Identifying Human Rights Violations

Identifying Human Rights Violations

The UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 in response to the atrocities committed during WWII. The declaration of UDHR was followed by establishment of human rights treaties signed and validated by states. So, what’s human rights?

Human rights (there is no agreed definition) are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death regardless of his/ her race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.

Human rights categories of There are three sets, or: (1) civil and political rights, (2) economic, social, and cultural rights, and (3) solidarity rights. International Covenant on Civil and political rights (commonly recognized as first generation rights) guarantee and uphold individual ability to participate freely in civil, economic, and political society. Civil rights include the right to life, liberty, and personal security; the right to equality before the law; the right of protection from arbitrary arrest; the right to the due process of law; the right to a fair trial; and the right to religious freedom and worship. Political rights include the right to speech and expression; the rights to assembly and association; and the right to vote and political participation. The civil and political rights are fundamental human rights hence all states have a duty and responsibility to uphold.

Social and economic rights (also known as second generation rights) include the right to a family; the right to education; the right to health and well-being; the right to work and fair remuneration; the right to form trade unions and free associations; the right to leisure time; and the right to social security. These rights are essential in promoting individual’s prosperity, social and economic development, and self-confidence.

Solidarity rights (also called the third generation rights) include rights to public goods such as sustainable development, to peace or to a healthy environment, to share in the benefits of the earth's natural resources, and goods and products that are made through processes of economic growth, expansion, and innovation. These rights would ensure the appropriate conditions for societies, particularly in the developing world, to be able to provide the first and second generation rights that have already been recognized.

Types of human rights violations

Human rights violations occur when any state or non-state actor breaches any of the terms of the UDHR or other international human rights or humanitarian law. When human rights aren’t protected or deliberately ignored, they are violated. It is, in a sense, to treat people as if they are less than human and unworthy of respect and dignity.

· Civil and political rights violations include genocide, torture and serious physical assault, arbitrary arrest, suppression of freedom of expression and the right of peaceful assembly, slavery, forced labour or human trafficking, rape and sexual exploitation, Religious discrimination, extra-judicial killings, kidnapping, , destruction of property,

· A violation of economic, social and cultural rights occurs when a State fails in its obligations to ensure that individuals are enjoyed without discrimination or in its obligation to respect, protect and fulfil them. Often a violation of one of the rights is linked to a violation of other rights. violations of economic, social and cultural rights include forced evictions of people from their homes (the right to adequate housing), Failure to ensure a minimum wage (rights at work) , Failure to prevent starvation from the people (freedom from hunger), Denying access to information and services (the right to health), Failure to prevent employers from discriminating in recruitment (The right to work), Failure to stop public and private entities from destroying environment (the right to food), Failure to standardize the working hours in the public and private sector (right at work), Banning the use of minority or indigenous languages (right to cultural life), Denying social assistance to people because of their status (right to social security), Failure to ensure maternity leave for working mothers (right to family assistance) and Arbitrary and illegal disconnection of water for personal and domestic use (the right to water)

Who are the main violators of human rights?

Governments: Most of human rights violations are committed by government organs. A state commits human rights violations either directly or indirectly. Violations can either be intentionally performed by the state and or come as a result of the state failing to prevent the violation. When a state engages in human rights violations, various actors can be involved such as police, judges, prosecutors, government officials, and more. The violation can be physically violent in nature, such as police brutality, while rights such as the right to a fair trial can also be violated, where no physical violence is involved.

Armed groups: in many parts of the world, persistent armed conflicts led to widespread killings, torture, abductions, sexual violence and mass displacements, including crimes under international law, in many parts of Africa and elsewhere committed abuses, including killings and abductions, which caused mass displacements. State security forces often responded with serious human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture. In the case of Somalia and Somaliland, Al-Shabaab militants fit in this category. They constantly kill both government soldiers and civilians using explosions and other weapons.

Multinational companies (MNC): with the increasing impact of globalism, MNC are gaining increasing influence and power, and have been accused of human rights violations. Although the legal and moral mechanisms surrounding the actions of governments are reasonably well developed, the multi-national companies are both not handy and inadequate. Corporate activity has not always benefited the society it operates in and is not accountable to those affected by their actions. The UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, which were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011, contain recommendations to governments and businesses but do not impose new binding legal obligations on business, or change the nature of existing human rights instruments.

How to identify human rights violations?

In order to solve a problem, it must first be recognized. Human Rights violations identification requires gathering information about incidents. With that information gathered, we can identify ways to document, report and finally think of solutions. Human rights violations are monitored by many actors at national, regional and international levels.

International actors

At international level, the United Nations established a human rights committee which is a body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its State parties. All countries are required to submit regular reports to the UN human rights Committee on exactly how the rights are being implemented. The Committee studies each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to respective states. In the Somaliland case, the UN committee reported the Somaliland human rights concerns under the Somalia country report.

There’s also many independent non-governmental organizations, such as UNHCR, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, World Organization against Torture, Freedom House, International Freedom of Expression Exchange and Anti-Slavery International who regularly monitor and report the human rights violations of all countries specially third world nations where role of law is weak. They usually collect evidence and documentation of human rights abuses and apply pressure to promote human rights.

Similarly, there foreign government’s embassies who also monitor the human rights situation of Somalia and Somaliland and publish periodic reports regarding the including the US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, US Bureau of International Labour Affairs, UK Home Office Country Assessments and Canada Immigration & Refugee Board Country Fact Sheet.

Local actors

At national level, there are few bodies that monitor, document and report the human rights violations in the country: The Human Rights Centre (HRC) is an autonomous and independent human rights watchdog that monitors, documents human rights and assists victims of human rights abuses. The Somaliland National Human Rights Commission (SLNHRC) is a public commission that is responsible for strengthening the application of human rights to all sections of society, in particular, the vulnerable groups.

The Media

Media is a power source of human rights violations. The most active international media that monitors and reports human right violations in Somaliland are BBC and VOA, these Radio stations have reporters in all regions and daily programs on Somalia/ Somaliland broadcasted in Somali language.

Who is responsible for preventing human rights violations?

Governments: In human rights treaties, states bear the primary burden of responsibility for protecting and encouraging human rights. When a government ratifies a treaty, they have three primary obligations. They must respect, protect, and fulfil human rights. When violations occur, it’s the government’s responsibility to intervene and take legal action against those responsible even if they are within the government. The Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) Radio funded by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) that served as an early warning system, alerting communities as well as the outside world to the pressing needs and the emerging threats in ten countries. IRIN uncovers the human rights violation including

Civil society: In the case that governments are violating human rights either directly or indirectly, international institutions, like the UN Human Rights Council or the Committee, have limited ability to enforce human rights protections. Some organizations provide direct services such as legal counsel and human rights education. Other organizations try to protect human rights by bringing lawsuits on behalf of individuals or groups. And organizations such as Human Rights Watch use fact-finding and advocacy to generate pressure on governments to change their policies. Civil society should also hold the government accountable and protest.