Rights and wrongs

TRUTH, they say, is the first casualty in a war. There are many other casualties which are hardly mentioned in a war theatre. They are fundamental rights.

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Published: Fri 28 May 2004, 11:10 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:44 AM

A war gives the licence to all sides to violate rights and get away - often literally - with murder. Amnesty International in its annual report says that human rights last year came under the most sustained attack in the past 50 years. You do not have to look far to find reasons for the extraordinary increase in rights violations: The US-led war in Iraq. The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. And, of course, the ubiquitous war on terror launched almost in all parts of the globe following 9/11 strikes. The 339-page report by the rights watch body says the war on terror and the war in Iraq have produced a new wave of rights violations, and diverted attention from old ones, such as Chechnya, Colombia, Africa and Nepal. The infamous trouble spots mentioned in the report do not hold any surprises. Nor do the violations in places like China, (victims: Muslim separatists), Egypt (victims: Brotherhood activists) and Kashmir (target: separatists).

Then there are Iraq and Palestine. The occupied territories continue to enjoy the dubious distinction of the most dangerous region in the world so far as excesses are concerned. Israeli death squads continue to trample the rights of defenceless Palestinians. The American soldiers in Iraq, as the world noted in the last few weeks, are not far behind. In fact, they have turned the occupation into a fine art which would put the Nazis to shame. However, it is the so-called global war on terror that is responsible for most rights violations around the world on a larger scale. The global atmosphere of extreme distrust and paranoid vigil against terror threat has led to the greater common evil, as Arundhati Roy would put it. Amnesty report rightly singles out the United States for creating this global fear psychosis: "Violating rights at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad, and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses has damaged justice and freedom, and made the world a more dangerous place."

No wonder, a host of countries - emulating the US - have introduced legislation post-September 11 that seriously undermines human rights, especially the right to a fair trial. Many others like Russia, Thailand, India and the Philippines have used the war on terror as an excuse to crack down on legitimate political dissent. All this despite the fact that many of these countries including the US boast of elected governments, strong democratic institutions and robust judicial systems. However, these democracies - despite their checks and balances - have tragically failed in preventing appalling rights violations in their midst.

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