The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a fundamental human rights document endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. It serves as a guide for states to protect people’s rights and promote equality in the global community. It is a blueprint for states to follow to defend people’s rights and promote equality in the global society. However, the UDHR’s effectiveness in addressing global human rights breaches is frequently questioned, particularly in cases of Kashmir’s right to self -determination, Palestinians’ right to liberation, and human rights atrocities anywhere in the world. States that contribute financially frequently prioritize their own interests over the standards of the UDHR.
The UDHR’s broad scope, including civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, is a testament to the importance of addressing human rights across civilizations, despite the challenges posed by individualism and global dominance.
The UDHR has evolved over time into legally enforceable treaties such as the ICCPR and ICESCR. The treaties have continued to build on the ideas enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and have established mechanisms for enforcement both nationally and internationally. These include the Kashmir war and the Palestine-Israel conflict, both of which are ongoing and have resulted in severe human rights violations as well as harming the lives and rights of those who live in those territories.
The conflict in Kashmir began in 1947, when India and Pakistan gained independence from British rule, resulting in the formation of two separate nations. The conflict between India and Pakistan began in Jammu and Kashmir, a princely state with a Muslim majority but a Hindu emperor.
According to the partition plan, there were two criteria for division: religion-based territories and geographical contiguity, therefore Muslim-majority areas such as Kashmir had to be part of Pakistan, but the Hindu monarch slowed the process. As a result of this violence, there have been numerous human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture, property damage, and rapes. And, most recently, India unilaterally deleted Article 370, which was prohibited by UN resolutions. The revocation ensured the denial of fundamental rights to Kashmiris, as well as the enormous demographic shift that has already occurred and will occur in the coming years.
The Palestinians went through the same thing during the Palestine-Israel conflict, which began in the early twentieth century, when Zionist Jews desired to establish their own state in Palestine. However, with the founding of Israel in 1948, many Palestinians were left destitute and dispossessed, resulting in a massive demographic shift that forced Palestinians to depart their own homeland. Massive abuses of human rights have also occurred in this case. Taking over people’s lands, demolishing homes, obstructing people’s movement from one location to another, arrest and detention without cause, torture, Israeli settlers’ brutality, and disproportionate use of force by Israeli security forces are some examples of these violations.
Human rights violations had far-reaching effects for Kashmiris and Palestinians. Demands for a peaceful end to these hostilities were made in all cases through negotiation, but little progress was made toward achieving lasting peace. Human rights breaches in both of these areas have been condemned by the UN and other international bodies, but the perpetrators have not been punished. It reveals a lack of political will and commitment on the side of international organizations and the numerous stakeholders involved in the dispute, who serve only as spoilers in the conflict. Armed groups also violate international human rights rules by putting public safety in jeopardy.
On a daily basis, citizens in Kashmir and Palestine suffer similar difficulties. Furthermore, restricting entry into combat zones stifles the documentation and reporting of human rights breaches, both of which Israel and Indian officials strive to do. Similarly, both states’ media are behaving as war mongering media, flouting all peace journalism rules and acting as water in an already flaming conflict. Many times, the noble profession of spreading news in India and Israel has been swapped for tabloid journalism and the proliferation of fake news.
The UDHR should be used to protect human rights in war zones, holding states accountable for their obligations, promoting conflict resolution through mediation and peace talks, and implementing advocacy interventions. It should also serve as a means of conflict settlement, particularly in regions like Kashmir and Palestine, where abuses persist for a long time.
Increased international collaboration and advocacy efforts are recommended to defend human rights throughout conflicts. However, the current political situation suggests that there is no true global solidarity. The issue of Kashmiri and Palestinian liberation should be a top priority on the 75th anniversary of UDHR and on International Human Rights Day.
(The writer is a 3rd year student of Peace and Conflict Studies at National Defence University, Islamabad, and Intern at Kashmir Institute of International Relations.)