnerable Afghans, the Canadian government needs to allow visa applications from inside Afghanistan. We must not force people to needlessly risk their lives any further on unnecessary and illegal border crossings in the hope that a Canadian embassy or high commission will process their applications in another country, such as Uzbekistan or Pakistan.

We also need to honour our promises to the interpreters who have already resettled in Canada and are fellow citizens. By extending special immigration measures to the extended family members who remain in Afghanistan, we can remove them from harm’s way and make good on our promises.

Most importantly, we must recognize that there is no playbook for this. Blind adherence to policy and inflexibility to change it, despite the challenging situation on the ground, runs counter to the urgency of doing the right thing. It is a cruel reality that those left behind are facing. Canada must remove the barriers that our own policies present. We need to get the proper documentation to these people so we can get them out quickly and safely when the borders open to the world.

Despite the federal election, all parties must stand behind these initiatives. This is not about politics, not about who is right and who is wrong. It is about honouring the commitments we made to the people of Afghanistan and those who served our interests there. Only then will we be able to live up to our belief that Canada is a force for good in the world.

Rona Ambrose, the former leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, is deputy chairwoman of TD Securities. Irwin Cotler, the former Liberal minister of justice and attorney-general, is the international chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-bureaucratic-barriers-are-making-life-even-harder-for-canadas-allies/

Curbing the Hate Pandemic by Irwin Cotler, Ahmed Shaheed and Brandon Silver

Strong arguments in favour of using Magnitsky Laws to combat incitement to violence and discrimination. In addition to the examples cited, would this apply to some of the statements by former president Trump? And will governments have the political will to do so given economic and other interests?

Liberal democracies have not provided an adequate policy response to widespread and systematic state-sanctioned hate directed at many minorities. Rapid implementation of targeted sanctions against individuals inciting hatred and discrimination could possibly prevent further crimes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the spread of an equally virulent virus: hate. Effective vaccines offer the best hope of defeating the coronavirus. We now need similarly targeted legal measures against those inciting hatred.

Today, a rapid worldwide resurgence of racism and xenophobia is targeting minorities like Jews, East Asians, and LGBT persons – with attendant harassment and physical harm – as being responsible for the spread of the coronavirus. In addition, some states have used the cover of COVID-19 restrictions and distractions to extend long-standing hateful policies.

This pandemic of hate long preceded the public-health pandemic, which exposed and expanded it. But despite this growing threat, far too many instances of hateful incitement go unaddressed, much less redressed, contributing to cultures of criminality and the impunity that underpins them. In particular, liberal democracies have not provided a commensurate and concrete policy response to the widespread and systematic state-sanctioned hate that continues to cause the misery, murder, and migration of many minorities.

Sadly, state-sanctioned anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred, and bigotry against black and indigenous people are global phenomena. Emblematic examples of country-specific hate include the constitutionally enshrined discrimination and government incitement against Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan, and the apartheid-like system of unjust imprisonments and dispossession of the Baha’i religious minority in Iran.

Worse, the perpetrators of these crimes continue to travel largely unimpeded around the world. Maintaining the status quo – decades of brutal persecution that shows no signs of abating – could best be described as complicity.

Combatting such hate is not only an ethical imperative, but also a public-policy one. Hate tears at society’s seams, and catalyzes crisis and conflict. This naturally progresses to mass atrocity. The Holocaust and subsequent genocides resulted not simply from a machinery of death, but also from an ideology of hate. The dehumanization of Tutsis as “cockroaches” by Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines planted the seeds of Rwanda’s killing fields in the 1990s in the same way that Joseph Goebbels’ anti-Semitic propaganda paved the path to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

The world has long had a corpus of international laws intended to combat such crimes. After the horrors of the Holocaust, the international community crystallized a commitment to our common humanity in documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and treaties such as the Genocide Convention, conventions on the elimination of racial discrimination and discrimination against women, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. They recognize – and enshrine in law – the imperative of the struggle against hate and incitement, and the need to prevent and punish its manifestations, lest it metastasize.

But the implementation of human-rights foreign-policy tools based on these norms has been woefully inadequate, failing to challenge hate in the manner that it warrants. In particular, targeted sanctions frameworks such as Magnitsky Laws – nowadays the paradigmatic tool to punish human-rights abusers – have never been used expressly to combat incitement to violence and discrimination. This is despite many such frameworks being linked to the relevant international treaties, whether explicitly, such as in the European Union and United Kingdom, or implicitly, like in Canada and the United States.

Such sanctions have been a powerful post-facto tool, adding substance to statements condemning discriminatory violence against the vulnerable and – with applicable due-process safeguards – targeting the individuals most responsible for these crimes. They have been used, for example, in relation to Houthi-controlled security and intelligence agencies’ unjust detention and rape of politically involved women in Yemen, Chechen leaders’ torture and murder of LGBT persons, and the atrocities committed by Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. But these sanctions, while commendable, deal with the criminal consequences of hate, not its cause.

Rather than providing posthumous redress, targeted sanctions could possibly have prevented such crimes. Rapidly implementing such measures in response to incitement to hatred and discrimination – an initial early warning sign that often foreshadows major crimes – would sound the alarm and shine an international spotlight on the situation, naming and shaming individual perpetrators while providing protective cover to victims.

Moreover, sanctioning such individuals for incitement – typically with visa bans and asset seizures – could potentially serve as a deterrent, as they may modify their behavior in the hopes of being delisted. Even where those listed do not change their ways, targeted sanctions would reduce the virality of their hate by minimizing their resources and restricting their global mobility.

Such sanctions would be an important expression of solidarity and support for those suffering in other countries. Furthermore, they would safeguard the implementing country’s sovereignty by protecting against a corrosive influx of foreign assets and individuals linked to the promotion of divisive – and often deadly – discrimination.

Government leaders who violate internationally recognized obligations by promoting hate should not enjoy the freedoms abroad that they deny minorities at home. Protecting freedom of speech is not inconsistent with holding to account those inciting violence and discrimination. In fact, ending impunity for stirring up hatred would widen the scope for freedom of expression for all, especially for minorities whose voices are suppressed by rampant hate speech.

In these difficult and dangerous times, the shared desire for a peaceful and harmonious future, in which we celebrate our differences and the solidarity of humanity, can be a source of inspiration and a catalyst for global cooperation. To achieve it, we must stand up and strike out against the hate that ultimately hurts us all.

Source: Curbing the Hate Pandemic by Irwin Cotler, Ahmed Shaheed and Brandon Silver

Human rights adviser presses Trudeau to call out China’s actions in Xinjiang as genocide

Right call:

Irwin Cotler, a former Liberal justice minister and a leading voice on human rights, is urging Justin Trudeau to take steps to recognize that China is conducting acts of genocide against its Muslim minority.

Mr. Cotler said the federal government could either ask the Supreme Court of Canada to rule on whether China is committing genocide or have Parliament adopt a resolution on the issue.

MPs are preparing to vote Monday on a Conservative motion to recognize China’s conduct as genocide. The NDP, Bloc Québécois and Green Party have indicated that they would support the motion, which says Beijing’s actions contravene the UN Genocide Convention.

The Prime Minister, who said this week that he was reluctant to describe China’s conduct as genocide and that the matter required more study, recently appointed Mr. Cotler as his special adviser for Holocaust remembrance and combatting anti-Semitism.

The Montreal lawyer said he’s confident that what is taking place in China meets the test of genocide.

“I have looked at all the evidence and I have no doubt that, in fact, there are mass atrocities that are constitutive to acts of genocide under the Genocide Convention,” Mr. Cotler said in an interview.

The Biden and Trump administrations have both said Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang region meet a credible definition of “genocide.” Allegations include mass incarceration, destruction of religious sites, forced labour, forced sterilization and other forms of population control, as well as torture.

Mr. Cotler said forced sterilizations and abortions and holding more than one million Uyghurs in what he called “concentration camps” violate the Convention.

“This constitutes the largest detention of a minority since the Holocaust … and you have witnesses testifying about forced enslavement, torture, mass rape, disappearances, murder,” he said.

A growing body of evidence from human-rights monitors, Western media outlets and testimony from Uyghur survivors themselves has documented China’s actions.

Media reports have detailed how China has forced intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands in Xinjiang. Birth rates in Hotan and Kashgar, Uyghur-majority areas of Xinjiang, fell more than 60 per cent between 2015 and 2018, an Associated Press report says.

Beijing defends its conduct by saying that it’s trying to stamp out extremism and calls the camps re-education centres.

The Conservative motion would not be the first statement from Parliament on the issue. In October, a House of Commons subcommittee, dominated by Liberal MPs, also labelled Beijing’s conduct in Xinjiang as genocide.

Arif Virani, the parliamentary secretary to Justice Minister and Attorney-General David Lametti, later told the Commons that he believed “it is genocide that appears to be taking place today in China.”

The federal government has previously said it wants an independent investigation into China’s treatment of the Uyghurs. And Mr. Trudeau said earlier this week that Canada would like to be part of such an investigation. Human-rights advocates have pointed out that it’s extremely unlikely China would ever allow it.

When asked if he is reluctant to describe China’s conduct as genocide in case it leads to repercussions for jailed Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, Mr. Trudeau said Monday that his primary concern is making sure the term genocide is not misused.

“There is no question there have been tremendous human-rights abuses reported coming out of Xinjiang, and we are extremely concerned about that.”

But he said that when it comes to calling it genocide, “we need to ensure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed in the process before a determination like that is made.”

Mr. Cotler said he knows the Prime Minister is worried about the fate of the two Michaels but added that a parliamentary determination of genocide would allow “the government to say they are responding to the will of Parliament, which is reflective and representative of the will of the people … or they can go the Supreme Court route.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Annamie Paul have said they believe Beijing is committing genocide against the Uyghurs. Ms. Paul has urged Ottawa to consider diplomatic and economic sanctions against China.

The Conservatives have said that other consequences should follow a recognition of genocide, and they have already urged the government to press Olympic organizers to move the 2022 Winter Games out of Beijing. The Conservative motion to be voted on Monday was amended during debate Thursday to also urge the relocation of the Games from Beijing.

Paul Evans, the HSBC Chair in Asian Research at the University of British Columbia, said Canada is “not on strong moral and political ground” to lead on the issue of genocide, given this country’s painful history of residential schools for Indigenous children.

“There do appear to be parallels between our residential-school history and what Beijing is attempting to do with some of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang,” he said.

“We would be on a firmer ground, and more likely to attract others to the cause, if we labelled Chinese actions in Xinjiang as ‘cultural genocide,’ a horror we are very familiar with in our own story.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-trudeaus-holocaust-adviser-says-canada-must-recognize-chinas-actions/

Parliament should label Uyghur persecution as genocide to foster global support against China’s human rights abuses, says former Liberal justice minister

Needed debate and action:

Parliamentarians heard from activists during hours-long committee meetings last week who were calling for the Chinese government’s oppression of Uyghur Muslims to be acknowledged as genocide, and a former justice minister says Parliament is uniquely positioned to have a “distinguishable role” in condemning Beijing’s alleged behaviour to build an international partnership to counter China’s bullying.

The House Subcommittee on International Human Rights heard from more than 20 witnesses over 14 hours on July 20 and July 21 about the persecution of the Uyghurs. Many said the mistreatment and abuse of Uyghurs was tantamount to genocide and called for Canada to take a stand.

“Genocide obliges us all—internationally, domestically, governments, Parliaments, civil societies—and here the Canadian Parliament has a distinguishable role to call out genocide,” said Irwin Cotler, a former Liberal justice minister and now founding chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. He told The Hill Times that Parliament has set a precedent of playing a leading role in calling out human rights abuses and acts of genocide.

“I think it’s very important that governments act in concert, that Parliaments act in concert, as well as civil society acting in concert in calling out China,” said Mr. Cotler, who was a Liberal MP from 1999 to 2015. “If we want to protect the rules-based international order—and justice for the victims in China and accountability for the violators—we’re going to have to do so in concert governmentally and in Parliament.”

“Canada can play a leading role in this,” he said, citing the work that Parliamentarians have previously done raising the issue of genocide prevention, and raising awareness of the Rohingya genocide, among other targeted mass killings.

“China has been assaulting the rules-based international order and committing these international crimes with impunity thus far,” Mr. Cotler said. “They’ve been able to do so with impunity because they have been leveraging their economic and political power, and targeting countries one by one if those countries dare stand up to them.”

“What is needed now is an inter-governmental alliance, an alliance of democracies, so China doesn’t leverage its power and bully countries one by one.”

Some witnesses told the subcommittee that it is necessary for Canada to place sanctions on top Chinese Communist Party officials in Xinjiang where there are reports of mass detentions and forced sterilization of the Uyghur population.

The Associated Press reported on a systematic program to reduce the Muslim population in China, with the government enacting population control measures, which included IUDs and sterilization.

Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, told the subcommittee that in 2018, 80 per cent of new IUDs in China were placed in Xinjiang, which only makes up 1.8 per cent of China’s population.

The Chinese government has long held that human rights abuses aren’t taking place in Xinjiang and have called the alleged detention facilities “vocational education and training centres” that are being used to combat terrorism.

University of Ottawa international law professor Errol Mendes, who appeared virtually before the subcommittee, said Canada should apply Magnitsky sanctions on the “chief planners of the detention.” He said that should be Xinjiang regional government chairman Shohrat Zakir and Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, a member of the politburo.

Prof. Mendes told The Hill Times that imposing sanctions would prove that Canada is not staying silent and is upholding its commitment as a party to the United Nations Genocide Convention.

He added that the sanctions will “probably not” have tangible results in the short run. In spite of that, Prof. Mendes said when countries have “sufficient proof” that a genocide is taking place, “they must act.”

Magnitsky sanctions have already been applied on Chinese Communist Party officials in Xinjiang by the U.S., including on Mr. Chen.

Prof. Mendes said other levers can also be used, such as stopping companies from purchasing products in their supply lines from Xinjiang, which have reportedly been through forced labour.

He said that a motion of Parliament labelling the actions of the Chinese government as acts of genocide might not have impact for Beijing.

“Sending a direct signal to one of the main politburo members sends a message to President Xi [Jinping],” Prof. Mendes said.

Mr. Cotler said a parliamentary condemnation of the Chinese government’s mistreatment should include sanctions as well.

“Under the Genocide Convention, there is an obligation to act pursuant to that determination and an obligation to hold a country—that is engaged in acts that constitute genocide—accountable,” he said.

It is the responsibility of Canada and the international community to bring justice to the victims and hold criminals accountable, Mr. Cotler said.

University of Ottawa professor John Packer, director of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre, said that it is clear that China has been committing genocide based on the Genocide Convention.

According to the convention, an act of genocide is taking place if any of the five conditions are met: killing members of a group; causing “serious bodily harm or mental harm” to member of a group; intentionally “inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”; “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group”; and “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Prof. Packer said it looks “quite clear” that there have been breaches of the convention, adding that “it is very difficult not to draw the negative inference that this is purposeful state policy.”

“That would mean that it is genocide,” he said. “This is not by accident.”

“If China really believes this is all mistaken, they should be entirely open to exposing to international scrutiny what is going on,” he said, adding that if there is a dispute, the convention states it should be referred to the International Court of Justice.

Prof. Packer also noted a party to the Genocide Convention has a duty to prevent acts of genocide.

“If we see something happening and we are silent then there are fundamental issues about how seriously we consider this fundamental norm of international relations,” he said.

“Where such cases [of genocide] are quite clear in terms of international exposure, such as the Rohingya, such as the Uyghurs, it strikes me as extraordinary that we would demure—that we would shuffle our feet and look the other way,” Prof. Packer said.

He added that a motion of Parliament acknowledging a genocide is taking place would set a “very big international symbol.”

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.), his party’s critic of Canada-China relations, said the subcommittee heard “clear-cut” evidence of genocide.

“We should recognize that the Chinese state is guilty of genocide in Xinjiang,” he said, adding that Canada should respond with Magnitsky sanctions and by addressing the possible complicity of investment in Chinese companies that are involved in the oppression in Xinjiang, as well as imported products that are produced through forced labour.

“All of that flows from recognition” that a genocide has taken place, Mr. Genuis said, adding that both the Canadian government and the House of Commons should make that acknowledgement.

Echoing Mr. Cotler, he said there is a need for principled multilateralism of likeminded countries that follow their own obligations in concert with each other.

“What we’ve seen from the government is occasional words but no actions,” Mr. Genuis said. “The government has acknowledged the issue of abuses of human rights involving Uyghurs. They have not used the word ‘genocide,’ they have not used the words ‘crimes against humanity.’ In other words, they haven’t used words that carry international legal significance.”

In a brief to the International Human Rights Subcommittee, Global Affairs noted that Canada is “deeply concerned” about human rights abuses against Uyghurs by Chinese officials.

Canada is urging that Beijing release “Uyghurs and other Muslims who have been detained arbitrarily—based on their ethnicity and religion.”

“Publicly and privately, in multilateral fora as well as in bilateral dialogues, Canada has consistently called the Chinese government to address repression in Xinjiang,” the brief notes.

Mr. Genuis said the government hasn’t addressed the issue in areas that have “legal weight.”

NDP MP Heather McPherson (Edmonton Strathcona, Alta.), her party’s representative on the International Human Rights Subcommittee, said the committee will release a statement on the meetings in early August.

“I think what we pretty universally agreed upon is that there needs to be more done,” she said. “We need to take a stronger stance to ensure that we are protecting human rights around the world. It doesn’t matter where it happens, the rule of law and the protection of human rights is vital.”

Ms. McPherson wouldn’t say whether the subcommittee meetings will lead to a recognition by Parliament that acts of genocide have taken place.

“I will say that the testimony that we heard—the very credible witnesses that we heard from, the survivors that we heard from—there’s pretty strong proof and testimony that there have been acts of genocide perpetrated against the Uyghur people,” she said.

She added that it is vital to figure out a strategy to re-engage on the world stage to jointly address China’s human rights record.

“We’re not ever going to want to do this alone. … We’re never going to want to take giant steps by ourselves. I think we want to work with our multilateral partners and we want to work with our likeminded allies and use those tools at our disposal to put some pressure on China to come back to the side of international law, to come back to the side of protection of human rights.”

Source: Parliament should label Uyghur persecution as genocide to foster global support against China’s human rights abuses, says former Liberal justice minister

Matas and Cotler: Legal steps must be taken against China for initial inaction

In order to safeguard global public health, the world must take action against the Government of China for its role in this global pandemic crisis. The Chinese Communist Party of China (CCP) and the Government of China, which the party directs, bear a large measure of responsibility for the global spread of COVID-19.

In the early days of the pandemic’s spread and during the Lunar New Year travel season, the Chinese government downplayed the severity of the illness and its spread. Human Rights Watch said in January that Chinese authorities had “detained people for ‘rumor-mongering,’ censored online discussions of the epidemic, curbed media reporting, and failed to ensure appropriate access to medical care for those with virus symptoms and others with medical needs.” Amnesty International warned soon after that the withholding of information was putting at risk the medical community’s ability to combat the virus.

There is authoritative and compelling evidence – including a study from the University of Southampton – that if interventions in China had been conducted three weeks earlier, transmission of COVID-19 could have been reduced by 95 per cent.

Meanwhile, an analysis of Chinese censorship around COVID-19, by the Munk School’s Citizen Lab, found that “Censorship of COVID-19 content started at early stages of the outbreak and continued to expand blocking a wide range of speech, from criticism of the government to officially sanctioned facts and information.”

The Chinese government’s wrongdoing and the suffering of its victims within its borders and internationally calls out for justice and accountability. There are clear and compelling legal remedies that should be considered to effectively address and redress this matter.

International

The International Court of Justice through a request for an advisory opinion from the United Nations General Assembly

The United Nations Charter provides that the UN General Assembly may request the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to give an advisory opinion on any legal question. Any UN member state can ask the General Assembly to make such a request to the ICJ, and China would not be able to veto such a resolution. The General Assembly could therefore request that the ICJ determine whether the actions of Xi Xinping’s China regarding coronavirus were in breach of its international legal obligations.

United Nations Human Rights Council

The United Nations Human Rights Council can pass a condemnatory resolution, or even establish a commission of inquiry into China’s actions regarding the coronavirus. If such initiatives are unlikely to muster the necessary majority of votes by member states of the council, independent statements can be made at the council’s regular sessions. Under agenda item 4 — “human rights situations that require the council’s attention” — any country, whether a member of the council or not, can deliver an oral statement. The wrongdoing of the Chinese government in the global spread of the coronavirus should be a matter of continuing concern at future sessions of the Human Rights Council.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, currently Dr. Dainius Puras, can consider individual complaints, issue annual reports and conduct country visits. Accordingly, he should be asked to address China’s culpability in the spread of COVID-19.

There is a sense of urgency to such a prospective path towards accountability, as the current Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health will be replaced at the Council Session taking place between June 15th and July 3rd.

China was appointed in April to the Consultative Group of the Human Rights Council. The group advises the President of the council on the appointment of special rapporteurs and holds final approval over council appointments. It is therefore unlikely that the council, with a member of the Chinese Communist Party as part of its makeup, would appoint to any specialized mechanism a person who may be critical of the government of China.

The World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) was critical in 2003 of the Chinese Communist Party for its secrecy, dishonesty and cover-up concerning the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Guangzhou, Guangdong of 2002. However, the behaviour of the WHO in the current pandemic is disappointing.

One might have hoped that the Chinese government has learned the lessons of its failures from the time of the SARS outbreak. Instead, of China reforming its policies and practices, it is the WHO that has altered its approach, failing to stand up to China.

The WHO has an important ongoing mandate and responsibility for our health and security which becomes particularly urgent in a time of a global pandemic, such as SARS in 2003 and now with COVID-19. Therefore, the WHO must be a particular focus of accountability efforts and encouraged to do the right thing, which is also the smart thing, for global public health and effectively confronting the Coronavirus.

International Health Regulations

The International Health Regulations were adopted in 2005 by the World Health Assembly of the WHO, to protect humanity from the international spread of disease. The unprecedented global impact of COVID-19 has demonstrated the ineffectiveness of these regulations.

In particular, there are no effective mechanisms when a state party violates regulations. All measures are subject to the approval of the violating state party, an unrealistic expectation when it comes to Xi Jinping’s China.

Yet, these regulations should not be rendered inoperative merely because of the necessity of agreement from Xi Xinping’s China to make them effective. An effort should be undertaken to render these regulations operable, and the very pursuit of this objective will underpin accountability efforts, promote a truthful narrative and mitigate Chinese propaganda.

International Court of Justice through the World Health Organization

The Constitution of the WHO provides that any dispute concerning the application of the constitution not settled by negotiation or by the World Health Assembly shall be referred to the International Court of Justice. A dispute regarding whether Xi Xinping’s China violated the International Health Regulations would likely constitute a dispute that could be referred by any WHO member state to the International Court of Justice.

The World Health Assembly

More broadly, the systemic challenges of the WHO must be addressed, and its next gathering from May 17 to 21 in Geneva presents such an opportunity. Ironically, the assembly may be unable to meet due to the failings of the WHO and the International Health Regulations in combatting the spread of COVID19.

In the World Health Assembly, as in the United Nations General Assembly, Xi Xinping’s China does not have a veto. This an opportunity for the international community to prioritize public health and pursue justice regarding the pandemic.

The Biological Weapons Convention

The Biological Weapons Convention obligates state parties, of which China is one, not to retain biological agents other than for peaceful purposes. A biological agent has been defined under the Convention to mean any organism which can cause death, disease or incapacity. 

Repressing or misrepresenting information about the virus, detaining health practitioners who seek to sound the alarm, and arguing publicly against global travel restrictions, are forms of retention of the virus that have harmed global peace and security.

Any state party to the convention could therefore make a complaint to the U.N. Security Council. Given that the convention has 183 state parties, that includes nearly every country in the world. The UN Security Council, on receipt of a complaint of violation, must investigate the matter and produce a report.

National

Magnitsky laws

Magnitsky laws for global justice and accountability, named for murdered Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, allows for the public listing of serious human rights violators – naming and shaming them – and subjecting them to visa bans and asset seizures, thus challenging the cultures of corruption and criminality, and the impunity that underpins them.

There are six countries with this law. None of them have targeted any rights violators in Xi Xinping’s China. More countries should enact such laws, and all those with Magnitsky legislation should consider implementing them to pursue justice and accountability for those responsible for perpetrating and perpetuating COVID-19.

Universal jurisdiction laws on crimes against humanity through prosecution 

Many countries have laws which allow for the domestic prosecution of those who have committed crimes against humanity abroad. While these laws typically apply to permanent residents and citizens, some may also apply to visitors.

The accused would have to be found in the territory of the country in order for the local courts to have jurisdiction. While it varies by country – with some allowing for the private initiation of prosecutions – it is most often the exclusive decision of public prosecutors. Prosecutors are, however, usually reluctant to engage in such prosecutions, due to the prohibitive costs and evidentiary obstacles inherent in a case where the criminality and material evidence is abroad. Where private prosecutions are possible, they should be vigorously pursued.

There are other states, beyond China, that have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 through bad public policy and poor governance. Any liability response should be compelling and comprehensive, holding all wrongdoers to account. Yet, in doing so, the intentional and particularly intensive wrongdoing of China should be duly considered.

The denial, coverup and counter-factual narrative surrounding COVID-19 – underpinned by the use of global political pressure abroad and the repression of whistleblowers and medical heroes at home – has become standard operating procedure for the Communist Party of China. Immunity and impunity invite repetition.

In order to safeguard global public health, the world must act. Short-term political or economic considerations encouraging the indulgence of wrongdoing in Xi Jinping’s  China come with a long-term cost. Preventing another pandemic and protecting humanity necessitates pursuing justice and accountability for the Communist Party’s actions.

Source: Legal steps must be taken against China for initial inaction

Cotler: The Chinese Communist Party’s culture of corruption and repression has cost lives around the world

Former Justice minister Irwin Cotler  and Judith Abitan on the Chinese government’s responsibility for the spread of COVID-19 and associated repression:

There is authoritative and compelling evidence that if President Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had intervened and reported on its coronavirus outbreak three weeks earlier, transmission of COVID-19 could have been reduced significantly around the world. One study, from the University of Southampton, even suggested transmission could have been reduced by 95 per cent.

For 40 days, Mr. Xi’s CCP concealed, destroyed, falsified and fabricated information about the rampant spread of COVID-19 through its massive state-sanctioned surveillance and suppression of data; misrepresentation of information; silencing and criminalizing of dissent; and the disappearance of whistleblowers – all of which reflect the breadth of criminality and corruption in the party.

In late December 2019, Dr. Ai Fen, director of the emergency department at the Central Hospital of Wuhan, shared the lab results of a patient suffering from “SARS coronavirus” with relevant departments in her hospital and with a former medical school classmate; her information was then disseminated in medical circles. For this, she suffered an “unprecedented and severe rebuke” two days later.

Dr. Ai also detailed efforts to silence her in a story titled, “The one who supplied the whistle,” published in China’s People (Renwu) magazine in March. The article has since been removed – and Dr. Ai has herself recently disappeared.

After Dr. Ai initially shared the information, eight doctors were arrested, including Dr. Li Wenliang, now regarded by many in China as a “hero” and “the awakener.” They were reprimanded for spreading rumours and summoned to sign statements admitting to making false statements that disturbed the public order. Dr. Li died of COVID-19 on Feb. 7, prompting national outrage. The fate of the other seven people remains unknown.

On Jan. 4, Dr. Ho Pak Leung, the president of the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Infection, indicated that it was highly probable that COVID-19 spread from human to human and urged the implementation of a strict monitoring system. But for weeks, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission continued to declare that preliminary investigations did not show any clear evidence of human-to-human transmission. On Jan. 14, the WHO reaffirmed China’s statement.

On Jan. 22, the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, even praised the CCP’s handling of the outbreak, commending Mr. Xi and Premier Li Keqiang for their “invaluable” leadership.

On Jan. 23, Chinese authorities announced their first steps to quarantine Wuhan, but by then it was too late. Millions of people had already visited Wuhan and left during the Chinese New Year, and a significant number of Chinese citizens had traveled overseas as asymptomatic carriers.

Yet the CCP continued its crackdown on dissent. On Feb. 23, Ren Zhiqiang, a real-estate tycoon and long-time critic of the CCP, wrote in an essay that he “saw not an emperor standing there exhibiting his ‘new clothes,’ but a clown stripped naked who insisted he continue being emperor.” He spoke of a “crisis of governance” and criticized the strict limits on free speech, which he felt had magnified the COVID-19 epidemic. Mr. Ren has also gone missing, and it was reported only recently that the CCP has opened an investigation against him.

The world would have been more prepared and able to combat COVID-19 were it not for Mr. Xi’s authoritarian regime’s widespread and systematic pattern of sanitizing the massive domestic repression of its people.

The CCP’s 40 days of silence and suppression resulted in Italy – the epicentre of Europe’s COVID-19 pandemic – having a death toll of 12 per cent, more than double that of China’s, followed by Spain with a mortality rate of 10 per cent. At time of writing, the United States – where presidential leadership has been wanting – has become the pandemic’s new epicentre, and there is heightened concern about what could become of dense, developing countries such as India, and countries with large immunosuppressed populations, such as South Africa.

Indeed, as a New York Times editorial reported yesterday, “the global coronavirus crisis is poised to get much much worse… (spreading) through countries ravaged by conflict, through packed refugee camps and detention centers in places like Syria or Bangladesh…,” or deeply packed urban centers in fragile states without health systems.

In South Korea, health workers pioneered using COVID-19 testing centres to collect swabs from more than 15,000 people a day before quarantining the infected immediately thereafter – one of the only precedents and case studies to date for a situation in which the number of infections and deaths have significantly fallen. That had also seemed to be occurring in China in recent weeks, but various intelligence agencies and reports have suggested that Beijing failed to accurately report its data. There have now been reports of a second wave, but also reports of the CCP censoring scientific findings and related publications.

Attention should also be drawn to the CCP’s massive surveillance and suppression of data juxtaposed with its misrepresentation of information. China’s enormous data-collection efforts, through approximately 200 million CCTV cameras, not only precipitated the highest-tech epidemic control ever attempted by the CCP, but also underpinned the seriousness of its repression.

The CCP’s infodemic – in addition to its intense spinning of solidarity on social media and its framing of a “people’s war against the virus” – gave the farcical illusion of a coming-together in China. The extent of the CCP’s self-promotion and its portrayal of Mr. Xi as a hero ready to save the world, all while making Western democracies look grossly incompetent if not responsible for the virus, is as shameful as it is duplicitous.

Simply put, Mr. Xi’s government exacerbated the world’s COVID-19 health and systemic crises, which has paved the way for one of the greatest humanitarian crises in history.

The world is now watching. People in China no longer stand alone. Many are no longer fearful. They have already started publishing first-hand accounts of the CCP’s orchestrated cover-ups and monumental failures, revealing its rotten core.

In defending the struggle for democracy and human rights in China, the international community must stand in solidarity with the people of China in seeking to unmask the CCP’s criminality, corruption and impunity.

The Community of Democracies must undertake the necessary legal initiatives – be it through international tort actions as authorized by Treaty Law, or the utilization of international bodies such as the International Court of Justice – to underpin the courage and commitment of China’s human-rights defenders. This is what justice and accountability is all about.

Source: The Chinese Communist Party’s culture of corruption and repression has cost lives around the world: Irwin Cotler and Judith Abitan

Canadian-led movement aims to seize assets from dictators to remedy refugee crisis

The proposal will be one of the main recommendations of the World Refugee Council, a self-appointed body of two dozen global political figures, academics and civil-society representatives led by former Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy.

“We’ve put forward a proposition that where there are frozen assets they should be unfrozen through a proper legal process and reallocated to help the victims of the crime and corruption and instability that the bad guys create,” said Axworthy. “It’s a morality play. The bad guys have to pay to help their victims.”

The World Bank estimates the pool of cash to be worth $10 billion to $20 billion per year, Axworthy said in an interview.

The council was established last year by a Canadian think-tank, the Centre for International Governance Innovation, to find new ways to deal with the 21st century’s record-setting migration crisis — the 68.5 million displaced people driven from their homes by war, famine and disaster.

The United Nations will turn its attention to solving the problem at a special session later this fall, and the council plans to offer its input, using the weight of the last Canadian foreign minister to chair a Security Council meeting.

The UN has acknowledged in stark terms that as the number of homeless and stateless people continues to grow around the globe, their suffering is increased by the shrinking pool of money available to help them.

‘Proceeds put for the public good’

Axworthy says there are fundamental structural flaws in how the world’s institutions are set up to cope with the unprecedented forced migration of people, and a big one is how the bills are paid. The system is based on charity — the benevolent donations of people, countries and businesses — and is not sustainable, Axworthy said.

An October report by the United Nations refugee agency said it expected to raise 55 per cent of the $8 billion it needs to support refugees and internally displaced people this year.

Axworthy said the courts in several countries can be used to seize funds that have been frozen there. Canada, the United States and Britain have all passed legislation allowing them to impose sanctions on individual human-rights abusers. These “Magnitsky laws” are named after a Russian tax accountant who died in prison after exposing a massive fraud by state officials there.

The world could start spending the “tens of billions of dollars moulding away in a variety of banks and other places, purloined money from the warlords, from the bad guys, the dictators, the authoritarians,” Axworthy said.

Irwin Cotler, a former Liberal justice minister and human-rights lawyer who has championed Magnitsky-style legislation, said in a separate interview that these laws can allow to go beyond freezing funds, because once the assets are seized, there’s no point to returning them to their corrupt owners.

“What you want to do is have the proceeds put for the public good,” said Cotler, the founder of the Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.

Legal precedent

Canada’s first round of sanctions under its Magnitsky Act targeted people in Russia, South Sudan and Venezuela, including Nicolas Maduro, the South American country’s president.

The refugee council’s most recent report, released last month, focused on the displacement of millions of people from Venezuela. That report urged the United States to take a leading role in seizing billions of “ill-gotten” assets in the country, including the $2 billion that the U.S. Treasury Department estimates has been stolen from Venezuela’s state-owned oil company.

Fen Hampson, who co-wrote the report and is head of the global security program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, suggested governments need to go beyond their various Magnitsky laws to repurpose the seized assets of “Maduro and some of his henchmen … to help victims and the host countries that are reeling under this growing refugee and migration crisis.”

The Magnitsky Act, named after a Russian lawyer and auditor who was arrested on trumped-up charges and died in prison, has Russia threatening retaliation against Canada. The proposed law targets those responsible for human rights abuses and corruption. 2:15

The report said there is legal precedent to do this: a civil case against the son of the dictatorial leader of Equatorial Guinea resulted in a $30-million judgement, $20 million of which was later used by a charity to help the country’s people.

In Yemen, where most of the inhabitants of the port city of Hodeida were forced to flee Friday as Saudi Arabia’s three-year war on Shiite rebels continued, the UN World Food Program’s country director said a massive cash influx is needed to repair the battered economy and feed a population on the verge of starvation.

Stephen Anderson said it’s up to others, higher up in the UN, to decide whether that money should be siphoned from a warlord’s frozen bank account.

“We’re 100-per-cent voluntary funded,” Anderson said. “The economic issues need to be addressed urgently because that’s affecting the entire population of Yemen. They were the poorest in the Middle East before the conflict so there’s no safety net.”

Source: Canadian-led movement aims to seize assets from dictators to remedy refugee crisis

Why don’t we have more female judges? – Macleans.ca

Irwin Cotler’s efforts to get more information on judicial appointments (see earlier Tories chastised for lack of racial diversity in judicial appointmentsRacial Diversity Gap in the CourtroomForget MacKay, a woman’s place is on the bench):

The justice minister’s office explains that in the case of Cotler’s most recent question, there simply wasn’t enough time to do what would have had to have been done to answer Cotler’s questions.

In the order-paper question that Mr. Cotler tabled last December, Q-836, he was asking the department to go back through 21 years of information, a great deal of which would require a manual search of the paper records. The department only has 45 days to answer order-paper questions and there was just not enough time.

It does seem like a rather large project.

Cotler and Liberal MP Sean Casey today released a statement calling for greater diversity on the bench and the questions raised by last year’s controversy—whatever Peter MacKay said or didn’t say—still seem worthwhile. While Ontario publishes information on applicants for judicial publications, we have no such data for federal appointments. At what rate are women applying to be federal judges? How has that rate changed over time? And how has the rate of appointment of women changed over time? Those don’t seem like questions for which it would be unreasonable to expect answers to be somehow procured.

I don’t think this is true.

When I compiled a list of women and visible minorities in provincial legislatures, it only took me a week or so to go through names and photos of provincial legislature members. Going through judicial appointments should not be that time consuming (only an average 69 per year between 2006-12).

Why don’t we have more female judges? – Macleans.ca.

Direct link to the table for 2006-12 appointments:

breakdown (pdf)

Irwin Cotler’s principled abstention on Iraq

Thoughtful rationale:

“I have written ad nauseam almost on the responsibility to protect in general and in particular with regards to Syria … I was on record as, not only Canada joining an international coalition, but asking Canada to lead that coalition, to convene a UN security council urgent meeting, et cetera, et cetera.

Therefore, I would have generally supported a resolution of that kind,” Cotler told me this afternoon. “So why wouldn’t I support something that supports my position? Well the answer is because this does not support it, but turns R2P on its head. Harper took the astonishing position to say that … with regards to Syria, if we’re going to go into Syria then it’ll be contingent on Assad’s agreement.

As I said, this not only turns R2P on its head, it’s asking the criminal who should be in the docket or the accused for permission for us to engage in the very international military operation that he’s asking us to support.

To me that not only was the theatre of the absurd on Harper’s part, but in fact it evinced a lack of understanding of the whole initiative that he was speaking about. And then to invoke the UN security council resolution … when in fact there was no UN security council resolution showed, again, a lack of understanding.”

Irwin Cotler’s principled abstention on Iraq – Macleans.ca.

UNESCO Exhibition on Jewish History in Middle East

In addition to the meeting with Hollande, the UNESCO exhibit on Jewish history and presence in the Holy Land finally sees the light of day (Canada led campaign to save exhibition on Jewish history in Middle East after Arab coalition quashed it):

Meanwhile, Cotler was effusive in his description of the Wistrich exhibit, which he called “historic.”

“It is a remarkable dramatization of history and heritage, of people, book, land, memory and state,” he said.

In 24 panels, it traces Jewish history back to the patriarch Abraham, through Moses, King David and all the way through to the struggle for Soviet Jewry, the birth of Zionism and the reconstitution of the State of Israel.

The exhibit, which will run for nine days, had been scheduled to open last January. Pressure from 22 Arab countries, who argued it would prejudice the peace process, prompted UNESCO to cancel it.

Responding to that decision Rabbi Hier stated, “It is ironic, that while the Arab League was trying to kill this exhibition and all the attention was focused on Paris, the UN headquarters in New York is hosting an exhibit entitled, Palestine, based entirely on the Arab narrative, which was not criticized as an interference with Secretary [John] Kerry’s mission.”

Following public criticism from Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and U.S envoy Samantha Power, the exhibit was rescheduled to open last week, but with the name “Israel” removed from the title and replaced with “Holy Land.” UNESCO also required the removal of an image of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which had been part of the initial exhibit prepared by Wistrich, a professor of European and Jewish history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Hollande’s stand on anti-Semitism impresses delegation | The Canadian Jewish News.