Every year world marks December 10 as human rights day. It remembers the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly approved the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” with an objective of promoting civil and human rights around the globe. After many years of passing of this declaration one still feels whether the objectives for which this agreement was formulated are achieved or not. Unusually, with this notion of human rights also comes to mind right of freedom or self-determination. It is one of the pillar of charter of human rights that still has not been achieved by many people or more broadly by nation-states.
This year it was celebrated too but the zest for humankind should not be bound to particular days. It is unfortunate that in past few decades post-colonial military occupations have resulted in even greater threats to peace as proven in the case of Kashmir and Palestine. Now the emergence of Rohingaya crisis which were there for past many years but the massive scale genocide and fleeing of refugees towards neighbouring countries have raised serious questions towards the safety and rights of even a single human being. These struggles by individuals and even groups have witnessed and still face worsened human rights violations, war misconducts and criminalities against humanity. At smaller scale masses suffer through tortures, abuses, disappearances or any other inhumane act but on bigger gauge collateral damage to humanity is done by use of chemical and biological weapons. It is indeed unfortunate that mostly Muslim countries are passing through ordeal now but whatever the conflict or issue between countries is humanity must survive.
Amnesty International a watchdog on international human rights in its yearly report states that the year from June 2016 to June 2017 has been a devastating year for those who are pursuing to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the sufferings of war zones. In this regard, International Humanitarian Law states that in war times attacks must not be directed against civilian populace. The principle of distinguishing between civilians and combatants is a fundamental safeguard for people caught up in the horrors of war but still civilians suffer. History shows that time and again civilians had to bore the brunt in any conflict. Be it’s on the name of search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or stated as rebellious fighting in Yemen and Syria, an ethnic cleansing has been done to humanity. Genocide in Rwanda and of Rohingyas or Boko Haram abductions in Sudan, all bring a question to human rights and its broadcasters. Indiscriminate bombings in Palestine and Syria not only left millions of people homeless but they grieved much. Similarly in case of Jammu & Kashmir introduction of Armed Forces Special Power Act has given impunity to Indian forces for misuse of power and they now use it brutally against innocent Kashmiris and thus violation of human rights is seen at its peak in Jammu & Kashmir.
Amnesty International suggests there is likely a chance that as the influence of groups such as Boko Haram, IS and Al Shabaab spills over national borders, more civilians will be forced to live under their quasi-state control, subject to abuse, persecution and discrimination. In this regard, respective countries must take some immediate steps and stop imagining that the protection of civilians is beyond their power and help roll back the tide of suffering of millions. Leaders must embrace a fundamental change in the way they respond to crises around the world. The irresponsible flow of weapons like rockets, mortars, artillery to human rights abusers must stop now. Similarly, restrictions on the use of explosive weapons which cannot be precisely targeted or which otherwise have wide-area effect in populated areas could have helped save thousands of lives lost in Gaza. The international community can and must do more to protect civilians whose homes have become the frontline battle zone of warring parties. One of the major threat which world sights nowadays is refugee crisis or internally displaced people. Though Pakistan had to pay a huge amount in form of refugees from Afghanistan, still it is the only country in the world which hosted refugees for more than three decades. It is witnessed that the influx of refugees has seriously strained resources and led to rising tensions between refugees and local communities in the region.
So there is a need for bang to act, as the global attitude on the state of human rights is unwelcoming. Nation states must ensure that their response to security threats do not weaken fundamental human rights or fuel the violence further. Instead of environment of oppression in which extremism can flourish, dialogue/talks or other ways be sorted. Leaders must take immediate and decisive actions for conflicts, without use of force to make world better and safe as it is rightly said, “human rights matter because they are dependent on only one thing: being human”.
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.