death by paper cut

{March 23, 2006}   human rights

“Is human rights universal?” was a question posed to us during tutorial today.

This was in context of the week’s readings that featured the Bangkok Declaration on Human Rights of 1991. the countries that signed on the documents included Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, China, Cyprus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Japan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam.

Articles 5, 7 and 8 were of most interest to me.

5. Emphasize the principles of respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity as well as non-interference in the internal affairs of States, and the non-use of human rights as an instrument of political pressure.

7. Stress the universality, objectivity and non-selectivity of all human rights and the need to avoid the application of double-standards in the implementation of human rights and its politicization, and that no violation of human rights can be justified.

8. Recognising that while human rights are universal in nature, they must be considered in the context of a dynamic and evolving process of international norm-setting, bearing in mind the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds.

It is all well and good that these nations endorse these politically-correct guidelines, but who is to check that the countries adhere to these principles. Even if there is international pressure upon a certain country that has been perceived to be out of line, nothing can really be done because according to Article 5 where national sovereignty over rides. Also, if human right is “breeched” on a “religious account”, then Article 8 expects respect on religious grounds.

Abdul Rahman is presently standing trial for his offence of renouncing his Islamic faith – he faces the death sentence if he does not renounce his Christian faith. Afghanistan was not one of the countries that signed the Bangkok Declaration, but even if it did, Afghanistan can call on Article 8 in its defence.

I am for human rights in its universal principles, but I am disillusion as to how human rights is to be meted out. Who is to ensure the non-double-standard implementation and the non-politicization of human rights intervention that Article 7 calls for? Human rights intervention from the US has not been always free from politics.

And even if they or some other country do intervene, then the critique would be finger-pointing resentment of “how about the injustices of country so-and-so? aren’t more people suffering there, they are not even implicated on religious grounds” think infanticide during the onset of the one-child policy in China or the wide spread trafficking of village girls for prostitution in the cities in India. “Its just the life one 1 person afterall, how the many countless lives were taken unjustly in country so-and-so? Does it indicate that your ideologies and beliefs are more important than that of others and therefore more worthy of media attention?”

The same article actually shames the “western” ideologies and beliefs by proclaiming that “during Taliban times, men were forced to kneel in prayer five times a day, and couples faced the death penalty for sex outside marriage, for example. Reform efforts have been slow, say experts, since there are so few judges and lawyers with experience.” I have personal Muslim friends that do not have to be forced to kneel in prayer five times a day. Also note that the duration of each of these five times was not clarified. In the same breathe, the “west” seems to promote extra-marital relationships. What does this commentator want the muslim community to “reform” to?

The second crusades might ensue if military confrontation is deployed.

Caught between a rock and a hard place.

I sincerely hope for a miracle, that Abdul Rahman will not face the death sentence and will not have to denounce his Christian faith.

However, I am not counting on intervention just by brandishing the sword of human rights because this “right” has not conducted itself very well. It will have to be the work of divine intervention, where the causes, effects and ramifications in the spiritual dimension cannot be fathomed.

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