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Human Rights Violations - A Curse to Society, Culture and Humanity

Almost every day there are chilling instances of violence, ethnic cleansing, heinous torture, child abuse, man slaughter and several other human rights violations. Despite the adoption of the Universal Declaration Human Rights (1948) and special covenants provided for the rights of children, women and disabled, crimes continue unhindered and unabated.

The soul-searching question is... Has humanity been relinquished? Human rights describe equal rights and freedom for anyone and everyone regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religion or political affiliation.

All humans live in societies together. As stated by the U.N. declaration of Human Rights in 1948 �All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.�

This statement defines that each and every human is entitled to all rights. Human rights are fundamental to human existence. There may be disagreement on the details of human rights, but barely any on the basic aspects of them. Human rights were always violated in human history. The leaders mostly oppressed people and did not grant their entitled human rights.

Even religious leader in some cases were responsible for the violation of human rights. In India, various mechanisms such as the National Human Rights Commission, State Human Rights Commissions, and Women's Commissions have been constituted at the Centre and in the states, for upholding human rights causes. Legislative safeguards i.e.

The Constitution of India, which is supreme a lex (the law of the land) and multifarious laws such as The Human Rights Act, 1997 are in existence but in vain. Human rights violations are the order of the day and the above 'law- enforcement' arsenals fall short of implementation. Rights are merely enumerated on paper and hence remain a dead letter.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was established in response to the atrocities during WWII, including the Holocaust. The document outlines the human rights that all people are entitled to such as freedom from torture, freedom of expression, and the right to seek asylum. When those rights aren't protected or blatantly disregarded, they are violated.

What are the types of human rights violations? Who is responsible for preventing and addressing them?
A state commits human rights violations either directly or indirectly. Violations can either be intentionally performed by the state and or come as a result of the state failing to prevent the violation. When a state engages in human rights violations, various actors can be involved such as police, judges, prosecutors, government officials, and more. The violation can be physically violent in nature, such as police brutality, while rights such as the right to a fair trial can also be violated, where no physical violence is involved.

The second type of violation � failure by the state to protect � occurs when there's a conflict between individuals or groups within a society. If the state does nothing to intervene and protect vulnerable people and groups, it's participating in the violations. In the United States, the state failed to protect black Americans when lynching's frequently occurred around the country. Since many of those responsible for the lynchings were also state actors (like the police), this is an example of both types of violations occurring at the same time.

Human Rights Violation

Human rights advocates agree that, sixty years after its issue, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is still more a dream than reality. Violations exist in every part of the world.

For example, Amnesty International's 2009 World Report and other sources show that individuals are:
  • Tortured or abused in at least 81 countries
  • Face unfair trials in at least 54 countries
  • Restricted in their freedom of expression in at least 77 countries
  • Not only that, but women and children in particular are marginalized in numerous ways, the press is not free in many countries, and dissenters are silenced, too often permanently. While some gains have been made over the course of the last six decades, human rights violations still plague the world today.

To help inform you of the true situation throughout the world, this section provides examples of violations of six Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR):

Article 3 � The Right To Live Free

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

An estimated 6,500 people were killed in 2007 in armed conflict in Afghanistan�nearly half being non-combatant civilian deaths at the hands of insurgents. Hundreds of civilians were also killed in suicide attacks by armed groups.

In Brazil in 2007, according to official figures, police killed at least 1,260 individuals�the highest total to date. All incidents were officially labelled �acts of resistance� and received little or no investigation.

In Uganda, 1,500 people die each week in the internally displaced person camps. According to the World Health Organization, 500,000 have died in these camps.

Vietnamese authorities forced at least 75,000 drug addicts and prostitutes into 71 overpopulated �rehab� camps, labelling the detainees at �high risk� of contracting HIV/AIDS but providing no treatment.

Stands of UN with respect to Human Rights Violations:

The maintenance of international peace and security is one of the purposes of the United Nations Charter. Violence and conflict undermine sustainable development. Human rights violations are at the root causes of conflict and insecurity which, in turn, invariably result in further violations of human rights. As such, action to protect and promote human rights has inherent preventive power while rights-based approaches to peace and security bring this power to efforts for sustainable peace.

The human rights normative framework also provides a sound basis for addressing issues of serious concern within or between countries that, if left unaddressed may lead to conflict. Human rights information and analysis is a tool for early warning and early targeted action that has not yet been used to its full potential. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) was a functional commission within the overall framework of the United Nations from 1946 until it was replaced by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2006. It was a subsidiary body of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and was also assisted in its work by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR). It was the UN's principal mechanism and international forum concerned with the promotion and protection of human rights.

On 15 March 2006, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to replace UNCHR with the UN Human Rights Council. The UNCHR was established in 1946 by ECOSOC, and was one of the first two "Functional Commissions" set up within the early UN structure (the other being the Commission on the Status of Women). It was a body created under the terms of the United Nations Charter (specifically, under Article 68) to which all UN member states are signatories.

It met for the first time in January 1947 and established a drafting committee for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948. In 1967, the Commission adopted interventionism as its policy. The context of the decade was of Decolonization of Africa and Asia, and many countries of the continent pressed for a more active UN policy on human rights issues, especially in light of massive violations in apartheid South Africa. The new policy meant that the Commission would also investigate and produce reports on violations.

To allow better fulfilment of this new policy, other changes took place. In the 1970s, the possibility of geographically-oriented workgroups was created. These groups would specialize their activities on the investigation of violations on a given region or even a single country, as was the case with Chile. With the 1980s came the creation of theme-oriented workgroups, which would specialize in specific types of abuses.

The body went through two distinct phases. From 1947 to 1967, it concentrated on promoting human rights and helping states elaborate treaties, but not on investigating or condemning violators. It was a period of strict observance of the sovereignty principle. None of these measures, however, were able to make the Commission as effective as desired, mainly because of the presence of human rights violators and the politicization of the body. During the following years until its extinction, the UNCHR became increasingly discredited among activists and governments alike.

The Commission held its final meeting in Geneva on March 27, 2006 and was replaced by the United Nations Human Rights Council in the same year.

Means to Violate Human Rights

There is now near-universal consensus that all individuals are entitled to certain basic rights under any circumstances. These include certain civil liberties and political rights, the most fundamental of which is the right to life and physical safety. Human rights are the articulation of the need for justice, tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity in all of our activity.
  1. Speaking of rights allows us to express the idea that all individuals are part of the scope of morality and justice.
    To protect human right is to ensure that people receive some degree of decent, humane treatment. To violate the most basic human rights, on the other hand, is to deny individuals their fundamental moral entitlements.
  2. It is, in a sense, to treat them as if they are less than human and undeserving of respect and dignity. Examples are acts typically deemed "crimes against humanity," including genocide, torture, slavery, rape, enforced sterilization or medical experimentation, and deliberate starvation. Because these policies are sometimes implemented by governments, limiting the unrestrained power of the state is an important part of international law. Underlying laws that prohibit the various "crimes against humanity" is the principle of non-discrimination and the notion that certain basic rights apply universally.

Types of Violations and the Sufferer:

Civil and political rights:

Civil and political rights are violated through genocide, torture, and arbitrary arrest. These violations often happen during times of war, and when a human rights violation intersects with the breaking of laws about armed conflict, it's known as a war crime.

Conflict can also trigger violations of the right to freedom of expression and the right of peaceful assembly. States are usually responsible for the violations as they attempt to maintain control and push down rebellious societal forces. Suppressing political rights is a common tactic for many governments during times of civil unrest.

Violations of civil and political human rights aren't always linked to specific conflicts and can occur at any given time. Human trafficking is currently one of the largest issues on a global scale as millions of men, women, and children are forced into labour and sexual exploitation. Religious discrimination is also very common in many places around the world. These violations often occur because the state is failing to protect vulnerable groups.

Poverty as a Causative:

Poverty is a ruthless task master; it exacts an exorbitant price in terms of denial of basic human rights i.e. food, shelter, clothing, education, healthcare etc which in turn constitute basic necessities of life. An analysis of constitutional and other safeguards becomes pertinent to gauge the efficacy of the law in relation to the millions who have no other recourse but the arsenal of justice.

Article 21 is the Magna Carat of the Constitution of India. It reads as follows- No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. It is noteworthy to mention that the fundamental right to life and personal liberty is inherent and is not conferred upon us by the Constitution. These are primary personal rights without which civil and political rights are rendered meaningless.

The Court has held that 'the right to life includes the right to live with human dignity and all that goes with it, namely the bare necessities of life such as adequate nutrition clothing and shelter1 inter alia. In Bandhua Mukti Morcha, where the question of bondage and rehabilitation of some labourers was involved, Bhagwati, J held that the fundamental right to live with human dignity is congruous with the right to life and derives its life breath from the Directive Principles of State Policy, and particularly clauses (e) and (f) of Articles 39,41,42.

Again, in the Olga Tellies case the court held that the Right to livelihood is included in the right to life as �no person can live without the means of living".
However these rights have no meaning to those who are living below the poverty line (31% of the Indian population lives below the poverty line). The noble ideals of Social, Economic and Political justice as embodied in the Preamble and other parts of the Constitution remain an unrealized dream for millions of our fellow citizens. The fact remains that India has the largest population in the world that goes to bed without any food, the largest population who has no clothes to wear and the largest number of beggars.

India is not shining on 750 million of its people who have no basic toilet facilities; on 510 million humans with no access to essential drugs; on 300 million illiterate adults with no schooling; on its 60 million destitute and widows without a roof; on nearly seven million suffering from AIDS and on the largest number of children suffering from malnutrition. Ironically 50 million tons of food grains lie idle in the FCI go downs, only to be nibbled at by rodents.

The States have not successfully accomplished the implementation of mid-day meal schemes directive given by the Supreme Court in this matter. Death is hence comes as a salvation for these poor and helpless people who have absolutely no recourse. This is just a minuscule impact of poverty.

Denial of Education:

In Unni Krishnan v.State of A.P, the Supreme Court has recognized a fundamental right to education in the right to life under Article 21. Taking the aid of Articles 41 and 45 it has held that ' every child/citizen of this country has a right to free education until he completes fourteen years of age.'

It differed from Mohini Jain's case in the sense that the right to education is subject to the limits of economic capacity and development of the state. Even after the Unni Krishnan case improvement in the situation has been frugal. Consequently, the government enacted the Constitution (86th Amendment) Act, 2002 by virtue of which Article 21A has been provided for.

It reads as follows:
The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6 to 14 years in such manner as the state may, by law, determine.

The reality however is hard- hitting. The question arises as to the implementation of this gigantic task. Poverty breeds poverty. The vicious circle of poverty denies to lakhs of children the right to education, despite the fundamental right that children below 14 years of age shall be given access to primary education. A country's progress depends upon the development of its populace. Education is an arsenal to achieve the same. However in our country, widespread illiteracy still continues to persist .the government does not have adequacy of funds to run its own educational institutions. Education is undergoing privatization. The resultant is that schools have become centres for exploitation due to colossal fees charged and the common man is deterred by the affordability factor

Subjugation of Women:

In India women constitute nearly fifty percent of our population. Women are denied human rights from the cradle to the grave. Infanticide is rampant in certain parts of the country where the birth of a girl child is not welcome. Nearly forty-one percent of the women abroad play an active role in the production process. In India the situation leaves much to be desired. Sexual abuse and flesh trade are gnawing evils, which threaten the existence of women as independent entities.

Dowry is the greatest crime against women. Are our daughters and sisters for sale?
Women are virtually sold into the marriage market. Huge dowries are still demanded even when the girl can supplement the man's income. In such a milieu, a woman enjoys no rights because she is a woman. Rape is a weapon to subjugate women. The woman is safe nowhere. Justice prides herself on being blind to everything but the truth - yet as far as rape is concerned; the facts paint a different picture.

In the Mathura Case:
The judgment did not distinguish between consent and forcible submission. Correspondingly the judgments in Bhanwari Devi and a few other cases were unjust and in favour of the accused.

In a significant judgment of Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan, the Supreme Court laid down exhaustive guidelines for preventing sexual harassment of working women in their place of work until legislation is enacted for this purpose.

Economic, social, and cultural rights:

As described in the UDHR, economic, social, and cultural rights include the right to work, the right to education, and the right to physical and mental health. As is the case with all human rights, economic, social, and cultural rights can be violated by states and other actors. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights gives a handful of examples of how these rights can be violated. They include:
  • Contaminating water, for example, with waste from State-owned facilities (the right to health)
  • Evicting people by force from their homes (the right to adequate housing)
  • Denying services and information about health (the right to health)
  • Discriminating at work based on traits like race, gender, and sexual orientation (The right to work)
  • Failing to provide maternity leave (protection of and assistance to the family)
  • Not paying a sufficient minimum wage (rights at work)
  • Segregating students based on disabilities (the right to education)
  • Forbidding the use of minority/indigenous languages (the right to participate in cultural life)

Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights:

In 1999 the Economic and Social Council changed its title from the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities to the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights".

The Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights was the main subsidiary body of the Commission on Human Rights. It was composed of twenty-six experts whose responsibility was to undertake studies, particularly in light of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and make recommendations to the Commission concerning the prevention of discrimination of any kind relating to human rights and fundamental freedoms and the protection of racial, national, religious and linguistic minorities. Membership was selected with regard to equitable geographical distribution.

The Sub-Commission established seven Working Groups that investigate specific human rights concerns, including:

  • Minorities
  • Transnational corporations
  • Administration of justice
  • Anti-terrorism
  • Contemporary Forms of Slavery
  • Indigenous Populations
  • Communication
  • Social Forum
The United Nations Human Rights Council assumed responsibility for the Sub-Commission when it replaced the Commission on Human Rights in 2006.

Special Procedure
The Commission on Human Rights established 30 special procedures, or mechanisms, to address specific country situations or thematic issues such as freedom of expression and opinion, torture, the right to food, and the right to education.

Individuals with expertise in particular areas of human rights were appointed by the chair of the Commission to serve as Special Reporters' for a maximum of six years. They are unpaid, independent experts who receive personnel and logistical support from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for their work. Their main activities are to examine, monitor, advise and publicly report on human rights situations in specific countries or territories. They are able to write to governments about reported violations and conduct fact-finding visits to countries that invite them.

The special mechanisms are categorised according to:

  • Thematic Mandates.
  • Country Mandates.

Special procedures also include working groups made up of up to five experts who monitor and investigate specific human rights concerns.

Three groups were established by the Commission:

  • Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
  • Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
  • Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination
The special procedures are now under the direction of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Few Major Human Rights Violation in India:

  1. Caste-based discrimination and violence:

    More than 56,000 crimes were committed against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in 2015. These included denying Dalits entry into public and social spaces, according to the report. In 2016, Dalit student Rohith Vemula commited Suicide, complaining of discrimination and abuse, leading to nationwide protests. Since then, the government has alleged that the student was not Dalit, but belonged to other backward classes.
  2. Communal and ethnic violence:

    Many people were attacked by vigilante cow protection groups. These self-appointed guardians of cows beat up many people legally transporting cattle, and many of those affected were minority groups. Two Muslim Cattle traders were found Hanging from a tree in Jharkhand. Other violations included gang rape of women and forcing cattle transporters to eat cow dung.

    Those from African countries faced racism and discrimination in India. While one Tanzanian woman was Stripped and Beaten by a mob in Bangalore, another man from the Democratic Republic of Congo was beaten to death in New Delhi.
  3. Freedom of association:

    The government cancelled the registration of several civil society organisations which specifically prevented them from getting foreign funding, even after the UN claimed it was not in accordance with international law.
  4. Freedom of expression:

    Several people were arrested under sedition laws for expressing their dissent with government policy. Indians were arrested for even posting comments on Facebook. Two men were arrested under informational technology law for sharing a satirical image of a Hindu nationalist group.
  5. Violence against women:

    More than 327,000 crimes were committed against women in 2015. Many of them belonged to marginalised communities. Women were allegedly sexually assaulted by members of the armed forces in Chhattisgarh.
  6. Children's rights:

    Crimes against children rose by 5% in 2015 as compared to the previous year. An amendment in a child labour law by the Parliament that allowed some exceptions was opposed by child rights activists, who were concerned it would affect marginalised groups and girl children.

    A new draft education policy released by the central government omitted any mention of human rights education.

Few Major Issues that made Headlines around Globe:

On December 10, the world marks 70 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Right. Regrettably, instead of the anniversary signaling the enduring impact of human rights, some fear the �end of Human Rights.�
  1. Facebook's Reckoning:

    Free speech, privacy and electoral integrity came under the microscope in March, when a former employee of Cambridge Analytics blew the whistle on its practice of Harvesting Data from millions of US Facebook users in an effort to Influence the 2016 Presidential Election.
  2. Rohingya Crises:

    In August, a UN Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar, which included Australian human rights expert Chris Sidoti, delivered a scathing report detailing crimes against humanity, war crimes, sexual violence and possible genocide by Myanmar's security forces against the Rohingya.
  3. Saudi Arabia:

    Saudi Arabia made international headlines when a prominent journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The case prompted a closer examination of Saudi Arabia's human rights record. The country's repression, imprisonment and ill-treatment of activists include the alleged torture of leading women's rights defenders.
  4. Australia's first year on the UN Human Rights Council:

    Australia took its place on the UN Human Rights Council this year for a three-year term. Australia delivered a strong statement about Myanmar's atrocities against ethnic Rohingya Muslims, but was criticised for holding refugees and asylum seekers offshore. While Australia supported important country resolutions, it failed to take a leadership role on any key issues.
  5. Violence against women:

    In Australia, while the #Me-too movement has spurred women to come forward with their experiences of sexual harassment and abuse, a number of high-profile cases of alleged sexual harassment by actors and politicians highlighted ongoing barriers to justice for victims. At the same time, the #counting dead women foeticide index reports that one woman in Australia is killed every week by an intimate partner.

What Can Be Done?
International humanitarian law has been enacted to preserve humanity in all circumstances, even during conflicts. Such law "creates areas of peace in the midst of conflict, imposes the principle of a common humanity, and calls for dialogue. It rules out unlimited force or total war and seeks to limit the use of violence in the hopes of maintaining the necessary conditions for a return to peace.

Various international committees are in place to monitor compliance with human rights standards and report any violations. When breaches do occur, they are brought to the attention of international tribunals or tried in an international court or war crimes tribunal.

But conflicts sometimes progress beyond the state at which international law can help. As the number of victims grows and more individuals are taken prisoner, tortured, or executed, it becomes more difficult to resort to the legal path.

The Question of Humanitarian Intervention

There is much disagreement about when and to what extent outside countries can engage in humanitarian intervention. More specifically, there is debate about the efficacy of using military force to protect the human rights of individuals in other nations. This sort of debate stems largely from a tension between state sovereignty and the rights of individuals.

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