Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Israeli Navy Takes Dignite/Al Karama in International Waters

Earlier today [July 19, 2011], the Israeli navy took control of the one boat from Freedom Flotilla II that had made it into international waters on their way to Gaza. The French-flagged boat - Dignite/Al Karama - carried 16 people from France, Canada, Greece, Sweden and Tunisia. They were stopped about 40 miles away from Gaza and after several hours the Israelis took control of the boat, bringing it to the Israeli port of Ashdod.
There are no reports of any injuries and we have heard the passengers were being arrested. We do not yet know how long they will be detained or what will happen to the boat.
We urge you to contact the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC to call for the immediate release of these people.  

Most important, we must call on the Israeli government to end the siege and blockade of Gaza, and to treat the people of Palestine in compliance with international law!
Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC
  • Ph: 202-364-5500
  • F:   202-364-5423
  • Dignite, Huwaida Arraf 
  • 202-294-8813
  • U.S. Boat to Gaza, Felice Gelman 
  • 917-912-2597

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pillay opens UN Human Rights Office in Tunisia: OHCHR-Geneva

French, Arabic version: http://www.ohchr.org

It is a great pleasure and honour to be opening a UN human rights office for the first time in history in Tunisia.  

It is the first UN human rights office in any of the five North African countries bordering the Mediterranean. 

I would therefore like to thank the people and government of Tunisia for pioneering human rights in this region.

High Commissioners for Human Rights have been trying to set up an office in this region for years. Most countries were careful not to say an outright “No.” But none of them was remotely close to an outright “Yes,” until the people of Tunisia decided to radically alter the priorities.

All that changed in December and January, when the people of Tunisia said, in effect: “Enough. We deserve our rights, we want our rights and we are going to have our rights.”

The whole world watched with amazement and growing respect as Tunisians kept demanding your rights, refusing to be cowed by the repression, the arrests, the torture and all the injuries and tragic loss of life that occurred as Ben Ali’s regime fought unsuccessfully for its survival.

In the past three weeks, Tunisia has ratified no fewer than four extremely important treaties, including three in a single day: 

The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which make those two key human rights treaties much easier to monitor and enforce; and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances. All three of these were ratified on 29 June.

A week earlier, on 24 June, Tunisia became the 116th state to ratify the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, and the first in North Africa. 

This represents a powerful commitment by the new authorities that no future serious violations of human rights will take place with impunity. Ratifying the Rome Statute is one of the best deterrents to serious crimes.

Tunisia is the first country in the Arab world to legally enshrine gender parity in the electoral rolls for the upcoming election.

Tunisia has become a common reference for all human rights defenders, as human dignity and human rights form the heart of the lesson delivered through Tunisia’s revolution. No clearer expression of that can be found than in the essential message of the Tunisian poet, Abū al-Qāsim al-Shābi:

“If, one day, a people desires to live, surely fate shall heed their call.  And their night will then begin to fade, and their chains break and fall.”

Olive trees are a potent symbol in all Mediterranean countries. They symbolize peace, and are renowned for their endurance. They can take as many as 20 years to bear fruit, but once established, they thrive in both fertile and stony ground. 

They survive hot summers and cold winters. Like human rights, they are virtually indestructible. Even when they are cut down, or burned, new shoots sprout from the roots. They can live for thousands of years. 

I therefore hope that the olive tree I am going to plant here today will reflect the advent of a new era of human rights and democracy in Tunisia. And that, 2,000 years from now both this tree and Tunisia can look back on 2011 as the magical year when it all began.

Thank you.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Navi Pillay

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Oslo Freedom Forum: Dawn of a New Arab World PT. II

Part I of the Oslo Freedom Forum is HERE

The 2011 Oslo Freedom Forum brought together dissidents and activists from around the world to share their stories.  All presentations from the 2011 Oslo Freedom Forum are now available via YouTube, including new videos from:

The 2009 and 2010 conferences are available, including speeches from:

The Oslo Freedom Forum was founded to address today's most challenging humanitarian issues. Each year individuals from academia, advocacy, business, media, politics, social entrepreneurship, and technology collaborate on how best to make an impact on the world around us. 

Attention is drawn to issues that matter, inspire action, and shed light on the extraordinary work of innovators across the globe.

Share the talks from these remarkable individuals with friends, colleagues, and family. 

If you would like to interview any of the activists, coordinate an appointment:  hansa.bergwall@evins.com

Thor Halvorssen 
Founder, CEO Oslo Freedom Forum
Twitter @OsloFreedomFrm 

The 2012 Oslo Freedom Forum, will be held on May 7, 8, and 9.  

Monday, July 11, 2011

WBFO-FM 88.7 Wins 6 AP Awards, 2 PRNDI Awards

WBFO-FM 88.7, the University at Buffalo's National Public Radio affiliate, won six awards at the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association's annual awards banquet last month in Saratoga Springs.

The station captured three first-place and three special mentions honoring the work of the WBFO news team.

News director Eileen Buckley received first-place honors for the prestigious Art Athens award for General Excellence in Individual Reporting in 2010. 
Buckley is a three-time recipient of this award, also winning in 2002 and 2008 for her work at WBFO. In announcing the award this year, the judges said Buckley's "stories were well reported and produced. Excellent work." 

Arts and Cultural producer/reporter Joyce Kryszak won first place for Best Feature for "Family War Sacrifice," a report on a family who lost a loved one to the war in Iraq In announcing the award, the judges described Kryszak's work as "a dramatic, heartrending story. Well produced and presented." 

Kryszak has won many Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and New York Broadcasters Association awards throughout her more than 12 years at WBFO. 

Buckley and Kryszak were also honored with a first-place award for Best Continuing Coverage of the "Deadly City Grill Shootings" in downtown Buffalo in August 2010. 

The judges described their news reporting as "thorough, well-presented...interesting storytelling of an important, significant and unfolding event." 


Other Associated Press awards earned by WBFO include:

  • -- Best Spot News Coverage: Special mention to Buckley for reporting on City Grill shootings
  • -- Best Interview: Special mention to Buckley for her interview with gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino about his run-in with New York Post reporter Fred Dicker: "Paladino Bickers with Dicker"
  • -- Best News Special/Documentary: Special mention to. Buckley for coverage of the Flight 3407 crash and tragedy "One Year Later" 

WBFO's news coverage also earned acclaim at the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI) annual awards banquet held last month in Arlington, Va. PRNDI hosts the only national contest recognizing outstanding public radio news reporting at local stations.

The team of Buckley, Weekend Edition anchor Chris Jamele and news anchor Mark Scott won first place for "Breaking News" coverage of the City Grill shootings

WBFO News also received a second-place award for Buckley's spot news coverage of the shootings. 

The judges praised WBFO's coverage of the City Grill crimes as "a model for breaking news coverage: the reporter and anchor seamlessly coordinated coverage from the scene to convey the latest news." 


PRNDI is a non-profit organization dedicated to the professional development of public radio journalists.


John DellaContrada

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Gaza Update

The presence of the U.S. Boat to Gaza in Athens is winding down. For more than 2 weeks the 37 passengers (someone was added at the last moment), 4 crew members and about 12 people in the support team there worked hard to make sure the boat - The Audacity of Hope - could sail as part of the international Freedom Flotilla 2 to Gaza. The Greek government's willingness to serve as the enforcer of Israeli's naval blockade of Gaza made it impossible for this journey to happen.

The creative and determined spirit of this team of committed activists could not be stopped or silenced. 

They worked tirelessly to make the point in countless ways: they attempted to set sail knowing it might lead to a confrontation with the Greek authorities, they stood by the boat's captain when he was arrested and jailed for several days, several people held a hunger strike for a few days, everyone marched and rallied with other flotilla activists and with the people of Athens in their own struggle for economic justice, and incredible energy went into getting the word out to people throughout this country and around the world as the work with the media continued through it all.

Last night, the group's activities in Athens ended and here's a description from one of the people there: "We all went to Syntagma Square which looks much like Tahrir where there is an encampment and thousands of people gather each night. On Sundays there may be upwards of 50,000 and on big nights hundreds of thousands. 

We unfurled to drum beats 22 flags sewn together representing the countries participating in the Flotilla. Our black and white signs were in Greek, Arabic and English. It was a beautiful sight. Then we marched to the Spanish Embassy where our Spanish partners were occupying its embassy demanding the release of their boat. 

We arrived at about 9 pm with drummers leading the way. They came out on balconies and we sang to each other. It was quite the sight."

Now, the journey home - some will arrive today, some tomorrow and others in the days ahead. Everyone is tired, but their energy is strong! They will share their stories and talk about their experiences in communities everywhere. And they will use this incredible time they shared in Athens as a spring board for further activism and organizing.


1) Captain Released

The boat's captain - John Klusmire - had a hearing on Tuesday in a Greek court. He was released from jail, where he had been since Saturday morning, and was told he had no restrictions or limitations on his movements or activities. The charges against him were not dropped but hopeful that eventually they will be. Thanks everyone for all of the calls and email messages you sent to Greek and U.S. authorities in support of John!

2) Hunger Strike Over

The 9 passengers who were on a hunger strike in support of ther captain ended their fast. On Sunday they had been detained by the Athens police for several hours, and then on Monday 6 people were again detained and then let go a few hours later. Everyone was fine and since then no one has been held by the police.

3) The Boat

The Audacity of Hope remains in the hands of Greek authorities and we do not yet know when they will release it. Several people are staying in Athens for the foreseeable future to make sure the boat is safe.

4) Information on Other Boats:
Please note that the situation for each boat has been constantly changing.

a) On 7/5, the Greek Boat to Gaza group held a press conference at the Athens Press Club. Present were Dimitris Plionis, an organizer from the Greek group, Dr. Mattias Gardell of the partner group Swedish Boat to Gaza, Members of Parliament Tasos Kourakis and Theodoris Dritsas 2 MPs, and Green Party representative Iannis Tsironis. 

They denounced the government actions and policies forbidding ships of the Flotilla to leave Greek ports, effectively extending the Israeli siege of Gaza to Greek waters and outsourcing the siege of Gaza. Also attending in solidarity was MP Panagiotis Kouroublis, who had recently been expelled from the ruling PASOK Party for voting against the IMF austerity plan. He was given a standing ovation when he entered the hall.

b) The owners and crew of the Greek/Swedish/Norwegian passenger boat Juliano went on board in the port of Perama near Piraeus, and attempted to take the boat to the port town of Fokia, approximately 10 km. away, where they were due to attend a welcome ceremony at the invitation of the Fokia mayor, honoring the passengers and crew. 

The port authorities prevented the boat from leaving, without citing any justification. In the meantime, two rented boats filled with journalists and supporters gathered at the port to cover the action and to demand release of the boat, and have been confronted by port police. At latest report, the standoff continues, and a crowd of people is gathering at the Perama Port Authority to demand the release of the boat.

c) Passengers of the Spanish boat Guernica entered the Spanish embassy in Athens and staged a sit-in, demanding that the Spanish government intercede with Greece to release the boat. They hoisted the Palestinian flag and are refusing to leave until their boat is given permission to leave.

d) Canadian citizen Sandra Ruch remains in custody in the port city of Aghios Nikolaos. She and one other Suha Kneen, Michael Coleman, Australian Canadian were charged with impeding coast guard authorities by placing themselves in kayaks in front of police boats attempting to stop the Canadian boat, Tahrir from leaving Greek waters. They have been charged with interfering with law enforcement.

e) The other French passenger boat Karameh is again at sea in international waters, awaiting the other boats in the Flotilla. After leaving France, it proceeded to the eastern Mediterranean, where it sheltered in a safe port before returning to international waters.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

UN to study over 350 cases of disappearances

GENEVA – The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) has started reviewing more than 350 cases of enforced disappearances, including recently submitted information on previously accepted cases, and other communications concerning more than 40 countries.

During its 94th session, taking place at the headquarters of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva from 4-8 July, the independent experts will hold meetings with Government delegations and civil society representatives, including relatives of disappeared persons, to exchange views on individual cases under consideration and on the phenomenon of enforced disappearances in general.

The Working Group is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. 

The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Jeremy Sarkin (South Africa) and the other members are Mr. Ariel Dulitzky (Argentina), Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Mr. Osman El-Hajjé (Lebanon) and Mr. Olivier de Frouville (France).

The Working Group was established by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. 

It endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases are investigated, with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. 

In view of the Working Group's humanitarian mandate, clarification occurs when the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person is clearly established.

The Working Group continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved. 

It also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

For more information and media requests:

Ms. Giovanna Zucchelli: 
+41 22 917 9189

Mr. Matías Pellado:
+41 22 917 9336

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence: All Men Are Created Equal?

Righteous:  acting in accord with divine or moral law.
Rightful:  having a just or legally established claim.

© Merriam Webster 2011

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." 

- Preamble, The United States Declaration of Independence, 1776 

Independence Day, or the Fourth of July, is a celebration [and federal holiday] in the United States to recognize the Declaration of Independence of 1776.  A statement was adopted by the Continental Congress declaring that thirteen American colonies [then at war with Great Britain], were now independent states, no longer a part of the British Empire. 

Thomas Jefferson wrote this declaration stating that July 4th become the birth of America. The signed document is on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  The main components of this document, beside the Preamble, are grievances against King George III, including the right of revolution. 

Abraham Lincoln considered this declaration to be the foundation of his philosophy. The document has been utilized to promote rights of minority groups, basic human rights, and as moral standards that Americans live and abide by.

Are you, American citizen, practicing and applying these simple moral codes?

  • - creating all men equal
  • - recognizing endowment of one's Creator
  • - allowing others, as well as self, to pursue life, liberty, happiness

Every American citizen rightfully and righteously should have been able to answer the above question with a resounding, "YES!"

This document is the cornerstone of the DIVERSITY that is all of the PEOPLE of the United States of America. It was put into effect to create a union, not a separation.  

Until we, America, learn how to treat ourselves and one another with respect, acceptance, love, kindness and compassion; then we, Americans, cannot accept this declaration as independence. 

This document was drafted to unite us as people, to progress us as a nation, for ourselves and for the world, and to be free from any rule that does not speak for the NATION of the PEOPLE of the United States of America. 

If you honestly have answered YES to the above question, you rightfully and righteously own this declaration.

As an American citizen, owning such declaration, the Preamble further states: 

  • "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed [that is us, people.] 

  • That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.  

  • Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.  

  • But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their RIGHT, it is their DUTY, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."


Regardless of how America came to be, who rightfully owned this land, those who were brought here under duress, the current state of the world, actions of the United States government and governments therein, and regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, and culture:

If you are indeed an America citizen, RIGHT NOW, the Declaration of Independence belongs to YOU.  


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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Alert Update: US Boat To Gaza

July 3, 2011 - 6 pm NY time

Athens: the 8 people who were fasting in front of the U.S. Embassy have been arrested then released. They are Ken Mayers, Carol Murry, Medea Benjamin, Paki Wieland, Ray McGovern, Brad Taylor, Kit Kitteridge and Kathy Kelly. We will not have any more news until the morning. 

In the meantime, keep the pressure on Washington. They need to pressure the Greek government to release our captain, our boat and now these 8 people as well! Let them sail to Gaza!

Throughout this country people have responded to our call to contact the U.S. State Department to demand that they take the steps necessary to ensure that the Greek authorities immediately release the captain and let our boat sail to Gaza. 

There has been such a strong response that their voice mailboxes are full! That's great, but of course frustrating for those of you trying to make those calls.

Here are some other phone numbers and email addresses to try:
  • State Department general number: 202-647-4000 - ask for the Overseas U.S. Citizen Services Duty Officer and you'll get a live State Dept. official who has to hear you out.
  • The voicemail for Kim Richter - also at the State Dept. - says she's out of the office for several days, and that callers with urgent issues should contact a colleague at 202-647-4578.
  • If you can place an international phone call, the number for the U.S. Embassy in Athens is 011-30-210-721-2951.

Please try to call, fax or email your members of Congress as well.

EMAIL: nycons@greekembassy.org
  • Consulate General - Chicago
  • 650 North St. Clair Street
  • Chicago , IL 60611
  • Telephone: 312.335.3915
  • Fax: 312.335.3958
  • Web Address: http://www.greekembassy.org/chicago/
  • E-mail: chicago@greekembassy.org
  • Consulate General - San Francisco
  • 2441 Gough Street
  • San Francisco, CA 94123
  • Telephone: 415.775.2102
  • Fax: 415.776.6815
  • Web Address: http://www.greekembassy.org/sanfrancisco/
  • E-mail: sfgr@greekembassy.org
  • Consulate General - Los Angeles
  • 12424 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 800
  • Los Angeles, CA 90025
  • Telephone: 310.826.5555
  • Fax: 310.826.8670
  • Web Address: http://www.greekembassy.org/losangeles/
  • E-mail: lagr@greekembassy.org
  • Consulate General - Tampa
  • 601 Bayshore Blvd., Suite 800
  • Tampa, FL 33606
  • Telephone: 813.865.0200
  • Fax: 813.865.0206
  • Web Address: http://www.greekembassy.org/tampa
  • E-mail: grgencon.tam@mfa.gr
  • Consulate - Atlanta
  • Tower Place, Suite 1670 3340, Peachtree Rd., N.E.
  • Atlanta, GA 30326
  • Telephone: 404.261.3313
  • Fax: 404.262.2798
  • Web Address: http://www.greekembassy.org/atlanta/
  • E-mail: atlanta@greekembassy.org
  • Consulate - Houston
  • 520 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 450
  • Houston , TX 77027
  • Telephone: 713.840.7522
  • Fax: 713.840.0614
  • Web Address: http://www.greekembassy.org/houston/
  • E-mail: houston@greekembassy.org

Help us keep the pressure up!!