On December 10, 2023, the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be celebrated. December 10 commemorates the day in 1948 when the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mr. Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations said that “Human rights are the foundation for human dignity, and the cornerstone of peaceful, inclusive, fair, equal and prosperous societies…They are a unifying force and a rallying cry. They reflect the most fundamental thing we share – our common humanity.”
Dr. Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said, “On this Human Rights Day, we reaffirm the universality and indivisibility of all rights, as we stand up for human rights for all.” He added, “Human rights is a force to reckon with, not because it serves the interests of the powerful, but because it has captured the imagination of the powerless…And so I will endeavour to promote advances in all human rights, without distinction, in every region, and across all UN activities.”
Besides, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the world body has adopted ‘Geneva Convention’ , its ‘Additional Protocols’, (1949) and International Criminal Court (ICC) (1998) for a single purpose: to defend, protect, and safeguard the human rights of all. The basic human rights provisions of the Geneva Conventions including the ones protected under Common Article 3 of the conventions are non derogable in the sense that they must be respected even in times of international and non-international conflicts, international disturbances, and foreign occupations.
The preamble of the ICC states that ICC is “mindful that during this century millions of children, women, and men have been victims of unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity” and “recognizing that such crimes threaten the peace, security and well-being of the world.”
It is tragic that civilized nations have fallen from their lofty calling: namely, human rights for all mankind. There is a sad commentary on the state of human rights all over the globe. It is the job of all human rights defenders to jump-start that moral evolution.
George Bernard Shaw, world renown political philosopher was prophetic when he said in the 1940s that “Only on paper has humanity yet achieved glory, beauty, truth, knowledge, virtue, and abiding love.”
The presence of the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ ICC and other human rights instruments offer no consolation for the people of Kashmir because its framers have not lived up to its spirit, at least applying it selectively to suit the objectives of certain powers.
The people of Kashmir are simply perplexed as to how to interpret such joie de vivre. Over seventy-five years have lapsed since the adoption of this Declaration, but the people of Kashmir have not seen an iota of change in the human rights situation in Kashmir. For worse may be but never for the better. The latest phenomenon of settler colonial project has brought Kashmir to the brink of genocide, as articulated by Dr. Gregory Stanton, Chairman, Genocide Watch before the United States Congress on January 12, 2022. Such international treaties are meaningless for the people of Kashmir, or Palestine or for any other people who do not see their application, or even a negative mention to those who ride roughshod over them with total impunity while enjoying the good graces of some of the members of the world community to aspire to a high moral station above others.
According to the definition of ICC, tens of thousands of Indian soldiers and scores of Indian officials are guilty of crimes against humanity in Kashmir. The crimes committed by 900,000 Indian military and paramilitary forces in Kashmir are a daily feature of Kashmiri life. According to Arundhati Roy, India’s legendary novelist, the 900,000 Indian soldiers have made Kashmir the largest militarized zone in the world. The Indian army has organized and employed violence against civilians to create deep fear among the general population to advance the political and religious agenda of a Hindutva ideology. Does anyone seriously believe that Under ICC Statute, a single Indian soldier or an official would ever be prosecuted before the ICC? Of course NOT. India has sneered at international law for decades and the international community has just yawned.
Too often, the international community closes its eyes to the brutal reality of Kashmir because of India’s hegemony in South Asia and its potentially attractive consumer market. As a consequence, the moral suasion that could jolt India into recognizing its international law obligation to accede to self determination in Kashmir is blunted.
The world body and saner elements in American policy agencies should take a leaf out of the warning of Arundhati Roy, “Kashmir is the real theatre of unspeakable violence and moral corrosion that can spin us into violence and nuclear war at any moment. To prevent that from happening, the conflict in Kashmir has to be addressed and resolved.” Huff Post, Mar 1, 2019
We call upon the United Nations to use its influence in putting an end to human rights violations especially when the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is being celebrated with great pomp. The UN needs to do more than celebrate anniversaries if it is concerned about ensuring peace, stability and security in South Asia.
(The writer is Chairman of World Forum for peace & Justice and also Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness Forum. He can be reached at: WhatsApp: 1-202-607-6435. Or. firstname.lastname@example.org, www.kashmirawareness.org)