I am going to an election party in the Ecuador Embassy on Sunday. I shall do so with no sense of guilt. Since Correa gave political asylum to Assange, many with no record of concern for human rights in Ecuador – and who still show absolutely no concern for human rights in Bahrain or Uzbekistan – are suddenly immensely critical of Correa’s human rights record. Many of the same people are suddenly concerned for the appalling plight of rape victims, despite no track record whatsoever of concern for women’s rights.
No country in the world has a perfect human rights record. I am sitting in a country which recently incarcerated people in Belmarsh jail in solitary confinement for six years without informing them what the accusations were against them. Which shot dead a Brazilian electrician on the tube for looking a bit like an Arab. Where police beat one of Babar Ahmad’s eyes to blindness. Where a woman was jailed for reading out the names of Iraqi war dead at the cenotaph.
Ecuador is not perfect either, and the use of (pre-existing) criminal defamation laws against journalists is unequivocally wrong. But some of the criticisms are a bit rich, for example that the government appoints judges. Who on earth do you think appoints them in the UK? And the study of the political complexion of the Supremem Court as vacancies occur under different Presidents is an industry itself in the United States. If Assange goes to Sweden, he will be tried without a jury by a panel of three, two of whom are straight and unqualified appointees by political parties.
Of course all human rights abuse, and particularly in Ecuador free speech restraint, should be, must be, eliminated. But I am very impressed indeed by Correa’s achievement in forcing the multinationals to pay up a fair share to the nation for their exploitation of mineral resources, and then in applying that money to the benefit of ordinary Ecuadoreans.
I see the opposite in Ghana, and its devastating effect on ordinary people. Ghana is the fastest growing economy in the world, at an annual rate of over 20%. But tragically little of that benefits ordinary Ghanaians. Newmont Mining of the USA make income of over 1.5 billion dollars a year from gold mining in Ghana, wreaking huge environmental destruction, and pay not one cent in corporation tax, and indeed very little tax of any kind. The total amount of the income from the huge Jubilee Field oil discovery which in any way will actually benefit Ghanaians will be a maximum of 15% – the rest is entirely offshore.
I hope that, throughout the developing world, peoples will force their governments to follow the Ecuadorean path. It has the potential fundamentally to change the world for billions of people. I shall be at the Ecuadorean Embassy on Sunday.