An International Double Standard

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What is it about the aborted unborn child that seems to make international human-rights activists – even conservative ones – coldly turn their backs? This week in Norway the New York-based Human Rights Foundation is hosting its annual Oslo Freedom Forum, which brings together human-rights champions for four days of speeches, consciousness-raising, and networking.

Forum organizers say they want to “to establish a space for leaders and entrepreneurs from around the world to gather in an intimate community where they are given the opportunity and information necessary to make a direct impact on human rights policy.” They say they want to help “put an end to today’s most serious human rights violations.”

This event features truly impressive speakers who have suffered, it seems, all of the modern and not so modern horrors of authoritarian thuggery. They have been kidnapped by terrorists, systematically tortured, jailed for criticizing governments, prosecuted for wearing trousers, forced into hard labor, gang-raped, and much else. Speakers include not just victims but those who, at great danger to themselves, defend these victims and millions like them.

What is wonderful about this event and the other efforts of the Human Rights Foundation is they do not just go after right-wing thugs. They are ferocious critics of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro and various left-wing militias in Latin America. But one is stopped from giving full-throated huzzahs to this event by a few of its speakers – and certainly one of its sponsors.

Among the speakers is Kasha N. Jacqueline, who is founder of something called Freedom and Roam Uganda, “the only exclusively lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersexual organization in Uganda“ dedicated “to the eradication of all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

It is true that the Parliament of Uganda is considering penal laws on homosexuality that are horrific in part – and those parts should certainly be opposed. That is one thing and a far cry from eradicating “all forms of discrimination.” As the Church teaches, there is such a thing as “just discrimination” of things that are not really equal, which includes not pretending that the traditional understanding of marriage is just one of many forms of the institution. Just discrimination makes it clear why there should not be gay adoptions and legalization of gay “marriages.” Liberal human rights groups assert that “sexual orientation and gender identity” are now part of the Universal Declaration. But must conservatives and others now simply agree?

Yet another speaker is the nutty Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon who is the world’s best-known judicial practitioner of “universal jurisdiction.” This is the theory that any judge anywhere in the world may criminally indict anyone else anywhere in the world for crimes the judge finds offensive – a serious threat, of course, to the rule of law and national sovereignty. When Garzon went after Chile’s Augusto Pinochet to general applause outside of Chile, he threatend a carefully negotiated arrangement between Pinochet and his opponents that had been the key to Chile’s delicate return to democracy. In a similar exhibition of judicial overreach, a U.N. judge recently said that the pope should be tried under universal jurisdiction for the sex-abuse crisis in the Church.

But these people are only problems, perhaps even minor ones, compared to the far larger concern that the Oslo Freedom Forum is being co-sponsored by the pro-abortion advocacy group Amnesty International.

Amnesty was not always pro-abortion. It is a recent development that has caused the defection of many faithful Catholics and the denunciation by then president of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace Cardinal Renato Martino, who said faithful Catholics should no longer donate to the group.

In the relatively short time that Amnesty has been pro-abortion, the group’s lawyers have intervened in many national situations all over the world in pressing the legal case that laws against abortion violate already established international norms. Forget that this claim is simply false. This “human rights” group now promotes the legalization of the systematic killing of human beings.

Perhaps even our friends must be reminded that human rights are indivisible. One cannot gain human rights at the expense of the human rights of others. The deliberate killing of another human being can under no circumstances purchase any other human right. The “right to life” of all “human beings” is written into the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, one of the two implementing treaties of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is a foundational right.

One wouldn’t think of inviting defenders of torture or slavery to co-sponsor a human rights conference. Why invite the newly pro-abortion Amnesty International?

The short answer is that pro-abortion public relations has made advocating the killing of children in the womb seem to be an accepted human right (though no international treaty says this), while bona fide human-rights groups that oppose abortion on principled grounds dare not speak for fear of being ostracized. Sadly, we understand how radioactive this issue is. No group is called upon to work on every category of human-rights violation, but a murderous pro-abortion bias has crept subtly into the international human-rights network. And it’s time to say, loudly, that inviting human-rights violators to sponsor your human-rights conference is passing strange. No, it is offensive.

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-Fam.