Human Rights · Uncategorized

A cattle prod showers sparks in Room 17 as government delegates watch on laughing (or the Fourteenth Report on the 61st UN Commission on Human Rights, April 5, 2005)

Discussion today continued on Item 11, Civil and political rights, including the questions of: a) Torture and detention, b) Disappearances and summary executions, c) Freedom of expression, d) Independence of the judiciary, administration of justice, impunity, e) Religious intolerance, f) States of emergency, g) Conscientious objection to military service, with some of the most disturbing stories I have ever heard about human brutality and cruelty. Extraordinary inhumanity. NGOs continued their interventions for the entire day and it was the most horrific list of human rights violations one could possibly imagine. Worse than the scariest scary movie because all of it is real, and the people who survived (or not) these unimaginable atrocities are actually real people who bled and cried and screamed as they were being tortured and brutalized. They are real people, and one of the most frightening things to me about this discussion was how blasé the government delegates and even the NGOs are about what they are hearing. It was too much for me to be in the main room as I was struggling to breathe and stave off a serious panic attack, so I went upstairs to the balcony where I had a bit of physical distance to create some calm emotional space for myself to be able to stay. From the bird’s eye view where sit the interpreters as well as the technical service people, it became intense in a different way. From the balcony, it was easier to see the faces of the delegates as they talked and laughed amongst each other while every crime imaginable was being detailed for the Commission. The government delegates talked on their cell phones, flirted amongst themselves, shook their heads in smug outrage as if the brave survivors telling their horrific stories were in fact making it all up, and generally looked like big fat jerks who have somewhere along the way lost their souls. I know they have not lost their souls and they are in fact human beings who were once children, held by their mothers, cried when they had their first cut, and like everyone just want to be happy. But for me, it takes a lot of energy to see their human side when this darkness is in place of their faces. One of my mentors told me not to take this stuff personally, that it really has nothing to do with me and it really shouldn’t upset me to the point where I am in the middle of an anxiety attack and have to leave the room. And part of me agrees with him. But the other part of me thinks that everyone should be crying and it should make everyone sick to their stomachs to hear of this real life horror. Everyone’s hearts should be pounding with anxiety and I wonder what it takes to change our human essence of compassion to this coldness.

A man from an NGO was discussing the human rights violations taking place in Chinese prisons and he somehow brought a cattle prod to demonstrate what the instrument of torture looked like. From my vantage point in the balcony, he was directly below me and I could not see him at all, but I saw the sparks from that cattle prod fly out feet in front of him and the whole of Room 17 illuminated by a grotesque blue light. Even from the balcony, I could hear the sound of the frizzling electricity albeit muffled and I smelled burning flesh, although the smell was the memory of my friend Wendy’s murder and the smell of smoke and blood after she was shot in the head. I watched as the government delegates began to laugh at the demonstration like this implement of cruel torture was a big joke. They laughed and looked like hyenas around a corpse, although I do hesitate to compare these humans to animals. Animals are far more humane than humans and so few of them kill for sport or tell others to kill just for the sake of killing. It made me sick to my stomach. Sparks flying, the smell of blood in my head and these people laughing. It really is a scary movie in Room 17: we watch horrors and no one believes it is real so they laugh, they make fun, they refuse to take it seriously. What is this sickness.

There is too much pain to breathe sometimes.

How do these people sleep at night? I cannot sleep after spending time with them. Do they feel even the smallest tinge of the suffering they cause? Do they carry the weight of all this death on their shoulders like I do? Do they wake up screaming in the middle of the night, remembering? Do they feel the wake of their destruction? And at the end of the day when the government pigs have their Rights of Replies, they deny the ‘baseless’ and ‘shameful allegations’ made by whichever NGO. They deny everything. Even when it was a survivor who testifies in front of the Commission, scars and trauma evident in the shaky voice and haunted eyes. The governments deny it all and reaffirm their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights for all. How do they sleep at night.

Can someone please explain to me the seed of these inhumanities?







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