Human Rights Offenders in Asia: Role of the UN
By S. M. Ali Reza.
In recent years, human rights concerns have become more sensitive all over the world, especially in a number of countries of Asia where the UN seems unable to impose punishment on the offending governments/states. Pakistan, Myanmar, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Syria, Iran are among the top offenders of human rights in Asia surpassed by a paranoid state of North Korea- “the hermit kingdom”- that tops the list and has become the UN’s Achilles heel. This article portrays the state of human rights in some selective countries of Asia with special focus on North Korea, the worst human rights offender perhaps all over the world; while deals with the effectiveness of the UN as a global institution for the promotion and protection of human rights across Asia and particularly in North Korea. The records show Worsening Human Rights Records in Pakistan. Religious minorities often face violent attacks, insecurity, and persecution, largely from Sunni extremist groups-which the government fails to address. The security forces are accused to be engaged in extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances to counter political unrest in the province of Balochistan and in the port city of Karachi in Sindh province. Suicide bombings, armed attacks, and killings by the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and their affiliates target nearly every sector of Pakistani society, including religious minorities and journalists, resulting in hundreds of deaths.
State of Human Rights in Bangladesh
The human rights situation in Bangladesh has been continually worsening in recent years. The most significant human rights problems include extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances mostly of opposition party men, the killing of secular bloggers and others by groups espousing extremist views, some restrictions on online speech and the press, early and forced marriage and gender-based violence, and poor working conditions and labor rights. The US State Department in its 2015 reports on Bangladesh human rights accounted multiple disappearances and kidnappings, some committed by security services, continued, especially in the period following the 2014 election anniversary violence.
Human Rights Violations in India
India, the world’s largest democracy, has a strong civil society, vigorous media, and an independent judiciary, but also serious human rights concerns. Human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir administered by India are an ongoing issue. The allegations range from mass killings, forced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual abuses to political repression, suppression of freedom of speech, cutting electricity supply and internet as part of wider crackdown on protesters. The Indian army, central reserve police force, border security personnel and various militant groups have been accused and held accountable for committing severe human rights abuses against Kashmiri civilians. he Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) is the killing of Bangladeshi nationals at border areas. Statistics shows that a total of 591 Bangladeshi citizens were killed by the BSF in last 10 years. I would like to remind you the tragic killing of Felani Khatun who was gunned down by the BSF on her way home, along with her father, from India through Anantapur border along Phulbari upazila of Kurigram on January 7, 2011. The BSF troopers most inhumanly hung her body on the barbwire fencing at the border. The ghastly photo of Felani’s bloody body hanging from the barbwire upside down sparked an outcry of protest and condemnation.
The landslide victory of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) in the November 2015 elections in Myanmar might have reenergized reforms in some areas. Despite a significantly improved environment for freedom of expression and media, in key areas of human rights, the government’s commitment has faltered or failed. Discrimination and threats against the Muslim minority, a manifestation of growing ultra-nationalism, has intensified. The Rohingya Muslim minority continues to face statelessness and systematic persecution.
UN Human Rights Council in June 30, 2016 reports that most Rohingya Muslims suffer government persecution, including statelessness and severe restrictions on freedom of movement. Growing ultra-nationalism has spurred discrimination and threats against Rohingya and other Muslims that the authorities have been unwilling to address. The report also stated that in ethnic minority areas, particularly in Kachin, Shan, and Rakhine States, the Burmese military continues to commit serious abuses. These include forcible recruitment, killings, rape, torture, arbitrary arrests, forced labor, and landmine use. Ethnic armed groups are also responsible for serious abuses.
North Korea- Worst Offender
North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), is an authoritarian state with a dynastic leadership that is among the most repressive in the world. Kim Jong-Un regime is notorious in its record on human rights abuses that includes secretive state extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, and torture of political prisoners. Indeed, his provocative attitude and use of state institutions transformed North Korea into a “rogue state” and a threatening nuclear power while a huge number of people continued to starve for want of food and denied basic human rights and dignity. The United States and its allies for years have been unable to find a solution except for applying sanctions and appealing to China. Obviously, the recommendations of the UN Commission of Enquiry remain as a moral force. In February 2014, an UN-mandated commission of inquiry (COI) found that the nature, scale, and gravity of the long-standing and ongoing systematic and widespread violations of human rights violations in North Korea “reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” The commission of inquiry report detailed wide-ranging abuses in North Korea including prison camps, systematic torture, starvation and killings. The 193-member U.N. General Assembly in November 2015 urged the U.N. Security Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court after a U.N. Commission of Inquiry detailed wide-ranging abuses of human rights. In recent reports to the UN General Assembly, the UN special representative on the human rights situation in North Korea confirmed that the human rights situation remains dire. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein testified before the Security Council that the “abduction of foreign nationals, the enforced disappearances, the trafficking and the continued movement of refugees and asylum-seekers makes this point clearly. These, in addition to a litany of other gross human rights violations, have still not been halted or reversed by the Government of the DPRK.”
Is the UN Inconsistent to Offenders?
The most obvious foci of analysis here is the UN Charter, the UN Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and its associated covenants and conventions. Ironically, United Nations today especially its powerful organ the Security Council seems to be failing in its primary responsibility. The challenges lie ahead for the United Nations to play an effective role in punishing the human rights offending nations.
- S. M. Ali Reza, Dhaka University