Biden’s vow to defend human rights ? | By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi

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Biden’s vow to defend human rights ?


THE present global order has a long awaited challenge to fulfil the humanitarian task enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.

Needless to say, the so-called democratic, civilized world of today has demonstrated a callous indifference — to protect the fundamental rights of the poor Muslim nations or communities, the Palestinians, Kashmiris and Rohingyas.

Awful stories are honeycombed with the Muslim communities’ victimhood, particularly the children of Gaza who have recently died of the strident Israeli strikes. US President Biden is committed to addressing the human rights issue globally.

In the latest move, New Delhi has abstained from voting on a UN Human Rights Council resolution establishing a Commission of Inquiry to investigate alleged human rights violations and abuses in Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including East Jerusalem.

It must be no surprise as to why India has done it—simply because India has had committed similar atrocities in Kashmir.

Recently, the US has unjustly withdrawn from the United Nations’ top human rights body (UNHRC) accusing it of demonstrating chronic bias against Israel—a move that was criticised by human rights groups and described as regrettable by foreign leaders. The US withdrawal from the Council is seen as a great attack against the HR regime.

And yet, it remains an unfortunate development that for the last 76 years, the geopolitical drivers of the power politics have been undermining the moral/legal fabric of the UN’s Charter. Still, there were a few recognized rights with collective character.

They include the rights of peoples to self-determination protected and fundamentally defended by Article 1 of the Charter as well as rightly defined “in article 27 of the covenant on civil and political rights—ICCPR”.

But despite all these convincing emphases or attempts on individual rights, the ongoing pathetic situation in Palestine, Kashmir and Myanmar speak nothing but a civilized world’s dichotomy on human rights.

Since 2018, Israel faces an inquiry of war crimes in Gaza. The US was the sole vote against the UN inquiry, and European countries abstained, as did India.

The Gaza bombing was not the first and it is not the last as the violence of occupation continues in Palestine daily in the form of illegal settlements and killings.

The currently committed Israeli atrocities in Al-Aqsa mosque in Al-Quds, as w well as Tel Aviv’s ongoing offensive against the hapless Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank — all seem tantamount to reflecting nothing but barbarism.

Notably, suppressing the Palestinians and making their lives miserable was the unspoken motto behind a malicious campaign to force as many Palestinians to leave in order to quench their voracious lust to seize Palestinian land.

Forced evictions, night raids, unlawful incarceration, uprooting trees and house demolitions became routine–commonplace — while they exploited Palestinian resistance to justify their bigoted policy, oblivious that they must coexist with the very people they loathe, despise, reject and denounce.

Many human rights organizations, including foreign governments, have been urging China to stop the abuses against Uighurs.

But Chinese officials maintain that what they call vocational training centres do not infringe on Uighurs’ human rights.

As for the US war crimes in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and human rights violations in both Afghanistan and Iraq need no explanation.

Ruled under a yoke of military dictatorship and suppression of political dissent, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has been a syndrome of human sufferings, yet the international community remained unable to redress the grievances of the Uighurs.

Currently, defence chiefs from 12 different countries had earlier condemned violence in Myanmar, which saw military forces open fire on anti-coup protesters.

The US, Britain, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan issued the statement, a day after Myanmar’s deadliest day of protests since the military coup in February.

Likewise, the people of India-held Kashmir and those living in the Israeli Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) look forward to receiving a global, unified stand on their rights under the UN-sponsored R2P.

Justifiably, UN human rights experts seem wary of India’s decision to end Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy and enact new laws—while curtailing the previous level of political participation of Muslims and other minorities in the country, as well as potentially discriminate against them in important matters including employment and land ownership.

“The loss of autonomy and the imposition of direct rule by the Government in New Delhi suggests the people of Jammu and Kashmir no longer have their own government and have lost power to legislate or amend laws in the region to ensure the protection of their rights as minorities,” said Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues and Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

Currently, a canopy of eight human rights bodies(The Amnesty International, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, International Dalit Solidarity Network, International Federation for Human Rights, and World Organisation Against Torture), have urged the EU leaders to raise the human rights issue with India.

Sadly, every US President since Carter has in one way or another has downplayed human rights in favour of other priorities – neorealism and neoliberalism, indeed, Carter did as well – but none could have been able to entirely repudiate them.

In his 2020 book ‘The Responsibility to Protect and the Failures of the United Nations Security Council, the author Patrick Butchard argues that ‘’the Security Council’s responsibility to maintain international peace and security, and its responsibility to protect, do not die with its own failures.

Other actors can and must take up the responsibility to save those in need—such coercive measures to be taken beyond the Council that could be used to break the deadlock, including through the General Assembly and regional organizations’’.

In this context, Pakistan‘s Foreign Office is rightly echoing the voice of the UNGA to meet the confronting task—using the right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir as well as the Palestinians.

—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.

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