Tag Archives: Human Rights

Failure to Implement Universal Declaration

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’) December 10, 2013

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This Declaration was the first international acknowledgment that all human beings have basic rights and freedoms.

65 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations, position of human rights has not been changed very much. Even after 65 years, ordinary people of so many countries do not know what human rights are. No concrete steps have been taken to stop human rights abuses worldwide. The United Nations and various governments should realise that it is their failure and they cannot run away from their accountability.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

It is the time for the UN, governments, human rights organisations and individual human rights defenders to sit together and make an effective plan for implementation of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If we do not make suitable efforts in this direction, the state of affairs of human rights and freedom will not change in next 65 years either.

Social Norms Are Always Changing

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

Chandu was a high official in Mogul royal court during the rule of King Jahangir in Delhi, India. After the engagement of his daughter with (Guru) Hargobind Sahib Ji, the son of Sri Guru Arjun Dev Ji, the fifth Guru of Sikhs, he (Chandu) used disrespectful words for the Guru. Sikhs there heard these words and felt very humiliated. They asked Guru Ji not to accept this marriage proposal. Guru Arjun Dev Ji did what Sikhs wanted.

The marriage between Chandu’s daughter and (Guru) Hargobind Sahib never took place. As was the norm of the upper caste Hindu society of those days, Chandu’s daughter remained unmarried till death.

It was unacceptable for an upper caste Hindu woman in those days to think of any other man, once her name is associated with a man. Once a woman is engaged with a man, no other man would marry her in case her engagement is broken. Such were the norms.

In those days, it was impossible for a Hindu widow to get remarried. Sikh Gurus encouraged marriages of widows, so that they could start their new lives. It was intentional change in social norms.

In this day and age, we can observe how the Indian traditional society has changed itself. Broken engagements, or even broken marriages are not a taboo anymore for girls, despite the fact that many people still exist who are not pleased with these transforms.

On a social network website, I came across a message in Hindi, which goes like this: –

In previous days, girls used to say, “I first passed B.A. 1, then B.A. 2, and then B.A. Final. Or, I first Passed B.Com 1, then B.com 2, and then B.com Final. Or, I first cleared B.Sc. 1, then B.Sc 2, and then B.Sc. Final.” Now-a-days, a modern girl says, “I first had my engagement (first), then my engagement (second), and then my engagement Final.”

While many socially respected families till today take it very humiliating if their daughter’s engagement is broken, many others do not take much notice of it. Girls are married even three or four times and they are almost accepted in ordinary society.

This news is now old that a film actress in Mumbai had a baby from a foreigner cricketer even without marriage. More and more people are adopting live-in relationships, even if such relationships have not been socially accepted in a big part of India.

However, it seems that social norms are now going further with more changes. In the landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of India framed guidelines for bringing live-in relationship within the expression ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ for protection of women under the Domestic Violence Act. The Supreme Court says that live-in relationship is neither a crime nor a sin and Parliament should frame law for the protection of women in such relationships and children born out of it.

The Right to A Fair Trial

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

In every community and country, it is common that civil as well as criminal disputes arise between two or more parties. Criminals are born in every part of the world. It is required that crimes must be stopped. If a crime is committed, the criminal must be punished.

A judicial assessment and determination of legal issues arising between parties to a civil or criminal action is called ‘trial’. When two or more parties cannot resolve their dispute by themselves, the method of trial is used to decide the issue. In case of any crime, the authorities first find the accused and then the accused is put on trial.

The aim of a trial is to secure fair and unprejudiced administration of justice, to find out the truth of the matters, and to apply the law to those matters. A trial offers a final decision of the dispute.

There are two basic types of trials. One is civil trial and other is criminal trial. In a criminal trial, an accused is found guilty or acquitted. If the accused is found guilty, the accused is sentenced according to laws. All types of actions other than criminal actions are civil actions, which are decided by civil trials.

According to the Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations: –

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

In simple words, if anyone goes on trial, this should be done in public. The people who try a person should not be biased.

The Article 14 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights further explains the right of free trial in these words: –

1. All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law. The Press and the public may be excluded from all or part of a trial for reasons of morals, public order (ordre public) or national security in a democratic society, or when the interest of the private lives of the parties so requires, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice; but any judgement rendered in a criminal case or in a suit at law shall be made public except where the interest of juvenile persons otherwise requires or the proceedings concern matrimonial disputes or the guardianship of children.

2. Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

3. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality:

(a) To be informed promptly and in detail in a language which he understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him;

(b) To have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing;

(c) To be tried without undue delay;

(d) To be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing; to be informed, if he does not have legal assistance, of this right; and to have legal assistance assigned to him, in any case where the interests of justice so require, and without payment by him in any such case if he does not have sufficient means to pay for it;

(e) To examine, or have examined, the witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;

(f) To have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court;

(g) Not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt.

4. In the case of juvenile persons, the procedure shall be such as will take account of their age and the desirability of promoting their rehabilitation.

5. Everyone convicted of a crime shall have the right to his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.

6. When a person has by a final decision been convicted of a criminal offence and when subsequently his conviction has been reversed or he has been pardoned on the ground that a new or newly discovered fact shows conclusively that there has been a miscarriage of justice, the person who has suffered punishment as a result of such conviction shall be compensated according to law, unless it is proved that the non-disclosure of the unknown fact in time is wholly or partly attributable to him.

7. No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country.

Arbitrary Arrest, Detention And Exile

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

When someone is kept in custody without proper due process of law despite the fact that he or she committed no offence, it is called ‘arbitrary arrest’ or ‘arbitrary detention’.

According to the Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948: –

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

In simple words, no one has the right to put someone in prison, to keep him or her there, or to send him or her away from his/her country unjustly, or without good reason.

Article 9 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights says:

1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.

2. Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.

3. Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgment.

4. Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful.

5. Anyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.

National law should set down the grounds and procedures for arrest and detention. People should not be arrested and detained except as provided for by law. Neither the arrest nor the detention should be arbitrary. Here, the term ‘detention’ applies to all forms of detention where people are deprived of their liberty.

Almost in every case of arbitrary arrest, the victim is neither given explanation regarding his or her arrest, nor is he or she shown any arrest warrant.

Though, arbitrary arrests and detentions are typically made by governments as a technique to hold back opposition; many fanatical groups too occasionally use such tactics to silence their opponents. A detainee sometimes is tortured during his or her arbitrary arrest.

Many pseudo democratic governments, dictatorships and police states carry out arbitrary arrests and ‘forced disappearance’ in response to street demonstrations. It is common that arbitrarily detained persons suffer physical as well as psychological torture during their detention.

No person can be denied his or her freedom. No person can be taken into arbitrary arrest. No person can be exiled from his/her country without having first committed an actual crime against the law.

Legal Help Is A Right Itself

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

Article 8
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
(The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations)

If the fundamental rights of any person granted by the law are desecrated, the victim has the right to an effective remedy by the able state courts. Every person has the right to ask for legal help, when his/her rights are violated.

In simple words, the legal aid is a right itself. It is a crucial requirement for realisation of other human rights mentioned under Article 9, 10 and 11 (will be explained in other posts) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The right of legal aid includes the right to free legal aid in case the person does not have the means to pay for advocate/counsel.

Every government has the responsibility to take up all suitable measures to completely realise the right to legal aid within its territory. An ideal government officially guarantees the right to legal aid in its Constitution.

To exercise the right of legal aid, it is required that the Judiciary be autonomous, effective, and easily available.

Equal Protection Against Any Discrimination

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

Article 7
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
(The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations)

What if a white (Caucasian) person bullies a black person for being a black? Surely, the white man in this case is a racist. No doubt at all.

But, what if a black person bullies a white (Caucasian) person for being a white? That too is a case of racism.

All are equal before the law. It means that the law cannot be prejudiced against or in favour of a particular race, gender, religion, caste, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation etc.

However, in practical we see that many countries have biased laws.

For instance, In India any person of so-called ‘upper class’ can be put on trial and punished under Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 for intentionally insulting or intimidating with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view. However, there is no special law, if a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of so-called ‘upper’ Castes.

Under Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 in India, the criminal liability can only be established if the offence is committed by a person who is not a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe against a person who belongs to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe.

For example, in the state of Punjab, India, ‘Bazigar’ and ‘Balmiki’ both are official scheduled castes. If a fight takes place between a ‘Bazigar’ and a ‘Balmiki’, the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 cannot be invoked against any of the both parties. On the other hand, in case of similar fight between a ‘Balmiki’ and a person belonging to other caste, a ‘Jat’ for instance’, charges can be framed under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 against the accused belonging to no-scheduled caste/tribe (‘Jat’ in this case) along with other under sections of Indian penal code.

It has wrongly been assumed by many that offences of atrocities are made against the members of Scheduled castes and tribes by the so-called upper castes only. It has wrongly been taken to be true that such atrocities are never made against the members of so-called upper castes.

There are many cases where white victims (Caucasians) were harassed, physically attacked and even killed by non-white racists.

Many non-white men and women think that they are superior to whites. A person with this mindset can commit a racist crime against a white person.

The Article 7 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: –

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Every person has the right to protection of the law against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination, whether s/he belongs to a so-called upper caste or a scheduled caste/tribe, whether s/he is a black or white (Caucasian). The law shall be the same for everyone; it should be applied in the same way to all.

The Right To Recognition As A Person

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

Article 6
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
(The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations)

The right to recognition as a person is very vital, despite the fact that it is usually uncared for.

What does it mean to have the right to recognition as a person? It is the right to be recognised as a person or an individual, that is to say the right to be recognised as a human being before the law.

For the law, a person is a person, a human being. Men and women, persons belonging to the majority and persons belonging to minorities, all are humans in the first place.

A person has the right to recognition as a person, not as a man or woman. It means the law will be equal for men and women. The right to recognition as a person makes it in no doubt that any person is not denied his/her right, because s/he is a male or a female. No person shall be made victim of any gender biased law

A person has the right to recognition as a person, not as a person belonging to racial/religious/ethnic majority group or a person belonging to racial/religious/ethnic minority group. It means any person shall not be denied his/her right, because s/he belongs to majority or minority group.

Furthermore, the right to recognition is enjoyed everywhere. If a person enjoys his/her right at one place and is denied the same somewhere else, it is a gross infringement of fundamental human rights described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

No One Shall Be Subjected To Torture

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment ((an advisory measure of the UN General Assembly) (A/RES/39/46, December 10, 1984,Meeting no. 93) explained the term ‘Torture’ in its Article 1 of Part 1 in these words: –

… the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

However, the acts of torture are not committed by government agencies only. Terrorists, gang-members, hate-preachers and many rebels often do not take into account international laws and use different methods of tortures.

Methods for physical torture can range from thrashing to the use of specially designed tools. To cause mental pain, psychological torture techniques are used. When a victim is paraded in full public view with blackened face etc, it is a kind of physical as well as psychological torture. The outcome of psychological torture techniques could not be visible instantly. These methods break the victim from inside.

A list of methods and devices of psychological as well as physical torture has been published in wikipedia.org website.

Bhai Mati Das Ji

Bhai Mati Das, a devote Sikh of the ninth Guru, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, was sawed in two in November, 1675, in Chandani Chowk, Delhi.


Any information taken out by torture is not to be relied on, because torture victim would say anything to get away the situation. To escape pain, a victim could plead guilty and involve any other person. The implicated person would be torture in sequence.

The Article 5 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: –

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

In the face of many national and international laws, torture still takes place in countries all over the world. In its place, number of torture cases is increasing rapidly.

No One Shall Be Held In Slavery

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

The slavery (the practice of having slaves) was and is a reality.

Slavery is a system under which people are captured, bought and sold. They are held against their will. Slaves are forced to work and they have no right to leave or to refuse to work. They have no right to demand any salary or compensation.

Slave For Sale (Painting)

Slaves can be held even from the time of their birth. It means from the first day of his/her life, a human is deprived of his/her rights.

Though in recent times, slavery has been banned in most of countries, but in reality it has been in practice in many forms, such as debt bondage (bonded labour); domestic servants kept in captivity, child soldiers, fake adoptions in which children are forced to work as slaves. Even forced marriages should be seen as slavery.

When a person pledges himself or herself against a loan is called bonded labour. The services required to repay the debt, and their duration, may be undefined. Such bonded labour is often passed on from generation to generation. It means a child of a bonded labour is compelled to pay off his parents’ loan and for this purpose; he is forced to be a bonded labour. Bonded labour is the most prevalent form of slavery nowadays.

There is another form of slavery. When a person is forced under threat of violence or punishment, with restrictions on his/her freedom to work against his/her will it is called forced labour.

We often read news of domestic servants kept in captivity in various countries. This is another kind of slavery.

In present times, sometime children are used as fighters in battles, mostly by terrorist organisations. Child soldiers are also slaves in a way.

There is another kind of slavery. In such cases, a person adopts a child and then force the child to work as a slave.

In many societies, young generation is not allowed to marry a boy or a girl of their choice. They are forced to get married to someone else. If they refuse to do so, they often face brutal physical punishment and in many cases they are killed, even by their own family members. To avoid physical punishment or even murder, young people, mostly girls accept their fate. Such marriages are forced marriages and should be considered a kind of slavery.

During their invasions on other countries, many invaders used to enslaved thousands of men, women, boys and girls. These slaves were sold in open market by those invaders in their respective countries.

Slaves Being Sold in Open Market (Painting)

Even in recent times, many women were taken as sex slaves during wars.

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR was the first international recognition that all human beings have fundamental rights and freedoms and it continues to be a living and relevant document today.

On the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 2008), AmritWorld.com adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: –

Article 4.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

We are strongly opposed to any form of slavery. We believe that bonded labour, child soldiers, forced labour, forced marriage, fake adoption of children for slavery, and taking women as sex slaves (war booty) during wars/riots or anywhere are different forms of slavery.

Individuals, groups, organisations, political parties, religious organisations and governments should do whatever they can to stop the evil practice of slavery.

Further Reading

The Right to Life

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

Article 3
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
(The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations)

In October, 1983, terrorists killed 6 Hindu bus passengers near Dhilwan, in Punjab, India. On July 08, 1987, Terrorists traveling in a car and a jeep stopped a bus on a bridge near the town of Fatehabad in Hissar district, Haryana and opened fire on the passengers about 11 P.M., killing 30 Hindus. They then stopped another bus coming towards the scene and fired at the passengers on that bus as well, killing four Hindus. Just one night before, on July 07, 1987, terrorists forced a crowded bus off a highway and opened fire with submachine guns, killing 38 Hindu passengers.

There were many more incidents of killings of Hindus during that period in and around Punjab, India.

In all these incidents, people were killed only because they were Hindus. Being Hindu was their only crime in the eyes of terrorists.

From October 31 to November 7, 1984, in many cities in India, such as Delhi Gurgaon, Kanpur, Bokaro, and Indore etc. thousands of Sikhs were killed following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

On the evening of 20 March 2000, 15–17 terrorists entered the village of Chattisinghpora, located in Anantnag district in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. They ordered all of the Sikh males to assemble at the village Gurdwara, and systematically shot and killed 34 of them.

The only crime of people killed was being Sikhs.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, hundreds of gay men (and a few women as well) died in targeted killings. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19557895). Being homosexuals was their only crime they were punished for.

On 25 January 1998, 23 Kashmiri Pundits living in the village of Wandhama, in Jammu and Kashmir were killed by terrorists. They were killed, only because they were Kashmiri Pundits (Hindu Brahmans).

How can one forget the biggest crime against humanity in modern times, that is to say genocide of Jews (Holocaust) during World War 2? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Holocaust). Millions of Jews were massacred only because they were Jews.

These are only handful examples. Millions of innocent people were killed, though they were absolutely innocent.

Such killings are against the basic right to life. We are born free and we all want to live. This is our right. And this right cannot be denied by any one.

Not only that we have the right to life, we have the right to enjoy all liberties described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well. Every person has the right of security, with the intention that no one could deprive him/her of the right of life and liberty.