Category Archives: human rights

How ignoring human rights has moulded today’s world crises

There are times when I box "human rights" into a little, separate compartment of my overall fascination with global politics, seeing it as the well-meaning pursuit of a handful of liberals who are banging their noble heads against the brick wall of political realism.  Yes, it would be nice if everyone's rights were respected, but no they can hardly be expected to get in the way of the often unpleasant and dirty business of keeping afloat in the mucky world of international relations.  If I keep failing to make the link between an increasingly volatile, war-strewn world and a general western disinterest in human rights, then yes, go ahead and condemn my superficiality and short-sightedness.  But then reflect on the unhappy fact that it is shared - sometimes cynically so - by most of the western public and its duly elected leaders.

This keynote post by Human Rights Watch director Ken Roth on their World Report 2015 has been a real wake-up call, not least because he has so persuasively rooted the continuing abuse of human rights in the unfolding political tragedies around the world.  And its persuasive because, really, we know that the tragic equation he is articulating is right.  It isn't just blind fundamentalism which is driving ISIS's many followers - look at the world they are escaping from and fighting against.  People do usually act from rational motives, and what can be more rational than the desire to fight for your rights and your well-being against oppressive, murderous states.  Does it really surprise us that ISIS's principal theatre of operations, and success, is in two countries whose regimes have relentlessly and brutally suppressed the rights of their minorities?  That Boko Haram might just be a response to the corruption and abuses of the Nigerian government?  That maybe the pro-Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine have legitimate grievances against abuses from the pro-western militias? 

Roth's article is a must-read for a better, more nuanced, and morally based understanding of world affairs.  And then, when you've done with that - and it's a long, wide-ranging read - have a look at another piece by an HRW operator, this time on the forgotten war that Russia is waging in Dagestan. 

Human rights becomes more than a decent liberal pursuit; it becomes a crucial prism through which to understand the turbulent 21st century world. 

Givi and the Geneva Conventions

There has been a lot of criticisms of the battalion "Somali" and Givi for the way they treated the junta's prisoners, including the Colonel who, apparently, was the commander of the junta's 93rd Brigade.  Let me begin by agreeing with those who say that the treatment of these prisoners did violate the Geneva conventions, no doubt about it in my mind.

The law (or how it maybe would be in a perfect world)

The first thing to notice here is that the Geneva Conventions (GC) apply primarily to international conflicts, not to civil wars. They do however have a Common Article 3 which is specifically tailored to "non-international conflicts". Common article 3 has a section c which prohibit: "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment".  Since Givi's purpose was precisely to humiliate his prisoners, you can say that his actions were in violations of the GC.


For one thing, neither Novorussia nor the Donetsk People's Republic have signed these conventions.  But that is not that good an argument, because you can also refer to customary human rights instruments (the various conventions, treaties and agreements on human rights) which are always applicable anyway.  More relevantly is the fact that the junta's forces have committed massive and systematic violations of human rights and the laws of war and that they are all at the very least to be considered as war criminals.  Furthermore, unless they were wearing Ukrainian uniforms, they could also be considered as spies or mercenaries who do not benefit from the GC (but still are still protected under human rights instruments).

Finally, all of the above assumes that these forces are acting under the orders of a legal and legitimate government, not an illegal junta which came to power by a coup and then attempted to legitimize that coup in totally sub-farcical elections.

So while at face value Givi does violate the GC, I don't think any of those accusations would withstand a legal challenge in front of a court. And if they did, it would be for a very minor violation anyway.

The real world (this is Russia!)

Okay, not let's get real.  This is not Geneva.  This is Donetsk.  I don't think that anybody will argue that these prisoners had it coming.  Most of them had to chew on their beloved Ukie flag, and the Brigade commander got slapped (hard) by Givi.  Frankly, we have to be honest here, ok?

When the Novorussians were treating junta prisoners with kindness, treating their wounds, feeding them, clothing them, offering them all sort of hospitality, I had a deluge of comments about "how stupid it is to be kind to Nazis" .  And now that a bone fide junta death-squad leader and total SOB get's slapped, there is another deluge of comments about "Givi violating the GC".  Come on!

I have always said that junta death squad members did not get the kind of hospitality which the Novorussians extended to conscripts form the regular armed forces.  Let me repeat here: they get summarily executed, many of them after short but very painful interrogations.  This is what happened to the Wahabis in Chechnia, and this is what happens to Nazis in the Ukraine.  Are these actions in violation of human rights conventions?  Yes, totally.  Does it break my heart?  Not it all.  This is war.  Worse, this is a civil war.  And this war was started by the junta, not the Novorussians.  I remind you that according to the Nuremberg Trial, the ultimate crime is "aggression" because it "contains" all the other.  In other words, the party who starts the war (civil or not) is the prime culprit for all the horrors which are triggered in the course of this war.

I also remind that you that this junta Brigade Commander happened to be #3 in a Right Sector electoral list.  So he is the "real thing" - a real Ukrainian Nazi willing to murder, kill, torture anybody, especially the "bugs" and "subhumans" of the Donbass.

I think that Givi had the right to shoot him right there, on the spot.

All he got, is a good slap on his ape-like skull.  Oh, and that happened on camera.  I say - good thing that Givi did that on camera for the whole world to see.  This is how a real officer should treat a death-squad gang leader.

I also hope that the Novorussians will put that sorry Nazi scumbag on trial, that the trial will be public, and that he will get 30 years in jail (I oppose the death penalty and sentences over 30 years on principle).  And I don't think that the ICRC or anybody else should be granted access to this war criminal (except psychiatrists and those researching psychopaths/sociopaths).  As for the rest of them, I would send them home - at least they were minor riffraff not worth spending much time on.

I generally and sincerely feel sorry for the poor Ukrainian kids drafted to become cannon fodder for the junta and who get slaughtered by the Novorussian forces.  I really do.  But in this case, I simply am unable to muster any kind of pity for that evil piece of shit.  Sorry.  I call it as I see it.  And if somebody tells me that my feelings are crude and non-Christian I will fully agree.  I wish I could feel any Christian compassion for that guy, I can't.  And I won't pretend.

The Saker