Human Rights: Laws or Tools?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mojtaba Ansarian

Today terms such as human rights, humanitarian rights, citizenship rights, peace rights, civil rights, natural rights and inherent rights are being used all over the world even more than and beyond what were imagined by John Locke in 18th century and Henry Dunant in 19th century. Various spectrums of intellectual, religious and political schools as well as different political systems ranging from real republics to pseudo republics cite ‘human rights’ as a reality and a `must’. This is regarded a success for humanity which away from reliance on race, ethnicity, color, language, culture and religion is searching for human generosity. Human rights is after safeguarding the rights of human beings throughout the world in two dimensions of the free will of individuals and their social rights irrespective of the said factors and variants; rights that trigger individualism and innovativeness in the society and support individuals from any faction, group, age, gender and even when they are accused or convicted.

In the new international order which began with realism and the government at the center and also through mere pursuance of national interests, it is very auspicious to talk about human rights and see various governments pursue the matter. Nevertheless, this is just one side of the matter with the other side following up the same national interests which are raised by many governments in the form of human rights.

The United States of America is a pioneer of this form of behavior. It is interesting to note the position taking by Washington vis-à-vis violation of human rights, human principles and freedom of citizens in a country and its silence towards the breach of the same rights and liberties in another country! Now the question which arises here is how the US justifies its opposition to the genocide in Darfur but supports the crimes of the Zionist regime against the innocent people of Palestine?

It must be noted that governments are not honest regarding human rights because as it was said, for them security and national interests are of vital importance. The wider their definition of national interests the broader their breach of manifestations of human rights. However, the global civil society, including non-governmental human rights organizations, the public opinion and people are more honest and cleaner in support of human rights and its principles. Instances of positive performances by such groups and organizations have been witnessed in the cases of Palestine, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and the Sudan.

Of course, it must be noted that among the democratic developed countries too not all the people and public opinion give priority to human rights issue. For instance, I was watching a Press TV footage in which British citizens were asked about their priority: national security or human rights? About 50 percent of the respondents considered human rights a priority. This shows that the international community in the sense of international citizenship and directly understanding the pains and pleasures of all human beings similar to the citizens of the same government has not been fully created yet. Perhaps, within many states such as Israel, there are practically first and second rate citizens.

As we can observe in various events, the main dispute between governments (including petty powers, regional powers, global powers and the superior hegemonic government in the international order) is over national interests, which is manifested in different forms such as support for secessionists, agricultural subsidies or arms races. Although the time for secessionism and independence seeking struggles has come to an end but violent independence seeking actions such as those by the Basque movement in Spain or by the Chechens shows the priority of such affairs over human rights for advocates of such actions.

Several decades have passed since the debates that there should be no racial and ethnic discriminations, however, the question of race and reliance on identity issues which are in no way a yardstick for superiority of a human over another still continues. This issue would be regarded dangerous when it is pursued by the governments, such as protecting the Slavic race in former Yugoslavia or considering religious advantage such as Zionism and working to expand it all over the world.

Here, two issues are noteworthy: First, in addition to governments and violators of human rights particularly genocide, certain governments voice open and clandestine support for those who breach human rights. For instance, the barbaric massacre of Bosnian Muslims which was coupled with the most shameless types of harassments was supported by the then powerful Belgrade government which shared the same race with the Serbs. More bitter was when in 2008, a large group of Serbians supported the perpetrators of crimes against humanity led by Radovan Karajic who issued orders for the barbaric genocide. Here, mention should also be made of individuals who participate in inhuman punishments, which in addition to physical torment would lead to character assassination as well.

The important thing is for the human rights movement to continue all over the world in an attempt to implement the universal values and principles of human rights as stipulated in the December 10, 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. In this endeavor, the public opinion plays the main role. The first step is to learn about human rights followed by a general movement in the society towards defending the said principles. There is a successful experience in the global community in this respect, namely information about the rights, their comprehensiveness and all-out support for them. For instance, in the United States of America where until 60 years ago, the blacks did not enjoy the same rights as the whites and even did not have the right to attend the same assemblies the whites did, now run as candidates in presidential elections. Or the right for women to vote which in the words of Hillary Clinton her mother was deprived of but she went as far as running for presidency.

Therefore, it seems that the double standard policies of certain countries and the abuse of human rights by some politicians as a tool to serve their national interests should not be regarded the end of the road in the process of realization of human rights and one should not get disappointed. Instead, we must learn the principles and values of human rights by rejecting unilateralism and sticking to calm. We must also teach others that all humans are sacred in order to prepare the way for implementation of those principles in various societies in a comprehensive manner.


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