Emma Bonino, EU Human Rights Commissioner, takes on the United Nations and the women-hating Talibans
Emma Bonino is famous for worldwide human and women’s-rights activism. Slight of build with school-teacher mannerisms and dress, she doesn’t look particularly tough. But when confronted with human oppression, she leaps into the most dangerous situations with both political fists swinging. The size and strength of her opponent does not matter.
United Nations authorities would like Bonino to shut up. Shut up about the plight of oppressed Afghani women. Shut up about all the money the UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP) is planning to give the Talibani government of Afghanistan, which promotes and enforces such oppression. Most of all, the UN wants her to shut up about the failure of their conventional drug war tactics.
Spearheading the campaign against human rights and Emma Bonino is none other than the head of the UNDCP himself, Pino Arlacchi.
Emma Bonino’s history of human rights activism began at the University of Milan in Italy, where she worked with Italy’s renowned antiprohibitionist “Radical Party”, lobbying for legalized abortions. She graduated with a degree in Foreign Languages in 1972, but by 1975 she had given up her job as a teacher and become the Radical Party’s president. She was elected to the Italian House of Representatives, then to the European Parliament in 1979, where she was appointed Human Rights Commissioner.
“When I told my mother I was going to be a Commissioner,” remembers Bonino, “she wasn’t very impressed ? in Italy, a commisario is a low-ranking police official. She told me it was time I got a real career.”
Far from being a police official, Bonino worked all of this time with Marco Pannella, also a founding member of Italy’s Radical Party, and a shameless promoter of marijuana legalization. Along with Pannella, Bonino fights all forms of oppression.
Bonino has put food in the mouths of the starving, and reefers in the mouths of the straight. Her causes have included marijuana legalization, nuclear disarmament, abolition of the death penalty and alleviation of world hunger.
In 1985, in recognition of her work in combatting world hunger, she was elected General Secretary to the “Food and Disarmament International Association.” In 1994 she was appointed spokesperson of the Italian Government on the issue of a Permanent International Criminal Court for Crimes against Humanity.
Women Stoned to Death
Bonino’s interest in Afghanistan began in 1995, when the ruthless fundamentalist Moslem sect known as “Talibans” seized control of the arid middle-eastern country. Since then, women have been forbidden to walk under the stabbing desert sun without a thick shawl that covers them from head to foot. They have been forbidden to walk on the cooking earth with any form of footwear. They have been forbidden to leave their homes without a male escort. They can’t have jobs or own property.
Women who break the taboos are buried up to their necks in the baking ground, and executed by blows to the head from thrown rocks. Or they are simply shot to death in the street.
Assaults in Afghanistan
In September 1997, Bonino went to Afghanistan in her role as EU Human Rights Commissioner, to inspect how women were being treated. She found that the Talibani had instituted a “reign of terror” against women in their country, and then she was arrested and expelled.
“I was arrested by the religious police in a women’s hospital,” Bonino recounts, “a hospital with no water, no electricity and few supplies of any kind? How many restrictions, how many horror stories, does it take before we say enough is enough?”
An aid worker in Bonino’s entourage was physically assaulted by the guards during the arrest. Bonino was infuriated. Politicians in the European Parliament expressed shock and concern over the incident.
Bonino was held for three-and-a-half hours by Taliban police in the city of Kabul before being released.
The UN has also had problems with the Talibans. The 1997 UN Humanitarian Affairs Report explained that “the Talibans have made a mockery of UN efforts by repeatedly attacking aid workers, especially women.”
Arlacchi’s Taliban plan
Most of the world’s countries do not recognize the Talibans as a legitimate government, and the UN itself has repeatedly condemned them for human rights abuses against women. Despite this, Pino Arlacchi, head of the UNDCP, announced earlier this year that he would be giving the Talibans $25 million a year in economic assistance. Arlacchi’s plan would strengthen the Talibans’ grip on the country, helping to eliminate pockets of resistance, and reifying a system notorious for brutalizing women.
Arlacchi’s excuse? The money would rid the country of opium production, as Afghanistan is one of the world’s greatest heroin producers.
At first, other UN officials were skeptical. Everyone knows programs of the kind Arlacchi proposed don’t work. In Burma, the government took all the money and spent it on military initiatives to slaughter opium-producing villagers, then sold the confiscated opium to multinational pharmaceutical companies for a profit.
Another example is Bolivia, where the government used UN money to fund mysterious “community development projects” that never materialized. A small fraction of available funding was offered to peasants for stopping illicit herb production. Most just moved their crops, or just kept growing where they were. The government moved in with armed troops to forcibly remove peasants from their coca plantations and destroy the crops. Farmers organized in revolt, and are fighting still. Many have died in the ongoing conflict.
Pino Arlacchi, former Italian lawmaker, would not be deterred. He has a reputation for tackling “tough issues”, like the oppression of women and the poor, without caving in to “special interest groups.” Behind closed doors, he slowly marshalled support.
Bonino Takes On The UN
While Arlacchi gathered backing for the misogynist Talibans, Bonino lobbied within the European Union to oppose him. Long before the Arlacchi’s UN Drug Summit took place in February of 1998, the European Union Senate had voted against the UNDCP Taliban plan, and made a firm condemnation of the Taliban regime. But the UN didn’t listen.
“The Talibans are flouting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose 50th anniversary the United Nations is about to celebrate, and to which previous Afghani governments subscribed,” announced Bonino. But the UN didn’t listen.
Bonino then circulated a petition for the restoration of human rights in Afghanistan, which was signed by more than 80 prominent women worldwide, including six Nobel Prize winners. The director of the UN Children’s Fund, Carol Bellamy, refused to sign the document, as did UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, even though both had previously supported Bonino and criticized the Talibans.
Arlacchi’s eradication plan
World leaders began to take Arlacchi seriously when he announced that his plan would not only apply to Afghanistan, but to other countries as well. In fact, he had a plan to eradicate all drugs worldwide, including marijuana and opium, within ten years.
One of Arlacchi’s first moves was to have this year’s June UN Drug Summit (held in New York) restructured to avoid discussions of legalization and harm reduction, and to focus exclusively on escalation of the international drug war.
Arlacchi was the first to speak at the Drug Summit. “The ?war on drugs’ has not been fought and lost,” he said, “it has never started!” Tell that to the millions in prison for drug offences worldwide, or the millions more who have lost their lives in the name of a drug free society.
Arlacchi’s plan gained more momentum as he began marketing it in terms of “globalism”, a keyword which by definition includes the promotion of free trade. The drug summit, according to UNDCP spokespeople, would be a historic opportunity for “the erosion of East-West and North-South barriers to cooperation.” In other words, small countries around the world could be bullied into selling out their military and economic sovereignty by the threat of a “war on drugs,” which historically has been used to justify all manners of atrocity.
Arlacchi’s funding of the Talibans also promised to help open up Afghani oil reserves to the west. For a while it seemed that the oil-hungry US might back the plan.
“In the next few weeks, we will see if ours is a world in which a person’s freedom is worth the price of a barrel of crude,” commented Bonino.
Slinking away from the summit
Bonino’s petition to end human rights abuses sparked similar action from the antiprohibitionist Lindesmith Centre. Signatories to the Lindesmith petition included former UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, former US Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, Edward Ellison, former head of the Scotland Yard Drug Squad, and Canadian NDP Leader Alexa McDonough, to name but a few.
The petition read, in part, “We believe the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself.”
Suddenly, strangely, Arlacchi’s plan to profit from the mass executions of peasant populations began to dissolve under political pressure from dignitaries around the globe. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien cancelled his planned attendance. The Italian Senate asked that Arlacchi’s plan be accepted only if the Talebans agreed to respect human rights.
At the close of the summit, The US announced $2 billion in funding, but to their own drug “education” program, and not to the UNDCP. Other countries slinked away from the dying corpse of the drug summit without dropping a single dime in Arlacchi’s hat.
Emma Bonino, one-time school teacher, has made a significant impact on the course of global history. She taught Pino Arlacchi a crude, but important, lesson: people are beginning to take notice of the politics which ride the drug war horse. The horseman is death. Death of the weak and the poor, death of our right to obtain healing herbs from the earth, the death of humanity.