Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Church representative attends unique human rights hearing.

The Church of the Brethren’s representative to the United Nations, Doris Abdullah, was among those attending a first-ever hearing on human rights treaties implementation held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law. The hearing took place in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 16.

Abdullah represents the church at the UN, serves on the Sub-Committee for the Elimination of Racism of the UN’s NGO Committee on Human Rights, and is a board member for On Earth Peace.

Testimony at the hearing was given by Thomas E. Perez, Justice Department Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights; Michael H. Posner, State Department Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Wade Henderson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; and Elisa Massimino, President and Chief Executive Officer of Human Rights First.

In her written report from the hearing, Abdullah noted, "The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights treaties have been signed and ratified by the Congress. Having been ratified, these three international treaties are part of US Law.

"Although the US has signed, Congress has yet to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women," she added.

Her report on the event referenced Jesus’ commandment to love with "heart...soul...strength...and mind" in Luke 10:27, and expressed concern for the lack of human rights protections for women and children in the United States. "I dare to believe that most Americans would be outraged to know that the US stands alone with Somalia, a country without a government, in not having ratified the treaty to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.... Do the people know that the US and a handful of other countries have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child thereby causing misery and death to children in our land?" Abdullah asked.

"Our laws on children vary by state and lack uniformity and in some case common decency," she reported. "Sexual abuse in the home, child prostitution, sale of children, child pornography, and even child sex tourism (are issues) which lack government attention.... The need to protect children cries out to the religious community."

Abdullah also called attention to lack of rights afforded to prisoners, and the fact that "the US also has the largest number of juveniles held in prison than any other country and the US is the only country on the planet that has sentenced children under 18 (some as young as 13) to life in prison without parole for crimes that did not result in the death of the victim."

She added an additional concern about the use of torture by US government agencies, although she stated that "credit must be given to the Bush Administration for complying with treaty obligations to bring the United States up to date with the various treaty data."

"‘One small step’ is what some called yesterday’s hearing," Abdullah’s report concluded. "While Mr. Perez at the department of Justice and Mr. Posner at the department of State as well as the administration can want to do the right thing, I believe that we the people have the obligation to make our government live up to what we as a nation want to do.

"If we want to do justice and live out the moral commandment giving to us by our Lord to love our neighbor with all our heart, strength, soul, and mind, it is up to us to get out the ‘good news.’ The United Nations has declared 2010, the year of ‘Human Rights Learning,’ let us get started anew."

Source: 12/30/2009 Newsline

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