Benedict Rogers

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United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet leaves after she addressed the press on the opening day of the 50th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on June 13. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

The United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights is one of the world’s custodians of justice, civil liberties, and accountability. Navi Pillay initiated a U.N. inquiry into crimes against humanity in North Korea. Zeid Raad Al Hussein called for an International Criminal Court probe into atrocities committed against Rohingyas in Myanmar. In contrast, Michelle Bachelet, who has just announced she won’t stand for a second term as high commissioner, whitewashed the crimes of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

Whoever holds the office of U.N. high commissioner for human rights is looked to as a moral leader.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Thein Sein of Myanmar is in Washington this week, the first Burmese head of state to visit since the military dictator Gen. Ne Win in 1966.

Much has changed since 1966. Fifty years of direct military rule have ended, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is out of house arrest and sits in Parliament, along with 42 of her colleagues from the National League for Democracy, and hundreds of political prisoners — including the most prominent dissidents — have been released.

Preliminary, fragile cease-fires have been reached with most ethnic armed resistance groups, and in Yangon and other major cities there is greater space for civil society, more freedom for the media and more opportunity for political actors.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korea is in the news again for the same old reason — nuclear tests. The United Nations Security Council was right to pass a resolution; the world is right to be deeply concerned.

There is also another reason to take action on North Korea: It has possibly the worst human rights record in the world. In the world’s most oppressed nation, there is no freedom of speech or religion; in the world’s most closed nation, no freedom of information; in the world’s darkest nation, little light, politically, spiritually and even physically. If you look at a satellite map of the Korean Peninsula, the South is lit up brightly; the North, where electricity is almost as scarce as hope, the map is almost completely black.…  Seguir leyendo »

Just a few days after Lady Gaga’s concert in Indonesia was canceled after protests by Islamic groups, I flew 1,370 kilometers from Jakarta to Padang, West Sumatra, and drove a further 130 kilometers, a four-hour journey along rough, winding roads, to Sijunjung, to visit an Indonesian atheist jailed for his beliefs.

Alex Aan, a 30-year-old civil servant, is a gentle, soft-spoken, highly intelligent young man who simply gave up his belief in God when he saw poverty, war, famine and disaster around the world.

He faces the possibility of up to six years in prison, charged with blasphemy, disseminating hatred and spreading atheism.…  Seguir leyendo »

I now know what it feels like for dissidents in Burma, when the authorities knock on the door late at night. In my case, I was treated civilly, but I know that if I had been Burmese it would have been far, far worse.

I had been in Burma a week, and had visited the country several times before. Having written a biography of the dictator, Than Shwe, accusing him of crimes against humanity, I was surprised to have made it back into the country, and was not surprised when the authorities caught me.

It happened at 11 p.m. on my last night in Rangoon.…  Seguir leyendo »