Nobel Peace Laureates Digest

Have a look at our digest of the latest news in the worldwide media about the activities of the Nobel Peace Laureates during the past week.

“Today is a historic day for the country”: Juan Manuel Santos

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From his Twitter account, the President showed his support for the process of dropping the weapons that the FARC will make. This Wednesday, Juan Manuel Santos said that his country lives a historic day with the beginning of the process of abandoning the weapons that will make the FARC. “Today is a historic day for the country: the Farc say goodbye to arms to change the violence for reconciliation,” the president wrote in his Twitter account. The FARC said they will begin to register 30% of the weapons they must leave in the hands of the UN as part of their commitment to the peace agreement signed with the Government, although they do not strictly adhere to the set timetable. They also asserted that members participating in the ceasefire Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MMV), in which there are also members of the UN’s public force and mission, will begin to hand over their weapons from today. Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo also welcomed the start of the FARC’s arms-dropping process, which is expected to conclude on June 1, when the 180 days established for the demobilization of the guerrillas are completed. “Five years ago many said that the FARC would never lay down their arms. Today they start doing it with UN verification and will end in June, “said Christ in a message on Twitter. // El Heraldo

Mikhail Gorbachev turned 86

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Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union and head of the Gorbachev Foundation, turned 86 on Thursday. Gorbachev, who led the Soviet Union from 1985 until its fall in 1991, introduced major changes in international relations and economic policy through the “perestroika” (restructuring) and “glasnost” (openness) programs marking the start of a new era for his nation. In a message published on the Kremlin’s website, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Gorbachev and praised him for his lifelong contributions.  “Over many years now, you have been engaged in important public research and activity, taking part in expert discussions on the international community’s development and strengthening international cooperation,” reads Putin’s message. “Your knowledge and rich professional and life experience have proven of the utmost use in this important work,” Putin said. // WTOL

Lech Walesa.  “Democracy must be defended everywhere!

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Walesa, the historic leader of Solidarnosc, was in Paris this week, for a symposium in the Senate and a meeting at the Marc-Sangnier Institute. No direct polemics against the current Polish government. No answer to the regular accusations against his alleged relations with the communist police. Lech  Walesa  was not in Paris to make the opposition at a distance, but to talk about peace and democracy. The one who was the first president of post-communist Poland is worried about the rise of populism throughout the continent. “Do not destroy our victory ,” he said.  In 1989, we enjoyed global solidarity to assert democracy. Is there such solidarity today in Europe? I doubt. So wherever it is possible to gather, to meet, it must be done. We need to define democracy again. ” Since Jaroslaw Kaczynski came to power in October 2015 in Warsaw in October 2015, the country is very divided. Is democracy in danger? “The people must be awakened. Compared to thirty years ago, everyone is better today. But people have given democracy for granted, without taking too much interest in politics. Participation is very low in elections. But we have to get back on track. It is not only a Polish problem, democracy is to be defended everywhere. No generation in history has had as many resources as we have, none. But it must be ordered, organized. Otherwise, it’s the street that will prevail and spoil everything. Faced with populism, the Democrats are not active enough. In Poland as elsewhere. ” // Ouest France

Jose Ramos-Horta about Kim Jong-nam’s Assassination: It Is a Wake-Up Call to the World

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The assassination of Kim Jong-nam in Kuala Lumpur airport two weeks ago is a reminder of the depravity and barbarity of his half-brother, North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un, and the world’s most closed, and most cruel, dictatorship. That he was murdered was not a surprise – it was well-known that Kim Jong-nam was a marked man and attempts had been made before. After Kim Jong-un killed his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, in late-2013 it was recognized that he would stop at nothing to eliminate perceived threats to his power, even his own relatives. But that Kim Jong-nam was killed so publicly, in an airport, using female assassins and a highly toxic nerve agent, known as VX, is brazen in the extreme. The United Nations classifies VX as a weapon of mass destruction. It is still difficult to know whether the assassination was specifically timed for a particular political reason, or whether it was opportunistic, taking advantage of Kim Jong-nam’s particular vulnerability at that moment. But that it was ordered by Pyongyang is hardly in doubt now – the behavior of North Korean officials since the murder suggests their involvement. The desperate attempts to have the corpse returned to North Korea before any autopsy, the diplomatic row that ensued with Malaysia, and the attempted break-in at the morgue all point to efforts at a cover up by this criminal regime. Lashing out not only at Malaysia, but at China – North Korea’s only protector in the world – points to a regime that is not only inhumane but increasingly unstable. To accuse China of “dancing to the tune of the U.S.” seems extraordinarily imprudent when it is only China – and perhaps Russia – that stand between the regime’s current impunity for crimes against humanity and prosecution at the International Criminal Court. Three years ago, the United Nations published one of the most detailed and damning reports on North Korea’s appalling human rights record. A Commission of Inquiry, established by the UN and chaired by the distinguished Australian judge Michael Kirby, conducted a series of public hearings with at least 80 witnesses, as well as more than 240 confidential interviews with victims and witnesses, and concluded that “the gravity, scale and nature” of the human rights violations in North Korea “reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” A catalogue of crimes against humanity, including “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions,” as well as severe religious persecution, enforced disappearances, and starvation, should lead, the inquiry recommended, to a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The “unspeakable atrocities” faced by up to 120,000 prisoners in the country’s system of prison camps “resemble the horrors of camps that totalitarian States established during the twentieth century.” No official or institution is held accountable, the inquiry concluded, because “impunity reigns.” The UN’s findings confirm what human rights organizations have been reporting for years. In 2007 Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) published a report, “North Korea: A Case to Answer, A Call to Act,” which documented very similar abuses and reached the same conclusions. Last year, CSW released a new report specifically on abuses of freedom of religion or belief, titled “Total Denial: Violations of Freedom of Religion or Belief in North Korea,” which concludes that there is no freedom of religion or belief at all – anyone in North Korea who admits to any belief other than absolute loyalty to the ruling Kim family faces life in a prison camp or sometimes execution. The ruling family is the only dictatorship in the world that is a dynasty portraying itself as a deity to be worshiped. More than any other contemporary tyrant, North Korea’s regime rules like a medieval monarchy. The regime rules through fear and propaganda. An elaborate system of “guilt-by-association” means prisoners in labor camps are not only those who commit political misdemeanors such as listening to foreign radio or possessing a Bible but also their relatives. The songbun system of social classification determines basic needs such as access to education, health care, and food rations. If you are in the “core” or loyal class, the elite, you have opportunities, but if you are in the “wavering” or “hostile” classes you face a life of dire poverty. Class is determined at birth by family background, and if your family has any history of religious belief, association with South Korea, or political dissent you are an enemy of the state. Children in North Korea are taught to hate South Koreans, Japanese, Americans and the “West” in general. A new report, “Forced to Hate: North Korea’s Education System,” published by a non-governmental organization established by escapees called People for Successful Corean Reunification (PSCORE) in December, provides an analysis of textbooks in North Korean schools and shows how history is turned on its head in the classroom to instill in North Koreans at an early age total devotion to the Kim dynasty and hatred of their perceived enemies. The assassination of Kim Jong-nam should be a wake-up call to the international community, including China, that the North Korean regime is not simply a pariah to be ridiculed, but a dangerous threat to the world. It should also remind us that human rights and security are two sides of the same coin – the way the regime treats its own people and the way it threatens its enemies should compel an equally urgent response. The UN Commission of Inquiry report put forward a variety of recommendations three years ago. Some of its recommendations have been implemented. Others have sat on a shelf. The principal one, referral to the International Criminal Court, has stalled because China threatens to veto it at the Security Council if it is proposed. It is time now to reconsider ways to address impunity. With China increasingly unhappy with the regime it has until now protected, efforts should be made to persuade them to consider not using a veto and to allow a resolution referring Kim Jong-un to the ICC. If that fails, serious consideration should be given to other international justice mechanisms that could be used. Last month a UN Group of Independent Experts, set up to explore approaches to accountability, proposed an ad hoc tribunal if an ICC referral proves impossible. “Investigation and prosecution of serious crimes is critical,” they argue. New UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea Tomas Ojea Quintana supports their call, urging the international community “to ensure that serious human rights violations, especially those amounting to crimes against humanity, do not go unpunished.” He called on the UN to implement the recommendations of the group of independent experts “without delay, ensuring that perpetrators of gross violations are held responsible and supporting all victims in their quest for truth and justice.”There is at the very least a need for North Korea’s human rights crisis to be brought to the agenda of the Security Council once again, and for a concerted effort by the international community to ensure that this gangster regime answers for its crimes. North Korea is not a curiosity to ignore, it is a danger to be confronted. // The Diplomat

Tawakkol Karman said that Trump’s phrase Islamic terrorism is “racist” and “discriminatory”

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Former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki has accused US President Donald Trump of contributing to the decline in human rights in the Middle East by supporting dictators there. Marzouki highlighted Trump’s support for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. Speaking at an event on the side-lines of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva Marzouki said that respect for human rights in the region has never been worse than the years following the Arab Spring. Whilst governments in the region are to blame, the Trump administration is exacerbating this downward spiral. Trump’s attack on the media has encouraged other countries around the world to do the same. “The US will lose all the moral leverage over these dictatorships, and this will lead to an increase in terrorism, not a decrease”, he said. Speaking alongside Marzouki, 2011 Nobel Prize winner Tawakkol Karman said that Trump’s phrase Islamic terrorism is “racist”, “discriminatory” and it emboldens Daesh by enforcing the impression that the West is at war with Islam. Karman said that the West have not done enough to support the Arab Spring uprisings, including in her home country Yemen, which is suffering a brutal civil war. “Unfortunately the West let down the Arab youth who had aspirations and dreams of freedom and democracy, and allowed them to be devoured by both dictatorships and terrorism,” said Karman. // Middle East Monitor

Leymah Gbowee to speak at Wabash College

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Leymah Gbowee, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner, will present a lecture on “Crossing Borders to Find Common Ground” at Wabash College in Pioneer Chapel at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15.  Sponsored by the Wabash College Pastoral Leadership Program, her talk is free and open to the public. In 2003 Gbowee led a nonviolent movement of Christian and Muslim women to end the Second Liberian Civil War. “We were constantly trying to imagine strategies that would be effective,” Gbowee says. “The men in our society were really not taking a stance… We decided to do a sex strike to kind of propel these silent men into action.” Gbowee is featured in the 2008 documentary film, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” that portrayed the efforts to end Liberia’s devastating civil war. It was awarded the best documentary at that year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Chronicled in her memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers, published in 2011, she is quoted in her book as saying, “When you move so quickly from innocence to a world of fear, pain and loss, it’s as if the flesh of your heart and mind gets cut away, piece by piece, like slices taken off a ham. Finally, there is nothing left but bone.” Gbowee is a Liberian peace activist, trained social worker, and women’s rights advocate. She is founder and current president of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa. She was the founding head of the Liberian Reconciliation Initiative, and was the co-founder and former executive director of Women Peace and Security Network Africa. She is also a founding member and former Liberia Coordinator of Women in Peacebuilding Network/West Africa Network for Peacebuilding. Gbowee is currently a Distinguished Activist in Residence at Union Theological Seminary. She travels internationally to advocate for human rights and peace and security. She has appeared on numerous television programs including CNN, BBC, and France24 and is the mother of six children. // Wabash

Jody Williams will lecture on “The Ethics of Foreign Policy” at Columbia College next week.

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Jody Williams, who shared the 1997 Nobel Prize with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines organization, will lecture on “The Ethics of Foreign Policy” at Columbia College next week. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines helped 122 nations come together to sign a treaty that banned the use, production and sale of anti-personnel landmines. Williams was the 10th woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and the third American woman to earn the honor. Her lecture will begin at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Launer Auditorium on the Columbia College campus. The event, which is open to the public, is part of the college’s Althea W. and John A. Schiffman Ethics in Society Lecture Series, which began in 2003. // Columbia Daily Tribune

How Kailash Satyarthi took to activism when young

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Noble Peace laureate (2014) Kailash Satyarthi, who delivered a lecture in the city on Sunday, appealed to the public to defend the rights of children and fight for their education. Satyarthi was speaking at the Rotary South Asia Literacy Summit which was inaugurated by Union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar on Friday and attended by representatives from SAARC nations Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Recalling his interest in child rights, Satyarthi shared an anecdote from his days in Vidisha district, Madhya Pradesh. The young activist had been 11 when he came across children in his neighbourhood not going to school as they did not have books. Satyarthi said, “It was the year 1965 when I shared this idea with a childhood friend. We decided to rent a vegetable cart and go to different neighbourhoods requesting people to donate used books. Within five hours, we managed to collect nearly 2,500 books.” Satyarthi who has fought to protect the rights of nearly one lakh children from more than a hundred countries recalled tales of horror during attempts to rescue children under bondage. “Three days ago, at Mukti Ashram (which he runs), I noticed that a 10-year-old boy was not able to walk. He had been freed three weeks ago, along with a dozen other children 13-14 years old. When I approached him, he told me that he had been forced to work sitting in the same posture for 22 hours a day in a one-room jeans factory in Delhi.” // Times of India