“Human duties are the universal responsibilities of human beings regardless of jurisdiction or other factors, such as ethnicity, nationality, religion or sex. The idea of human duties arises as a natural counterbalance to the philosophical idea of human rights.”
These days, the whole world is paying lip service to human rights. At the United Nations Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Western nations push for a more general acceptance of their human rights standards in the rest of the world. A special international court and a high commissioner for human rights are supposed to guard against violations of fundamental human rights.
Minimum human rights standards have become conditions for development cooperation by northern donor countries. No visit by a high-ranking official from a Western democratic state in a developing country will pass without the human rights situation being discussed and mentioned in the final press conference as an essential point on the agenda. In spite of all this effort, it is hard to say whether the world’s human rights situation has improved.
Human Wrongs Inflicted on Human Rights
While, freedom, democracy, and the rule of law have certainly gained ground, in some countries, the situation is worse than ever in Syria, Palestine, Yemen, and other war-torn nations. The most basic of all human rights is the right to life and security, but this right seems to be increasingly in danger. Statistics show that the number of wars in the world has been rising steadily since World War II. At the moment, almost 50 different wars are around the world — most of them in Asia and Africa — killing millions of people, and displacing millions.
Children in many of these countries are deprived of their basic rights — right to education, identity, health, water, food, environment, and the list goes on. According to UNICEF’s May 2021 press release, nearly “2.45 million children in Syria and an additional 750,000 Syrian children in neighboring countries are out of school; 40[%] of them are girls.” These children are suffering physically as well as mentally. One million people have been displaced alone in Syria in 2019 due to indiscriminate attacks.
Human Rights Watch reported18 unlawful attacks in Idlib, Syria, between January and March 2020. The attacks killed at least 112 people, wounded at least another 359, and destroyed schools and healthcare facilities. Of these attacks, authorities found that cluster munitions were used on the school attacks in February.
More Troubles in the Holy Land
Yemen is experiencing the world’s worst food security crisis, with 20.1 million people-nearly two-thirds of the population-requiring food assistance. The country remains the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with over 18,400 civilians killed in armed conflict within six years.
Deprived of their basic fundamental rights, Palestinians see the same conditions every day due to the military operations in the region. Home demolitions and other operations displaced hundreds of Palestinians in Israel and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. According to a 2020 Amnesty International Report, “Israeli forces killed 31 Palestinians, including nine children, in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory]; many were unlawfully killed while posing no imminent threat to life.” One man named Ayman Al-Kurd was imprisoned in an Israeli prison and sentenced to 35 years as a result. He received 12 bullets in his body, and currently, he is paralyzed.
On 16 September, Israeli occupation forces tear-gassed Palestinian elementary school children in Hebron. In Palestine, there are only 4 hours of electricity per day, 97% of water is contaminated, 50% of children express no will to live, 70% of children are suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), 60% of babies are anemic, and the list of violations go on.
The Cost of War
On the other side of the pond, compensatory aids for hundreds of deceased civilians related to the British military have been made public for the first time. The Defense Ministry compensated £688,000 for 289 civilian casualties between the years 2006–2014, an average of £2,380. In one instance, a family was paid only £104.17, less than others received for the deaths of a herd of donkeys.
In one report, it estimated that the United States and its allies has dropped 46 bombs per day for 20 years. More recently, in September 2021, U.S. Armed Forces officials accepted responsibility over a U.S. drone strike in Kabul last month, killing as many as ten civilians, including up to seven children. The youngest child killed was only two years old.
Ethnic Cleansing: War Between Peoples
As international democracy withdraws, Ethnic Cleansing is escalating. The global framework against ethnic cleansing is not merely being pushed aside, but it is at risk of being swapped.
Ethnic cleansing, a primary of international crises in the 1990s, is returning. As per a Freedom House report on civil and political rights and liberties, various nations across the globe earning a score deduction for numerous types of forced population transition increased from 3 in 2005 to 11 in 2018.
In the bloodiest cases, civilians from targeted groups were slaughtered or dislocated in large numbers. The armed forces in Myanmar were involved in a spree of sexual assaults, massacres, and arson in camps to drive the Rohingya people into the adjacent country. During a period of aggravated assaults that started in mid-2017, tens of thousands of the Rohingya were slaughtered, and over 700,000 have fled the country.
In other conflicts, many are expelled as part of ethnic cleansing, which has a been a common phenomenon not only in former Yugoslavia but also in many other countries suffering from civil wars. Millions of people are affected by these wars and are either killed and wounded or forced to leave their homes as refugees. What is happening with China’s Uighur Muslims is unimaginable. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has reportedly detained more than a million Muslims in reeducation camps. Some 800,000 to 2,000,000 Uyghurs and other Muslims, including ethnic Kazakhs and Uzbeks, have been detained in China since April 2017. Most people in the camps have never been charged with crimes and have no legal avenues to challenge their detentions.
The Chinese authorities have created a dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale in Xinjiang. Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities face crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations that threaten to erase their religious and cultural identities. Amnesty International’s crisis response team published numerous additional pieces of evidence since 2017 to primarily eradicate the religious practices, cultural traditions, and native languages of the area’s ethnic Muslim section. Conducted within the pretense of combating so-called terrorism, these criminal offenses have targeted ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Hui, Krygyz, Uzbeks, and Tajiks.
A Looming Human Rights Crisis
A new ethnic cleansing, which has emerged recently and no one is talking, is taking place in Ethiopia’s Tigray — a homeland of the Tigrayan, Irob, and Kunama peoples.
Humera is one of the numerous towns engaged in the conflict. This destroyed the 112 million-strong East African country since the Ethiopian regime carried out attacks in the state’s northern Tigray region in November 2020. There were many atrocities since then, including torture, extrajudicial killings, and the use of rape as a weapon of war.
Ethiopian forces also invaded one of the most important cities in the northern Tigray region. As have many oppressive regimes, they too have practiced ethnic cleansing of the indigenous populations, including children and females, by imprisoning them into temporary concentration camps and throwing the crippled bodies into mass graves.
In the preceding days, a community of Tigrayan residents of the Sudanese town of Wad El Hilou, around 65 km from Humera, performed the role of gravediggers for the dead bodies drifting down the river known in Sudan as the Setit and in Ethiopia as the Tekeze.
All these are serious human rights violations. However, how can they be redressed? Can the international community be held responsible and asked to intervene in all these cases to help the victims of wars, oppression, and persecution to assert their human rights? Can the United Nations possibly be expected to be mounting peace making and peace keeping operations in more conflicts nearing full-blown wars around the globe? Who is supposed to provide the manpower and logistics for such a gargantuan undertaking?
These questions are yet to be answered. It seems the international community will continue to pay lip service, for now.