Saturday, December 03, 2011

Protecting Lawyers

:: pbi meetup ::

Lawyers tend to be front lines advocates for something called fairness. The idea of some rule of law, other than the monarch's, is quite alien in some regions of the world. Nepal for example, a Himalayan state not far from Bhutan. The transition to more democratic forms is not being easy.

My horizons were expanded by a young lawyer, Jit Man Basnet, a human rights advocate who stood by the disappeared in Nepal, until he was disappeared himself, held incommunicado while the generals denied he was in their custody. For 258 days he was held, mostly blindfolded, and in danger of being beaten if he said any words beyond the authorized three. Transgressions by his mates resulted in the entire group being punished.

We were hearing of these unfoldings at the Quaker meetinghouse on Stark Street. Peace Brigades International is celebrating its 30th anniversary. This nonprofit sends brave souls to stand witness to activists, many of whom would be or in some cases have been killed. The PBI volunteers themselves have so far escaped murder, if not injury. They extracted Jit from Nepal after deeming it too dangerous to escort him in his home country. He could write a book and be on the speaking circuit, and live to fight another day. That's the strategy being pursued.

PBI is somewhat like Friends Peace Teams, except the latter are more into providing a therapeutic process amidst feuding parties. That might be just the ticket today in Nepal, as so-called Maoists and the remnants of the Royal Army are supposed to integrate. After what amounted to a civil war, starting in 1996 and resulting in the end of the 200 plus year monarchy, getting these elements to combine will take an alchemy like AVP's. PBI fields guardians, people of conscience, in hopes that those undertaking elections, reforms, adjustments, might be allowed their freedoms per the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, for starters.

I found myself thinking back to A Spy for All Seasons for its forays into Nepalese politics. Had Bhutan's expulsion of ethnic Nepalese tipped the balance at all? Barry asked why the term "Maoist" had stuck. There was no agenda to create a single party system. The unfairly advantaged would still have their human rights as well, although those perpetrating the crime of torture and illegal arrest would find their names in the database of violators. Their identities would not be kept secret.

The discussion that followed was dominated by Barry (not Barry Redd of Wanderers, another guy), and included plugs for Greg Palast and his new book Vultures' Picnic, and for Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. Actually, Amy Goodman is quite popular with PBI staff and volunteers, as is Amnesty International, which supports PBI work.

We talked about Occupy quite a bit. The problem of homelessness and poverty in the USA is not so often discussed in Nepal and it's an eye-opener to see how there's blowback here as well, against the selfishness of the brute force lawbreakers. Some people seem to not mind ruining it for everybody else. That Americans too have hopes for a brighter tomorrow, a better world, is news to some people who'd given up on any American dream having real meaning.