Τρίτη, 24 Φεβρουαρίου 2015

Freedom of Speech and Torture: The Badawi Case

Raef Badawi: Sentenced to Flogging for Insulting Islam
By Laurence Cromp-Lapierre *
In 2014, thirty-one-year-old Raef Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison, a fine of one million royals (230.000 euros), and a thousand lashes spread over a twenty week period for insulting Islam. This sentence has created controversy all around the world, as it appears incomprehensible that, nowadays, such a harsh, cruel and inhumane punishment can still be imposed. In the wake of the Paris Charlie Hebdo’s killings, Badawi received the first 50 lashes on January 9, 2015 before a large crowd gathered in front of a Jeddah mosque. Further lashings were postponed because of a medical exemption due to Badawi’s poor health.
Badawi, a Saudi Arabian writer and activist, created the secularist Free Saudi Liberals website. Through this public forum of discussion he promoted secularism, derided the absurdities of the Saudi religious authorities and called for open debate regarding the interpretation of Islam. In 2012, he was arrested for having insulted Islam through electronic channels and having showed disobedience. He was officially charged with "setting up a website that undermines general security," "ridiculing Islamic religious figures," and "going beyond the realm of obedience". He was also brought to court for apostasy, which carried an automatic death penalty, but this charge was fortunately thrown out after Badawi guaranteed that he was of the Muslim faith.
The flogging generated a scale of international protests. Indeed, the international community was outraged by the barbarity of the trial, the sentence and the punishment itself. Amnesty International, which has launched an online petition calling for Badawi’s release, characterized him as a prisoner of conscience, "detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression." Moreover, Human Rights Watch, a non-governmental organization, declared that "the charges against him, based solely to Badawi's involvement in setting up a website for peaceful discussion about religion and religious figures, violate his right to freedom of expression." Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Said Boumedouha also stressed that "The flogging of Raif Badawi is a vicious act of cruelty which is prohibited under international law. By ignoring international calls to cancel the flogging, Saudi Arabia’s authorities have demonstrated an abhorrent disregard for the most basic human rights principles."
a)      Freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right
The right to freedom of expression is a fundamental right protected by several legal provisions both on national and international levels. For instance, section 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: [e]veryone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an international treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, provides clarifications on what the right of freedom encompasses: “this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.   
flogging, Saudi Arabia’s authorities have demonstrated an abhorrent disregard for the most basic human rights principles."
b) Right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Furthermore, under both national and international laws, one should not be subject to torture. Numerous countries have adopted legal provisions to forbid the use of cruel, inhumane, or degrading punishment in any circumstances. Torture is also prohibited under international law. For instance, article 5 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment is also codified in major international and regional human rights treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the European Convention on Human Rights (1950), the American Convention on Human Rights (1978), and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (1981). Moreover, in 1984, the United Nations adopted the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. As Philip Luther of Amnesty International has noted, "Flogging Raif Badawi was an unspeakably cruel and shocking act by the Saudi Arabian authorities. The practice violates the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment under international law and should not be carried out under any circumstances; to do so repeatedly is likely to heighten the torment and suffering, both mental and physical, caused to the victim."
As long as the court verdict and sentence remain in force, Badawi remains at risk of receiving the rest of his 950 lashings. Badawi’s condemnation depicts the worldwide struggle for free speech and demonstrates the lack of enforcement of the international prohibition against torture. One can only hope that the international protests and widespread criticism will force the Saudi Arabian authorities to halt this barbaric punishment and release Badawi. 
Laurence Cromp-Lapierre was born in Montreal in 1990. She is currently a LL.M Candidate at Berkeley and holds a LL.B from the University of Montréal, a J.D from Queens’ University as well as a Certificate in French and European Law from the University of Paris II. She also passed the Quebec bar exams.



Πέμπτη, 19 Φεβρουαρίου 2015

'Grexit' Must Die, Now and Forever!

'Grexit' Must Die, Now and Forever!
Justine Frangouli-Argyris

It is in Brussels where the final act of the latest Greek drama will be played out. If, that is, Greece manages to secure a continuation of its loan memorandum that it hopes will contain certain added conditions in order for its electorate, who voted overwhelmingly for its termination, to save face.

What the Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, along with his Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, must make clear to the Greek people is, that, with a few pluses and minuses, Greece is obliged to ask for this extension, in order for the country to have access to funding for its banks beyond February 28 when the current agreement is set to expire.

It should be understood that the government does have the option to make fiscal adjustments to the present memorandum and to introduce measures that are different from those agreed to by the previous Samaras-Venizelos coalition. In the meantime, however, it must mobilize the State's mechanisms in order to collect taxes owing and fill a new funding gap that has emerged as many citizens have withheld payment, expecting the new administration to carry out its pledges to scrap various levies such as the property tax known as "ENFIA". The administration must also act to return overdue value added taxes that it owes many individuals and corporations and must look to cut the wages and privileges of the 300 members of the Greek Parliament and their numerous clerks, a step that the previous administration, sadly, failed to take.

Also, Greece should aggressively proceed with the privatizations that have been launched and not muse about arbitrarily suspending them as it must show a desire to welcome private initiatives. The governing Syriza, a pro-European but radically leftist party, will have to prove to the international environment of investors that the country is friendly to private investment and that it intends to embrace all initiatives by avoiding the imposition of new taxes that may chase them away.

Today, the administration appears set to request a 4-to-6 month extension of its aforementioned loan agreement as it must secure a source of funding for the countries banks beyond the end of the month. A potential new arrangement that Syriza seeks, and has promised to deliver, will require much study as well as its ratification by all the other 18 Parliaments of the Eurogroup, a laborious and time-consuming process.

Once an extension has been agreed upon, both the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister will need their staffs to immediately get to work on the new proposals that must be submitted to their lenders. The aim of any new contract they submit should be to focus on unlocking the current gridlock and giving impetus to growth in the battered country.
Greece should forget about playing hardball with their European partners and the IMF, wasting precious time and jeopardizing its standing with the financial markets. It should, rather, look to quickly close the "Grexit" window by showing a sincere willingness to co-operate with its allies.
Any new plan must allow Greece to lower its primary surplus, enabling it to implement the funds where they are sorely needed, and must include a fair and stable tax system that will offer justice, not vengeful punishment, and that will enable the private sector to operate under clearly defined parameters in order to promote job creation.

Also, any new agreement should provide for debt relief, either by means of a "haircut" or through a restructuring of the terms of repayment. The country's debt has reached 175 percent of its GDP and is blatantly unsustainable. It has become a clear obstacle to Greece's development and its lenders must show leniency in this respect. As such, the government will have something to offer its people who have suffered through five long years of inhumane austerity measures whose sole aim was fiscal consolidation.

Syriza must request a concrete plan to move the case of Greece beyond mere budgetary stability but one that will include a developmental phase that will promote job creation and give its devastated citizens hope for tomorrow.

The new era of Greece in the European Union will have to bring equality, stability and fairness in its relationship with its partners. The country has spent far too much capital to remain inside the Eurozone and owes it to itself, and its citizens, to conclude a program that will provide an appropriate balance of budgetary stability and development.

It is the duty of Greece and Europe to be in close co-operation during this process and to put a stop to continued mumblings about Greece's future within the Union that are negatively impacting the fragile Greek economy and the Western economy as a whole. It is imperative to put an end to the fear of "Grexit", now and forever!