Remarkable People

ID #5246

Desmond Tutu 4 Human Rights.

Before the 31st G8 summit at Gleneagles, Scotland in 2005, Tutu called on world leaders to promote free trade with poorer countries. Tutu also called for an end to taxes on anti-AIDS drugs and said:"I would hope they would begin to say, 'lets to do something about subsidies'. You ask the so-called-developing world, 'Why can't you people produce more?' – and they produce – and then they find that the markets have barriers that are put down or are clobbered twice over."

Following this summit, G8 leaders promised to increase aid to developing countries by $48bn a year by 2010. Further, they promised to do their best to achieve universal access to prevention and treatment for the millions of people threatened by HIV/AIDS.

Before the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany in 2007, Tutu called on the G8 to focus on poverty in the Third World. Following the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000, it appeared that world leaders were determined as never before to set and meet specific goals regarding poverty.

In January 2003, Tutu attacked British Prime Minister Tony Blair's stance in supporting US President George W. Bush over Iraq. The alliance of Britain and the United States of America led to the outbreak of the Iraq War later that year. Tutu asked why Iraq was being singled out when Europe, India and Pakistan also had weapons of mass destruction. Tutu demanded: "When does compassion, when does morality, when does caring come in? I just hope that one day people will realize that peace is a far better path to follow. Many, many of us are deeply saddened to see a great country such as the United States aided and abetted extraordinarily by Britain. I have a great deal of time for your prime minister but I'm shocked to see a powerful country use its power frequently, unilaterally. The United States says you do this to the world, if you don't do it we will do it – that's sad."

In October 2004, Tutu appeared off Broadway in a play called Guantanamo – Honor-bound to Defend Freedom. The play is critical of US handling of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Tutu played Lord Justice Steyn, a judge who questions the legal justification of the detention regime.

In January 2005, Tutu added his voice to growing dissent over terrorist suspects held at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, referring to detentions without trial as "utterly unacceptable." Tutu compared these detentions to those under Apartheid. Tutu also emphasized that when South Africa used such methods the country had been condemned. However when powerful countries such as Britain and the USA  invoked such powers the world was silent even though they violated human rights. Tutu said: "The rule of law is in order to ensure that those who have power don't use their power arbitrarily and every person retains their human rights until you have proven conclusively that so-and-so is in fact guilty. Whilst we are saying thank you that these have been released, what is happening to those left behind? We in South Africa used to have a dispensation that detained people without trial and the world quite rightly condemned that as unacceptable. If it was unacceptable then, how come it can be acceptable to Britain and the United States. It is so, so deeply distressing. I am opposed to any arbitrary detention that is happening, even in Britain."

In February 2006, Tutu repeated these statements after a UN report was published which called for the closure of the camp. Tutu stated that Guantanamo Bay was a stain on the character of the US, while legislation in Britain which gave a 28 day detention period for terror suspects was "excessive" and "untenable". Tutu pointed out that similar arguments were being made in Britain and the United States which the South African apartheid regime had used. "It is disgraceful and one cannot find strong enough words to condemn what Britain and the United States and some of their allies have accepted," said Tutu. Tutu also attacked Tony Blair's attempt to hold terrorist suspects in Britain for up to 90 days without charge. "Ninety days for a South African is an awful deja-vu because we had in South Africa in the bad old days a 90-day detention law," he said. Under apartheid, as at Guantanamo Bay, people were held for "unconscionably long periods" and then released, he said. Tutu stated: "Are you able to restore to those people the time when their freedom was denied them? If you have evidence for goodness sake produce it in a court of law. People with power have an incredible capacity for wanting to be able to retain that power and don't like scrutiny."

In 2007, Tutu stated that the global "war on terror" could not be won if people were living in desperate conditions. Tutu said that the global disparity between rich and poor people creates instability."You can never win a war against terror as long as there are conditions in the world that make people desperate – poverty, disease, ignorance, etc. I think people are beginning to realize that you can't have pockets of prosperity in one part of the world and huge deserts of poverty and deprivation and think that you can have a stable and secure world."

Tutu has been a tireless campaigner for health and human rights, and has been particularly vocal in support of controlling TB and HIV. He served as honorary chairman of the Global AIDS Alliance and is patron of TB Alert, a UK charity. In 2003 the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre was founded in Cape Town, while the Desmond Tutu TB Centre was founded at Stellenbosch University in 2003. Tutu suffered from TB in his youth and has been active in assisting those afflicted, especially as TB and HIV/AIDS deaths are linked in South Africa. “Those of you who work to care for people suffering from AIDS and TB are wiping a tear from God’s eye,” Tutu said.

On 20 April 2005, after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI, Tutu said he was sad that the Roman Catholic Church was unlikely to change its opposition to condoms amidst the fight against HIV/AIDS: "We would have hoped for someone more open to more recent developments in the world, the whole question of the ministry of women and a more reasonable position with regard to condoms and HIV/AIDS."

In 2007, statistics were released that indicated HIV and AIDS numbers were lower than previously thought in South Africa. However, Tutu named these statistics "cold comfort" as it was unacceptable that 600 people died of AIDS in South Africa every day. Tutu also rebuked the government for wasting time discussing what caused HIV/AIDS.

In 2002, Tutu called for reform of the way the Archbishop of Canterbury is chosen because, ultimately, the appointment is made by the British Prime Minister. Tutu said that the process will only be democratic and representative once the link between church and state is broken. In February 2006 Tutu took part in the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil. There he reinforced his commitment to ecumenism and praised the efforts of Christian churches to promote dialogue to diminish their differences. For Tutu, "a united church is no optional extra."

Tutu says he still reads the Bible every day and recommends that people read it as a collection of books, not a single constitutional document: "You have to understand that the Bible is really a library of books and it has different categories of material," he said. "There are certain parts which you have to say no to. The Bible accepted slavery. St Paul said women should not speak in church at all and there are people who have used that to say women should not be ordained. There are many things that you shouldn't accept."

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Last update: 2014-05-14 16:45
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.3

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