Tell Me No Lies is the title of an anthology edited by John Pilger, which records instances of investigative journalism which change how a situation or conflict was represented, and still stand the test of time today. It is a mantra that perhaps we must learn to live by when discussing issues of human rights, which are often ignored, brushed under the carpet and are too far removed from our lives.
In the same way that women’s rights campaigns are often considered hyperbolic or over-sensitive, human rights campaigns are looked at with a sense of exasperation and apathetic derision. In other words, we do not want to know. This blog is an attempt at reminding people of the very famous Edmund Burke quote which features in almost every human rights related website or blog: ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’. The subtleties of this quotation are debated here, however its meaning and intent remain crucial. We stand by apathetically while people all over the world are tortured, raped, oppressed, suppressed, brainwashed, ignored, forgotten, and other verbs which I have probably missed out. Mainstream media appreciates the extreme depth of our apathy to these people and thus they choose not to report violations when it does not suit their interests. Some of the best reporting on human rights issues come through new media: blogs (both specifically dedicated to human rights and not) and twitter (especially currently whilst covering the Middle East protests).
This blog will cover violations that occur in both the ‘developed’ and the ‘developing’ world. These markers are themselves troubling, however they are representative of how the world is perceived, usually in those countries considered ‘developed’.
Rather than waste space on the vagaries of this issue, I will move on to one that has recently been splattered all over the media. In the UK, new legislation has been released on the right for sex offenders to appeal their place on the sex offenders list. The rhetoric surrounding this is so biased that even fact-based news articles sound like they are choosing to disagree with the new ruling. The use of ‘criminals’, ‘rapists’ and ‘paedophiles’ to apply to all sex offenders is difficult, because clearly all three titles are not mutually exclusive.
The sex offenders register applies to not only those accused of violent sexual crime (rape, paedophilia and parental child abuse) but even those who might have consensual sex with a partner under the legal age. The stigma of being on a public sex offenders list then becomes unfair. The tenets of the UK’s justice system are based on a ‘criminal’ serving his time in prison in order to be rehabilitated, reformed and then returned to normal life in society. The strange overreaction to this legislation works against Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to privacy and family life. All human beings have the right to appeal against a ruling that they believe is unfair, whether they are a ‘criminal’ or not.
The lack of understanding of the true nature of the act is perpetuated by articles such as this, which use popular rhetoric in order to overstate what is actually occurring. Sex offenders can only appeal their placement on the register 15 years after being released; considering the age at which most sex offenders are released, the anger at this legislation is seemingly misplaced. Most of the public seem to be assuming that every sex offender who appeals will be removed. A ‘delete’ button is not being created – instead, a considered and clear process of appeal is being created, to ensure that those that remain a risk are not being released. The public should perhaps then be questioning why they believe the justice system to be so flawed, as to allow those sex offenders who are still a threat free reign in society?
The public’s over-anxious outlook fails to recognise that continuing to track the movement of the innocent, harming their career prospects and private life is an unfair and clear violation of human rights. Our justice system works on the premise that those who serve their time are rehabilitated and are allowed to integrate back into society. Those who have a problem with this ruling should understand that they are critiquing a much bigger issue.