Today my supervisor and I had lunch with Krister Thelin, the Swedish judge and member of the Committee on Human Rights, in the Delegates Dining Room- the place where ambassadors and other important people meet to discuss important things. The Swedish Ambassador Anders Lidén was supposed to host the event but being in the position of always being wanted somewhere he had to cancel. Since I had been working most closely with the Committee I got the task of deciding topics for debate, an interesting one since I had never really been to this kind of an event before. But I think it went well and we had a construtive dialouge about the working methods and challenges of the Committee as well as a broader discussion on the view of human rights in Swedish politics. Krister is a rather interesting person with a strong agenda in the area of human rights. Except for his experiences as a judge in the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia he has had more political positions as Deputy Minister of Justice under the Conservative government in 1991-1994 and editorializer at one of Swedens biggest newspapers, Svenska Dagbladet. He also managed to stir up some debate when I published the book ” Sverige som rättsstat” (a free translation would be Sweden and the rule of law) under the Conservative thinktank Timbro.
Another very interesting debate that took place in the UN towards the end of last week was the presentation of theso called Stieglitzreport on how the international community should tackle the consequences of the financial crisis.(if you cant bear to read the whole report here is a good summary) The report was presented by former Nobel Prize laureate in Economics, Joseph Stiglitz, which I sneaked down to listen to. Eventhough the suggestions have been critizised for lacking political realisim, I appreciated the boldness. Especially in the suggestions of a new systematic regulations. Even with my scarce knowledge of the matter I can see the radicalism in some of his suggestions.
After having been told that looked like work and worries was eating me up I decided it was time cure my overseriousness with some wine, soul and sunshine by listening to Delia Gartrell at Dig Deeper and hanging out at coffeebars, thriftshops and having the best falafel ever in my new hoods- Brooklyn. I think the back to the 60s feel of Williamsburg will help to keep me sane when the weight of opportunity hangs too heavy on my shoulders.
Certain events of late have made me ponder the issue of cosequences (and yes- this will be a long rambling back and forth or pros and cons). Christian used to say that people have to teach eachother that you can’t behave badly without consequences. Not because it is a matter of principle (right should be right or that sort of thing) nor as a means of maintaining your selfrespect (eventhough that might be a good reason), but simply because the next person who is treated wrongly might actually really get hurt. And we only learn that or actions have consequences if they actually do.
Eventhough I agree with this reasoning I find myself coming up with many good reasons (maybe to be called excuses) for not standing up for my rights. One being that I dont want to get all wired up over the injustices that I have been victim to. I know how my brain can start spinning and getting all worked up finding all the reasons for why another person has wronged me in this and that way. It somehow doesnt feel right to spend all that energy on one wrongdoing when I am so priveliged in all other ways and having my suroundings listen to my complaints as a consequence. It somehow seems more constructive from a personal perspective to focus on the solutions than the conflict.
Another point is of course that conflicts are uncomfortable and if you unwind a potential conflict you never know where it will end. So it is easier to shy them. Especially if you have to meet the other person everyday in the future. But coming back to my original point I think it is rather selfish of me to reason this way. Studying law I have come to learn that much of the development of case law in certain field is spearheaded by so called “rättshaverister”- a term for which I have not found the appropriate English translation. Rättshaverister are persons to continuously file claims and feel perpetually mistreated and want a justification through the legal system- a kind of legal hypochondria. Eventhough this probably dont make them particularly happy individuals the rest of us bear the fruit of their misery though the development of case law. So perhaps I should bear the consequences of my own reasoning and bite not only the sweet but also the sour part of the big apple and claim my rights.
Time to leave for Brooklyn. But I will miss the beautiful big park, the murials, the tortillas and golden mangos next door and walking down Lexington Avenue in the morning.
Yesterday was a very exciting day for me as Sweden was up for review by the Human Rights Comittee, the monitoring body of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which is one of the two main human right covenants. This happens approximately every five years and the procedure is such that the state sends a delegation of experts to be questioned by the 18 heads strong committee of independent experts. In preparation the committee has studied a report from the state and several shadowreports by NGOs and UN agencies and presented a list of 30 issues that can be considered troublesome in the nation in question. In the case of Sweden the issues raised concerned disability and Samirights (mainly due to very detailed and good reporting from these intestgroups NGOs) and of course the issue of Agia and Alzari, the two Egyptians who were deported from Sweden and later found to have been tortured in an Egyptian prison, especially since the latter case has been handled by the committee itself. But I was also very surprised (not to say disappointed) by the lack of questions in other areas which have been discussed at great length in Sweden and are troublesome from a human rights perspective. One is of course the issue of the new law on secret survailance in singaltraffic (the FRA-debate) on which there were some issues raised but at such a late stage that the delegation didnt have time to reply orally. But also I would have expected some questions concerning undocumented immigrants and the situation of the Roma population, but instead the Comittee spent a long hour debating the issue of Swedens reservations to the treaty, all of which are from 1971 and mainly of a theoretical interest.
The members of the committee contain some very interesting characters like the distinguished Sir Nigel Rodley and the wonderful Mr Bhagwati, a 90+ year old Supreme Courtjudge from India who have pioneered the field of public interest litigation and legal litteracy in India.
As for me this review was like a fiest for a starving child. I realize how much I love human rights law. After having sat in in the reviews of Rwanda and Australia I was somehow the person with most experience of the working methods of the Committe, so I got to hold a little lecture for the Director-General of legal issues the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the rest of the delegation and then sat in and debated the replies to the committee with the Swedish delegation.
See also: DN
… is when it makes you realize that you have more friends than foes. And that those friends are not just any kind, but the real great ones. I am oh so very thankful for all the offered help and advice.