The highest aspiration of the common man is to lead a life where he can enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of belief and have no fear of suppression. Disregard and contempt for "Human Rights" have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind. "Human Rights" is a much used and abused term today, and is used extencivly for political gain. The term is is used to defend Human freedom as well as destroy it. People tend to attach importance to particular human rights issue according to ideology and political convenience.
if a man is not to have recourse or rebellion against tyranny and oppression, taking law into their own hands," Human Rights" should be built into the society as a natural rule. As a last resort only, law should be applied as a protection. Todd Gatlin in his easy on Human rights states- "Human rights: the literal words deserve a moment's scrutiny. Human: member of the species, the single race homo sapiens. Whatever persons are called, or call themselves, wherever they live, they are human. Therefore human rights: benefits to which people are entitled simply by virtue of being human.
Just after the world war II, it was realized that citizens of many countries lived under the control of tyrants, having no recourse other than war to relieve inhuman treatment given to them. Unless some way was found to to provide justice to these people, they could revolt and become the catalyst for another wide-scale war including the Nuclear war. This concern, led to the majority of governments in the world to come to the conclusion that basic human rights must be protected. This is not only for the sake of the individuals and countries involved, but to preserve the human race. The United Nations Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and UN Human Rights covenants were written and implemented in the aftermath of: The Holocaust Revelations coming from the Nuremberg war crimes trials The Bataan Death March The atomic bomb and other horrors smaller in magnitude but not in impact on the individuals they affected. A whole lot of people in a number of countries had a crisis of conscience and found they could no longer be a silent spectator, While tyrants jailed, tortured, and killed their dear ones and neighbours.
"Liberty does not consist in mere declarations of the rights of man. It consists in the translation of those declarations into definite action" -Woodrow Wilson Address, July 4, 1914 THE HISTORY The concept of human rights has been existing under several names through many centuries and in many countries. After the King John of England violated a number of ancient laws pertaining to basic rights of Human and customs by which England had been governed, his subjects forced him to sign the treaty known as "Magna Carta", or Great Charter in the year 1215. The laws and customer of "Magna Carta" were later termed as "Human Rights." Among them were the right of the church to be free from governmental interference (THE BELIEF), the rights of all citizens (FREEDOM) to own and inherit property and be free from excessive taxes. It established the right of widows who owned property to choose not to remarry, and established principles of due process and equality before the law. It also contained provisions forbidding bribery and official misconduct.
The political and religious traditions in many parts of the world also proclaimed "Human Rights", calling on rulers to rule justly and compassionately, and delineating limits on their power over the lives, property, and activities of their citizens. The Magna Carta These are summed up in Magna Carta as follows: It is a contract between the King and his subjects it is between his descendents and their descendents "forever" Most of its articles applied to specific abuses of the time it guarantees the freedom of the English Church from royal interference protected the property and inheritance rights of underage heirs and widows, limited taxes established standing and roving courts to deal with criminal and civil issues punishment should fit the crime forbade officials to steal from citizens, noble or freeborn commoners It also put on paper, for the first time, English concepts of due process and forbade bribery of judges and other legal authorities. THE EARLY BEGINNING In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe several philosophers proposed the concept of "natural rights," rights belonging to a person by nature and because he is a human being, not by virtue of his citizenship in a particular country or membership in a particular religious or ethnic group. This concept was vigorously debated and rejected by some philosophers as baseless. Others saw it as a formulation of the underlying principle on which all ideas of citizens' rights and political and religious liberty were based. The theme then became - "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." In this context, in 1789 the people of France overthrew their monarchy and established the first French Republic.
Out of the revolution came the "Declaration of the Rights of Man." The term natural rights eventually fell into disfavour, but the concept of universal rights took root. Philosophers such as Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill, and Henry David Thoreau expanded the concept. Thoreau is the first philosopher to use the term, "Human Rights", and does so in his treatise, Civil Disobedience. Thoreau's work has been extremely influential on individuals as different as Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. Gandhi and King, in particular, developed their ideas on non-violent resistance to unethical government actions from this work. Other early proponents of human rights were English philosopher John Stuart Mill, in his Essay on Liberty, and American political theorist Thomas Paine in his essay, The Rights of Man.
THE CURRENT SCENARIO The middle and late 19 th century saw a number of issues take centre stage. Many of these in the late 20 th century were considered as "Human Rights" issues. These issues included slavery, serfdom, brutal working conditions, starvation wages and child labor. In the Americas, this was known as "Indian Problem" at the time.
In the United States, a bloody war over slavery came close to destroying a country founded only eighty years earlier on the premise that, "all men are created equal." Russia freed its serfs the year the war began. For many decades neither the emancipated American slaves nor the freed Russian serfs saw any real degree of freedom or basic rights. In the last part of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century, "Human Rights " activism remained largely tied to political and religious groups and beliefs. Revolutionaries pointed at the atrocities of governments as proof that their ideology was necessary to bring about change and end the government's abuses. Many people, disgusted with the actions of governments in power and got involved with revolutionary groups. The governments then pointed out bombings, strike-related violence, and growth in violent crime and social disorder as reasons for the stern approach toward dissent.
Neither group had any credibility with the other and most had little or no credibility with uninvolved citizens, because their concerns were generally political, not humanitarian. Politically partisan protests often just encouraged more oppression, and uninvolved citizens who got caught in the crossfire usually cursed both sides and made no effort to listen to the reasons given by either. Nonetheless many specific civil rights and human rights movements managed to affect profound social changes during this time. Labour unions brought about laws granting workers the right to strike, establishing minimum work conditions, forbidding or regulating child labour, establishing a forty hour work week in the United States and many European countries, etc.
The women's rights movement succeeded in getting voting rights for women in many countries. National liberation movements in many countries succeeded in driving out colonial powers. One of the most influential and sucessful was Mahatma Ghandi's movement to free India from British rule. Movements by long-oppressed racial and religious minorities succeeded in many parts of the world, among them the U. S. Civil Rights movement is notable.
In 1961 a group of lawyers, journalists, writers, and others, offended and frustrated by the sentencing of two Portugese college students to twenty years in prison for having raised their glasses in a toast to "freedom" in a bar, formed Appeal for Amnesty, 1961. The appeal was announced on May 28 in the London Observer's Sunday Supplement. The appeal told the stories of six "prisoners of conscience" from different countries and of different political and religious backgrounds, all jailed for peacefully expressing their political or religious beliefs, and called on governments everywhere to free such prisoners. It set forth a simple plan of action, calling for strictly impartial, non-partisan appeals to be made on behalf of these prisoners and any who, like them, had been imprisoned for peacefully expressed beliefs.
The response to this appeal was larger than anyone had expected. The one-year appeal grew, was extended beyond the year, and Amnesty International and the modern human rights movement were both born. The modern "Human Rights" movement didn't invent any new principles. It was different from what preceeded it primarily in its explicit rejection of political ideology and partisanship, and its demand that governments everywhere, regardless of ideology, adhere to certain basic principles of human rights in their treatment of their citizens.
This appealed to a large group of people, many of whom were politically inactive, not interested in joining a political movement, not ideologically motivated, and did not care about creating "the perfect society" or perfect government. They were simply outraged that any government dared abuse, imprison, torture, and often kill human beings whose only crime was in believing differently from their government and saying so in public. They (naively, according to many detractors) took to writing letters to governments and publicizing the plights of these people in hopes of persuading or embarrassing abusive governments into better behavior. Like the early years of many movements, the early years of the modern human rights movement were rocky. "Appeal for Amnesty, 1961" had only the most rudimentary organization.
The modern organization named Amnesty International gained the structure it has mostly by learning from mistakes. Early staff members operated with no oversight, and money was wasted. This led to establishing strict financial accountability. Early staff members and volunteers got involved in partisan politics while working on human rights violations in their own countries. This led to the principle that AI members were not, as a matter of practice, asked or permitted to work on cases in their country. Early campaigns failed because Amnesty was misinformed about certain prisoners.
This led to the establishment of a formidable research section and the process of "adoption" of prisoners of conscience only after a thorough investigation phase. The biggest lesson Amnesty learned, and for many the distinguishing feature of the organization, however, was to stick to what it knew and not go outside its mandate. A distinguished human rights researcher "Amnesty is an organization that does only one or two things, but does them extremely well." Amnesty International does not take positions on many issues which many people view as human rights concerns (such as abortion) and does not endorse or criticize any form of government. While it will work to ensure a fair trial for all political prisoners, it does not adopt as prisoners of conscience anyone who has used or advocated violence for any reason.
It rarely provides statistical data on human rights abuses, and never compares the human rights records of one country with another. It sticks to work on behalf of individual prisoners, and work to abolish specific practices, such as torture and the death penalty. A lot of people found this too restrictive. Many pro-democracy advocates were extremely upset when the organization dropped Nelson Mandela (at the time a black South African anti-apartheid activist in jail on trumped-up murder charges) from its list of adopted prisoners, because of his endorsing a violent struggle against apartheid. Others were upset that Amnesty would not criticize any form of government, even one which (like Soviet-style Communism, or Franco-style fascism) appeared inherently abusive and incompatible with respect for basic human rights. Many activists simply felt that human rights could be better served by a broader field of action.
Over the years combinations of these concerns and others led to formation of other human rights groups. Among them were groups which later merged to form Human Rights Watch, the first of them being Helsinki Watch in 1978. Regional human rights watchdog groups often operated under extremely difficult conditions, especially those in the Soviet Block. Helsinki Watch, which later merged with other groups to form Human Rights Watch, started as a few Russian activists who formed to monitor the Soviet Union's compliance with the human rights provisions in the Helsinki accords.
Many of its members were arrested shortly after it was formed and had little chance to be active. Other regional groups formed after military takeovers in Chile in 1973, in East Timor in 1975, in Argentina in 1976, and after the Chinese Democracy Wall Movement in 1979. Although there were differences in philosophy, focus, and tactics between the groups, for the most part they remained on speaking terms, and a number of human rights activists belonged to more than one group. Recognition for the human rights movement, and Amnesty International in particular, grew during the 1970 s. Amnesty gained permanent observer status as an NGO at the United Nations. Its reports became mandatory reading in legislatures, state departments and foreign ministries around the world.
Its press releases received respectful attention, even when its recommendations were ignored by the governments involved. In 1977 it was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for its work. Unfortunately, the Nobel Peace Prize didn't impress the governments Amnesty most wanted to get through to. That year the Argentine military dictatorship reportedly claimed that Amnesty was a front organization for the Soviet KGB.
This supposedly occurred the same week that the Soviet government claimed Amnesty was run by the U. S. CIA, to the amusement of human rights activists and, presumably, embarrassment of certain people in Argentina and the Soviet Union. Amnesty International Amnesty International is the oldest, biggest human rights group.
The group has mostly focused on individual, local human rights activism. Because Amnesty International stays away from politics and avoids getting involved in issues outside its scope of it's mandate, people from all sorts of political and religious backgrounds are members and work together for a common cause. Electronic Frontier Foundation The Electronic Frontier Foundation was founded to promote and extend the concept of civil liberties to on-line communications. While the EFF is a U. S. -based group whose main focus is on U.
S. law, it has a number of "sister organizations" in other countries. For those knowledgeable about the Internet and Cyberspace (computer professionals, netizen's, etc. ), this would be a right group to join. Human Rights Watch Human Rights Watch, founded in 1978 as Helsinki Watch, is a coalition formed by a number of independent regional human groups. They are perhaps the best human rights researchers in the field at present -- their reports are extremely thorough, carefully written, and backed by impressive amounts of detail and numerous sources.
Human Rights Watch is not equipped to handle volunteers. One can either be a financial supporter or get into Human Rights work as a profession. Peace-Net Peacenet is not a human rights group by itself. It is the first and largest computer network for activists in peace, human rights and related issues. Peacenet is run by the Institute for Global Communications (IGC), an activity of the Tides Foundation, a San Francisco-based non-profit trust. It is a member of the Association for Progressive Communications, an international coalition of networks for peace and human rights activists.
This group is meant for the serious, on-line activists. This group activities are far more extensive and specific than anything on the Internet. HUMAN RIGHTS ACT - INDIA The Indian parliament has passed an Act to provide for the constitution of a National Human Rights Commission, State Human Rights Commissions in States and Human Rights Courts for better protection of human rights and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. It is enacted by Parliament in the Forty-fourth Year of the Republic of India. It is known as Indian Human Rights Act, 1993.
National Human Rights Commission National Human Rights Commission was established in India on 12. 10. 94 under The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. Hon " ble Justice R.
N. Misra (former Chief Justice of India and presently (Member, Rajya Sabha) was the First Chairperson and Hon " ble Justice M. N. Venkatachaliah, (former Chief Justice of India and presently Chairperson Constitutional Review Committee) was the second chairperson.
Hon " ble Justice J. S. Verma (former Chief Justice of India) is the present Chairperson of the Commission. Selected recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission give an insight into the true nature of human rights violation in India. The directions and compensation provided by the National Human Rights Commission provide the perception and working of the NHRC Developing Sustainable Human Rights Cities A historic initiative, towards and beyond the 50 th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which a whole community examines traditional beliefs, collective memory and aspirations as related to the Universal Declaration, and moves into the 21 st century as a Human Rights Community. The process led to the development of Human Rights Cities.
Several communities are already adopting this process, including Rosario (Argentina), Thies (Senegal), Nagpur (India) and Kati (Mali) are moving into the 21 st century as Human Rights Cities. Nagpur, a Human Sensitive Rights City In December 1999, the city of Nagpur (population: 2, 800, 000), India was inaugurated as a Human Rights Sensitive City by PDHRE's local partner, YUVA, in association with other local NGOs, CBOs, municipal officials, the office of the Mayor, lawyers groups, representatives from academia, business and various other professions and stake holders. The inauguration, which was heralded throughout the city with posters at major road intersections, was followed by several in-depth training and dialogues with environmentalists, educators, economists, women's organizations and local youth groups. Each session concentrated on the practical challenges of making Nagpur a human rights sensitive city. The three-day event concluded with a Rally led by some of the poorest slum communities in the city, and a city-wide one day meeting of women organizations who came together to reaffirm the commitment made and to join in defining the needs for the realization of human rights.
A citizen's committee has now been formed to follow similar processes and methodologies being undertaken in Rosario. Funding for this first stage of the process was allocated to YUVA from funding PDHRE has received from the Norwegian Government but future funding is now being sought. A full report of activities in Nagpur in 1999 is also available.