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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

To Sue A State

I am watching the peace palace from my office at the ‘NGO building of the Hague’ - the building where Non Governmental and ‘human rights organizations’ are sharing their offices in the city of peace and international justice.

And for the third time in a few months I just faced human injustice at the door step.

A man with rough clothes, a big bag and desperation in his eyes wanted to ‘talk to a human rights organization’ to ‘file a complaint against a country for human rights abuse.’ My heart stops every time. The situation and country are different; what they share is the experience of great injustices, the fear, and despite endless efforts, they have nowhere to turn to for help. They have desperately wandered around, stopped at the sight of the shiny tags with names of organizations such as the ‘UNHCR’ (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) ‘UNOY Peacebuilders’ and yes, “Global Human Rights Defence” on the large entrance door.

He had slept outside the door, another night on the streets. He doesn’t want to share the ‘shelter with all the junks’. Its safer on the street. But he is not here for himself. He want to help his friend in Morocco whose refugee status was taken back, kicked out of his home and now lives on the streets in Rabat where he is beaten because he is a Christian. He fears death if he returns home too.

Before hearing his story, I know I cannot help him. I offer a cup of coffee and a few minutes of my time to a man whose life experiences probably outnumber those of all the hundred -something- ‘NGO staff’ with fancy titles in this building.

It makes complete sense that he rings the door bell. The bizarre is: nobody will be able to help him. He has already appealed to Amnesty International, The UN offices in Geneva, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg…. But due to many different and complex reasons, legal, procedural, practical, financial, political: many victims of human rights violations are still left without access to remedies.

I send him downstairs to the UNHCR. I know they cannot help him either.