An overview on human rights, the role of human rights activists / Organizations vis - a- vis ongoing terrorism

Dr. Bibash Kanti Kilikdar,
Vice President
Indian Red Cross Society
Tripura State Branch.

The prevailing intransigent global situation and the scars left over by the scourges of two successive devastating bloody World Wars made to metamorphose and ordain the ornamental chapter of Human Rights by the propounders in the blue-print of the United Nations. The agonizing and catastrophic legacy left over, made a few luminaries to sit across the tables so as to conceive of the planet not only free from violent tensions but also a better abode to dwell in, wherein humans must have dignity and self respect. Today notwithstanding, the chapter of human rights remains a pivotal one but its sporadic violations remain awfully the global over. The Human Rights are the basic natural rights akin and adhered to the dignified and standard living of human beings which are insegregable for any civilized race.

By a historic resolution called by Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10th December, 1948 the United Nations General Assembly claims the following: 

"the discrimination between human beings on the grounds of race, colour or ethnic origin is an offence to human dignity and shall be condemned as a denial of the Principles of the Charter of the United Nations, as a violation of the Human Rights and Fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations among nations and as a fact capable of disturbing peace and security among the people."

But the world today is full of conflicts with the hardships and discontentment caused by regional and local conflicts. More particularly terrorism across the world has shaken the basis of world civilization. Now let us have a look on the very recent terrorist activated harrowing happenings and their follow up actions:

On February 14, 2019, a convoy of vehicle carrying security personnel on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway was attacked by a vehicle-borne suicide bomber at lethpora (nearAwantipora) in the Pulwama District, Jammu and Kashmir, India. The attack resulted in the deaths of 40 CRPF personnel and the attacker. The responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Pakistan based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed. The attacker was Adil Ahmad Dar, a local from Pulwama District and a member of Jaish-e-Mohammed.

As a follow up action the Financial Action Task Force (FATE) has decided on February 23, 2019 to continue the "Grey" listing of Pakistan for its failure to stop funding of terrorist groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-taiba and Jamat-ud-Dawa.

On February 26, 2019, at around 3.30 a.m. IST, the Indian Air Force conducted airstrikes at Balakot, a deep within Pakistan as a retaliation to the Pulwama attack. This airstrike was the first time since the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 that aerial attacks had crossed the Line of Control. Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was held for 60 hours under captivity in Pakistan after his aircraft was shot down in an aerial dogfight. Under severe international pressure as well as pressure from International Red Cross Society, Pakistan Government was constrained to send back  Abhinandan Varthaman to India unconditionally.

The government of India on March 1, 2019, banned Jamaat-e-Islam, Jammu and Kashmir, a religio-political organization in Jammu and Kashmir, over its nexus with terror outfits, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 for 5 years. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting presided over by Prime Minister of India Narendra Modiji.

Further, the Government of India on March 29, 2019 constituted a Multi Disciplinary Terror Monitoring Group (MDTMG) to ensure concerted action against terror financing and other terror related activities in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J & K), the group will meet on a weekly basis and submit its action report regularly.

Notwithstanding lot of endeavors taken by other powerful countries of the World, China for the fourth time blocked a bid in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to designate Chief of Pakistan based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) Chief Massood Azhar as a "global terrorist" by putting in a technical hold on the proposal, a move India termed  as  disappointing. Obviously the spirit of the democratic heritage demands that all the member states must have an equal say in the UN General Assembly and the same must not be suppressed or substituted by the voice of the big five of the UN Security Council. To vest the big five with a special power of "Veto" needs to be taken away and seems to be superfluous in the context of a large scale change in the world conditions with the passage of time. The need of the hours is the UNO should now equip itself with a command so as to make oblige the member states to contribute to the solemn and sacred object and cause of its Chapter.

Hours after blocking a UN ban on Masood Azhar, China made it plain that it would consider shifting its position on designating the head of the Jaish-e-Mohammad as an international terrorist only after reaching a consensus between Beijing, New Delhi and Islamabad. Chinese Foreign Minister signalled that Beijing was ready to back a triangular formula that would involve Pakistan on designating Azhar as a global terrorist in the UN Security Council. Lastly under severe International pressure China having withdrawn its technical hold, Jaish-e- Mohammad (JEM) Chief Massood Azhar was declared as global terrorist by the UN Security Council on May 1, 2019.

On April 21, 2019 a series of eight devastating bomb blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches holding Easter services in Sri Lanka killing more than 320 people including dozens of foreigners including eight Indians. The powerful blasts-six in quick succession and then two more hours later- left more than 500 injured and wrought devastation, including at the capital's well-known St. Anthony's Shrine, a historical Catholic Church. Seven suicide bombers believed to be member of an Islamist extremist group carried out these series of devastating blasts.

A state of emergency was declared in Sri Lanka from April 22, 2019. According to Sri Lanka Government spokesman local Islamist extremist group called National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ) was suspected of plotting the blasts that struck three churches when the Easter Sunday Mass were in progress and three five-star hotels, namely Shangri La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels.

Later on within 48 hours of the blasts the ISIS claimed responsibility for the devastating Sri Lanka bombings that killed more than 300 people on Easter Sunday and injured over 500 in retaliation for the shooting in New Zealand mosques. Sri Lanka earlier named the local Islamic group National Thowheeth Jamaath, as the chief suspect, for the barbaric act that spearheaded local and international outrage. A statement of the ISIS official Al- Amaq news Agency made the claim on the encrypted messaging app Telegram saying the suicide bombers were "fighter of the Islamic state". At least 45 children were among the more than 300 people killed in suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka, the United Nations confirmed.

Human Rights and Human Survival are inalienably linked. But by spreading terror and panic among people it hits the very roots of democracy. So every society cherishing democratic way of life is bound to fight terrorism. But any democratic Government, while countering terrorism becomes subject to charge of "excess" and "violation of human rights" and is thus "damned if they do and doomed if they do not". This is due to the fact that while the permissible spectrum of terrorism is being narrowed in international law, to growing international commitment to human rights tends to further legitimize political violence and terrorism. As a result, public interest and opinion continue to press more and more for effective controls not only over the "seize of terror" but also over "reigns of terror". It is here that the role of human rights activists and organizations become relevant and important. A modest attempt is made in this paper to evaluate the role of human rights activists and organizations in the context of ongoing terrorism across the world.

Terrorism is nothing but an organized system of intimidation and as much, it should be dealt with most sternly and without vacillation simply because terrorist undo and threaten the very basic regime of human rights.

One of the most dangerous and pernicious threats to humanity today is terrorism, both territorial and extra territorial, and the terror internal and external which back terrorists and terrorist organizations. It is, therefore, necessary that while assessing the human rights situations, consideration should be given to the way in which international terrorism especially state sponsored terrorism, cuts at the very roots of society's enjoyment of human rights. If the aim of terrorists is to break a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country to curve out their own sovereign-land on the basis of religion or ethnicity, then such terrorists are not entitled to full scale guarantee of human rights as postulated by the international human rights law.

Unlike bilateral and multi-lateral inter-Governmental forms of inquiry, the authority and competence for NGO fact finding is usually self-created. NGOs define the scope of their study and try to legitimize it after the fact by the reliability of their findings. In doing so, these organizations must put together a puzzling set of isolated pieces of information into a coherent picture after due scrutiny and cross-checking.

Fact finding is the heart of human rights activity. The prescription of human rights norms implies an understanding of the needs to be addressed, which in turn requires an appreciation of the factual conditions. Since the application and supervision of human rights norms do not take place in abstracts but in relation to specific circumstances and situations, what is required, is an awareness of the factual conditions. Therefore, all claims, that human rights are, or are not, being respected, or are being violated, turn essentially on question of fact. And as for all human institutions, the success of the difficult task of fact-finding in the field of human rights will depend on men as well as procedures. Since the truth or falsity of any given statement may be very difficult to know, human rights organizations must pursue reliably by using well accepted procedure and by establishing general confidence in the fairness, impartiality and truthfulness.

It has become a fashion in contemporary politics and a good recipe to instant leadership to become a self-appointed champion of human rights in India. Whenever a terrorist or an assassin is arrested under preventive detention, or killed in an encounter, issue a statement condemning the police or Para-military forces. Obliging press is ready to give you much-needed newspaper coverage and project as a political messiah and human rights leader over-night. To formulize the credentials, all that one has to do is gather a-dozen people (all interested in synthetic approach), for human rights organization with a catchy name and give statement that the organization will fight against violation of Human rights of thousand of "innocent" people being killed or arrested by the police.

It is a matter of pity that some of these fast mushrooming organizations pretending to be human rights groups are so short-sighted and devoid of objectivity that they either cannot-or do not- want to see the inhuman wrongs and blatant violations of human rights committed by these very people whose cause they champion. It seems that these human rights activists remain tongue-tied to these inhuman wrongs because of fear of terrorists or political compulsions.

It is indeed deplorable that some human rights organizations while reporting conveniently ignored the gross human rights violations against Kashmiri Pandits.Their silence on the genocide of this community and the terrible plight faced by the community after the exdus is intriguing and exasperating and puts the credibility of these organizations into shade.

The success of human rights activities and organizations depends upon whether true human understanding and democratic process comes to prevail over narrow group interests and partisan thinking. In order that these groups have respectability and their report's credibility, they have to conduct themselves fearlessly in such a way that the state and the people are convinced about their bonafide as being genuinely concerned for the protection of human rights free from biased political propaganda and political overtones. To ensure this, following suggestions are made:

  1. Organizations working in the field of human rights should include within all substantial factual reports, an account of the methodology and procedures used in making the findings contained in the reports.

  2. The methodological note or the body of the report should contain the terms of reference.

  3. If witnesses were interviewed, the report should state who generally did the interviews and what were the circumstances of the interviews.

  4. Government statements or efforts to obtain Government materials on the incidents under scrutiny should be stated.

  5. The report should indicate what methods were used for ensuring the reliability of information received.

  6. The report should specify the national and internationals substantive legal norms, which it uses to assess the fact found.

  7. The report should separate the factual findings from any recommendations the organization may wish to make.

  8. Lastly, the report should state what efforts, if any, were made or will be made, to obtain a government response to the report and any reaction forth coming.
So it may be submitted that when the issue juxtaposes the lives of innocent citizens and the possible curtailment of personal liberties we all cherish, the answers are not easy. Human Rights Organizations must handle the tangled web of facts, circumstances, perceptions and the situations more realistically. The tendency to be selective while choosing facts, opinions and aspects to fit pre-determined concepts must be avoided. This is the minimum imperative to establish their credibility.

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