Thursday, June 26, 2008


An Insight On Human Rights :Major(R)Khalid Nasr

To ones' utter amazement, emergence of Human Rights in its embryonic form surfaces during the early period of Greek City States; though the early Greeks weren't aware of the present day concept of equality before law. This duality of standards drew a line of demarcation between the free citizens (who were Greeks essentially) and the slaves bought or forced to be included in this category in consequence of their captivity after war. To all intent and purposes, these slaves were treated as personal property of their masters acquiring them in either of the two ways discussed above. Whereas free citizens were held accountable for their actions, the masters were responsible for the acts of their slaves; and were required to compensate to the party suffering a loss because of any indiscrete act on the part of a slave. Whereas patricians & jurors were required to initiate legal action against the misdeeds of a free citizen, the masters had the absolute authority to decide whether their slaves were to be awarded a minor punishment or to suffer death penalty at the hands of their masters. In other words, all free citizens had their respective rights & obligations duly acknowledged by the state, but there was no law to govern the slaves; because they were required to be governed by their own masters.

There were simple set of laws for this almost rural-agrarian socio-economic pattern, wherein every citizen was personally known to every other citizen; and life had not grown complicated. This type of state was bound to come under stress with the passage of time & due to its interaction with other socio-cultural & behavioural configurations. In the West, different concepts of Fundamental Human Rights emerged out of the Social Contract theories evolved by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau-the philosopher having a main role to play in the well-known French Revolution. Political and socio-economists like Montesquieu, and John Stuart Mill propounded their own respective views in the context of Industrial revolution; simultaneously commenting on Laissez-faire etc.

Broad Categories of Fundamental Rights :

(a). The right to live:It has been acknowledged the World over, and has been treated as inalienable to the extent that suicide is forbidden under the law; and has been declared as punishable under the law. The only exception in the contemporary history treating it as beyond the scope of law was in the case of Japan upto the end of World War-ll under Shintoism. Death penalty is under criticism inasmuch as no moral grounds exist for the state to deprive a murderer of his right to live; because in that event state would be committing an act itself which has been proscribed under its own laws. Abolition of death penalty is on the anvil, even in US; whereas it has already been abolished in Europe.Soldiers offering their services for the defence of their motherland surrender this right in the event of their death during the war. This is the only exception internationally accepted, but loss of human lives during the war have been criticized despite this exception.

(b).The right to associate:It provides an overall cover from right to marry & produce children to association for political activities involving the right to vote and contest for state offices. Similarly the right to form clubs, associations, and celebrations has also been acknowledged as absolute; unless such associations are detrimental to the existence of state itself or are based on misanthropy, racial discrimination, and creation of hatred amongst various sections of society within the state. Apartheid in South Africa & colour bar in US restricted this right when in vogue , but have been legally abolished providing a free opportunity to

(c). The right to earn a living :It is granted in as much as the individual is allowed to own means of production for agriculture and industry; and has been allowed to undertake unlimited productive & commercial activity in the free World; whereas the same is also being permitted gradually by the erstwhile Socialistic & Communist countries. Apart from owning means of production, the right to earn a living through a given profession and/or holding offices of profit under their Government , subject to their suitability for a given job. Forced labour would be an offence punishable under the law, and the employer would be under obligation to adhere to the working hours permitted by the state; and employer would be under obligation to provide health cover and compensation in the event of death /loss of limb by a worker under social securities schemes. No discrimination would be made by the employer on the basis of gender.

(d) The right to mobility within and outside the state:The latter being responsible to ask a foreign government to safeguard his/her life and property by issuing a valid certification in the form of a passport. This document is a certification on the part of the state tht the traveller is a bonafide citizen and the country he is visiting should take necessary measures for his safety etc in accordance with the international law & mutually agreed obligations.

(e).The right to profess a certain creed:It accepts an individual's right to hold & profess a certain creed in accordance with his/ her conscience. The individual in such a case wouldn't be asked to convert from his religion to any other religion forcibly. He/ she would be allowed to shape his/ her life in accordance with the religious dictates of the creed he/she belongs to. Religious rites of birth, marriage, and funeral would be performed in accordance with the religion he/she hails from. State would not adopt any policy of discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs . Whereas this Fundamental Right should have been taken care in the normal course due to professed secularism by a majority of states, yet performance of some of the states have been compromised due to the unfortunate emergence of the concept of clash of civilizations in the recent past. Unnecessary intervention & unjustified armed conflicts resulting in loss of precious human lives has been seen in the Middle East.. The State preempting in the disastrous employment of nuclear power in Japan is insisting that no other power especially in the Muslim World should have access to nuclear technology even for peaceful purposes. Countries like Iran find it difficult to digest, and hence nuclear threat is looming over the Globe without any rhyme or reason. Picture regarding relationship between rights & obligtions is getting hazier day by day; showing divergence & a widening cleavage between theory & practice. There is no international agency including the UN to point out & discourage this dichotomy, which has already taken the toll in the form of League of Nations after World War-l.

Equality before law envisages that all citizens would be equal before law and any discrimination on the basis of race, religion, and economic status would be forbidden. Nobody would be kept under custody without resorting to the prescribed legal procedure. A writ of Habeas Corpus would be admissible for wrongful & undue detention and the person/department violating this right would be punished in accordance with the relevant provisions of the law.

(f). Right to get justice : It involves resort to legal action for seeking justice through courts of law in the event of violations of any of the Fundamental Rights conferred upon individual by the state. In other words, each one of the above referred Fundamental Rights are justiciable and violators thereof can be brought to books for any act of recalcitrancy.

(g) Right of freedom of expression:It acknowledges that all individuals would be free to express their opinion by word of mouth, through publications, and through public media such as Radio,and Television etc. Each individual would be allowed access to information technology (IT).

(h) Right to education:It involves right to receive education upto a certain level free of cost. All citizens would be educated in schools free of cost, and College/University education would be accessible to all citizens. Child labour would be prohibited, and all children would be sent to school upto a certain level.Similarly no discrimination would be made on the basis of gender.

(i) Right to maintenance of health :It involves provision of health facilities to the entire citizenry throughout the country. State would ensure provision of medical cover in the event of illness as well as taking preventive measures against the spreading of any epidemic.

(j) Protection during war: It is afforded to non-combatants members of armed forces and civilians. Those responsible for war crimes are tried for war atrocities. Members of armed forces becoming prisoners of war (POWs) are allowed to retain the dignity of their ranks. Similarly Officers are not to be employed as manual labour ; but are allocated jobs in accordance with their status in the force they come from.

(k)The right to restrict information :During interrogation after captivity prisoners have the right to divulge their name, rank, and number in accordance with the Geneva Convention; and refuse other information in response to the queries over & above this information. This right has, however, seldom been observed & so are the other provisions of Geneva Convention. These rights have invariably been flouted by all concerned during the War & after cessation of hostilities.Whereas discussion goes on against violation of these Fundamental Rights in developing countries especially the non-Jewish & non-Christian states, these violations have seldom been commented upon while occurring in states mostly populated by Christians. US had all along been different yardsticks for Muslim areas such as Bosnia Hertzgovena, East Timur, Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan and Pakistan etc. International scenario doesn't paint an enviable picture of the role of US in countries like Iraq, which as per US information media was a case of unwarranted internal interference. Besides, these powers are applying two distinct yardsticks for themselves & others. The case of Cuba is in view in this context. They are pressurizing countries like Pakistan to fight a proxy was for US even at the exorbitant price of creating law & order situation in their own country; whereas Pakistan kept waiting and waiting for their 7th Fleet during the War started by Indians in Bengla Desh. Hence Fundamental Human Rights remain an enigma, particularly for developing countries which seldom receive an even-handed treatment from the powers who matter. In fact, there is no such thing as International Law or International morality; because the guiding principle in 20th Century has been 'might is right'; whereas 21st Century is still expecting to see new dawn providing a legal & physical cover to ensure observance of inalienable concept of Fundamental Human Rights. Shall we be seeing this dawn during our own life-span, is the question which still remains unanswered.

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