Share

Print this Page

What's New

Resources updated between Monday, August 22, 2016 and Sunday, August 28, 2016

August 28, 2016

When the Obama administration announced its plan to give up U.S. protection of the internet, it promised the United Nations would never take control. But because of the administration's naiveté or arrogance, U.N. control is the likely result if the U.S. gives up internet stewardship as planned at midnight on Sept. 30.

On Friday Americans for Limited Government received a response to its Freedom of Information Act request for "all records relating to legal and policy analysis . . . concerning antitrust issues for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers" if the U.S. gives up oversight. The administration replied it had "conducted a thorough search for responsive records within its possession and control and found no records responsive to your request."

It's shocking the administration admits it has no plan for how Icann retains its antitrust exemption. The reason Icann can operate the entire World Wide Web root zone is that it has the status of a legal monopolist, stemming from its contract with the Commerce Department that makes Icann an "instrumentality" of government.

Antitrust rules don't apply to governments or organizations operating under government control. In a 1999 case, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the monopoly on internet domains because the Commerce Department had set "explicit terms" of the contract relating to the "government's policies regarding the proper administration" of the domain system.

Without the U.S. contract, Icann would seek to be overseen by another governmental group so as to keep its antitrust exemption. Authoritarian regimes have already proposed Icann become part of the U.N. to make it easier for them to censor the internet globally. So much for the Obama pledge that the U.S. would never be replaced by a "government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution."

Rick Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government, called it "simply stunning" that the "politically blinded Obama administration missed the obvious point that Icann loses its antitrust shield should the government relinquish control."

The administration might not have considered the antitrust issue, which would have been naive. Or perhaps in its arrogance the administration knew all along Icann would lose its antitrust immunity and look to the U.N. as an alternative. Congress could have voted to give Icann an antitrust exemption, but the internet giveaway plan is too flawed for legislative approval.

As the administration spent the past two years preparing to give up the contract with Icann, it also stopped actively overseeing the group. That allowed Icann to abuse its monopoly over internet domains, which earns it hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Earlier this month, an independent review within Icann called the organization "simply not credible" in how it handled the application for the .inc, .llc and .llp domains. The independent review found Icann staffers were "intimately involved" in evaluating their own work. A company called Dot Registry had worked with officials of U.S. states to create a system ensuring anyone using these Web addresses was a legitimate registered company. Icann rejected Dot Registry's application as a community, which would have resulted in lowered fees to Icann.

Delaware's secretary of state objected: "Legitimate policy concerns have been systematically brushed to the curb by Icann staffers well-skilled at manufacturing bureaucratic processes to disguise pre-determined decisions." Dot Registry's lawyer, Arif Ali of the Dechert firm, told me last week his experience made clear "Icann is not ready to govern itself."

Icann also refuses to award the .gay domain to community groups representing gay people around the world. Icann's ombudsman recently urged his group to "put an end to this long and difficult issue" by granting the domain. Icann prefers to earn larger fees by putting the .gay domain up for auction among for-profit domain companies.

And Icann rejects the community application for the .cpa domain made by the American Institute of CPAs, which along with other accounting groups argues consumers should expect the .cpa address only to be used by legitimate accountants, not by the highest bidder. An AICPA spokesman told me he has a pile of paperwork three feet high on the five-year quest for the .cpa domain. The professional group objected in a recent appeal: "The process seems skewed toward a financial outcome that benefits Icann itself."

The only thing worse than a monopoly overseen by the U.S. government is a monopoly overseen by no one-or by a Web-censoring U.N. Congress still has time to extend its ban on the Obama administration giving up protection of the internet. Icann has given it every reason to do so.

An Internet Giveaway to the U.N. Article

August 26, 2016

Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23 from Kfar Saba, killed in Gaza on August 1, 2014. (AP Photo/ Ynet News)

UN to exhibit drawings by soldier whose body is held in Gaza Article

August 25, 2016

Site of the Palestinian stabbing

Palestinian stabs Israeli soldier in West Bank Document

August 24, 2016

A Lebanese woman protesting for rights

No, this is not a sensationalist title. Lebanon has truly become (or has always been) a dangerous place for women. In recent years, Lebanon's media began covering cases of women murdered by their spouses, and the frequency of the occurrence of violence against women revealed a pattern associated with deeply rooted patriarchal sentiments. And if being murdered by the person you vowed to share your life with isn't tragic enough, in most cases, the judicial system did not deliver justice for the victims. The Lebanese public never knew the depth of the problem our society faces with unpunished domestic violence and the long-standing tradition of honor killings – which was, until recently, permissible by law. The following is a recap of some of the cases that made us aware of the injustices against women in our country and that also sparked public outrage over the judicial system's handling of violence against women.

Our journey starts in Halba, Tripoli, with Roula Yaacoub who was regularly beaten by her husband. In July 2013, Roula, discovered by her neighbors, was beaten with a stick and succumbed to her wounds upon her arrival to the hospital. Roula's husband was initially arrested for the crime, however he was released after the presiding judge claimed that there was not enough evidence to indict him. The judge had ignored a significant amount of evidence against Roula's husband which prompted feminist groups to protest the decision and call for a law that would protect women from domestic violence. In April of 2014, the protests were able to force parliament to draft a law (although it was incomplete), but it did not change things significantly. As of this past May, the decision has been reversed and Roula's husband has been charged with "causing her death." He remains a fugitive wanted for the death of his wife. Roula's case became the first of many cases that provoked public fury and concern, and Roula's mom who became a frequent guest on various television shows, was joined by other heroic moms who would not give up until their daughters have received justice.

From Halba to Beirut, Manal Assi was brutally murdered by her husband. After Manal confronted her husband about his marriage to another woman, he began to beat her with everything in sight – including kitchen utensils, cleaning equipment, tables and chairs. The doctor's report mentioned serious injuries in almost every part of Manal's body, and her husband confessed to calling her mother and having her watch her daughter being beaten to death. On July 16, the husband was given a "light sentence" of 5 years in prison for his crime. According to the sentence, Manal had "cheated" on her husband which made him angry and forced him to brutally kill her. The honor killing – which has been illegal in Lebanon since 2011 – was being revived in a completely shameful decision that ignored the violence Manal had endured for years at the hands of her husband. Tuesday is the deadline for the court to consider appealing the decision and KAFA is organizing a protestTuesday morning to pressure the court.

Around Lebanon, many other women share a similar story. Crystal Abou Shakra was poisoned to death by her ex-husband, who she had divorced due to his acts of violence towards her. Again, her ex-husband was not indicted due to "lack of evidence." Roqaya Monzer was shot at point blank by her husband when she asked for divorce due to his violent behavior. Zahraa Al-Qabout also faced a similar fate. This past week, a new victim was added to the list. Maymouna Abou Alaylah was murdered by her husband who reportedly used the glass that forms the base of the hookah to strike her on the head and then stabbing her repeatedly with a knife. These are just some of the cases that have been reported and the frightening reality is that many more cases are undisclosed.

The real battle here is that the killers of the women mentioned above are not paying for their crimes. The only way for this madness to stop is for justice to be served. These men knew beforehand that will not suffer the consequences of their actions in a country like Lebanon, which embraces patriarchy and suffers massively from corruption in its institutions. This unique and unfortunate alliance between corruption and sexism is why Lebanon is a dangerous place for women.

Lebanon: A dangerous place for women Document

Janika Faneus is fed by her mother while receiving treatment for cholera, Haiti, January 22, 2011. (AP Photo / Rodrigo Abd)

For the first time in five years, the United Nations has admitted what epidemiologists, human-rights researchers, and the UN's own experts established long ago: that its peacekeepers were responsible for the inadvertent introduction of cholera into Haiti in 2010, causing the deaths of over 10,000 people and sickening hundreds of thousands more.

After years of denials and dissembling, and choosing to hide behind the cloak of immunity rather than face the legitimate demands of a grieving Haitian people, the UN now says it is willing to take steps to redress the problem. The challenge now is to develop, fund, and administer a meaningful compensation scheme that values Haitian lives, respects the principles of institutional accountability and the right to a remedy, and repairs the self-inflicted damage done to the integrity of the United Nations as a defender of human rights. Such a response holds the potential not only to deliver a measure of justice to the Haitian people, but to establish an important precedent of accountability for the United Nations and other international governmental organizations.

Cholera erupted in Haiti in October of 2010, less than a month after the arrival of UN peacekeepers from Nepal, which had just endured a major outbreak of the disease. The peacekeepers arrived at a UN outpost near Méyè, 40 kilometers northeast of Port-au-Prince, and were stationed at a base just a few meters away from a tributary to the Artibonite River, Haiti's largest river and one of its main sources of water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

As United Nations investigators would later establish, sanitation facilities at the base were haphazardly constructed, and as a result, human waste emptied into the tributary. Within days of the arrival of the peacekeepers, Haitian health officials confirmed numerous cases of cholera in the area surrounding the base, the first cases of cholera in the country in over a century. The disease spread rapidly throughout the country, with devastating effect.

Although world-renowned epidemiologists have independently agreed that the outbreak was traceable to a specific cholera strain of South Asian origin found in Nepal, the United Nations has resisted the scientific evidence of their responsibility at every turn. This was not because of a difference of scientific opinion, but because of a fear of liability and a hope that the Haitian people's demands for justice could be defeated through obfuscation and delay. Time and again, the United Nations pointed to Haiti's poor water and sanitation infrastructure as the source of the problem-not so subtly suggesting that the Haitian people had brought cholera on themselves.

Haitian victims and their advocates have called upon the United Nations to establish a claims commission for compensation since 2010, as the UN peacekeeper's own status of forces agreement with Haiti requires it to do. But the organization has steadfastly refused, and when it was sued in federal court in New York by Haitian victims represented by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, it claimed immunity from the suit.

Last week, a federal appellate court upheld the dismissal of the suit, on the grounds of organizational immunity, but this is an empty and even self-destructive victory for the United Nations. Immunity from a lawsuit in the United States is not the same as freedom from legal obligation. As a global organization seeking the trust of millions, the UN bears the responsibility to demonstrate how it will fulfill its legal obligations to provide a remedy for the harms it has caused. Moreover, for the UN to accept responsibility for its actions, even as it shoulders the responsibility to do good, is not only consistent with human-rights principles, it is essential to their credibility. So long as the organization ignores those responsibilities, it imperils its mission and legitimacy around the world as an exponent of human-rights norms. As Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, wrote in a scathing report, which is still in draft form, "The UN's policy is morally unconscionable, legally indefensible, and politically self-defeating."

It is unclear what accounts for Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's change of heart on the issue. Maybe it is the consistent political pressure that victims' advocates have sustained, including a letter from 158 members of Congress to US Secretary of State Kerry in June, urging him to demand reparations from the UN. Or perhaps Ban Ki Moon has recognized, in the waning months of his tenure, that leaving the cholera catastrophe unaddressed would stain his legacy. Whatever the case, the United Nations is now poised to remediate the years of harm it has caused, to the Haitian people and to itself, and to affirmatively advance a framework of accountability for international governmental organizations.

To do so, the UN, and the member states of which it is comprised, must ensure four goals.

First, after so many years of denials and prevarication, the UN must begin with an apology. This is made easier by the court decision upholding its immunity from suit, but is no less essential to the process of rebuilding trust with the Haitian people.

Second, the UN must establish a fair process for victims and family members to seek adequate redress, including compensation for the injuries they have suffered, consistent with the promises the organization made in its status of forces agreement. This is necessary both as a recognition of the inviolable dignity of Haitian life and to honor basic human-rights norms of accountability and redress.

Third, the international community must commit to fund the compensation program promptly and adequately so that justice is not further delayed. Previous announcements of a cholera-elimination plan without the funding to back it have further eroded the United Nations' weak standing in Haiti, and globally.

Finally, the organization should engage in meaningful dialogue with victims and their advocates to ensure that any remediation scheme meets the material and dignitary needs of those most directly affected, and not merely the public relations imperatives of the organization or its leaders.

It is all but certain that the United Nations will confront other demands for institutional accountability in the future. For an organization committed to human rights, accountability should be seen as a strength, not a liability. Instead of being preoccupied with setting a bad precedent by compensating Haitians for their loss, the UN should recognize the opportunity to establish a good precedent for itself, and for other international governmental organizations.

By doing right by the Haitian people today, in both process and substance, the United Nations can develop a culture and practice of accountability, fortifying the UN for its important and challenging work in years to come, and ensuring that its work benefits humanity as its charter commands.

It's Time for the UN to Compensate Haitians for Its Cholera Disaster Document