Archive for December, 2009
May you, your families and friends have much health, happiness and success at whatever you do. If you are involed with human rights, may you have super duper extra success!
We hope to have you back here soon.
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Book Review – Freshwater Access from a Human Rights Perspective: A Challenge to International Water Law and Human Rights (International Studies in Human Rights) by Dr Knut Bourquain, Brill Academic Publishers, 2008.
Freshwater Access from a Human Rights Perspective: A Challenge to International Water Law and Human Rights (International Studies in Human Rights)
Dr Knut Bourquain
Brill Academic Publishers, 2008. ISBN: 9789004169548
The subject matter of insufficient water access for the worlds population and how it pertains to human rights, has been a very hot topic with the advent and recent urgency of climate change policy. For decades, the global deliberation on facilitating drinking water accessiblility has been kept primarily to NGO’s. What has truly been difficult with water and how it applies to international law is the arrival at any form of unequivocal definition. Further, and most astonishingly is that there has been practically no broad legal breakdown and/or groundbreaking study of the international law relating to the existing agreements and security of access to water. This is a fissure which is most competently patched up in this book. One may regard this as one of the seminal works on the topic it so effectively thrash’s out the topic of water rights.
The book, Freshwater Access from a Human Rights Perspective: A Challenge to International Water and Human Rights Law is authored by Dr Knut Bourquain, a lawyer and former lecturer at Germany’s Giessen University’s. He has become somewhat of a quasi water law expert over the past few years, having specialized in, taught in, and published what could be considered a respectable academic quantity on the topic of water law and how it applies to international human rights.
Dr Bourquain argues and makes a very clear distinction on the fundamentals of an exceedingly scattered area of law and human rights. He meticulously breaks the topic down into smaller and more easily understood parts which makes the work quite accessible to the lay reader but also brings clarity and definition to a seasoned human rights expert on a topic that has been quite foggy until now. He makes the interesting point that the inadequate accessibility to the vital supply of water is not an inescapable end result of water insufficiency. Surprisingly, arid countries have enough wherewithal to realize the necessary water requirements of their inhabitants and there are people in countries where water could be considered ubiquitous that put up with a form of water stress, too. Consequently, a lack in freshwater access can be seen as a dilemma of poor distribution and poor management.
The author analyses very closely the various shortfalls in the prevailing law of international water and human rights and argues for models that might go the distance in fortifying a human rights-based approach to freshwater access. Dr Bourquain does this by proposing both proper legal suitability as well as the appropriateness in the real world.
We felt this was a fine book on a topic given little time and effort to on the publication front. The book closes the gap on water resources and human rights and will make a terrific addition to not only a human rights library collection, but a climate change collection. This book has our thumbs up and we recommend it for purchase.
Table of contents
A. Introduction; I. The background situation – water scarcity as a global problem; II. Causes of the current crisis; III. Strategies of crisis management; IV. The role of law in problem-solving; V. The human rights-based approach to freshwater access in international law; VI. Synopsis of the study;
B. The law on international watercourses and its deficits in providing freshwater access; I. Introduction; II. Survey of the development of international water law in the 20th century; III. Analysis of international water law in regard to fulfilling the basic human need for water; IV. Concluding observations on international water law’s deficits;
C. Elements of a human rights-based approach to freshwater access; I. Introduction; II. Characteristics of a human rights-based approach to freshwater access; III. Human rights-based approaches vs. policy concepts?; IV. Freshwater access in the context of the debate on rights to development and a clean environment; V. Elaboration of the scope of obligations attached to a human rights-based approach to freshwater access; VI. Universalism, particularism and pluralistic legal systems; VII. Concluding observations on the characteristics of a human rights-based approach to freshwater access;
D. The human rights-based approach to freshwater access within current international human rights law; I. Introduction; II. Freshwater access within international human rights treaties; III. Freshwater access as part of customary international human rights law; IV. Freshwater access as part of general principles of international law; V. Extraterritorial obligations of states concerning the basic human need for water; VI. Concluding observations on the international human rights law’s contribution to freshwater access;
E. Improving a human rights-based approach to freshwater access; I. Introduction; II. The need to connect human rights law with international water law; III. Establishing new international treaty law; IV. Specifying and developing the human rights-based approach to freshwater access by the interpretation of existing law; V. Soft law and policy instruments strengthening a human rights-based approach to freshwater access; VI. Concluding observations on prospects for the improvement of a human rights-based approach to freshwater access;
F. Conclusions; Bibliography; Index.
The Human Rights Book Review
The Guantánamo Lawyers – Inside a Prison Outside the Law
Everyone of us has been peppered for years now with stories from the media of Guantanamo inmates and their abuse, either at the hands of their guards, or by the legal system (lack of due process). This book, the Guantanamo Lawyers, brings over 100 personal narratives from not only the inmates at “Gitmo” but also from other overseas prisons/detention centres. It brings these narratives to us first hand from their direct representatives, their Lawyers. The inmates, range from teenagers to octogenarians from approximately forty separate countries. For years, so many have been detained without charges, without any form of trial, and/or a fair and proper hearing. Many of these inmates are indeed America’s enemies but what is so scary is that in the book we learn of stories of how many of the inmates weren’t even captured on any form of battlefield. They were just rumored to be enemies, sometimes on little or faulty intelligence and delivered up to US forces for handsome bounty.
What really pulls at ones sensitivities is the utter mental and physical despair that the detainees go through, their feeling of hopelessness and fear as they are terrorized daily.
Its is hard to believe that civilized society can be driven to these depths. Especially the United States, the once shining example of freedom and justice.
Countless studies have been done on inmates and detainees over hundreds of years and this is probably one of the best (and most horrible) studies of how an intense isolation of a torturous military imprisonment devoid of so many human rights and international legal norms, can wreak havoc on an inmates mind and body and in the process, collaterally rip apart the very soul of the people and country that the system is supposed to protect. One can’t help but draw parallels with these stories with those of the harshest of colonial era penal colonies. These inmates have no sense of future. Deprived of their reality they are driven to self harm such as suicide, hunger strikes, self mutilation etc to add to the harm already heaped upon then day after day by their overseers.
We learn of the brave fight by true American patriots – the lawyers who represent them. The lawyers, many of them military lawyers, thankfully, are not beholden to their military masters, but driven by their devotion and oaths to justice, fairness and human rights for all. Their plight is moving. One finds themselves cheering for these advocates like one would cheer on a football team. Their lesson is our lesson and that is, no matter who we are, we must respect the rule of law, human rights and never stoop to the level of our enemies.
Grab a copy – it’s sure worth the read.
Contents of The Guantánamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison Outside the Law
Introduction by Mark P. Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz
Chapter 1 Representing the “Worst of the Worst”
How and Why the Lawyers Started Representing Detainees
Chapter 2 Getting behind the Wire
Rasul/Al Odah: The Right to Representation
Chapter 3 – Uncovering Guantánamo’s Human Face
Rendered: How the Detainees Got to Guantánamo
Chapter 4 Red Tape and Kangaroo Courts
Barriers to Representation
The No-Hearing Hearings: Combatant Status Review Tribunals
Boumediene v. Bush: The Death Knell for Prisons beyond the Law
Chapter 5 – Tortured
A Product of Torture Culture
Chapter 6 – Alternative Forms of Advocacy
Chapter 7 – Leaving Guantánamo
Stuck in Limbo
Out but Not Free
Chapter 8 – Guantánamo beyond Cuba: A Global Detention System outside the Law
Guantánamo Comes to America
Timeline: Guantánamo and the “War on Terror”
If one is inclined to go further with the research or understanding of the Lawyers narrative, New York University Library has produced a Guantánamo Lawyers digital archive for this purpose. The site is dedicated to collecting the narratives of the legal representatives who acted on behalf of detainees at the Guantánamo Bay Detention Center. Anyone can download and view the documents as PDFs. Please visit the site here: Guantánamo Lawyers Digital Archive
The Human Rights Book Review
Hello to all our New York supporters out there and any of our supporters that happen to be in New York. We have just returned from this event and you gotta get down there. Great event worth supporting. Hurry though – only a few hours left. Sorry we never posted advance notice.
Co-sponsored by Human Rights in China and the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School, the Human Rights Book Fair celebrates Chinese, Tibetan, Uyghur, and English-language writers and artists who are currently in prison, under threat, or whose works have been censored or banned in China.
The interactive, multi-media program includes readings, documentary screenings, multi-media presentations, and a panel discussion.
We are going back for a reception later on in the evening, so say hello if you bump into any of the team down there.