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1ac human rights



The Cuban embargo is the worst and most destructive of all policies enacted by the United States—it systematically denies Cubans of their most basic rights

Wall, 97 contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine (James M. Wall, June 1997, “Cruel squeeze on Cuba”, Ebsco)//EM
IT IS HARD to think of any single foreign policy act by the United States that is meaner, more demeaning and altogether less defensible than the American embargo on medicine, medical supplies and food to Cuba." That stinging rebuke was delivered by Stephen S. Rosenfeld in the Washington Post. The embargo, first put in place in 1961 in an effort to topple Fidel Castro, is not only mean and demeaning; it is also a complete failure. Castro is still in power. In addition, by including medicine and food in the embargo, the U.S. is violating international human rights conventions which call for the free movement of food and medicine, even in wartime, to civilian populations. Seventeen years ago I spoke to a small Southern Baptist congregation in Havana. During the social hour a woman told me of her daughter's need for a medication. At that time she could get drugs from Eastern Europe, but the particular drug she needed was available only from a U.S. company. Did I think, she asked, that after the upcoming presidential election her fellow Southern Baptist, Jimmy Carter, would lift the embargo on food and medicine? I told her that I had good reason to believe that Carter, if re-elected, would indeed lift that part of the ban. Three weeks later, Carter lost the presidency to Ronald Reagan. The embargo is not only still in place; it has been tightened. In 1992 George Bush signed the Cuban Democracy Act during a campaign stop in Florida, and in 1996 President Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act during his re-election campaign. It is the Helms-Burton Act which is so stringent that it prevents foreign companies from doing business in the U.S. if they "traffic" with Cuban companies that hold properties that Castro nationalized in 1960. The U.S., which in recent years has turned to the United Nations to sanction its military actions in Iraq and in the former Yugoslavia, has ignored UN resolutions that condemn the Cuba embargo and which call for the U.S. to rescind provisions of the embargo that violate both the UN Charter and international law. The damage inflicted on the Cuban people by the ban on food and medicine has been documented in a recent year-long study conducted by the American Association for World Health. The medical investigators, directed by physician Peter Bourne, chair of the AAWH board and a former official in the Carter administration, interviewed medical professionals and government officials, surveyed 12 American medical and pharmaceutical companies, and documented the experience of Cuban import firms. AAWH concluded that the U.S. embargo is "taking a tragic human toll" on the Cuban people. Indeed, "the embargo has closed so many windows that in some instances Cuban physicians have found it impossible to obtain lifesaving machines from any source, under any circumstances. Patients have died." According to the report, until 1990 all Cuban women over the age of 35 received mammograms on a regular basis at no cost. Today, without adequate equipment, mammograms are no longer employed as a routine preventive procedure; they are used only for high-risk patients. In 1994 and 1995, the lack of X-ray film halted all mammograms in Havana institutions and in 15 mobile units. The AAWH found that "the embargo prevents the Eastman Kodak company or any subsidiary from selling the U.S.-produced Kodak Mini-R film--a product specifically recommended by the World Health Organization because it exposes women to less radiation." During the 1980s, as many as 15 mastectomies were performed daily; now, because of the lack of surgical supplies, the number has dropped to two or three a day. Cuba tried to buy X-ray film from third-party trading companies, but ran into two problems: markups priced the film out of the government's reach, and these third-party intermediaries were reluctant to purchase sufficient quantities to sell to Cuba even at inflated prices because large purchases would call U.S. attention to sales that would be illegal under U.S. law. The AAWH team also reported that since 1992 Cuba has been unable to purchae parts for the chlorination system that treats 70 percent of the country's drinking water. Morbidity rates from water-born diseases have doubled since 1989. A shortage of anesthetics and related equipment and of antibiotics has forced a drop in the number of surgeries from 885,790 in 1990 to 536,547 in 1995. When the AAWH team visited one pediatric ward, it found that 35 children were vomiting 28 to 30 times a day from their chemotherapy treatment, a reaction that is normally minimized with a drug readily available in the U.S. New drugs for breast cancer and children's leukemia are denied to women and children in Cuba. The political logic behind a policy of deliberately blocking Cuba from access to medical supplies and drugs is quite simple: some U.S. politicians and their financial backers, most notably Cuban-Americans who live in South Florida and New Jersey and dream of one day returning to Cuba, don't like Fidel Castro. Neither did Dwight Eisenhower, who began the embargo in 1961 at the height of the cold war when Castro nationalized the U.S. corporations in Cuba and declared his Marxist sympathies. That move brought him decades of financial support from the Soviet Union, but it also launched the U.S. embargo. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, its financial backing for Cuba ended. The U.S. embargo continues. Following the release of the AAWH report, the U.S. State Department quickly rejected "any allegation that the United States government is responsible for the deplorable state of health care in Cuba." A spokesman for Secretary of State Madeleine Albright maintained that a "loophole" in the embargo allows for U.S. humanitarian shipments to Cuba from nongovernmental agencies. According to AAWH, however, "donations from U.S. NGOs, international agencies and third countries do not compensate to any major degree for the hardships inflicted by the embargo on the health care system and the health of the Cuban people. Restrictions placed on charitable donations from the U.S. which are similar to those imposed on commercial trade have the same discouraging impact, severely limiting what might otherwise be contributed." The AAWH's conclusions are supported by statistics and extensive interviews with medical professionals in Cuba and the U.S. But individual cases tell an even more powerful story. "In one instance," the AAWH reports, "Cuban cardiologists diagnosed a heart attack patient with a ventricular arrhythmia. He required an implantable defibrillator to survive. Though the U.S. firm CPI, which then held a virtual monopoly on the device, expressed a willingness to make the sale, the U.S. government denied a license for it. Two months later the patient died."

It deprives Cubans of their most basic rights


Hirnandez-Truyol, 9 Profesor of Law at University of Florida (Berta Esperanza Hirnandez-Truyol, 2009, “Embargo or Blockade? The Legal and Moral Dimensions of the U.S. Economic Sanctions on Cuba”, Intercultural Human Rights Law Review, http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1219&context=facultypub)//EM
It is common knowledge that trade sanctions hurt workers and industries, not the officials who authored the policies that are the target of the sanctions. The countries most likely to face sanctions are those run by undemocratic governments least likely to let the pain of their population sway them. These observations hold true in the case of the U.S. embargo on Cuba. While in nearly fifty years of the embargo the purported goal of achieving democracy in Cuba has not been met, the embargo has had deleterious effects on Cuba and the Cuban people. First, a look at some factual data in light of trade relation confirms the reality and extent of the harms suffered. In 1958, the United States accounted for 67% of Cuba's exports and 70% of its imports,(FN111) placing it seventh on both export and import markets of the United States.(FN112) In 1999, by contrast, official U.S. exports to Cuba totaled a paltry $4.7 million, which was comprised mainly of donations of medical aid, pharmaceuticals, and other forms of charitable aid.(FN113) In the year 2000, Cuba ranked 184th of 189 importers of U.S. agricultural products.(FN114) The relaxation of sanctions against food and medicines beginning in 2000 found Cuba rising to 138th in 2001 and to 26th in 2004 for U.S. export markets.(FN115) By 2006, Cuba's ranking had fallen slightly to become the 33rd largest market for U.S. agricultural exports (exports totaling $328 million).(FN116) The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates an ongoing annual loss to all U.S. exporters of approximately $1.2 billion for their inability to trade with Cuba.(FN117) The Cuban government estimates that the total direct economic impact caused by the embargo is $86 billion, which includes loss of export earnings, additional costs for import, and a suppression of the growth of the Cuban economy.(FN118) However, various economic researchers and the U.S. State Department discount the effect of the embargo and suggest that the Cuban problem is one of lack of hard foreign currency which renders Cuba unable to purchase goods it needs in the open market.(FN119) That there has been an economic impact of the embargo is evident to anyone who visits Cuba. For example, there is a minuscule number of modem automobiles on the roads of Cuba. Most are American vehicles from the late 1950s-prior to the embargo (and the revolution). To be sure, because the law prohibits ships from entering U.S. ports for six months after making deliveries to Cuba, the policy effectively denies Cuba access to the U.S. automobile market.(FN120) However, the impacts of economic sanctions are greater than lack of access to goods. In the case of Cuba, some argue that the U.S. embargo has had a deleterious impact on nutrition and health with a lack of availability of medicine and equipment, as well as decreased water quality.(FN121) Indeed, the American Association for World Health (AAWH), in a 1997 report, concluded that the U.S. embargo of Cuba has dramatically harmed the health and nutrition of large numbers of ordinary Cuban citizens.... [I]t is our expert medical opinion that the U.S. embargo has caused a significant rise in suffering -- and even deaths -- in Cuba.... A humanitarian catastrophe has been averted only because the Cuban government has maintained a high level of budgetary support for a health care system designed to deliver primary and preventive health care to all of its citizens.(FN122) Thus, AAWH concludes that the embargo, limiting availability of food, medicine, and medical supplies, has a deleterious effect on Cuban society. Significantly, religious leaders, including the late Pope John Paul II, opposed the embargo and called for its end.(FN123) The gravamen of the objection is the humanitarian and economic hardships that the embargo causes. Interestingly, the new regulations implemented by the Bush administration were met with criticism from many in the Cuban community. While the new regulations purport to exert pressure on Castro, many believe that these regulations only hurt Cuban-Americans and their Cuba-based families. Some speculate that President Bush's supporters for the new regulations are U.S. citizens who no longer have relatives in Cuba.(FN124) For example, one of the supporters of the new restrictions included a seventy-five year old man who emigrated from Cuba in 1973. Opponents, however, were mostly recent immigrants who still had many relatives in Cuba.(FN125) Because the implementation of the amendments occurred shortly before the 2004 elections, many suspected that they would cause a split among Cuban voters in the South Florida area who ordinarily tend to vote Republican. Four years after the implementation of the draconian regulations Cubans continue to voice their disaffection with the interference with their ability to send money to family or travel to Cuba. In Vilaseca v. Paulson,(FN126) a case filed in the United States District Court in Vermont against Henry Paulson in his official capacity as the Director of the U.S. treasury department, four citizens of Vermont who have pressing needs to return to Cuba because of illness, sickness, and death of family members, challenged the constitutionality of the regulations. The complaint alleges that the family travel regulations violate the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution(FN127) and they seek an injunction preventing the government from enforcing the regulation.(FN128) The American Civil Liberties Union ("ACLU") affiliates in Vermont, Florida, and Massachusetts along with the Center for Constitutional Rights, filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the Plaintiffs' complaint.(FN129) In its brief, the ACLU maintains that the regulations not only violate an individual's right to preserve and maintain family as guaranteed by the First and Fifth amendments, they also violate plaintiffs' equal protection rights under the United States Constitution.(FN130) They argued that the right to family is a constitutionally protected fundamental right, and that Cubans are being deprived of that right.(FN131) The ACLU also argues that the regulations violate international law.(FN132) Specifically, the argument posits that the regulations violate established human rights. First, they infringe on the right to family which is recognized as "the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state."(FN133) In addition, they violate the "right to freedom of movement"(FN134) and the "right to leave any country, including his[/her] own."(FN135) President Obama's changed approach, although a small step, goes quite far in alleviating some of these concerns.

Furthermore, it legitimizes the Castro regime, which destroys human rights


HRW, 8 (Human Rights Watch, 2/19/8, “Cuba: Fidel Castro’s Abusive Machinery Remains Intact”, http://www.hrw.org/news/2008/02/18/cuba-fidel-castro-s-abusive-machinery-remains-intact)//EM

Despite Fidel Castro’s resignation today, Cuba’s abusive legal and institutional mechanisms continue to deprive Cubans of their basic rights, Human Rights Watch said today. The counterproductive US embargo policy continues to give the Cuban government a pretext for human rights violations. “Even if Castro no longer calls the shots, the repressive machinery he constructed over almost half a century remains fully intact,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Until that changes, it’s unlikely there will be any real progress on human rights in Cuba.” For almost five decades, Cuba has restricted nearly all avenues of political dissent. Cuban citizens have been systematically deprived of their fundamental rights to free expression, privacy, association, assembly, movement, and due process of law. Tactics for enforcing political conformity have included police warnings, surveillance, short-term detentions, house arrests, travel restrictions, criminal prosecutions, and politically motivated dismissals from employment. Cuba’s legal and institutional structures have been at the root of its rights violations. The rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly, movement, and the press are strictly limited under Cuban law. By criminalizing enemy propaganda, the spreading of “unauthorized news,” and insult to patriotic symbols, the government curbs freedom of speech under the guise of protecting state security. The courts are not independent; they undermine the right to fair trial by restricting the right to a defense, and frequently fail to observe the few due process rights available to defendants under domestic law. “Since Fidel Castro first turned power over to his brother, the Cuban government has occasionally indicated a willingness to reconsider its approach to human rights,” said Vivanco. “But so far it hasn’t taken any of the steps needed to end its abusive practices.” In December 2007, the Cuban government announced its intention to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The ratification, if it occurs, would represent an important break from Cuba's longstanding refusal to recognize these core human rights treaties. However, the Cuban government still needs to take concrete steps to decriminalize political dissent, Human Rights Watch said. Specifically, it should unconditionally release all political dissidents. It should also repeal the provisions of the penal code that provide the basis for gross violations of human rights. “This would be a good time for the US government to revisit its failed embargo policy,” said Vivanco. “By lifting the embargo, Washington could deprive Raúl Castro of the underdog image that his brother exploited so effectively.” For more than four decades, the US government has used Cuba’s dismal rights record to justify a sweeping economic embargo aimed at toppling the Castro regime. Yet the policy did nothing to bring change to Cuba. On the contrary, it helped consolidate Castro’s hold on power by providing his government with an excuse for its problems and a justification for its abuses. Moreover, because the policy was imposed in such a heavy-handed fashion, it enabled Castro to garner sympathy abroad, neutralizing international pressure rather than increasing it.


Such sanctions are an immoral and calculative form of foreign policy that is evil and should be rejected


Addis, 3 William Ray Forrester Professor of Public and Constitutional Law at Tulane University Law School. He received his B.A. and LL.B. (Honours) from Macquarie University (Australia), and an LL.M. and a J.S.D from Yale. (Adeno Addis, 2003, “Economic Sanctions and the Problem of Evil”, Human Rights Quarterly 25.3, Project Muse)//EM
As sanctions have proliferated, however, their use has come under intense challenge from various sources. The reasons for such challenges are as diverse as the critics themselves, but one could group the critics into three general categories. One group of critics simply challenges that sanctions do in fact achieve the purpose for which they are often adopted. Proponents of sanctions often state that sanctions are imposed for purposes of persuading or forcing the regime of the target state to change its conduct or policy in relation to a particular area of concern by making the cost of pursuing that policy greater than the benefit to be gained from it. Critics of this line of reasoning argue that sanctions, whether unilateral or multilateral, often fail to bring about the desired behavioral or policy change. 12 The challenge here is, by and large, empirical not normative. Other critics may concede that more often than not such measures would lead to the desired behavior modification, but at a cost that is often unacceptably high. Economic sanctions deprive citizens of the target state many of the basic necessities of life, leading to massive disruption and even destruction of life. The often high cost in life, liberty, and property that economic sanctions exact on innocent citizens and sectors of the target state are, to these critics, simply unacceptable even if at the end there was to be a change in the action and behavior of the regime of the target state. The moral and material costs that sanctions entail are, to these critics, simply too high to bear. Actually, there are two versions of the moral argument. The weak version is utilitarian in nature. It claims that often the cost in innocent human life and infrastructural damage is far greater than the benefit that is gained by imposing these sanctions. 13 The strong version of the moral argument is Kantian in its outlook. It objects to economic sanctions on the ground that often, if not always, sanctions target innocent civilians for suffering as a means to achieving a foreign policy objective, contrary to Kant's categorical imperative that we treat "humanity, whether in [our] person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end." 14 The argument here is that it is morally [End Page 576] unacceptable to impose suffering on innocent sectors of the target state, as economic sanctions do, for an objective that does not involve the prevention of the deaths of other innocent persons. 15

This collective punishment violates fundamental human rights and institutionalizes racism


Mwaria,98 – PhD from Columbia University, Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Hofstra University, writes on bioethics, women’s health, race relations and differential access to health care (Cheryl, “The immorality of collective punishment: A closer look at the impact of the U.S. embargo on the health of Cubans,” Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society, Vol. 1 No. 2, 1999, online at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/ccbh/souls/vol1no2/vol1num2art8.pdf)//BI

Nowhere is the interrelationship of the moral, the political, and the medical more evident than in the impact of the U.S. embargo on the health system of Cuba. By banning the sale of food and most medicine, the embargo “appears to violate the most basic international charters and conventions governing human rights,” according to a March 1997 report of the American Association for World Health. Supporters of the embargo attempt to justify it on the basis of Cuba’s alleged violation of individual rights. Such a justification overlooks the immorality of the collective punishment of innocent citizens. It is both hypocritical and subtly racist. As a growing number of human rights advocates have argued, only the combined perspective of cultural arrogance and willful ignorance enable such assertions. The streets of Havana bear the marks of the embargo, obvious even to the most casual visitor. While government and business build hotels and tourist facilities, most of the beautiful old residential and office buildings have fallen into disrepair. Food and fuel are rationed. Transportation is difficult (notwithstanding the charm of bicycles and the plea-sure of’ a relatively pollution-free environment). Desperate shortages in paper, soap, machine parts, and material for clothing have become part of daily life. But the streets of Havana bear signs of hope as well. The arts are thriving. Children still attend school. Clinics continue to be built and staffed. Even more important, thanks to the Cuban government’s thirty-year investment in its national health care system, the most brutal marks of hunger and disease— kwashiorkor, marasmus, chronic skin lesions, bellies distended by parasitic disease and rampant dysentery—are nowhere to be seen. The question is: How long can the payoff’s last, and at what price? The Cuban Revolution ushered in two of the twentieth century’s most significant human rights achievements in social welfare in the Western hemisphere. The first was a war on illiteracy—accompanied by the guarantee of a free education—that produced a 7 percent literacy rate in its first year. The second achievement (and the subject of this paper) was the development of a public health care system that guaranteed equal access, regardless of in-come or social standing, rural or urban residence. This system now includes not only primary health care but access to expensive procedures such as transplants, neurosurgery, and in vitro fertilization. Cuba’s achievement of these goals testifies to the sheer strength of the country’s political will as well as to the moral commitment of its people. Prior to the 1959 revolution, Cuba’s health care system, like that of many so-called developing as well as “developed” countries, was sharply divided between haves and have-nots. In 1958, for instance, Cuba had ninety-seven hospitals; of those ninety seven, only one was located in a rural area, despite the fact that Cuba contained an overwhelmingly rural population. The country had no dental clinics and only one dental school. There were seven nursing schools, hut the entire island had only one medical school and a scant four teaching hospitals. As for physicians them selves, half of the country’s 6,000 doctors left immediately following the revolution. Before the revolution, access to health care belonged to the urban and wealthy. Basic health indicators reveal the system’s impact:2 In 1959, there were 60 deaths per 1,000 live births in Cuba. Due to poor sanitation and a lack of clean drinking water, 4,157 Cubans under the age of 15 died of acute diarrheic disease, a rate of 57.3 per 100,000. The revolution turned these statistics around in less than thirty years. By 1984, only 385, or 3.9 percent, of those under 15 died of diarrheic disease. The government built 370 polyclinics; before, there had been none. The number of hospitals reached 263, including 54 in rural areas. Some 99 teaching hospitals and 15 medical schools trained the next generation of doc-tors, while 58 technical and nursing schools and 4 dental schools catered to other health care needs. With a population of 11 million, today’s Cuba has more than 60,000 practicing physicians (approximately one for every 185 inhabitants) and more than 70,000 nurses. Cuba currently commits approximately 15 percent of its GNP to its national health care system, a higher percentage than either the United States or Canada. The results in terms of basic health indicators have been overwhelmingly positive. Cuba’s infant mortality rate of 7.9 per 1,000 live births from 1993 to 1996 places it among the twenty countries with the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. Although the infant mortality rate in the United States was 7.5 for 1995, the rate for inner cities, including the nation’s capital, was considerably worse. The average life expectancy in Cuba is 77 years, higher than that for African-American and Native American males in the United States. These advances have not benefited Cuba alone. Cuba has trained Physicians and other health care professionals from many parts of the world. In the tnid-1980s, Cuba “had more doctors and other health care professionals in international service than the World Health Organization,”3 according to the U.S. and Cuba Medical Project. Additionally, Cuba has been in the forefront of medical research for the production and development of vaccines, neurological restoration, molecular immunology, and dermatological diseases. The U.S. embargo, however, threatens these improvements in Cuban citizens’ health and quality of life. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Cuban government lost its main source of medicine, equipment, and expertise. The U.S. Helms-Burton Act, passed in 1996, has helped to deter Western companies from filling in the gaps. As a result of both the direct and indirect pressures of the embargo, Cuba now faces the possible loss of its remarkable gains. A yearlong investigation by the American Association for World Health (AAWH), completed in March 1997, identified malnutrition, poor water quality, lack of medicine and equipment, and lack of medical information among the most dire current effects of the embargo. Malnutrition and poor water quality, especially, have led to outbreaks of neuropathy, typhoid fever, dysentery, and viral hepatitis as well as to an increase in the number of low- birth-weight babies. And despite the urgency of the situation, “the most routine medical supplies are in short supply or entirely absent from some Cuba clinics” according to the AAWH.

Racism outweighs every impact – it’s the precondition to ethical political decision making.


Memmi, 2k Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Paris (Albert, “RACISM”, translated by Steve Martinot, pp.163-165)
The struggle against racism will be long, difficult, without intermission, without remission, probably never achieved, yet for this very reason, it is a struggle to be undertaken without surcease and without concessions. One cannot be indulgent toward racism. One cannot even let the monster in the house, especially not in a mask. To give it merely a foothold means to augment the bestial part in us and in other people which is to diminish what is human. To accept the racist universe to the slightest degree is to endorse fear, injustice, and violence. It is to accept the persistence of the dark history in which we still largely live. It is to agree that the outsider will always be a possible victim (and which [person] man is not [themself] himself an outsider relative to someone else?). Racism illustrates in sum, the inevitable negativity of the condition of the dominated; that is it illuminates in a certain sense the entire human condition. The anti-racist struggle, difficult though it is, and always in question, is nevertheless one of the prologues to the ultimate passage from animality to humanity. In that sense, we cannot fail to rise to the racist challenge. However, it remains true that one’s moral conduct only emerges from a choice: one has to want it. It is a choice among other choices, and always debatable in its foundations and its consequences. Let us say, broadly speaking, that the choice to conduct oneself morally is the condition for the establishment of a human order for which racism is the very negation. This is almost a redundancy. One cannot found a moral order, let alone a legislative order, on racism because racism signifies the exclusion of the other and his or her subjection to violence and domination. From an ethical point of view, if one can deploy a little religious language, racism is “the truly capital sin.”fn22 It is not an accident that almost all of humanity’s spiritual traditions counsel respect for the weak, for orphans, widows, or strangers. It is not just a question of theoretical counsel respect for the weak, for orphans, widows or strangers. It is not just a question of theoretical morality and disinterested commandments. Such unanimity in the safeguarding of the other suggests the real utility of such sentiments. All things considered, we have an interest in banishing injustice, because injustice engenders violence and death. Of course, this is debatable. There are those who think that if one is strong enough, the assault on and oppression of others is permissible. But no one is ever sure of remaining the strongest. One day, perhaps, the roles will be reversed. All unjust society contains within itself the seeds of its own death. It is probably smarter to treat others with respect so that they treat you with respect. “Recall,” says the bible, “that you were once a stranger in Egypt,” which means both that you ought to respect the stranger because you were a stranger yourself and that you risk becoming once again someday. It is an ethical and a practical appeal – indeed, it is a contract, however implicit it might be. In short, the refusal of racism is the condition for all theoretical and practical morality. Because, in the end, the ethical choice commands the political choice. A just society must be a society accepted by all. If this contractual principle is not accepted, then only conflict, violence, and destruction will be our lot. If it is accepted,

we can hope someday to live in peace. True, it is a wager, but the stakes are irresistible.


Human rights are an a priori obligation—key to agency and outweigh all other concerns


Burggraeve, 5 Emeritus Professor at KU Leuven (Roger Burggraeve, 1/1/5 “The Good and Its Shadow: The View of Levinas on Human Rights as the Surpassing of Political Rationality”, Human Rights Review Vol. 6, Issue 2, pp. 80-101)//EM

And human rights fulfill this defense in different ways, in the sense that they both surpass as well as correct and supplement every social, economic, juridical, and political system. The one who thinks and acts from the basis of human rights--e.g., standing up for and committing oneself to the fights of certain minorities or forgotten people--then does more in terms of humanization than what the sociopolitical structures can achieve. This is so because these structures can never take to heart completely the singular realization of the rights of the unique other. In our ever more international and structurally constructed societal bonds, they precisely make it possible to orientate separately every responsible person towards the necessary surplus of the good for each and every other. In one of his three articles, which Levinas dedicated entirely to human rights, 4 he ex- pressed the bond between the uniqueness of the other and human rights in a radical and challenging manner (HS 176-78). Human rights, which in no way whatsoever must be attributed from without because they are experienced as a priori and therefore as irrevocable and inalienable, express the alterity or ab- soluteness of every human being (AT 151). Every reference is annulled by human rights since it is acknowledged that every individual person possesses those rights: they are inherent to their being-human as persons. In this regard, human rights wrench every human person away from the determining order of nature and the social body, to which everyone indeed obviously belongs. Herein lies, according to Levinas, a remarkable paradox. Thanks to the belongingness of every person to the human kind --humanity--every person possesses an incomparable alterity and uniqueness, whereby everyone likewise transcends the generalness of the human kind. The belongingness of every person to the human kind does not mean a reduction to a neutral unity, but a presentation as a unique person, who by means of that fact itself actually destroys humanity as an abstract idea. Every person is unique in his or her genre. Every person is a person like every other person and yet utterly unique and irreducible: a radi- cally separate other. Humanity exists only by grace of irreducible beings, who are for each other utterly unique and non-exchangeable others. Levinas also calls it the absolute identity of the person (HS 176). It is about a uniqueness that surpasses every individuality of the many individuals in their kind. The uniqueness or dignity of every individual person does not depend on one or the other specific and distinctive difference. It is about an "unconditional" uniqueness, in the sense that the dignity of the person--over every individual person--is not determined by their sex, color of skin, place of birth, moment of their existence, nor by the possession of certain qualities and capacities. Every person possesses dignity that is to be utterly respected, independent of whichever property or characteristic. It is about a uniqueness that precedes every difference, namely understanding a radical alterity as an irreducible and Burggraeve 93 inalienable alterity, whereby a person can precisely say "I." This leads Levinas to state that human rights reveal the uniqueness or the absoluteness of the human person, in spite of their belongingness to the human kind or rather thanks to this belongingness. This absolute, literally detached and uncondi- tional alterity and thus uniqueness of every person simply signifies the para- dox, the mystery and the newness of the human in being! But there is more. Human rights also fulfill a function within socially and politically organized justice itself, namely insofar as they also offer a specific contribution to an even better justice. Or rather, they precisely flow forth from the awareness that justice is never just enough (EFP 98). From within their surpassing position, people will begin to demand that the current, not yet stipu- lated or realized human rights be acknowledged in society and also acquire a structural, social, economic, juridical and political rendition. In this regard they belong to the essence of a non-totalitarian order of society itself, which namely is an order where the political (to be understood as a synthesising term for the entirety of social, economic, financial, juridical and state structures, institutions and forms) is not the definitive and total regime. Even though they are not identified with the presence of a government, and thus they have no direct political or state function, it is still within the political structure that they are acknowledged as their own parallel institution alongside the written laws. It is precisely this acknowledgement that makes the sate a non-totalitarian state. For human rights to make a specific institutional place means indeed accept- ing that the political order does not proclaim itself as the final word. A politics that accepts human rights agrees at the same time to be critiqued on the basis of these human rights so that a better justice becomes effectively possible. With hu- man rights, which is not equated with the regime, one can lay one's finger on the sore spot. By means of pressing charges when human rights are violated, one can question radically a political system that has become rigid or break it open towards greater justice. Human rights remind us that there still is no perfect social and political justice--and there will never be as well (EFP 119).


It is our responsibility as global citizens to learn about the plight of others and include them in this global network of fundamental rights

Abdi and Shultz, 8 professor of Education and International Development at the University of Alberta AND Associate Professor and Co-Director, Centre for Global Citizenship Education and Research (Ali A. Abdi and Lynette Shultz, 2008, “Educating for Human Rights and Global Citizenship”, https://www.sunypress.edu/pdf/61591.pdf)//EM
As should be derived from these horrific problems of diminished citizen- ship (and some that may be more benign in their effect on human life) that both the conceptual and practical implications and realities of citizenship should, indeed, be considered in as wide a context as possible. And when we problematize the case, we should see that for all pragmatic undertakings, the contours as well as the corners of denatured citizenship (fragmented, even destroyed—assuming that people are born as free and naturally enfranchised citizens) have so many forms and characteristics that all nonlegal depriva- tions and suffering could be categorized as lack of citizenship. The fact is that beyond the millions who have been killed, there are billions who are still alive but whose fundamental citizenship rights to education, health, and a viable standard of living have been taken away by those who control access to either state or market resources. In spaces and relationships such as these, citizenship, instead of being created and achieved (see Callan, 1997) is actu- ally being denied, and one can see, as Mamdani (1996) noted, the continu- ing “subjectification” of so many in presumably decolonized landscapes. Indeed, the overall picture is anything but encouraging. As has been abun- dantly reported in recent UN publications, close to half of the world’s popu- lation lives on less than two dollars a day, nearly a billion people cannot read and write, between eight and nine hundred million lack clean drinking water, and an estimated 350 million school-age children do not have access to edu- cation, while, in fact, less than 1 percent of the money spent on weapons could educate all the children in the world. These sites of struggle are collectively an indication of the multicentric nature of the work that is being carried out to address the realities and effects of marginalization, and they lead us to understand the need for a universal approach to human rights. Where some people argue that human rights are particular, necessarily differing according to group and context, we take as a key position that, at many sites, efforts to universalize rights have been the outcome of oppression and the struggle for liberation. The power of the vision and the enactment of universal rights as legal, political, social, cul- tural, and economic entitlements enables marginalized individuals and groups in particular contexts to challenge claims to power by oppressors. Therefore, our position is that universal human rights creates a vision of a world of diversity where all humans have an equitable claim to the rewards and privileges of their social, economic, political, and cultural context. Reporting on the depressing state of the world could continue into many more pages; suffice it to say here that as educators and researchers it is incum- bent upon us to seek a permanent platform for the attainment by all of viable citizenship rights. These rights, while they may not immediately accord us the noble guarantees we need to avoid the likes of Cambodia in the early 1970s or Rwanda in the early 1990s, should at least help us reclaim some relief for the hundreds of millions of our contemporaries who are exposed to malaise and suffering. The potential for human rights as a common vision of human dig- nity to be the catalyst for change is significant. As one small component of that overall project, this book aims to minimally and initially diffuse the meaning as well as the possible practices of the rights of all citizens across the world. To achieve some measure of this, we should not underestimate the role of education in instilling in the minds of people core human rights values and the sanctity of a global citizenship ethic. Global citizenship aims to expand inclusion and power and provides the ethical and normative framework to make this a legitimate and far-reaching project whereby citizenship is a prod- uct of diversity rather than an institutional tool serving particular groups. This global ethic should affirm, for all of us, that citizenship is not just a mechanism to claim rights that are based on membership in a particular polity, but that human rights are based on membership beyond any state or national bound- aries, inherent to all individuals and groups in all places and times. Even in global spaces where fragile or nonexistent states (e.g., Afghanistan, Somalia, Zaire) cannot guarantee the rights of citizens, or in the case where refugees are on the move or located in an “in-between” geographical and political status, people must be still protected by the international community from the per- vasiveness of structural violence.

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