War, as a state of weaponized conflict between states, started a very long time ago, even before the prehistoric age, and would continue still as long as there exist international differences, diversity, and conflicts of interests. In his psychoanalytic theory on war, Joost Meerloo (2019) pointed out that wars are typically caused by violence and aggression usually influenced by “displacement” and “projection”. That is, peoples’ prejudices or discrimination against other peoples’ ideologies, religion, race or estate are usually what cause wars between government, tribes, communities, and groups.
It is generally during wartimes that the rights of the people are trampled on the most. And as a result of this, experts have, over time, continued to centre their full attention on constantly establishing mechanisms intended to lessen the distress secondary participants of war (who are also the most affected) undergo during armed conflicts. International authorities, after the world wars, have devoted a lot of their efforts to formulating laws for the protection of peoples’ rights, and have been able to come up with three areas of modern international law, namely; humanitarian law, refugee law and human rights law. Although these international laws have different scopes, their primary goal is to preserve the humanity and dignity of all humans (United Nations Office of the High Commission on Human Rights, 2011).
Our focus in this article is one human right, the importance of these laws, as well as the compliance with and violations of these human rights establishments in different regions around the world.
Over the years, human rights (and other international law establishments) have been a topic of discussion among scholars of law, philosophy, and as well, religion. This concept has not only been studied in isolation but in connection with such areas as legal implementation, conflict resolution, conflict analysis, and above all, war.
Human rights have been described by the United Nations Office of the High Commission on Human Rights (2014), as “rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status.” These rights are commonly also described as egalitarian, fundamental, universal and inalienable rights. As long as you’re human, you’re fully entitled to them regardless of the social differences. They are “universal” in the sense that they can be applied everywhere in the entire world, especially where empathy and the rule of law reign supreme. (Nickel et al, 2013). The rights are indivisible and all equal for all. That is, they cannot be trampled on or withdrawn, even singly by a state or government and in warranted circumstances, without following due process.
Although controversies still exist on the subject of rights, what and what can be referred to as rights, the whole idea of formulating human rights, as we can all agree upon, is to ensure that global peace is sustained. After major revolutions occurred in France and the US, in 1789 and 1776 respectively. These revolutions led to the formulation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen by France as well as the United States Declaration of Independence. Both of these documents form the establishment of human rights as it is today.
The first and second world wars also brought about the formulation, improvement and implementation of laws by the United Nations (formerly League of Nations), a body given the international authority and responsibility for legislating all the rights mentioned earlier. This international organization – as well several others – were specifically set up, even with different in-house committees, to settle disputes, secure peace, foster international negotiations and, above everything else, prevent wars (Ball, 2007).
Human rights are commonly classified accordingly to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Civil rights are the rights of the people to participate in and contribute to the government of their states.
“Civil and political rights are enshrined in articles 3 to 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ICCPR. Economic, social and cultural rights are enshrined in articles 22 to 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the ICESCR” (Wikipedia, retrieved 26th December 2019?
Civil and political rights include; “rights to life, equality before the law and freedom of expression” (United Nations Office of the High Commission on Human Rights, 2014). Economic, social and cultural rights, include “the rights to work, social security and education, or collective rights, such as the rights to development and self-determination, are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent” (United Nations Office of the High Commission on Human Rights, 2014).
Human rights violations have been the major cause of war in different regions all over the world, especially in Africa where civil wars are common. It could also be a consequence, especially in cases of prejudices and hatred as a result of religious, ideological and political differences (Sriram et al, 2010). Many of the wars that have occurred in the past were usually started as a consequence of the differences in political and ideological propagation.
Human rights have also been a strong point for conflict resolution. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) under the UN has served as the judiciary in virtually all cases to resolve international and civil conflicts. The rights of the participants have also been preserved by the Geneva Conventions of 1977, affording the direct participants the protection they need, even in a foreign land (Van Dijk, 2018).