Human Rights are the basic Rights which are endowed from the minute they are born. These rights are unalienable and ubiquitous. In the twentieth century, the United Nations was founded in 1945, following World War-II. After three years, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was given to the world in 1948, with 30-Articles granting International Validity and recognition to human rights. Human Rights are now emphasized in a variety of international agreements, treaties, covenants, and state legislation.
A human rights violation is the disallowance of the freedom of thought and movement to which all humans legally have a right.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was established in response to the atrocities during World War-II. The human rights that all people are entitled to such as freedom from torture, freedom of expression, and the right to seek asylum. When those rights aren’t protected or blatantly disregarded, they are violated.
Types of Human Rights Violation
1. Directly or Indirectly:
Violations can either be intentionally performed by the state and or come as a result of the state failing to prevent the violation.
When a state engages in human rights violations, various actors can be involved such as police, judges, prosecutors, government officials and more.
The violation can be physically violent in nature, such as police brutality, while rights such as the right to affair trail can also be violated, where no physical violence is involved.
2. Failure by the state to protect rights:
It occurs when there’s a conflict between individuals or groups within a society.
If the state does nothing to intervene and protect vulnerable people and groups, it’s participating in the violations.
Example: In the US the state failed to protect black Americans when Lynching’s frequently occurred around the country.
Form of Human Rights Violation
Civil, Political, Economic, Cultural, and social rights can all be violated through various means. Though all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and in the legally binding International Covenants of Human Rights (ICCPR, CESCR), are considered essential, there are certain types of violations we tend to consider serious.
Civil and Political Rights:
Civil and Political rights are violated through genocide, torture and arbitrary arrest. These violations often happen during times of war and when a human rights violation intersects with the breaking of laws about armed conflict, it is known as a war crime.
Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights:
According to UDHR, Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights include the right to work, the right to education, and the right to physical and mental health. As is the case with all human rights, economic, social, and cultural rights can be violated by states and other actors.
Who is responsible for addressing and preventing human rights violation
State carries the primary duty for safeguarding and promoting human rights in human rights accords. When a national government ratifies a treaty, it takes on a total of three responsibilities, i.e., to respect, protect, and uphold human rights. It is the government's responsibility to act and prosecute individuals who violate the law.
This doesn’t mean that members of civil society don’t also have a responsibility to prevent human rights violations. Business and institutions must comply with discrimination laws and promote equality, while every individual should respect the rights of others. When governments are violating human rights either directly or indirectly, civil society should hold them accountable and speak out. The international community also has an obligation to monitor governments and their track records with human rights. Violations occur all the time, but they should always be called out.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)- 1948
Several institutional mechanisms, known as charter bodies, were established by the general assembly in the decades following the notification of the charter to monitor member states adherence to their human rights standards under the charter and to record and report gross and widespread violations of those obligations.
On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution establishing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration was established for the purpose of defining “Human Rights” as well as “Fundamental Freedom”. Stated in Article-55(C) of the UN Charter, which all UN member states are committed to observing and respecting, even though it is not a legally binding instrument. Many UN member states have adopted the guiding principles.
Few major issues that made headlines around Globe
On December-10, the world marked 70-years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The issues were-
Free speech, privacy and electoral integrity came under the microscope in March, when a former employee of Cambridge Analytics blew the whistle on its practice of Harvesting Data from millions of US Facebook users in an effort to influence the 2016 presidential election.
In august a UN Fact finding mission on Myanmar, which included Australian Human Rights expert Chris sidoti, delivered a scathing report detailing crimes against humanity, war crimes, sexual violence and possible genocide by Myanmar’s security forces against the Rohingya.
Taliban crimes in Afghanistan:
The Taliban threaten Afghan’s Civil and Political Rights Enshrined in the constitution created by the US backed government. Since regaining control, the Taliban have taken actions reminiscent of their brutal rule in the late 1990’s. The UN mission in Afghanistan has documented numerous Human Rights Violations. With millions of Afghans experiencing extreme food shortages owing to destroyed crops, rising inflationary pressure and income shortages, the Taliban victory catapulted Afghanistan from an economic disaster to a humanitarian crisis.
Human rights Violations during Covid-19:
The spread of the virus and the ensuring lockdown had a detrimental effect on the following rights of people:
Freedom of speech and expression.
Right to Health.
Freedom from discrimination.
Freedom of information.
Freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.
Freedom of movement and assembly.
Right to privacy.
Violations in prisons.
Landmark cases of Human Rights Violations
People’s union of civil liberties V. Union of India, (1997):
In this case, the petitioner, which is a human rights organization, filed a public Interest lawsuit in the supreme court contesting the legality of section-5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885. This law gave the government the authority to intercept or “tap” phones for specific reasons. The appeal was filed in response to the CBI report “Tapping of politicians phones,” which disclosed that the central and state governments have authorized multiple intelligence, law enforcement, and investigative organizations to intercept phone calls.
It also showed hundreds of cases of unlawful interceptions, interceptions that went past the time limit, and faculty interception files and record keeping. The petitioner claimed that this power of interception was unreasonable since it was so wide and ambiguous. It was unconstitutional since it infringed on people’s fundamental rights. It also requested that protections be included in section-5(2) to eliminate arbitrariness and prohibit governments from tapping phones without cause.
Did section-5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act and the government’s wide and undefined ability to intercept phone calls and listening conversations infringe Article-19(1), of the constitution’s right to free speech and expression, as well as Article-21’s right to life and liberty?
Hence, the ability to wiretap telephone calls becomes arbitrary, whimsical or coercive. This did not fulfill the just, fair, and reasonable, requirement. While the court did not rule section-5(2); telephone interception power. It gave directions for the establishment of a Review Committee, imposing accountability on certain office-holders, and mandating maintenance of records for phone tapping, among others.
Shreya Singhal V. Union of India, (2015):
In the year 2012, two girls named as Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Srinivasan, were arrested by the Mumbai police.
The arrest was made for expressing their displeasure at a bandh which was called in by the members of Shiv Sena people in Maharashtra for the incident of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackery’s death. The accusation made against the petitioners was that they were involved in posting their comments on Facebook and liking the comment at the same time which resulted in widespread public protests. The petitioners by the way of Public Interest, filed the writ petition under Article-32 of the constitution claiming that section-66(A) of the IT Act 2000 violates the right of freedom of speech and expression of an individual.
Whether sections-66(A), 69-A, and 79 of the IT Act are constitutionally valid?
Whether section-66(A) of IT Act is violation of fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression?
The court said: “Every expression used is nebulous in meaning, what may be offensive to one may not be offensive to another.” Therefore, the interpretation was held to be subjective in nature. Hence the court ordered section-66(A) as violative of right to freedom of speech and expression and is not covered under the grounds of reasonable restrictions given under Article-19(2). The court also held that blocking of information for public accession given under section-69(A) of IT Act is constitutionally valid in nature.
Everyone has dignity and worth. Recognising and respecting people’s human rights is one way we acknowledge and appreciate their intrinsic value. Human Rights are a collection of ideas that deals with justice and equality. They value our autonomy in making decisions, about our life and developing our human potential. They are about living without fear, harassment or prejudice. Human rights are a collection of fundamental rights that people all around the Globe have decided are necessary.
These include the right to life, fair trail, free of torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment, freedom of expression, religious freedom, health, education, employment and substantial quality of life.
This article is written by Sriramaneni Chandrakala of Sri Padmavati Mahila University.