Human Rights

Justice for the Innocent

This piece was originally published as a blog post by René Cassin.   Who is at the centre of Britain’s Modern Slavery Act: slaves or their captors? When only 4.9 per cent of the compensation awarded in such cases is passed onto victims, as The Times claimed yesterday, we can’t help but wonder. This is what happens when priorities are skewed towards criminal justice and away from community care. Legislation that has upgraded modern slavery into a serious crime has had the added effect of encouraging prosecutions at the expense of caring for victims – in this case, quite literally. Crackdowns on gangs and traffickers provide the instant gratification that long-term rehabilitation of victims does not. We’ve seen it all before, only in a different context: the war on drugs, where the capture of cartel kingpins is taken as an unequivocal sign of success. We should be concerned, because how we start …

Who’s Afraid of Milo Yiannopoulos?

“I made a decision that has nothing to do with political ideology and everything to do with human rights and decency,” argued Adam Morgan’s article in The Guardian last week. The editor-in-chief of The Chicago Review of Books was justifying his magazine’s decision to boycott publisher Simon & Schuster in 2017. Why? For publishing a book whose author he finds repulsive. Stranger things have happened in the past year than the call to boycott a publisher in the name of liberalism, but not many. Morgan’s words do not sound brave. Instead, they demonstrate some of the most basic forms of repression, cowardice and fearfulness. Books become dangerous only when we show our own closed-mindedness to open debate. A hard-hitting review of Yiannopoulos’s book would have done far more to dismiss his slander and his lies. The Chicago Review should spend its time criticising ideas themselves, and not their free expression. …

A second inconvenient truth

I  It has taken around fifty years for the Aral Sea to parch. If you look at satellite images of the Kazakh-Uzbek border today, it is as though a half-bruised eyelid has drowsed shut across tens of thousands of kilometres of water. Lake Chad – on the margins of Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon – is next. Since the 1960s, it has shrivelled by 90 per cent. Roughly half of that reduction in size is attributed to climate change, but the truth is that scientists and analysts find themselves all at subjunctives with such figures. This isn’t just an ecological calamity. It’s also symptomatic of what will be one of the most persistent human rights challenges of this century. The cradle of mankind is starting to look more like a cemetery. Take Niger, a country that finds itself at the very top or the very bottom of almost every index …