December 10this Human Rights Day, the anniversary of the Declaration of the Human Rights (UDHR). UDHR was adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1948. The document proclaims that every human being has inalienable rights regardless of their race, sex, religion, property, political opinion, or other characteristics. The UDHR Preamble states that “every individual and every organ of society” has responsibility to protect the inalienable rights of people living under their sovereignty.
The UDHR specified the rights stated in the UN Charter which proclaims that one of the primary purposes of the UN is “to maintain international peace and security”. The UDHR has been adopted by 193 countries, and translated into more than 500 languages. The UDHR has been a big leap for international human rights. Its provisions have been incorporated into national legislations, as well as regional and international documents.
The UDHR, to some extent, was a reaction to the human tragedy caused by the Second World War (WW II). Its drafters took on the noble cause to prevent the similar tragedies. Our world has been dangerously close to another war on numerous occasions since then. As well as that, we still have large scale human tragedies victimizing millions across the globe each year. Today, tragedies involving purges, genocides, torture, rape, forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, exoduses and other atrocities take place under various brands such as cultural education, political training, civil war, terrorism, counter terrorism, defeating traitors, and so forth. For example, thirteen million Uyghurs and other Muslims, along with millions of Tibetans are suffering extreme repression in China; about one million Uyghurs have been held in coercive and indefinite repression and face torture in “political education” camps in China[i].Rohingya people’s citizenship were revoked by Myanmar’s 1982 Nationality Law, their villages were burned by state forces in 2017. Many Rohingya men were burned alive and women were raped by state forces. Currently, 900,000 Rohingya refugees live undersubstandard conditions in Bangladesh, and 600,000 Rohingya people still live under threat of genocide in Myanmar[ii]. Over in Syria,over600,000 civilians have been killed during the Civil War, and 5.5 million Syrians have become refugees (30 % of the country’s population)[iii].Millions of people have been victims of the Yemeni Civil War which is a proxy war between the powerful countries in the region. Millions of innocent people have been the victims of Turkey’s totalitarian regime. Turkey’s dictatorship, after orchestrating a sham coup attempt similar to the Hitler’s Reichstag fire, has destroyed the lives of millions of people by various inhumane means. Turkey’s current regime targeted people, along with their families, based on their opinions against the corruption and anti-democratic practices of Erdogan’s totalitarian regime. In the last several years, more than 6,000 academics, about 320 journalists, more than 33,500 teachers, about 31,500 law enforcement officers and about 4,500 judges and prosecutors (almost 40 % of the judicial members in the country) have been dismissed, tortured and jailed[iv]. Most judges and prosecutors have even been held in solitary confinement for years because of their verdicts against the will of Erdogan’s corrupt regime. After the July 2016 sham coup, 189 media outlets were shut down, more than 3,000 schools and dormitories -including 15 universities- were shut down, about 100,000 people were jailed, may businesses which worth about 17 billion US dollar were confiscated[v]. Hundreds of people were abducted and killed under torture by the state forces[vi].
In reaction to the gross human rights violations across the globe, the world mostly chooses to remain silent. Despite having inalienable human rights on a global scale, there is no international institution actually enforcing them. Various branches of the UN are in charge of promoting and protecting human rights, but they are not proactive enough because they lack enforcement authority over sovereign states. In fact, Article 2.7 of the U.N. Charter does not allow the U.N. “to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state”.
The U.N.’s Responsibility to Protect principle[vii], which allows the international community to protect “populations at risk of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity,” has provided hope in preventing human rights violations. However, it is met with cautious optimism since it is limited to certain macro crimes. Furthermore, the international cooperation is a slow process, unlike atrocities which usually happen quickly, while states are reluctant to act against other states for political reasons.
Our world has immense human right violations but we do not have enough means to prevent them. We are in dire need of universal respect and protection for the rights of every human being.
[i] Human Rights Watch. 2020. China. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/china-and-tibet
[ii] Human Rights Watch. 2020. Myanmar. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/myanmar-burma
[iv] Turkey’s post-coup crackdown. 2019, March 4. https://turkeypurge.com/. Some data is also reported at https://silencedturkey.org/, https://silencedturkey.org/infographics-2, and http://jwf.org/reports/
[v]Advocates of Silenced Turkey. 2018. A Predatory Approach to Individual Rights: Erdogan Government’s Unlawful Seizures of Private Properties and Companies in Turkey. https://silencedturkey.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/A-PREDATORY-APPROACH-TO-INDIVIDUAL-RIGHTS_-ERDOGAN-GOVERNMENT%E2%80%99S-UNLAWFUL-SEIZURES-OF-PRIVATE-PROPERTIES-AND-COMPANIES-IN-TURKEY.pdf
[vii] United Nations. Responsibility to Protect. https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/about-responsibility-to-protect.shtml