Friday, March 31, 2006

El Tribunal Constitucional Espanol decide hoy sobre la anulación de las listas de Aukera Guztiak en Euskadi Herria (Pais Vasco)

El Tribunal Constitucional se pronunciará hoy sobre el recurso que presentó la plataforma Aukera Guztiak (Todas las Opciones, en castellano) contra la sentencia del Supremo que anuló su candidatura a las elecciones vascas. Está previsto que el tribunal tome una decisión antes de medianoche, cuando comience la campaña de las autonómicas vascas.

La voluntad de los magistrados que integran la Sala Segunda es la de resolver la cuestión antes del comienzo, a las doce de esta noche, de la campaña electoral. Pues tenemos solomente que esperar para su decision.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Rise and Fall of International Law in Africa – March 2006

It has never been possible to conduct in international community any policy on the basis of Kant's categorical imperative: act as if your every action shall become a universal moral law, but at least one of the latest developments on the African continent suggests given the circumstances at hand.

Several interesting developments took place recently on the African continent regarding compliance with international (human rights) obligations. I endeavor to look more in detail in two of them. Firstly in the complex situation concerning request for extradition of former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, and secondly the first arrest ever by the International Criminal Court in Democratic Republic of Congo.


On Friday 16 March 2005, the Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was inaugurated on Jan. 16, 2006, as the country's new president (and Africa's first female president after she beat former European footballer of the year George Weah) formally requested Nigeria to extradite Taylor so that he can stand trial for war crimes. At a cost of a quarter of a million lives, the war eventually spilled over into the neighboring states of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Ivory Coast, thereby threatening regional stability. Charles Taylor is accused of creating and backing the Revolutionary United Front rebels in Sierra Leone, who are accused of a range of atrocities, from the use of child soldiers to chopping off the lips, ears, and limbs of their civilian victims. Taylor himself is also accused of several other atrocities in Liberia and the region, including trading diamonds for weapons and spreading conflict and instability..

On March 17 President Sirleaf made the following statement before the U.N. Security Council:"It is time to bring the Taylor issue to closure," adding that she wants collective action on the issue. She added that the collective decision of the African leaders should be one "that would allow Mr. Taylor to have his day in court. The Liberian people feel that justice would be done when attention moves from Mr. Taylor to support for their development."

The question remained whether the "Big Men" of Africa, whose culture of mutual protection is largely responsible for the culture of impunity and corruption that is eroding the continent, will rise to the occasion. However, the Nigerian government stated on 25 March 2005 stated that Liberia was free to collect Taylor so that he may face war crimes charges in Liberian courts.

But not suprisingly another statement was released by Nigeria's government, saying that
Charles Taylor disappeared from the seaside villa where he had been living in exile. This was three days after the Nigerian government said it would end his asylum and allow him to face an indictment by an international court in Sierra Leone. Liberia has called on "all countries in the region not to give refuge to Mr. Taylor, but to execute the warrant for his arrest." When will African leaders rise to fulfill their international human rights obligations and face charges for most henious human rights violations?

Another part of this contribution focuses on the the situtation in Democratic Republic of Congo, where incumbent government two years ago reffered the situtation for investigation to the International Criminal Court in the Hague. On 17 March 2006, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a Congolese national and alleged founder and leader of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) was arrested and transferred to the International Criminal Court. Thomas Lubanga is alleged to have committed war crimes as set out in article 8 of the Statute, committed in the region of Ituri in the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo since July 2002. Ituri is reported to be Ituri is one of the areas worst affected by Congo’s devastating war, which is still underway. A local conflict between Hema and Lendu ethnic groups that began in 1999 was exacerbated by Ugandan armed forces and aggravated by a broader international armed conflict in the DRC. As the conflict spiraled and armed groups multiplied, more than 60,000 civilians were slaughtered in Ituri, according to the United Nations. He is among other charged with recruiting children in his rebel group by force and training as soldiers.


It is submitted that Thomas Lubanga’s arrest offers victims of the horrific crimes in Ituri some hope of seeing justice done at last. However, for justice to be fully achieved, the victims must be offered just compensation and post conflict counselling.

Lubanga’s arrest warrant may be reached at: http://www.icc-cpi.int/library/cases/ICC-01-04-01-06-37_English.pdf


Addendum: Charles Taylor was caught today on the border between Nigeria and Cameroon and he is already on the plane towards Freetown.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Sleeping With the Enemy or the Unbearable Comfortableness of Slovene Radicals

Faculty of Social Sciences (FDV) of University of Ljubljana organized a symposium last weekend, titled "Democracy of multitude in-outside-beyond Europe". Star of the evening was Antonio Negri, Italian political philosopher who on this occasion presented Slovene translation of his recent books "Multitudes" and "The Return".

Negri, who served his entire prison sentence of 17 years for "crimes of association and insurrection against the state", was during criminal proceedings cleared of rest of the charges that linked him to the terrorist Red Brigades. Today Negri seems to be “last best hope,” to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln in somewhat perverse manner, of Anti-Globalization movement, theoretically based in a sort of dialectic materialism adapted for 21st century.

Although Negri's somewhat dubious fame could be simply explained by mere European inclination towards "radical glamour," phenomenon so typical for various continental anti-globalization movements, it must be said that Negri’s previous work "Empire" was cited among the seven 'next big ideas' by Time. Perhaps this appraisal tells more about Time than about Negri. Finally, Slavoj Žižek himself hailed "Empire" as “a communistic manifesto of our time, that convincingly shows how global capitalism generates contradictions, which will make it explode eventually”.

As expected, the press covering the symposium and Negri's visit, presented both his revolutionary branch of new Marxism and the event itself without any critical reflection whatsoever (see for instance this article in Delo: http://www.delo.si/article.print.php?ID=127217). As if there was nothing problematic about the claim that "nation is the most oppressive formation in history" to quote dr.Andrej Kurnik, one of the hosts of symposium and – how appropriate - lecturer of “political extremism” on Faculty of Social Studies (his text with quote on nation can be found here: http://www.progresivna-stranka.si/prikaziforum.asp?id=212). One of the key suppositions of Negri’s Multitude is "inevitability of downfall of sovereignty." But this hope of "destruction of sovereignty is not enough," assert the organizers of symposium. Instead of sovereignty new institutional structures must be created based on "existent conditions"(sic!; see more on that here: http://www.krtaca.si/node/1301). This hopelessly boring and impotent drivel goes on and on in "Anti-Globalization" discourse and one cannot but nostalgically remember brilliant pieces of wisdom by such great revolutionary theorists as Edvard Kardelj, or - for those unfamiliar with Slovenian past - Lev Trotsky who were both able to test so many "compassionate" theories in their ferocious practice.

Carl Schmitt was predicting the demise of the state as early as the sixties. Long before him, following different theoretical presumptions Marx famously created his dogma on demise of state. As regards notions of "state", "nation" and "sovereignty", there have truly been some fundamental changes in second half of 20th century - constitutional theory now speaks of "open statehood". Nevertheless both the state, nation and concept of sovereignty are here to stay since there are several functions that only Verfassungstaat, state ruled by law, can perform, such as international cooperation, administration, judiciary and especially protection of human rights. Despite this, words like “state”, "nation" and especially “Slovene nation” remain abusive language to our anti-globalization radicals.

To conclude: it would be interesting to know how Negri is perceived in his homeland Italy. As for Slovene anti-globalists and revolutionary theorists the question remains what is their relation to certain nation-state, namely Republic of Slovenia. Both of latest Negri's books were published by publicly funded Student publishing house, The NGO’s aligned with radical theory and activism are funded by budget and the Faculty For Social Sciences (FDV), alma mater of vast majority of radicals, is also funded by public sector. Why do I stress that? Once more, theorists and activists belonging to the so called global social movements are not embarrassed at all by getting subsidies from the very same state they despise. Who cares if the nation is "the most oppressive formation in history" and if the state has to be destroyed. For every sensible Machiavellian knows, be it Andrej Kurnik or Henry Kissinger, that it's allowed to take money from the enemy, as long as it's for the noble cause.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Točen čas in datum pred sodno palačo v Ljubljani

Stanje slovenskega sodstva je mogoče ponazoriti tudi z nedelovanjem na videz nepomembnih stvari, ki na nek način vendarle simbolizirajo slovensko realnost in (ne)odločnost slovenske družbe, da stopi na višjo stopnico.

V Miklošičevem parku pred ljubljansko sodno palačo stoji ura, ki je bila postavljena na prelomnici med devetnajstim in dvajsetim stoletjem. Prav ta ura je že dvajset let pokvarjena in ne deluje. Ko je ura še delovala jo je moral sodni sluga vsak dan naviti. Šele pred kratkim so se na ljubljanskem okrožnem sodišču odločili, da uro obnovijo in jo popravijo. Tako so uro pred tremi tedni, ki levo od vhoda kaže datum, desno pa čas, odnesli na popravilo. Ure v zadnjih letih niso vzdrževali. Mojster, ki popravlja uro pravi » da so morda le steber kdaj pobarvali, če so opazili kakšno temno liso.

Ko čakamo na novo uro pred sodno palačo, lahko vsi skupaj še enkrat razmislimo o stavbah, pročeljih in ljudeh, ki bi bili vsi potrebni prenove oziroma objektivnega ocenjevanja njihovega dela.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

"Judiciary" in Slovenia

Being in agreement with what Jernej has posted in his last contribution, I would suggest to stay with ECHR, but to shed some light on the recent developments in connection with Slovenian cases pending there.

In the last couple of weeks there has been a literal landslide of judgments rendered against Slovenia, either for the unreasonably long trial procedures (i.e. judgments not rendered in a reasonable due-time), and most recently - namely today: for "unfair" trial.

This developments should ring an alarm bell in the Slovenian public --- yet this is not what has happened. To the contrary, and ironically so, the government which has finally -and as the 1st one in the democratic Slovenia - approached this problem seriously is being castigated in the public as attempting to encroach on the independence of the 3rd branch, i.e the judiciary.

I will not comment here on the reactions of Slovenian judiciary to the proposed reforms. My comments should better be expressed in a bar after having drunk 5 beers --- for the reasons that are also better to be expounded there. However, I have to admit that I have never before heard that judiciary would be on "a white strike" and I could have never imagined that judicial association is actually closely related to the football tiffosi. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, login on the SLO TV website and check the news - the clip - from a couple of days ago.)

To conclude, if the judicary is indpenedent - in a way it is understood in Slovenia - then it is just the judiciary and only the judiciary that is responsible for the convictions of the Republic of Slovenia before ECHR. It should be then - pursuing this devastating logics - for the judiciary to pay the fines - and not for the state budget and hence for us taxpayers. And it should be the judiciary - independently to make sure - which is to remedy the through and trhough skewed legal landscape in Slovenia.

Let's face it: BUT what do YOU think?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Case of Saddam Hussein - Decision of European Court of Human Rights on Admissibility

The European Court of Human Rights on 15 March 2005 delivered decision on admissibility in the case of Sadam Hussein. It held that it was not established that there was “any jurisdictional link between the applicant and the respondent States”… or “that the applicant was capable of falling within the jurisdiction of those States, within the meaning of Article 1 of the Convention.” The Court therefore declared the application inadmissible.

Saddam Hussein (“the applicant”), former Iraq dictator , was captured by US soldiers on 13 December 2003 near Tikrit during an operation called “Operation Red Dawn.” On June 29, 2004, he filed a complaint against 21 countries, namely Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom (the “respondent States”). The full decision is available at:
http://www.echr.coe.int/Eng/Press/2006/March/HUSSEIN%20ADMISSIBILITY%20DECISION.htm


The applicant complained about his arrest, detention, handover and ongoing trial under Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment), 5 (right to liberty and security), and 6 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights together with Article 1 of the 6th (abolition of the death penalty in time of peace) and 13th (abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances) Protocols. He maintained that he would be executed following a finding of guilt after a “show trial” for which he lacked even the basic tools of defence. The applicant asserted that the Court had jurisdiction because the respondent States were occupying powers in Iraq, because he was under their direct authority and control or because they were responsible for the acts of their agents abroad. He further maintained that the respondent States were de facto occupying powers even after the transfer of sovereignty in June 2004.

The Court found that the applicant had not demonstrated that he fell within the jurisdiction of the respondent States. The Court held that the applicant has not established that he fell within the jurisdiction of the respondent States on any of the bases alleged. He has not demonstrated that those States had jurisdiction on the basis of their control of the territory where the alleged violations took place. Even if he could have fallen within a State’s jurisdiction because of his detention by it, he has not shown that any one of the respondent States had any responsibility for, or any involvement or role in, his arrest and subsequent detention.

The Court councluded that there is no basis in its case law and the applicant has not invoked any established principle of international law which would mean that he fell within the respondent States’ jurisdiction on the sole basis that those States allegedly formed part of a coalition with the US, when the impugned actions were carried out by the US, when security in the zone in which those actions took place was assigned to the US and when the overall command of the coalition was vested in the US.

Two things are of notice in this case. Firstly, the former dictator resorted to human rights court for alleged violation of human rights, which are the same he so grossly abused during his regime. It is interesting and peculiar to observe that the Court excluded responsibility of European states by implying that US is the one who has had control over the whole territory in Iraq and gave the former dictator in a way moral victory over the US government.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Life as a Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom

Widely-acclaimed Korean film director Ki-duk Kim in his movie Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring from 2003 presents a Buddhist understanding of the life circle by following life of boy from childhood to the autumn of his life. A young boy lives in a small floating temple on a beautiful lake, together with an elderly master who teaches him the ways of the Buddha. The youth runs away to the outside world but his lust turns his life into hell, so he returns to the lake temple to find spiritual enlightenment. The movie shows that enlightenment may be reach by following simple ways, only that some achieve them sooner, some later and some never.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

No Catharsis for Serbia

The images received from Belgrade and Pozarevac today left a strong and weary impact with me: there has been no catharsis for Serbia. It is amazing how many people gathered in Milosevic's support and how the Serbian government at least implicity allowed to use public facilities (like museum, etc) for his funeral and how the arrest warrant against his widowed was waived...

It might be an end to an era, but it seems that something will remain burning deeply inside the Volkgeist of the Serbian people. I am afraid that this crackling little fire might, if not in some way effectively extinguished, blow up again the ever present Balkan barrel of powder.

Historia magistra vitae - and yet the Serbs, so it seems, have not learned anything and at the same time the complacent West might be deceived that everything is in its ordinary place.

Deja vu? I, sincerely, hope not.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

US Immigration policy

You may read interesting article on the reform of US Immigration policy in todays Heralds Tribune at the following link: http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/03/15/opinion/edimmig.php

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Slavoj Žižek delivers a sermon in NY Times

The renowned Slovenian philosopher published an article Defenders of the Faith in NY Times Sunday, apparently stating our goal regarding the world peace or perhaps even condition humaine itself, should be "restoring the dignity of atheism, one of Europe's greatest legacies and perhaps our only chance for peace".

Unfortunately, Žižek does not tell how can atheism as such actually be our only chance. Surely the current uncertainty regarding islamist violence and fundamentalist terrorism wouldn’t just stop by allegiance to “atheism as European legacy”. Furthermore, Žižek states that

»Today, when religion is emerging as the wellspring of murderous violence around the world, assurances that Christian or Muslim or Hindu fundamentalists are only abusing and perverting the noble spiritual messages of their creeds ring increasingly hollow. […] More than a century ago, in "The Brothers Karamazov" and other works, Dostoyevsky warned against the dangers of godless moral nihilism, arguing in essence that if God doesn't exist, then everything is permitted. The French philosopher André Glucksmann even applied Dostoyevsky's critique of godless nihilism to 9/11, as the title of his book, "Dostoyevsky in Manhattan," suggests.

This argument couldn't have been more wrong: the lesson of today's terrorism is that if God exists, then everything, including blowing up thousands of innocent bystanders, is permitted — at least to those who claim to act directly on behalf of God, since, clearly, a direct link to God justifies the violation of any merely human constraints and considerations. In short, fundamentalists have become no different than the "godless" Stalinist Communists, to whom everything was permitted since they perceived themselves as direct instruments of their divinity, the Historical Necessity of Progress Toward Communism.”

Since we have become accustomed to Žižek’s provocative style, the substance is not very surprising either. What strikes me though is how patently Marxist Žižek sounds, preaching about “religion, […] the wellspring of murderous violence around the world.” As if a motto “religion the opium for the people,” wasn't completely discredited in an era Avbelj writes about in his post on Slobodan Milošević and socialist Yugoslavia.

Žižek, dubbed “the great joker” by one Slovenian observer, misses the fundamental dialectic concerning religious experience and reason. More than this, his focus on atheism as a key part of Western, or at least European legacy appears artificial and even forced. For it is not atheism but rationalism that is a key Western invention, intimately linked with a phenomenon of secular society that gave rise to humanism. The Greek ideal was rational insight into reality, and the West never renounced it. However, our society is of course also fundamentally indebted to Judaism and Christianity, since this is where we received a notion of a person as an autonomous entity. Both faith and reason represent the core of Western culture and roots of Europe in particular. This is Europe's identity.

In a relation between Glauben und Wissen the reason limits and defines faith in a way that prevents its degradation into fundamentalism thus affirming the Augustinian formula fides quaerens intellectum, ‘faith seeking understanding’. On the other hand, function of religion is not limited solely to the field of pure religious experience but provides also for the irrational insight and for the set of values that lead the reason, since reason alone is morally blind and as such simply cannot answer the most urgent questions of modernity (such as those arising in bioethics, concerning advanced deterioration of the environment, or the fatal use of weapons of mass destruction). Atheism too, of course can be a source of meaning, but to claim its superiority in an apparent attempt to undermine or even demonize faith sounds utterly outdated and anachronistic.

There is one thing however, that does credit to Slavoj Žižek: He didn’t choose the simplest way to proclaim his revelation. It would be easier to promote atheism as “modern Europe's most precious legacy,” in one of the main European newspapers. I’m sure Žižek has access to all of them. It takes a true believer for this kind of proselytism in a leading conservative newspaper in a country where overwhelming majority declares itself religious.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The End of the Balkan Butcher

The death of Slobodan Milosevic brings to an end a certain era through which also the members of this blog have lived. We still do remember the sirens, the threats, the attack on Slovenia, the direct fear these caused and the anxiety which remained in us when the violent tide set towards the south. Slovenia managed to defend its independence with a minimal bloodshed, the other republics have not.

Slobodan Milosevic was just the last, but nicely and fully brushed, communist piece in the masterpiece mosaic that the Communist parties of Yugoslavia under the leadership of Tito built. The historical lie, the deception of the brotherhood and unity, resulted in the worst masacres on Europe's soil since 1945. Slobodan Milosevic was the last particle of this vicious communist machinery that was slowly but persistently operating behind the veil of velvet terror and imaginary welfare. He had a chance to take into his hands the product of them all - the Yugoslav people's army - and sent it against the very people it should have served to.

Slovenia, as stressed before, has due to the visdom of new political figures and intellectuals belonging to the so called Slovenian spring, managed to escape this Balkan barrel of powder. Ever ticking nationalistic and social bomb. We returned where we came from and in the aftermath of Milosevic's crusade almost nobody invokes Slovenia as part of the Balkan region. I sincirely hope that we left the Balkan, as it has stood, for good.

Yet, even that being true, we still have to deal wiht the legacy of our communist and Balkan past. It is not easy to redo 50 and more years, the years which is all what our parents and grandparents were left with, but we have to strive for the better tomorrow. We have to show that we can lead and that we can contribute to success of a more promising story, to the creation of the EU - as an area of freedom, justice and security.

On our way there we must not forget our past, and we must not forget the nations living south of our borders. We shared a common political past with them, linguistically they are our brothers, yet culturally just our remote cousins (to paraphrase Cankar) and it is our duty to help them find the way.

Finally, the death of Milosevic and with it the end of an era of fear and terror, it is also time that WE Slovenians sweep away the communist relicts that can be stumbled on at every step in our capital city and to resurrect the monuments that unite us and that will escort us in a prosperous future that we will be all proud of.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Once upon a time in Iran

International communty has in recent months become quite suspicious and weary of Iranian plan to develop a civilian nuclear programme to produce energy. It has accused Iran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb, whereas Iran says it is only seeking to produce electricity. It also developed the machinery to separate uranium from its core itself because no foreign country was willing to supply it. The question remains how tackles Western fears that Iran is building atomic bomb?

One can certainly not find a solution to this issue in Security Council imposing any kind of sanctions on Iran, less start talking about the possible armed attack on Iran. One of the oldest civilization on Earth will not be changed in one day as Rome was not build in one day. Options for influncing that ancient country with self-content regime are very limited. West cannot make Iran peaceful and democratic, it can only help to create the conditions in which Irani people decide themselves to make it so.

Millions of Iranians are fiercely critical of their theocratic regime and of its crazily outsopken president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But many of them also believe that Iran is entitled to use nuclear power to produce energy. The Iranian Society faces eternal question how to weed out the corruption and practices of clientism and nepotism and steer itself to better standards of living and welll being together. Will eforts keep moving forward or stall? As said the solution is not in imposition of sanctions on nuclear issue and/or on human rights issue. The efforts and the subsequent results have to come from the Iranian society itself. Otherwise there will an anti-western revolt among majority of population. It is not wise argument to suggest that West or Europe should trigger Iraq-like madness since it may only benefit the affluent religious circles in Iran.

Nevertheless, it is a historical fact who used the atomic bomb for the first and last time. It was decribed then as an excessive use of force, which went against principles of international humanitarian law. This time around much better decision-making is needed.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Ordinary Kashmiri Women Created History

Yesterday marked International Women's Day (8 March). This date is also commemorated at the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. On that day we can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development. International Women's Day is the story of ordinary women as makers of history and therefore we hereby present contribution by Fozia Lone on the Struggle of Ordinary Women in Kashmir.

Ordinary Kashmiri Women Created History - A Salutation to the Kashmiri Women of APDP & KWIPD

Although started in 1930’s, Kashmir freedom struggle took the aggressive form in 1989. This anger demolished the already rickety State administration and horrified the Kashmiris. The government responded to it primarily by delivering an armed response. Indian Government deployed about 4 hundred thousand Indian security forces in Kashmir to suppress this insurrection. (See, Anthony Davis, ‘The Conflict in Kashmir’, 7 Jane’s Intelligence Review, 1995, p.40). This resulted in the death of thousands of people especially at the hands of Indian army. While following their counterinsurgency operations army resorted to human rights violations, which included Custodial Killings, Extrajudicial Killings, Torture, disappearances and Rape.

During the last 16 years of conflict in Kashmir, Women are the most unfortunate sufferers. They have been physically abused, molested, humiliated, disgraced, raped and traumatized when their husbands and sons were ruthlessly killed and suspiciously disappeared. On 23rd February 1991 women of Kunnan Pushpora Village in Kashmir were victimised by the mass rape at the hands of the Indian security forces. On that fateful day about 60 women were raped. The documentary film, When the Storm Came, available at http://journalism.berkeley.edu/projects/mm/shilpi/ depicts this. Among all the issues enforced disappearance and Rape were most terrifying and least attention was given to these problem. The required awareness about these issues, both locally and internationally, was generated by the initiatives of the Kashmiri women.

The official findings reveal that in Kashmir so far more than 8000 people are unaccounted for and have disappeared in custody (enforced or involuntary disappearances) over the past 21 years. Indian security force, task force and other government agencies arrested these people and later their fate remains unknown. When large numbers of people were disappeared, initially the parents especially mothers of disappeared persons made individual efforts by filling the habeas corpus petitions in Jammu and Kashmir High Court. In 1994 Parveena Ahangar (mother of a disappeared person, now the chairperson of the APDP) with the help Pervez Imroz, (a human rights lawyer and spearhead of Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society JKCCS) formulated a group called ‘Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons’. At present this group works as the human rights faction with the aim ‘to know the whereabouts of their missing relatives’ and ‘to take the collective political action against it’. They are also pressing the government to form a commission to enquiry into these involuntary disappearances.

Initially these brave women had to face many difficulties but through the efforts of these bold women of Kashmir people’s participation amplified and in 1998 APDP was affiliated to the Asian Federation Against Enforced Disappearances (AFAD). This establishment is a new coalition gathering organization that works for the "disappeared" in several South Asian Countries. Its core members include the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearances from the Philippines, the Organization of Parents and Family Members of the Disappeared (OPFMD) from Sri Lanka, the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in the Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the KONTRAS of Indonesia.

On April 22, 2005, Mothers of missing youth were comforted when they successfully laid the foundation at Lawaypora (Kashmir) for the memorial in the recollection of those who were disappeared after their arrest by the security forces. This was yet another achievement of these valiant women since previous government dismantled the memorial when it was laid at Eidgah (Kashmir) on 18th July 2001. Although nothing can reimburse the sorrow, anguish, mental agony and torment of Kashmiri mothers however, raising the memorial was certainly an audacious act by them in an effort to remember there loved ones.

In 2000 the Kashmir University students initiated the Kashmiri Women’s Initiative for Peace and Disarmament (KWIPD) to wipe the tears of the suffering women of Kashmir and advocated that ‘the rights of women cannot be enforces without restoration of peace in the region’. The women member of this group come from all sects of the society and is the first Kashmiri women group. To guarantee the Kashmiri women their right to be heard all over the world KWIPD start its quarterly newsletter “Voices Unheard” which was edited Aasia Jeelani. (The Newsletter can be accessed on http://www.geocities.com/kwipd2002/) Aasia Jeelani at the age of 29, in extremely regrettable incident was put to sleep forever in the landmine explosion at Lolab on 20th April 2004, while monitoring the Parliamentary elections. In order to increase awareness within the region, KWIPD conducted discussions and debates to advocate the significance of nuclear disarmament.

Recalling the stories of these incredible and remarkable Kashmiri women on International women’s day I take the opportunity to pay homage to Aasia Jeelani who was truly the angel of peace. I also congratulate the brave Kashmiri women of my motherland for initiating the struggle for equality, integrity, justice peace and progress. This collective power of Kashmiri women was perceive by millions of people all over the world. I believe even more is possible if women of world will support each other in their genuine battles. Since, International Women's Day is the universal day to connect all women around the world and motivate them to achieve their full potential, I appeal the conscious women of the world to join Kashmiri women’s amicable struggle and assist women in conflict to restore their dignity.

Miss Fozia Lone
Research Student,
Aberdeen University
f.lone@abdn.ac.uk

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"Vse je treba zbutati" in "jim posekati roke"

V oddaji Vroče na ljubljanski TV-papriki se je voditeljica Manca Zver strinjala s poslancem Zmagom Jelinčičem, da je treba pedofile fizično kaznovati in zanje uvesti dosmrtno kazen, Jelinčič pa je še dejal, da bi bilo treba preprodajalcem drog posekati roke. Manca Zver pa je še dodala naslednje:: "Jaz bi naredila to, da vse te pedofile damo na en velik plac in da pridemo ljudje in jih tam ... zbutamo." Vprašanje, ki se postavlja nevednemu bralcu, je koga je treba dejansko “zbutat in mu posekat roke”.

Zmago Jelinčič je včeraj izustil, da "sovražnega govora ni, je le govor, ki govori resnico. Njegova izjava nas ne preseneča in kot tudi ne bi smela presenetiti vsakogar, ki pozna slovensko danost v gospodovem letu 2006. Prikličimo si v spomin za trenutek izjave našega vrlega poslanca iz leta 1998 o tem kaj bi bilo potrebno storiti z volilci takratnega predsedniškega kandidata Franceta Bernika. Izjavama Zmaga Jeliničiča in Mance Zver ni kaj dodati kot le to, da je jasno, da v Sloveniji ni nikaršne kulture izražanja v javnih občilih, saj jih vsakdo izkorišča kot se mu le zdi. V preteklosti smo Slovenci že dovolj pretrpeli zaradi raznih oblik sovražnega govora in podpihovanja nestrpnosti zoper razne družbene in narodnostnih skupnosti. Kdo pravzaprav želi živeti v državi kjer lahko vsaka samooklicana “medijska osebnost” spodbujala in razpihovala nestrpnost brez vsakršnih posledic, ki jih seveda ni za pričakovati v tem primeru? Najprej se prične gonja zoper Rome in pedofile, potem pa se razširi na druge družbene in narodnostne skupine – ali kako se je že vse skupaj začelo v tretjem Reichu pod Hitlerjem v tridestih letih prejšnjega stoletja v Nemčiji?

Sovražni govor je eno nedvomno najmočnejših sredstev diskriminacije, še posebno, ker ga težko definiramo in še težje preiskujemo in kaznujemo. O sovražnem govoru govorimo takrat, ko gre za izražanje mnenj in idej, ki so po svoji naravi ksenofobični, diskriminatorni, rasistični in naperjeni predvsem zoper razne manjšine (etnične, verske, kulturne) in zajema tako govorno, pisno kot nebesedno (parade, insignije, simboli, ipd.) komunikacijo.

Demokratična družba je tista vrednota, zaradi katere je svoboda izražanja zapisana v Evropsko konvencijo o človekovih o pravicah, in katero bodo nadzorni organi pri preučevanju nasprotujočih si interesov vedno izbrali kot rešitev. To sta v večini svojih odločitev, ki se nanašajo na sovražni govor, poudarila tudi Evropska komisija za človekove pravice in Evropsko sodišče za človekove pravice. Komisija in Sodišče sta v svojih odločitvah večkrat izrazila mnenje, da so bili nameni in cilji tistih, ki so zahtevali zaščito sovražnega govora, v neposrednem nasprotju z demokratičnimi izročili, idejami in ideali, ki so evropske države vodili pri ustvarjanju EKČP.

Tudi slovenska ureditev prepoveduje sovražni govor. V 63. člen ustave RS je zapisano, da je protiustavno vsakršno spodbujanje k narodni, rasni, verski ali drugi neenakopravnosti ter razpihovanje narodnega, rasnega, verskega ali drugega sovraštva in nestrpnosti. 300. člen kazenskega zakonika pa določa kazensko odgovornost za tistega, ki izziva ali razpihuje narodnostno, rasno ali versko sovraštvo, razdor ali nestrpnost, ali širi ideje o večvrednosti ene rase nad drugo.

V tem primeru gre za najnižjo možno obliko medijskega nastopaštva samooklicanih medjiskih osebnosti, ki ne pozna nobenih etičnih meja, odgovornosti in ni občutljiva do pravic drugih ljudi. Na potezi je okožno državno tožilstvo v Ljubljani, ali pač? Tudi na tem primeru je jasno, da se slovenska družba ne more soočiti z globinami temnih senc preteklosti tudi zato, ker komajda shaja s vzdrževanjem ravnotežja v slovenski sedanjosti in realnosti.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Dark side of individualism or the importance of community

The fact that this theme is somewhat controversial, doesn’t help – in this sense I will rather speak of "moral obligations" since "duty" might carry some negative connotation.

Letnar finished his last post with a following dilemma: "The question poses whether human rights are western myth and should we re-discover their ideal versions of common well-being?" This is a good starting point for my further contribution to the debate.

I do not doubt that acknowledgment of human rights is among greatest historical achievements of western civilization. I stick to my view, which now I have been repeating almost ad nauseam, that human rights are indispensable in every society, not simply in democracies. It stems from the notion of human dignity - human rights are something that is given prior to state, since it is bound inextricably with a notion of a person. I think that Letnar agrees with this when he writes about "African human rights setting," in which "a sense of duty and responsibilities, on individuals and their communities, is more paramount than the notion of human rights."

However, the rights culture must be opened to criticism. As egalitarian democracy was crucial for advance of humanism it contains its dark side also. This was beautifully noted by Tocqueville in his Democracy in America, where he writes that democratic equality pulls one to himself. One is focused to himself and in this way loses wider angle of view. The community becomes less and less important when individual becomes more and more self-absorbed, and in Tocqueville’s words looks for “petits et vulgaires plaisirs”.

It seems Avbelj concedes to this as he writes: "If the world is failing, if it is drowning in the stinky lake of egoism, it is not liberal society based on the inherent respect for an individuum which is to be blamed, but rather the institutions within this kind of society that have not performed their roles. The state of liberty entails a responsible, reflective individuals, and it demands hard work and continuous improvements. Sometimes it is much easier to bow to the master, to live in the state of duties and to deny one's self than to exercise your freedom responsibly." I agree with much of what is said here, with one – having Tocqueville in mind - important objection: democracy inherently promotes individualistic behaviour which can ultimately end in egoism. More popular for this are in this context expressions such as: "I-generation", "narcissism" or "permissive society". In this view traditional liberal institutions have contributed to modern phenomena such as: alienation from political process, unbridled greed, loneliness, urban crime, dissolution of the traditional familiy, excessive litigiousuess …

As Rawls rightly argues we have a supreme interest in shaping our own destiny. However it is also true, that our selves are constituted by many attachments rooted in community (e.g. family, ethnicity, religion....). Thus policies should not be concerned solely with securing the conditions for protection of individual rights and individual choices, as we need to sustain and promote these social attachments crucial to our well being and respect. Some human goods have irreducibly social nature. Our interest in community may occasionally conflict with our other vital interests in leading freely chosen lives. My view is that the latter does not necessary trump the former in cases of conflict (c.f. that with Dworkin’s maxim regarding policies and rights).

It is true that Rawls also strongly highlights the meaning of basic social structure and government as well that must provide basic conditions for rightful society. He also pays close attention to the psychological conditions that facilitate the formation of liberal selves committed to justice.
However, modern democracies all face the following problem: whereas the assertion of life (basic human rights) was once confined to the matters of essential human interest, an aggressive rights rhetoric has colonized political debate thus making reasonable discussion impossible. This is so called rights culture.

So called communitarian criticism of liberalism can be most fruitful when advocating certain specific policies, such as promotion of family ties, strengthening local communities etc. In this manner it is possible for instance to advocate measures aimed at encouraging marriage, increasing the difficulty of legal marriage dissolution based on empirical evidence that points to psychological and social benefits of marriage etc. Gay marriage issue too can now be resolved in new light: marriage can be seen as public institution, through which certain values are promoted. In this way these values should not be necessary trumped by rights of individual couples. Cartoon controversy of course is another typical case.

Increased attention to intersubjective community is therefore important both for moral life and personal satisfaction. Taking the importance of community seriously in political philosophy would mean acknowledging and attempting to resolve systematically the conflicts that can arise in any theory that recognizes the importance of both individual autonomy and participation in communities.

On human rights and duties to our communities

This is a brief follow up on what Movrin and Avbelj submitted in our discussion on rights and duties in democratic society. Moving beyond their pro-et-contra discussion on right and duties, I hereby explain that concepts of duties are not necessarily underestimated in contemporary European society since they very much present in our every day life. They are not constructed in the form of duties as such but in the form of negative aspect of rights. Rights are more than relationship between state and indivuduals. And it is in the relationship between individuals themselves where rights acquire the form of duties.

We may all agree upon that every society is built on a set of values and norms. Avbelj asserts that in democratic society in relation between individual and the state should be on the right not on the duty and the makes further claim that Christianity is based on individulism. I can not follow the former aspect of this argument fully. Human Rights in modern society are not just relationship between individual and state, but concern also relationship between private parties (individuals, association, corporations, etc.) themselves. This implies that most of human rights norms have horizontal and vertical effect. This basically means that concept of human rights per se involves also aspect of duties to other human beings and communities as a whole. Also our European societies are constructed on such notion of duty. Movrin argues that no religion is individulistic and I could not agree more with what. What he forgets is how the individualism was used to construct to make benefit for higher gains (financial) and how then therefore the notion of rights took over the throne in Europe, whereas sense of solidarity finds itself only in nationalism.

It is right that duties do not have prominent place in the European context as they do in African human rights setting, where a sense of duty and responsibilities, on individuals and their communities, is more paramount than the notion of human rights.

Generally, the concept of duty requires an individual to place the common good before individual satisfaction. This is how the African society is modelled. Those that go against these norms are seen as outcasts and this explains why for a long time African communities farmed and harvested in groups. It was done for the common good of the extended family. The question poses whether human rights are western myth and should we re-discover their ideal versions of common well-being?
To be continued.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

On a difference between Individualism and Egoism

And yet it is moving. Movrin (who by the way continuously misspells my name) has pushed our discussion in a much broader context with an apparent aim to undermine my emphasis on the importance of rights as opposed to duties in a democratic society.

He draws the apocalyptic scenario from the liberal individualism by contending that "With traditional mechanisms, human rights standards alone included, we are obviously very poorly equipped for preventing these possibly imminent scenarios."

Hereby, I refuse making any step back: in a democratic constitutional society in relation between the individual and the state the emphasis should be on the right, not on the duty. This is a sound basis of individualism, which I think Christianity is inherently based upon and it even promotes it as opposed to other religions - where the collective trumps the individual. It goes without saying what are the political and societal implications of this converse mindset.

Of course, it is different if individualism collapses into egoism, self-centerdness, alienation and mere pursuance of strictly personal, narrow opportunistic pecuniary goals. No religion would advocate that and neither would I. And I have not. I rather stress that it is the egoism that threatens the world and our every-day lives and not individualism, which is a sine qua non for our development as unique human beings created in the image of God or its secular equivalent, as Weiler would put it.

The red line between individualism and egoism is evidently narrow and tiny. The balance between the two is precarius and a lot of efforts are needed to preserve it. Here the church, the civil society, familiy and welfare state should step in and promote a public ethos of solidarity, mutal help and encouragement. Liberal society, and only liberal society - I am afraid - based on individual as a distinct subject, widely opens the door to these institutions and mechanisms to execute their role and missions.

If the world is failing, if it is drowning in the stinky lake of egoism, it is not liberal society based on the inherent respect for an individuum which is to be blamed, but rather the institutions within this kind of society that have not performed their roles. The state of liberty entails a responsible, reflective individuals, and it demands hard work and continuous improvements. Sometimes it is much easier to bow to the master, to live in the state of duties and to deny one's self than to exercise your freedom responsibly.

Apologia pro vitis eorum

It is alive!! Finally some emotions on this lonesome blog. It’s good for the debate and it’s good for the ratings (c’mon people, is anybody reading this at all?!?!). However, as an old proponent of liberal democracy - one of catholic persuasion, that is - I must say, pro bono (for the sake of the argument, but most of all because Avbel isn’t here to talk it over beer) something in the defense of Mr. Letnar and Mr. Umek. As for me, I will throw additional light on some of my own ideas in special post, as it was promised in my famous Blues for Allah (part 1) post.

As we are only lawyers we should strive for precision, since words have their exact meanings - we are not poets, sadly (those volumes of unpublished heart breaking stanzas everyone of us has hidden in his bottom drawer will never make us famous). It is thus crucial to be accurate and not jump to conclusions.

Letnar observes: "Most of Western European societies face at this point of time major problems in grasping and accepting the fact, which one may nowadays trace down only in the history books. That fact rests on illusion that Europe remains a centre of world, which could be further from the truth.”

What is wrong with this picture? Nothing, except that it’s correct. Europe has not been the center of the world at least since World War I, when it finally became clear, that USA have more wealth, almost infinitive military arsenal, bigger geopolitical influence and, what is of utmost importance, moral legitimacy to lead the free world. Since then USA have asserted itself as “last best hope” even in international arena, to quote famous Lincoln’s formulation. Does that present a “major problem” for Europe, as Letnar claims? Of course it does. It has been extremely difficult to cope with this loss. In 2003, for instance, there were large “alleuropean” demonstrations, formally anti-war demonstrations, but the evident undertone was staunch antiamericanism. At the end of these massive demonstrations two of the great thinkers of our time, late J.Derrida and J.Habermas, have published well known article Die Wiedergeburt Europas in which they seem to, inter alia defined Europe simply per negationem. Thus according to them being European merely means being Non-American. If this isn’t an identity crisis I don’t know what it si!

Further, Letnar’s disputable passage continues in this way: “Western European high-societies warm-heartily reminisce the day where the world balance has been shaped differently as it is now." Since sadly I’m not a member of “western European high societies“ (will somebody introduce me, for heavens’ sake!?!?!) I cannot say for sure what goes on in their minds, but Chirac’s reaction to Bush’s pre-war rhetoric seemed to me pretty much an arrogant reaction of a bankrupt aristocrat, whose wounded vanity makes him look and act silly. It certainly seems plausible to me he still “warm-heartily reminisces” his country’s better days.

What does this have to do with the question of freedom of speech?” Avbel asks.

I don’t know if this was Letnar’s idea, but to me it’s obvious that whole civilizations, not only autocratic regimes, as we were used to so far, are now turning away from the idea of free democratic society. After 1989 we thought it would be another way around. At least Fukuyama said so. In my opinion one of the reasons for this failure is the fear of overly individualistic, atomistic and even egoistical concept of society, which sometimes seems to be exported. From other civilizations’ point of view, the threat can be quite real that after they accept this concept, nothing will remain of their identity. Or will this be a plain caricature of their precious traditions, and not even a funny one? I think that our duty is to present democracy for what it is: as freedom and justice and not as a trigger happy war monger, who just waits to rob the third world of its natural resources and of its traditional identities. I don’t say that this is actually happening, but the perception in some of these countries is very much like that. If Karikaturenstreit has tought us anything, it has shown us that global public not only exists, but it’s also very much aware of itself. And it holds its own global public opinion. The fact that Middle-Eastern rogue regimes have in fact artificially spurred the reaction to the cartoons is of minor importance in this regard.

As for “anti-imperialistic sentiments” as such I agree with Avbel they are simply funny. But, unless Letnar admits it, I cannot see any anti-imperialistic sentiments here.

And duties? Firstly, duty is conceptual twin of a right. My right is someone else’s (negative) duty. But I suppose Umek had something else in mind. Although he hasn’t elaborated much on his ideas, his line of thought seems very clear to me (he can correct me if I’m wrong). As I already mentioned somewhere, nobody of sane mind doubts in something like ECHR (if certain monsignor, master of Codice Civile does, let him be). He and his consortes are of no importance to us. What is important however, is that completely individualistic, atomistic conception of society ends in utter egoism, where the fundamental purpose of liberal state, that is common good and justice, is finally lost. Famously, one such duty democracy unconditionally requires is patriotism. In no way of course this should be written in criminal code, as Avbel rhetorically puts it. However it’s uncontested, that a citizen democracy can only work if most of its members are convinced that their political society is a common venture of cosiderable moment, and believe to be of vital importance that they participate in the ways they must to keep it functioning as democracy, to quote Charles Taylor.

Let me mention some very real threats that are in my opinion direct consequences of the lack of global sense of solidarity, of duty if you will. Namely, how to prevent the threat of nuclear warfare, now that bi-polar division of the world has ended? Why don’t we just “nuke ‘em”, since unlike Soviets, they have just couple of those big bombs. We can probably survive their few hits. Why not to proceed with stem cell research, why not to play God? It’s for the common good after all, who cares about ethics, when science will save us? And why not chop down the Rain forest completely, when we need furniture? The consumer is always right!

Will man destroy the Earth to move on? These are (amplified) caricatures, but they present some of the gravest dilemmas of our time. Is this what liberalism is supposed to be? I don’t think so, but the signs are there, that this is a direction the West is heading (see also Krusec’s post Major world crisis ahead?, posted on February 21). Will we recognize what our duty is here? With traditional mechanisms, human rights standards alone included, we are obviously very poorly equipped for preventing these possibly imminent scenarios.

Again, world religions can offer some of the answers. Take Christianity. Although it has invented a notion of individual as a value an sich (Letnar, this one’s for you, since you doubt this historical fact, at least after couple of beers) - it is never individualistic. Actually, no religion is. Thus, religious sense for the community and religious sense for the common good, for solidarity, which also implies sense for duty, can provide for one possible anchor in these Zeiten des Ubergangs. By making no threat to the ECHR whatsoever.

Friday, March 03, 2006

"Every human right has its opposite: the duty"

The discussion on this blog has gone far way from the liberal thought, therefore it is time to step in again. Let's first tackle with the problem that religion has been banned from the European public sphere and that only atheists have their own prevailing say. This is essentially what Movrin espouses. If this was a genuine perception of the reality, I would full-heartedly join Movrin and condemn this kind of situation, since it is anti-liberal. In a liberal society no comprehensive doctrine: either religious or non-religious (i.e. secular) has a privileged position. If European public sphere is like that, it is anti-liberal and we have to fight it back, as Movrin does, to establish the equilibrium of free and equal citizens within the society of a public reason.

However, I am afraid that a view that religion is expelled from the public sphere is a fortiori Slovenian perception, where religion was effectively not just banned from the public sphere, but people were even persecuted for holding their religious beliefs. In the West there is no embarassement on either side between the two interlocoturs if the question is posed about being religious or not. In Slovenia these kinds of questions are taboos, and the answers are concealed under the veil of cowardness. The same goes for political views and opinions.
Hence, my dear friend Miha: maybe it is not as black as it seems, it is only on us to step from behind the veil and assert our religious views in a way it is permitted in the trully liberal society.

Jernej's views have in the last weeks, similarly, drifted away from liberal and some sort of anti-imperialistic speech is comming from his mouth. "Most of Western European societies face at this point of time major problems in grasping and accepting the fact, which one may nowadays trace down only in the history books. That fact rests on illusion that Europe remains a centre of world, which could be further from the truth. Western European high-societies warm-heartily reminisce the day where the world balance has been shaped differently as it is now." What does this have to do with the question of freedom of speech? And after all, cartoons were published also by non-western European states... This anti-imperialistic sentiment spurrs some concerns.

But, my final and gravest concerns lie with the continuous and ever-lasting-re-emergence of the claims that human rights have also their opposites: the duty? What is this? Merely a redundant saying or a wish for an oppressive society? Would we like to live in the society where we would again need to ask the authorities wether is compatible with our duties to publish something or not? Which authorities: state, communist party, a church?

Societies based on duties, and not on human rights, are based on criminal law, they are oppressive societies. They are not based on individual's freedom. Of course, I warmly agree that freedom has to be exercised responsibly, this is our duty, but this can be and it is, if it is, enforced by the state only by criminal means. The more emphasis on duties, the powerful the state. Since human rights are conceptually understood as being aimed against the state, human duties are in favor of the state aimed against the indviduals.

The case of Karikaturstreit is a genuinely hard case, since the very liberal scheme of the society is at stake. Apparently liberalism has its limits, has its threshold of decency - called justice. We are all aware that carving out areas of taboos is fatal for freedom of speech, whereas we simultaneously know that cross-religious-practice of defamation and insulting is not what a just liberal society would want us to pursue. Therefore Dworkin says that UK press acted prudently for non-publishing the cartoons - but he at the same time insists that free speech taboos should not be created. I hold that if one newspaper publishes these cartoons, it is covered by freedom of speech, whereas an intentional concerted practice based on the assertion of power of the press all over Europe - just in order to show that they can insult and that everything is allowed, is not. In such a case secularism purports to have a privileged position and it is imposed on all non-secular-believers. This breaches the equilibrium of free and equal citizens and it is despicable.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Freedom of Speech as a Trump Card?

It may be a wise idea to join my dear friend Miha Movrin’s proposal to welcome the challenge of trying to come to the bottom of this, in his words, orchestrated hysterical reaction surrounding the publication of those very wicked (in the meaning of Cambridge dictionary definition "as immoral or bad for you, but in an attractive way") cartoons published by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on 30 September, 2005. Movrin rightly observes that the whole confusion has subsided in last weeks, and one may add that in fact it has not really vanished, but it only moved from the front pages of media to sub-consciousness of the European Identity. And it is to stay there forever regardless how apocalyptic that may sound. For one to ponder and discuss about this contraversy, one needs to have her/his feet on ground and not just dismiss the problem as Danish Prime Miniser Rasmussen did, by saying that the freedom of expression has a wide scope and the Danish governments has no means of influencing the press. When in fact nobody asked him to interfere with the freedom of press but merely to endevuour to live up Danish human rights obligations of respecting all religions and desisting from offending their devotees to prevent an escalation which would have serious and far-reaching consequences. Danish misunderstanding of the whole debate can be compared only to their desperate clinging to island of Greenland, which is still under their colonial jurisdiction, and to their appalling policies towards refugees.

This post is a continuation of debate started by two of the Matej Avbelj's posts (Freedom of Expression - a Case of Abuse? february 04, Dworkin on Cartoons and Holocaust Denial, posted on february 22 and subsequent comments), and Miha Movrin’s todays’ input on “Blues for Allah”, where he writes that “the reason is that European society simply does not understand the notion of offended religious sensibilities anymore.” The European misunderstandings and aloofness are core to debate on freedom of expression in our societies and thet also facilitate the growing fear of “Other” and the “others”, meaning everythings which is non-(west)european. This aloofness of the “old Europe” is also core to article of Fozia Lone, who writes that by publishing these blasphemous cartoons, Danish newspapers have not only offended religious sensibilities, but violated the laws of self-censorship also. The article may be reached at the following address: http://www.greaterkashmir.com/full_story.asp?Date=01_3_2006&ItemID=2&cat=12

Most of Western European societies face at this point of time major problems in grasping and accepting the fact, which one may nowadays trace down only in the history books. That fact rests on illusion that Europe remains a centre of world, which could be further from the truth. Western European high-societies warm-heartily reminisce the day where the world balance has been shaped differently as it is now. Let us illustrate this phenomena with self-explaining example.

It was a rainy day when in 1884 twenty-five countries met to agree a zero meridian (line is an imaginary straight line which runs from the North Pole to the South Pole) for the whole world. The conference agreed that the Prime Meridian of the World would be the one that ran through Airy's transit telescope at Greenwich. Most of the countries, which participated, were European. The comparison can be drawn to Berlin Congress in 1872 when major European powers agreed to draw artificial borders on the African continent without involving or allowing for any African delegation to attend at the congress.

The fact that Europe does not understand the notion of offended religious sensibilities anymore may be seen from the comments may be authors of the cartoons. When asked about the message of the drawing, the cartoonist later explained. The misunderstanding can not be more explicits.

"The cartoon is not about Islam as a whole, but the part that apparently can inspire violence, terrorism, death and destruction. And thereby the fundamentalist part of Islam. I wanted to point out that terrorists get their spiritual ammunition from Islam."


"There are interpretations of it [the drawing] that are incorrect. The general impression among Muslims is that it is about Islam as a whole. It is not. It is about certain fundamentalist aspects, that of course are not shared by everyone. But the fuel for the terrorists’ acts stem from interpretations of Islam. I think there is no escaping that. That does not mean that all Muslims are responsible for terror. It is about showing a connection, from where the spiritual fuel comes. There are some interpretations of Islam, according to which you become a martyr if you die for Islam, and you can therefore with a calm mind kill the infidels, and you will be rewarded in the beyond."


The comments are available at: http://www.jp.dk/indland/artikel:aid=3579530/

It is difficult not be critical of decision of editor of Jyllands-Posten to publish those sort of cartoons: when one does something that one know will create hatred and annoy people who are a indeed large ethnic and religious minority in Europe, it basically invates the kind of responses as they have bee seen througout worldwide in last monts. Also the European Copurt of Human Rights on every possible occasion reiterates the general principle “that the autonomous existence of religious communities is indispensable for pluralism in a democratic society” (Supreme Holy Council of the Muslim Community v. Bulgaria, Appl. No. 39023/97, Judgement, 16 December.). Indeed it was again in Danish Case Jersild v. Denmark, where the ECtHR court held that propagation of falsehoods or intolerance is to be generally prohibited.

Freedom of expression may not be used as a trump card for daily political struggles within the European societies, who have reluctantly and gradually come to accept that Muslim and other ethnic/religious minorities are not going to assimilate to the European way of living. Like it or not all mature societies can regonize that fact and ensure the respect of others and their rights and religious sentiments.

Blues For Allah

(part 1)

It seems easier to take a closer look on the cartoon controversy now that well orchestrated hysterical reaction (it's an oxymoron, I know, but history has many cunning passages) of the Muslim world has subsided and nervously defensive response of most of the European press has toned down as well. Although Muslim reaction deserves special analysis from the point of view of international politics (Jernej Letnar, Where Art Thou?) especially since this global dispute about taste has turned into vandalism and even killing sprees in some cases I do not wish to speak of Muslim response, neither of use of the Arab street by the ruling elites, and some of the particular characteristics of Islam, respectively (a-propos, Slovenian Franciscan missionary was badly beaten in Turkey, which is a possible candidate for a EU entry).

What I wish to elaborate on is purely and simply a problem of freedom of speech and its relation to religious feelings. This question inevitably brings me to the point of dealing with more profound subject of European identity. This post is a continuation of debate started by two of the Avbel's posts (Freedom of Expression - a Case of Abuse? february 04, Dworkin on Cartoons and Holocaust Denial, posted on february 22), and of the comments we made on the last one.

There are roughly three kinds of arguments in the global debate, at least three that I can think of:

1. The most vocal are of course classical representatives of the so called »progressive liberal thought.« Theirs is the usual mantra that goes like this: we-won't-give-our-freedom-of-speech-away or in some (usually tabloid) cases: to-the-barricades! This argument does not need any further consideration since it's simply a battle with straw men - this is one tangram shape that has already been assembled and a Columbus' egg that already stands on end. Just for the record: surely nobody at the right mind denies catalogue of human rights as it was adopted in international documents especially in ECHR. Even freshmen in Faculties of law don't need much persuasion on this matter. This is why it is even more surprising how one dimensional and undifferentiated is the debate on this level. I was leaning towards a notion that Dworkin belongs to this crowd, but Avbel (see his response to my comment on his Dworkin on Cartoons and Holocaust Denial post) has showed that this is hardly the case.

2. Much more interesting is an opposite approach: this one says Danish cartoons are only result of western intolerance towards ethnical minorities; they are a symptom of western arrogance in relation to the rest of the world. This argument is especially dear to those who see western imperialism and globalisation behind every corner. But not just multicultural fanatics, also many liberals inclined to the left side of political spectrum who are usually free speech absolutists have taken up this standpoint. Since they have always been free speech fanatics especially when Christian religious feelings were on the agenda, some took great effort to defend their new position during this Bilderstreit which is in favor of non publishing the cartoons. However most of them just forgot their previous position hoping that everybody else will do the same.
Despite this I have to admit that in general this approach is much more creative from argument described in No.1, but it's hard not to see duplicity of some opinion makers, and their moralizing of the worst kind. In Slovenia double standards are most visible in relation to Catholic religious feelings, which are not worth a dime in media landscape.

3. If we reject free speech absolutism this controversy can be viewed as a classical case of balancing between freedom of speech and protection of religious feelings. The peculiarity however which cannot be overstated, is that this case cannot be resolved with usual juristic vocabulary. The reason is that European society simply does not understand the notion of offended religious sensibilities anymore. In the society where religion has been successfully removed from the public sphere, there can be no understanding of religious feelings. Typical for this atmosphere is a good cartoon by Bernd Zeller in Berliner Zeitung, (Berliner Zeitung, 11./12. February, No. 36). Cartoon shows a group of immigrants in a immigrations office. One of them says to the immigration officer:

Unsere Religion verbietet Darstellungen von Heidi Klum, Dirk Bach und Florian Silberreisen !

Officer's response is this:

Ach ja? Und wie gewalttätig sind sie?

It's a good joke, which Danish cartoons certainly aren't (note a very important distinction: German cartoonist is making a legitimate comment on certain kind of religious belief, but is not trying to break the particular religious taboo). German cartoon also includes justified comment on the islamist violence. However, it is obvious, that the author simply does not understand that certain categories actually can be sacrosanct to some people. This new ignorance goes for whole European society. Of course, religious citizens can express their indignation but at the end of the day media, public opinion and justice system simply cannot understand what the big fuss is all about. As far back as 1949, Lord Denning said: »The offence of blasphemy is now a dead letter«.

Until now, that is. (to be continued)