Wednesday, the United Nations chief, Antonio Guterres, came down hard on countries with worst human rights records. This, analysts say, is a great deal of frustration on the UN’s efficiency, which was founded, principally, to deal with the incidence of gross human rights abuses globally. OMONU NELSON writes
One of the circumventing factors of the United Nation’s quests for a global human rights protection is the sovereignty of member states. International affairs experts have argued that sovereignty of nations guarantees that United Nations can do less, except the countries cooperate with it. This, it is argued has continued to mitigate the UN from achieving its core mandate.
One of the prime motivators for the formation of the United Nations after the Second World War was the earnest need to mitigate the brazen human abuses, occasioned by wars and arbitrary political dictatorship and leaderships.
Today’s Middle East is in carnage because of leadership dictatorship, territorial interests and supremacy battle. This has led to unmitigated human rights abuses. Recently, a Saudi bomb hit a school bus, killing 39 children. The incidences of human right abuses are wide spread.
In pursuance of the UN objective, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), on 10 December, 1948, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Document at its third session at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France.
However, the implementation of this historic document has remained a herculean task before the UN, given the continued unabated evidences of human rights abuses. Experts have argued that, national sovereignty has rendered UN declaration on human rights less effective.
They argue that dictators and leaders, who abuse the rights of their people around the world, seldom cooperate with the UN, with the arrest of culprits, given that UN has no law enforcement agents to carry out its orders.
The Wednesday’s report, released by Gutterres, condemned human rights abuses in about 38 countries, describing it as ‘shameful.’
The report alleged governments in about 38 countries have continued to intimidate or punish people/activists for cooperating with the UN on human rights.
Countries named as having new cases of human rights abuses were in Bahrain, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, India, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Myanmar, Philippines, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Venezuela.
The annual report, which was released by Guterres himself, detailed allegations of killings, torture and arbitrary arrests. The report also alleged instances of ill treatment, detention, surveillance, and public stigmatisation, targeting victims and human rights defenders.
According to Guterres: “The world owes it to those brave people standing up for human rights, who have responded to requests to provide information to and engage with the UN, to ensure their right to participate is respected,” Guterres wrote.
He said, “Punishing individuals for cooperating with the UN is a shameful practice that everyone must do more to stamp out.”
The report also stated that there is a “disturbing trend in the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies by states as justification for blocking access by communities and civil society organisations to the United Nations. Women cooperating with the UN have also reported threats of rape and are being subjected to online smear campaigns.”
The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, who will present the report to the Human Rights Council on September 19, said in a statement that the cases in the report were the tip of the iceberg.
According to Gilmour, “We are also increasingly seeing legal, political and administrative hurdles used to intimidate – and silence – civil society,” he said.
In the 37th session of the Human Rights Council, Item 2: Annual Report and Oral Update by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the activities of his Office and recent human rights developments on 7 March, 2018, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein gave the following remarks on the human rights situation globally.
A few days ago, we celebrated the centenary year of Nelson Mandela’s birth. We spoke of his example; his fortitude, his suffering and compassion, while recalling also the declaration that he and my predecessor, Mary Robinson signed in 2000 on diversity and tolerance.
And it was right for us – not just to have remembered Mandela’s greatness, but to have, almost unconsciously, contrasted it with all the narrow politicians who continue to proliferate across the face of the world. Authoritarian in nature, many of them are wily political in-fighters, but most are of thin minds and faint humanity – prone to fan division and intolerance and just for the sake of securing their political ambition. While some do this more openly than others, all are well aware what they practise comes at the expense of vulnerable humans.
To them I say: you may seize power, or stubbornly hold onto it, by playing on and stoking the fears of your followers. You may congratulate yourselves for this and you may think yourself so clever for it. But we know all you’ve done is copy the behaviour of previous generations of once strong, but ultimately catastrophic, leaders and politicians. Yours will in the end become a mouse-like global reputation, never the fine example of the leader you think you are – and never even close to a Mandela. To deserve global respect, you must begin to follow his example – committing to the spirit and letter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
What makes it so difficult for us to understand this Declaration, its universality and how to view our fundamental sameness relative to our differences? We are all humans. We are almost identical genetically – on average, in DNA sequence, each human is 99.9% the same as any other human. We have the same organs, we all have to breathe, eat, sleep and, to survive as a species, reproduce. We have feelings, we love, we think, we have hopes and, if fortunate, we will grow old before expiring. This is the core of what it is to be a human being.
Everything that’s bolted on – that is colour, race, ethnicity, gender and all the rest – come only after the acquisition by each of us of our rights as human beings. And this is what the adoption of the Universal Declaration formalised 70 years ago. The present-day hatred, and its corresponding rising uncertainties, seem to come from humans who view the relationship between the core and the bolted–on characteristics in reverse. In their view, the differences decide everything. But this approach, if each of us were to adopt it, and act upon it, would be an open invitation to human self-annihilation. It cannot be – it simply cannot be!
Many people have suffered the violence of extremist and terrorist groups over the past few months, and I want to emphasise that my Office and I condemn acts of terrorism wherever they occur, unreservedly. There can be no justification of this blind violence, which lashes out against ordinary people.
I will now turn to the geographic sections of my statement, emphasising the urgency of two situations: Syria, where the horror of eastern Ghouta needs to be spoken of time and again; and Myanmar, where the most recent reports gathered by my Office point to the continuation of ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State.
As the Council session opened, the conflict in Syria entered a new phase of horror. In addition to the staggering bloodshed in Eastern Ghouta, which was discussed in urgent debate last week, escalating violence in the province of Idlib is placing some two million people in danger. In Afrin, the offensive by Turkey is also threatening large numbers of civilians. People in government-controlled Damascus are suffering a new escalation of ground-based strikes. And the offensive against extremist groups has resulted in large-scale loss of civilian life.
More than 400,000 people have reportedly been killed in the Syrian conflict, and more than a million injured, many very severely; many are children. Hundreds of thousands of people are living under sieges, the vast majority imposed by government forces and their allies. Over 11 million people have been forced to leave their homes. Tens of thousands of people are detained, frequently in inhuman conditions, including torture; many others have forcibly disappeared. Hospitals, schools and marketplaces have been massively, and in some cases, deliberately, damaged and destroyed: in 2017, one health centre was attacked every four days. My Office also documented over a thousand airstrikes and ground-based strikes in 2017, and numerous intolerable human rights violations and abuses by all parties to the conflict: government forces, their allied militias, international actors, and armed opposition groups – among them, ISIL.
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