This article is written by Tanya Biswas.
“Peace does not just mean putting an end to violence or war, but to all other factors that threaten peace, such as discrimination, such as inequality, poverty”. – Aung San Suu Kyi.
The story of Zabulon Simentov, Afghanistan’s one-man Jewish community, who is preparing to leave the country to settle in Israel depicts a wrath picture of minorities’ fear and tension and show how terrorism violates their human rights. His decision to leave Afghanistan where he has resided for more than 70-years came after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan as per the U.S.- Taliban peace deal. He took this decision because of fear of the return of the Taliban and making rapid progress on the battleground.
Human rights are the basic rights of an individual by virtue of his status as a human being. Each individual in the state is entitled to these rights even if he/she belongs to a minority community. The root of human rights can be traced to the ideology of natural law philosophers, such as John Locke and Rosseau. These philosophers in their various theory had philosophized on inherent human rights and sought to preserve these rights at all cost. According to John Locke, “man is born with a title to perfect freedom and an uncontrolled enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of the law of nature and he has by nature a power to preserve his property-that is, his life, liberty, and estate, against the injuries and attempts of other men.”
The concept of human rights is to protect an individual from all types of oppression and injustice in society. It creates duties and obligations on the part of the state to ensure that these rights of an individual should prevail under all circumstances. The enforcement of human rights is a matter of prime concern nowadays.
The idea of human rights is dynamic and subject to continuous evolution. So, in the contemporary world, the ambit of human rights needs to be expanded further. The spread of terrorism is now threatening the life of an individual in society; hence, it is a gross violation of human rights. The human cost of terrorism is very high and it has been experienced in almost every corner of the world. It has a cascading effect on the minority community. It has threatened the right to life and liberty of minorities. Apart from this, it adversely affects the social and economic development of the nation. It tends to “destabilizes the governments, undermine civil society, jeopardize peace and security of the nation”. All such acts harm the enjoyment of basic human rights.
What are human rights?
Human rights are basic principle based on universal values that seek to protect peoples from all types of atrocities. It protects individuals from the action of state intrusion in the enjoyment of rights, fundamental freedom, entitlement and human dignity. Human rights encompass respect for, and protection and accomplishment of, civil, political, economic and social rights, as well as the right to progress. Human rights are not based on an individual’s status as a citizen of a particular state. “It is universal in nature i.e.; they inherently belong to all human being- and are independent and indivisible”
What is terrorism?
It is an act of violence towards civilians to achieve some sorts of political and ideological goals. Under General Assembly’s Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, set out in resolution 49/60, terrorism includes all “criminal acts intended or calculated to harm civilians or to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for achieving some political goals” and that such acts “are in any circumstances unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”.
Later in 2004, the UN Security Council in its Resolution 1556 referred to terrorism as: “criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of detainees, with the purpose to provoke a state of fright in the general public or a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or coerce a Government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act”.
Human rights issues of minority
The Human right issue of minority is a matter of utmost importance nowadays. In most of the state there exist one or more minorities group based on language, race, religion etc. They face discrimination in various form which affects their enjoyment of rights in negative manners. Their socio, political and economic condition is quite despicable as compared to majority population due to which they become an easy victim of various crimes. Infringement of Human rights of minority group because of lack of their political representation and historical suffering is rampant. They often be treated like that of alien in their native country and are subject to ill-treatment by the authority of state. Rohingya which is an ethnic group in Myanmar’s Rakhine state has faced a continuous threat of persecution from military of nation. Due to escalation of internal armed conflict between military and Arakan army in state in 2019, cases of arbitrary detention, forced labour and other ill treatment have increased several folds. The incident of such conflict led to gross violation of human rights of minority. The threat of violation of Human rights of minority is high particularly in that of developing nation like Afghanistan, Myanmar, India, etc. The story of Zabulon Simentov also narrates the same.
Impact of terrorism on minority
Terrorist attack on religious sites all across the world has become a day-to-day event. These incidences targets minorities. Recently, a year ago, the terrorists group ISIS has attacked on Gurudwara in which several people died. None can forget the incident of Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand which claimed life of several people.
The story of Nadia Murad who was awarded by the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for her efforts “to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict” put a clear picture of minorities suffering in the light of terrorism. In 2014, ISIS attacked the Kocho village of Northern Iraq killing thousands of men, taking women for sexual slavery and forced young boys who would be trained for the ISIS militants. The “Yazidi” community had to face atrocious consequences because they refused to convert themselves into Islam. They were denied their right to move freely in their village. Yazidis were hiding for two weeks without food and clothes and finally got a warning to vacate their own village. 200,000 Yazidis were displaced during the plight and 3,000 missing. Still, there has almost been made no effort to restore their way of life. Since their inception, the Yazidi community has constantly been targeted because of different religious beliefs from their predominantly Muslim neighbors. Women were thrown into as abayas where they were subjected to rape, abuse, assault with other physical and mental torture.
Terrorism has a cascading effect on minority groups. It is aimed at harming innocent civilians for purpose of coercing the government to achieve some sorts of political and ideological goals in society. These acts violate the “rule of law” and negatively impact the fundamental human rights of an individual. It hampers all those values enshrined in the charter of the United Nation and various other international instruments. These values include respect for human rights of minority, rules governing armed conflict and protection of civilians, peaceful resolutions of conflict etc. It acts as deterrence in the enjoyment of many human rights, in particular the “rights to life, liberty and physical integrity of an individual”.
It has a multifaceted impact on the lives of people. It undermines the security and dignity of man everywhere and thus creates a sense of terror in the mind of them. It jeopardized the fundamental freedom of an individual. Further, it affects democratic rights and values as well as destabilizes the legitimacy of government. It seeks to threaten the territorial integrity of nations and affects relations with other nations.
The nature of a state’s obligations to ensure the human rights of minorities
The issue of human rights of different minority group has become a centre of discussion in both national as well as international political discourse, at least within last 60-70 years.
Realizing the potential threat of human rights violation of minority community, the United Nation General Assembly has adopted a document called Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities. It urges the member states to promote and preserve the rights of minorities. The UN assembly on this issue has stated that:
“Desiring to promote the realization of the principles contained in the Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, …the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Beliefs, …as well as other relevant international instruments that have been adopted at the universal or regional level and those concluded between individual states Members of the United Nations.. . encourage the promotion and protection of the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities [because they] contribute to the political and social stability of states in which they live”.
Article 4 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Religious and Ethnic Minorities envisage that “Those belonging to minorities must be able to enjoy all their human rights, not just minority rights”.
Realizing the potential need of securing the rights of minorities, the role of state to safeguard their right become very much crucial. Human rights law creates an obligation on parts of the state to follow all such measures that would prevent injustice, maintain dignity and respect of individuals. Respect for human rights includes refrainment from unreasonable interference in the enjoyment of freedom. It is the state’s obligations to preserve the identity of the minority group. It requires them to grant some sort of special rights to them so that they may enjoy their basic human rights without any fear or rigidities.
Various International laws and Municipal laws make this position clear that states have a responsibility and duty to protect their people (which include minority as well) from any such terrorist attacks. It is the state’s responsibility to safeguard each individual from such atrocities and ensure “right to life” and “right to security”
To deter such act of terrorism, states have the rights to take effective counter-terrorism measures. It includes prosecution of all those perpetrators involved in it. Sometimes it involves direct conflict with arm-personals and terrorists. The countering of terrorism poses serious challenges to the protection and promotion of human rights. So, it is very essential to ensure that such duty to safeguard the right of an individual should also comply with international norms and it should not itself be violative of human rights. After the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, against the United State of America in which several citizens killed and a large number of people injured, the UN security council acted swiftly and toughen the legal framework for international cooperation.
It includes a “common approach by all nation in the fight against the menace of terrorism, plummeting the risk of acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists and improving cross-border dissemination of information by law enforcement authorities, as well as establishing a monitoring body, the Counter-Terrorism Committee, to observe the ground situation and to supervise the implementation of these measures.” These required measures must be adopted by all the nation in its fight against terrorism. So, that respect for human rights and the “rule of law” can be ensured. Thus, it can be said that along with the promotion and protection of human rights during counter-terrorism measures, it is also equally essential that these measures should conform to international laws.
Terrorism poses a great challenge to humanity as well as to the basic human rights of minorities. It is very important to ensure respect and dignity of each individual in society. The increasing awareness of people regarding human rights is a great achievement in the contemporary world. People are getting more conscious about their basic inherent rights. Various states have granted special minority right to preserve their identity and culture so that they could enjoy their basic rights and may leave peacefully in their territory.
However, at the same time, wrong tendencies are encouraged in the name of human rights. It has become a tool for shielding terrorist by overlooking the suffering of victims of such inhuman acts. Therefore, the state must discharge their duties and responsibilities on a positive note so that dignity of each individual can be ensured regardless of his/her identity as of majority or minority.
- M.P. Jain, Indian Constitutional Law 874 (Lexis Nexis, New Delhi, 8th edition., 2017).
- Nadia Murad, The Last Girl: My story of captivity and my fight against the Islamic State, Virago, 2018.
LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join: