An overview world wide Human Rights violations
Previously published on April 17, 2008
The enforcement of human rights is a difficult challenge that started after World War Two with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations. Because the UN can generally only enforce international law through voluntary commitments or drastic military and economic interventions, the document exists to encourage all nations of the world community to recognize the significance of the human condition and all human life by ensuring all states view every individual as a significant and unique entity. The text accomplishes this by requiring government to provide equal treatment for all individuals without regard to personal differences or nationality. Moreover, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights largely serves as an inspirational text directing the intent of international law and the nations, which ratified the Declaration, to achieve governance that respects humanity.
As such, the thirty articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights accomplish at least two major objectives. Primarily, the text strives to establish the value of an individual human life by defining an individual in terms of social, economic, religious, and cultural aspects in an attempt to ensure every individual is viewed as a unique human life. To ensure every unique human life is regarded with equal value, governing bodies must provide consistent treatment and protection for all individuals. The text accomplishes this objective by requiring states to provide legal, economic, and social protections for all individuals without regard to race, gender, language, religion, political opinion, national or social origin, economic status, birth, or other status and hereditary differences.
Furthermore, the Declaration has an uncanny resemblance to the provisions afforded to the American citizen by the US Constitution while its expectations reflect the long held values of the America society. Western cultures are, therefore, able to adapt their governing styles to these expectations far more readily than non-Western cultures while cultural differences across the board lead to different interpretations of the Provisions each Article ensures. Because international law is generally a matter of voluntary compliance, nations must be able to integrate the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights while upholding the social and cultural burdens of their societies. In order to be respected and upheld by the majority of the international body, including those outside of the Western cultural hemisphere, the concept of Human Rights must be broadly defined in a manner that guarantees a majority of nations will value all individual humans.
Above all, the broader goal of protecting human rights is to stop the most grievous and blatant violations of human dignity and life, thus, bolstering the significance of the individual human life and the positive contributions of all nations to the international community. Should the world community seek to restrict the internal behavior of nations in terms of Western values, several governing bodies will be alienated as our expectations are limited by our views on human dignity and justice. Meanwhile, there are behaviors, which certain Western governments practice, that various states might view as violations of human rights. If the international body is to dictate what is considered unacceptable behavior in subjective terms from the perspective of American and European cultures, there will be several nations alienated by international law and interference in these cultures' affairs will lead to a destabilized international community. Therefore, determining a violation of human rights requires a broadly defined application of human rights concepts in order to halt the most grievous and blatant violations of human dignity and life.
In many Middle-Eastern nations, the treatment of women could be considered a human rights violation as discriminatory treatment based on gender is disallowed by Article Two. The international community requires governments to place women under the same set of governing principles as men, but cultural aspects of many Middle Eastern religions place different expectation on men and women while punishments for violating these expectations can be quite severe in the eyes of the West. On the other hand, certain European and Eastern nations protect or fail to halt prostitution though many individuals might considered the practice to be a violation of human rights as allowing the use of a person as a sex object devalues the human condition. Abortion is also an issue, which pushes the limits of human rights, because there is a need to respect a woman's right to choose her reproductive fate, social positive, and economic status while the rights of an unborn fetus must also be taken into consideration as the objective of international law is to value all human creatures.
Furthermore, many Western Nations also find the practice of capital punishment barbaric and would include any form of execution under any circumstances in the realm of human rights violation. However, anyone with a fair comprehension of human nature understands close spaces are extremely aversive conditions to most individuals, so a life sentence can be far crueler than a relatively painless death as provided by the US penal code. In some nations, age limits for life saving medical treatments present a situation that most people would clearly view as devaluing the elderly, thus, it is reasonable to question whether or not the practice is a human rights violation. Meanwhile, Article Sixteen dictates the right to marry is a fundamental social right. Although the Article does not mention homosexual marriage and most cultures view marriage as a religious institute between a man and woman, the issue tests the ability of law to reconcile the need for governments to respect social and cultural views while providing equal protecting for all individuals.
Moreover, there are expectations that cannot be fulfilled by all nations for practical reasons. Article Twenty-six requires all states to provide elementary and fundamental education free of charge for all citizens. There are plenty of nations that do not possess the economic resources or infrastructure necessary to meet this goal while educational standards may not be relevant to all societies. Article Twenty-Two through Twenty-Four guarantee basic economic freedoms that may not be feasible in a specific national economy. On the other hand, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does seem to concede to this reality in Article Twenty-Two; however, the concept of economic rights does demonstrate the issue of human rights is extremely ambiguous and difficult to objectively assess.
In order to define when human rights violations occur, the international community must seek to balance the obligations of human rights with the need to respect cultural views and the sovereignty of all nations. This means a broad interpretation of human rights must be applied when considering violations of human rights. Moreover, violations of human rights exist when a state does not consistently apply its laws to all its citizens, including those in power, or fails to protect citizens against degrading and inhumane treatment. In order to cut across cultural and political bias, which would limit and undermine the effort to support human rights, violations of human rights must be viewed in terms of a governing body's action or inaction failing to uphold the spirit and word of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This means a nation, which supports human rights, is one that strives to uphold the value of the individual human, as well as culture, through political, economic, legal, religious, educational, and other social forces.
In order to prevent human rights violations, the world community must build international law around this objective while member states must also strive to meet this goal when enforcing their laws, cultural expectations, and goals as a sovereign nation. Individuals can commit crimes and crimes against humanity while it is states that commit human rights violations by engaging in acts, which devalue an individual as a human entity, or by failing to react to the mistreatment of individuals. Above all, human rights violations are issues that the international community must define as a complete group; otherwise, nations will cease to work toward ending the most grievous acts against humanity.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a document that everyone needs to be aware of before they can truly understand what the international community regards as human rights. Meanwhile, all nations' laws must be reconciled with this document before further progress toward ending violations of human rights around the world can be achieved. As the text is largely available, especially on the internet, the address to the UN website is included below, so readers can review the document with the ideas included in this article guiding their interpretations of what counts as a human rights violations.
United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights: