On November 16, 1998, the then former dictator Pinochet was arrested in London at the request of judge Baltasar Garzón. The arrest in the United Kingdom of a Chilean accused by a Spaniard represented an unprecedented application of the principle of universality of human rights. Months earlier, the Rome Statute established the International Criminal Court (ICC), which came into force in 2002. On the 50th anniversary of Pinochet’s coup, when Lula attacked the ICC, the Minister of Human Rights, Silvio Almeida, aligned himself to the president through complicit silence.
Lula and Almeida are human rights deniers, but the former despises them for geopolitical reasons while the latter denies them for ideological reasons. The president’s reasons, although abject, fall within the superficial sphere of opportunism. The minister’s reasons have deep roots and, therefore, hurt the core of the culture of human rights.
Months before assuming the ministry, Almeida published an enlightening article. Dedicated to the invasion of Ukraine, the text achieved the feat of, over the course of 613 words, avoiding holding Putin accountable. In it, the “complexity of the event” is invoked to, dismissing “Manichaean reflections”, attribute the “conflict” to “capitalist expansionism” and the “destructive logic of the commodity” (read: USA). Collective, diffuse, widespread guilt: “all governments are aware of the horror they are promoting.”
The ideological substrate of the article is found, however, elsewhere: a 1950 quote from the Martinican Aimé Cesaire, who was still a member of the French Communist Party and admired Stalin. According to Cesaire, the indignation towards Nazism, the source of the Universal Declaration of 1948, did not arise from the “crime against man, but against the white man” as there was no fundamental difference between the Hitlerite extermination machine and the European “colonialist processes”.
Cesaire wrote for 66 years. Almeida chose the lower flight of the Martinican. The passage belongs to the extensive tradition of contemporary soft anti-Semitism which, instead of factually denying the Holocaust, operates through its relativization. But the careful selection makes sense: the minister’s aim is to display the culture of human rights as pure hypocrisy of white Westerners.
Cesaire and Almeida’s identity narrative has a thousand and one uses, including the protection of Stalin, in the case of the former, and that of Putin, in the case of the latter. Above all, however, it is about challenging the universal nature of human rights to support a doctrine based on the “white/non-white” divide. Hence, the hostility to both the Universal Declaration and the ICC, its main fruit.
“All human beings may invoke the rights and freedoms proclaimed in this Declaration, without distinction as to race, color, sex, language or religion…”. Article 2 of the Universal Declaration, approved before the fall of the colonial empires, indicates the scope of the civilizing reaction to the Holocaust.
The Rome Statute was born from the repudiation of the Rwandan genocide (1994) and the Srebrenica massacre (1995), events that are incomprehensible in terms of identity doctrine. “Racial purification” was the driving force behind both. In the former Yugoslavia, the Serbian military eliminated thousands of Bosnian Muslim civilians. In the African country, the Hutu dictatorship ordered the extermination of more than half a million Tutsis. “Whites against whites” and “blacks against blacks”? Racist exterminism does not need differences in skin color.
Putin’s crime that provoked the ICC arrest order is of the same type. The deportation of tens of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia is designed to Russify them, a step in the project of eliminating Ukraine as a nation. Denialist Almeida sees no scandal in this: “whites against whites”, that’s fine.
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