OUTLOOK — By Haider Al Lawati — Nobody denies that the Arab Spring has erupted and highlighted on many negative issues including the issue of destroying human dignity by the authorities. We have observed various models in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, while we see other forms of destruction of human dignity today in Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states because of nations’ emergence demanding more democracy, freedom, equality and justice.
The members of the UN have signed on many international covenants to conserve, preserve and protect economic, social and cultural rights of people after the Second World War, but many states still continue to widely violate human dignity. There are repeated cases in many countries in the world, including the Arab states from time to time, and there are violations of rights and dignity of individuals nowadays in those countries. These kinds of violations happen during wars and natural disasters, and results in ethnic conflicts, torture, executions, besides resulting in the flight of many refugees, which makes it difficult for the international community to find appropriate solutions to these violations, and to meet standards of maintenance of human dignity and rights effectively.
The Amnesty International annual reports have registered many cases in this regard, and according to the report published in 2008 by this organisation, it states that sixty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, people are still tortured or ill-treated in at least 81 countries, facing unfair trials in at least 54 countries and are not allowed to speak freely in at least 77 countries. It seems that many states actually can’t provide the guarantees enshrined in the Articles of UN Charter concerning the universal protection of human rights. If you look at the reality, you will find most of these states breach the Universal Declaration, because they believe that the Universal Declaration is not a treaty or even a formally binding legal instrument. Even if a state breaches the Universal Declaration, it does not therefore commit an internationally wrongful act. Therefore, the international legal system has been relatively effective in developing legal rules with respect to the protection of individual human rights, but it is less effective in developing enforcement mechanisms that meaningfully enforce those rights, since the Universal Declaration is often referred to as an inspirational document by which states aspire to achieve these goals but do not formally commit to do so.
Many countries have signed the International Covenants on economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, besides the other covenants and charters, as well as regional instruments, but it seems it is difficult to reach agreements because the diversity of ideologies and cultural interests is wide.
On the regional level, the human rights instruments must be stronger to enforce mechanisms in such situations, because the human rights are universal and they must apply equally to all people. However, we have observed that the local, international and civil society institutions in the region can’t fulfil such obligations towards violations happening against human rights in Arab countries, or to stop government violations against their citizens or nationals. It seems that they suffer from the lack of a mechanism through which to take international legal decisions against the states and parties that have committed crimes, and are expected to abide by international legal standards and ethics in such cases under domestic laws and regulations. They, therefore keep millions of people on empty promises that are far from the reality. This confirms that many international human rights organisations, within the framework of international laws, are unable to meet the obligations, as they originally suffer from the lack presence of an appropriate mechanism through which to take appropriate, effective and independent decisions.
On the other hand, international reality shows that international law does not give the individual any international legal identity, as a human being who supposes to enjoy an increasing concern in such matters and allow the individual to have the right to certain amenities. Despite of all this, these agreements and declarations do not compel states to abide by the provisions enshrined in them. This proves why most of these agreements are ratified by only a very small number of countries. The individual is still unable to guarantee his or her rights through judicial bodies except in some transnational organisations in the West which applies double standard policies sometimes. People want to see stronger NGOs in the region in order to fight against these violations and to protect human rights since individuals do not have an appropriate means of access to rights and remedies under international law. This is necessary in order to protect people’s dignity from suffering in the future.