Jul 13, 2016
In Episode 8 of The Rights Track, Todd talks to Professor Rhoda
Howard-Hassmann, International Chair of Human Rights at Wilfred
Laurier University in Canada about state food crime, what it is,
where it’s happening, why she believes it should be considered an
international human rights crime and the challenges around
- How Rhoda got interested in food crime. She mentions an
article by David Marcus which discusses four levels of state
food crime: intentional, reckless, indifference and incompetence
and argues that the intentional and reckless starvation of citizens
should be considered an international crime.
- Rhoda explains how she produced a case study for each of the
levels: on North Korea, Zimbabwe, Israel and Venezuela. She has
also examined malnutrition in aboriginal people in Australia and
- Discussion of the law and the legal basis for these claims.
Rhoda argues that food crime should have same status as
- Existing human rights laws include the rights to be free from
malnutrition as laid out in Article
11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Criminal Court has a clause prohibiting extermination of
- Laws have not been consolidated though and possible or likely
punishments are not clear so a case has never been made.
- Rhoda mentions the important work of the Indian economist and
Sen who argued that famine was caused by countries who did not
allow political opposition, elections or freedom of the press based
in part on the Great Famine
in Ireland in the 19th Century.
- In her book,
State Food Crimes published by Cambridge University Press,
Rhoda examines famines in countries with totalitarian regimes:
Soviet Union and Ukraine in the 1930s, China in 50s and 60s and
Cambodia in the 1970s. She also looked at countries where there was
some level of democracy e.g. Canada (but not for aborigines) and
Ireland (voting for the English but not for the Irish) and in
Germany post World War 1.
- Rhoda outlines and explains four additional rights that she
developed from this research: right to citizenship, right to
mobility, right to own your land/property and right to work.
- Further discussion about Venezuela and the effect of price
controls and other actions of Hugo Chavez’ government including
hijacking of media for his own purposes, land invasions and the
rise of political violence up to and since his death in 2013 and
the uncertainty and continuing political violence and protests
surrounding the new Government of Nicolas Maduro including reports of
power and food rationing.
17.10 - end
- Discussion around accountability - who can be held accountable
by whom and how for the sorts of things that Rhoda’s research
reveals? Rhoda uses North Korea as an example of a country that
could potentially be taken to court for starving its own people.
She points out that other concerns about North Korea’s nuclear
capability and the wider threat of this to the region and other
parts of the world tend to take precedence.
- Todd summarises points made around the inter-relatedness of
rights, how international human rights law is powerful in some
areas and not in others, how accountability is difficult to prove
and the competing priorities around power and access to weapons
information and resources
Crimes in International Law, David Marcus, The American Journal
of International Law Colonialism and Under development in Ghana
Rhoda Howard-Haussmann’s blog
Rightlessness: Rhoda Howard-Haussmann on Human Rights
Related articles from
articles from OpenGlobalRights