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69 years after UN treaty, many nations still paying lip service to human rights

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Despite being members of the United Nations, these nations shamelessly allow torture, detention without trial and ethnic cleansing, observes Benedict Lopez.

According to the Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights at the United Nations, human rights is defined as the fundamental rights for all human beings irrespective of their ethnicity, place of domicile, sex, nationality, colour, religion, language or any other status.

All human beings are entitled to their human rights – without prejudice – which are all interconnected, co-dependent and inseparable. Human rights are the fundamental rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from cradle to grave.

These rights of all human beings are applicable regardless of where you are from, what religion you profess or how you choose to live your life. ​The inalienable rights of any human being should never be denied except in extenuating circumstances that are paramount to a nation on in critical situations affecting the security of a nation.

Globally, human rights are often articulated and guaranteed by law, treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law places obligations on governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedom of individuals or groups.

Organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International often act as watchdogs in highlighting rights violations throughout the world. Other international groups that also focus on human rights, albeit to a smaller extent, include Paris-based Reporters Without Borders and New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists.

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This 10 December 2017 marks 69 years since the United Nations General Assembly adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This profound covenant on human rights was embraced by the United Nations General Assembly at the third session as Resolution 217 at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France in 1948. Of the then 58 members of the United Nations, 48 voted in favour, none against, eight abstained and two did not vote.

At the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, it was stipulated that it is the duty of nations to promote and protect all human rights and freedoms, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems.​

The prelude to this great covenant on human rights acknowledges the prerequisites for humanity which underscores the principals of liberty, righteousness and harmony in the world​. Stipulations in all the articles of this declaration correlate to matters affecting all human being​s – without distinction on the grounds of race, colour, sex and religion. They transcend nationality, property and birth.

Clearly stipulated in the declaration is the prohibition of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Every human being has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law: this UN declaration also recognises, among others, that all human beings are equal before the law and are and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.

Appallingly, many countries fail to uphold even the basic human rights of their peoples while shamelessly being part of this august body. At times, they are even hypocritically vocal on a variety of issues.

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The UN should not compromise on any member nation violating this principled and morally binding accord on human rights outlining the basis for the existence of every human being. Firm action should be taken against any member nation that contravenes this declaration.

Human dignity should be perpetually safeguarded all over the world. Among the practices that blemish human dignity are incarceration without trial, torture, rape, social exclusion, ethnic cleansing, exploitation of workers including child labour, bonded labour and slavery.

No human being should ever be subjected to any form of maltreatment, abuse, harm, hurt and cruelty whatever the crime committed. Fundamental norms of humanity dictate that it is an affront to the dignity of any human being to be treated in any sub-human way.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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