ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS AND NGOS IN PROTECTING HUMAN RIGHTS IN GLOBAL ERA

Reading time : 8 minutes

The human rights controversy continues to hold a significant limelight. These rights are inherent and applicable to everyone and at all times. They are democratic, and for everyone, it is the same. It also place a duty on citizens to uphold other people’s civil rights. These rights can only be taken away in exceptional cases such as war or the enforcement of a judicial sentence without due process. More than 500 international organisations with distinct reach in the world have been established to solve the problems of multinational existence. Similarly, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are operating every minute of the day in every corner of the world to record the abuses foisted on women, children and the marginalised, trapped beneath the lowest rung of our society. They remind governments, by their constructive campaigns to keep their commitments in order to offer real sense to the priorities set by different world wide human rights treaties. It is said to be an international organisations when the portions of the entity are regulated by international law and if the operations are regulated by certain domestic laws, then it is a non governmental organisation.

 The theory of state supremacy and domestic authority existed prior to the creation of League of Nations with nearly issues that would currently be knows as human rights issues were at that time uniformly treated as within the internal sphere of state laws. In the 20th century, the League of Nations by its commitment to safeguard the interests of minorities and the creation of International Labor Organisation to supervise treaties protecting workers right including their health and welfare. Although this multinational peace and security organisation never accomplished its objectives, it was a significant boost to the advancement of international human rights. The concept of human rights evolved stronger post World War II. The traumatic events of the war resulted in the establishment of the United Nations. Policymakers dedicatee themselves to the establishment of the United Nations with the productive trials conducted in Nuremberg and Tokyo after World War II and officials from the countries were prosecuted for war and humanity crimes and crimes which are typically laid down in Rome Statue. Citizens were assured that liberty, independence, nutrition, housing and citizenship would never be unfairly deprived to anyone again. By daring to claim that all human beings are equal under the law, regardless of race, ethnicity or belief, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted on 10th December, 1948 by United Nations which made all of us realise the list of 30 rights and freedoms set out in UDHR that the world should enjoy. It was for the first time when a world negotiation put individuals at the centre of the agenda and not global politics. After the advancement of universal respect and scrutiny of human rights by UDHR, the human rights movement has become a global initiative in every country with NGOs and people’s group participating whether publicly or underground. Thus there are state, domestic and global coalitions and networks of such organisations that provide knowledge, resources and solidarity to those on the frontline’s. The United Nations Charter promotes through various articles the respect of human rights irrespective of their race, ethnicity or belief. Article 55 and 56 ensures mutual trust and observance of human rights  and also undertake to take collective and independent action with a view to attaining the aims set out in Article 55. A number of conventions, declarations, treaties has been developed with a range of consulting services and processes for compliance and regulations. The methodology adopted in this paper is to examine and identify the regulations of human rights in a global, regional and national framework as well as to illustrate the roles played by international organisations and non governmental organisations in the advancement, improvement and enforcement of human rights.

Human Rights are rights pertaining to life, freedom and dignity of persons or expressed in international agreements and legally binding by the Indian judiciary. Non governmental define the spectrum, of organisations that comprise civil society and these vary from minor movements to particular ecological issues or specific abuses of human rights like cultural organisations, charitable institutions, humanitarian relief projects, etc. The Economic and Social Council under United Nations make necessary arrangements and coordinates with NGOs dealing with issues under its jurisdiction. For the betterment and advancement of human rights in developed countries, NGOs have played a crucial role whose actions are spared in assorted areas for the welfare of human beings. The two prominent London based NGOs were Anti Slavery Society and the Aborigines Protection Society who were recognised by bringing slavery inscribed into the world discourse. Similarly, the International Committee of the Red Cross and eventually the Red Cross movement influenced the security of the injured on the battle field which then contributed to the emergence of the whole body of humanitarian law. Because of the impact and pressure by NGOs, a great deal of issues have been put on the international civil rights agenda. By launching a global revolution for the “Abolition of Torture” Amnesty International placed the issue of brutality and torture on the global stage. Amnesty International persisted to highlight the issue by releasing a nation wide study on torture by organising conferences and spreading a resolution which obtained more than one million supporters and it was not over until it was accepted as a Convention against torture, inhuman or degrading treatment in 1984. Other notable issues proposed by Amnesty International at the Vienna Conference was the problem of the commercial sexual exploitation of children by ECPPAT. Human Rights Watch is also an independent human rights group that monitors human rights violations and reports on them. The group partners with and advocate toward states, corporation militant forces pressuring them to modify their policies and rules. They opposes government and private support financially in order to remain a separate organisation. In recent years, NGOs have made important advances in the field of international global development. Niall Mac Dermot identified four of the the ICJ’s main initiatives in this field: the European agreement on Abuse, the revision of the Japanese law on Mental health, African Charter and the first global agreement on freedom. NGOs has played a crucial role in establishing the Declaration on the Right and Duty of People and securing internationally accepted human and fundamental rights which took years to achieve. Similarly, at national level several NGOs have stepped forward with capacity building programmes or gap filled measures. One such movement was Sulabh movement which was a revolution for the betterment and education of the Dalits in a generic context. Further, Ramakrishna Mission Home of Service was formed in 1900 was established to managed an education campaign on crucial health issues in suburbs and similar areas. Peoples Union for Democratic Rights holds inquiries, releases announcements, organises public hearings, marches and battles court proceedings to expose and help to remedy the infringement of people’s right. They also covers topics of general interest that concerns people’s rights including land dwellers, agrarian dispute, rapes and cruelty, police detention killings and the different facets of the terrorist acts. CRY is also one of the many organisations which aims to preserve the rights of the children in India. They uplifted thousands of children  who are deprived of their basic fundamental rights and urges people to collaborate rather than merely contribute. The list of such organisations is by no means comprehensive. In behalf of the survivors and population at large, they sent lawsuits, written complaints and PIL for the defence of human rights. The final role of NGOs in the advocacy and defence of human rights is not often addresses, but is crucial is the democratic system accessible to other aspects of civil society. They work for freedom of expression, speech, liberty and association. It is for this cause that it is necessary to protect the defenders of human rights.

Like NGOs, there are many International Organisations which have emerged with fixed objectives and goals for the protection of human rights. The mechanisms for the formation of such institutions are international treaties. Within the context of international law, these principles are understood and applied. The United Nations, through its charter is committed to maintain international peace and stability by establishing strong relations between nations and achieving economic integration. The charter through its various articles as mentioned above establishes a complete and effective international human rights system and also acts as a leader to create new norms for human rights. The human rights protection set out in the UN charter are the pillars on which the UN system is based. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights with no opposition votes is undeniably the criterion for the actions taken by UN which marked the start of a global process for the establishment and implementation of a framework to achieve all the civil rights and liberties for general well being in a democratic society. Further, The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights were adopted on 16th December, 1966[1]. The ICCPR specifies the concept of independent living beings enjoying their rights with no threat can only be attained in compliance with the UDHR and if provisions are established for every citizen to enjoy their civil and political as well as their economic, social and cultural rights. A number of conventions, treaties, covenants have developed for guidance and processes for compliance and regulations. There are plethora of conventions with enforces specific rights, some of them are: The  International  Convention  on  the  Elimination  of  All  Forms  of  Racial Discrimination, The  Convention on  the Elimination  of  All Forms  of  Discrimination against Women, The Convention on the Rights of the Child, The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and many more. Similarly, there are many regional structures for human rights which are more accessible for the defence of human rights. They offer some greater benefits with respect to the global structures since diplomatic consensus an be easier to achieve in designing tools. There are many humanitarian bodies specifically in regions like Europe, Africa, Asia, America namely European Union, The OSCE, African Union, ECJ, The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of child and many more. These regional structures reinforce the current human rights system specially designed  all forms of discrimination against women, children, migrant, disabled and to protect them and their families. These international and regional organisations while implementing rights have also faced major isuess like funding has been one of the biggest obstacle act as a constraint and makes it impossible foe these structures to achieve the goals. In addition, the approval by nation states to conventions and treaties also remains a threat to the preservation of humans rights. The problem of injustice, abundance of foreign bodies and social and religious inequality has continues to raise barriers to the world wide security.

International Organisations and Non Governmental Organisations are paramount and horrifying events of World Wars ignited the need for all the nation states to work together and safeguard human dignity. Every individual is eligible to certain fundamental rights guaranteed by the UN and its agencies that are open to them without prejudice of any form. In India, these rights are governed by judiciary, commissions specially for human rights and NGO’s who play an essential role in preservation and enforcement of human rights. However, these NGOs needs to extend their initiatives and raise their human rights visibility even more and be more creative and determine how short time priorities fit into long term targets. International organisations for the enforcement of human rights should be precise and in cases of violation compensation must be made. The International Criminal Court investigates and charges offenders but it is confined to the most extreme crimes of interest to the world community as laid down in Rome Statute. It is also proposed that these multinational institutions should be collaborative and work with global NGOs to improve and broaden the reach of Human rights protection. For NGOs, it is equally vital to remain separate from the official process o documentation and tracking.


[1]https://treaties.un.org/Pages/Treaties.aspx?id=4&subid=A&lang=en%20Accessed%2010%20June%202

Author: SHIVANI RATHI

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.

Unravelling the Hong Kong conundrum

Reading time: 6-7 minutes.

Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous southern Chinese city. It lies on the eastern side of Pearl River estuary. Officially it is known as ‘Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China’. It was a former British colony which was returned to China in 1997 under the principle of ‘one country, two systems’. This meant that Hong Kong could have its own political and legal system, own currency and borders. In fact, the legal system of Hong Kong guarantees to its people many rights and freedom like freedom of speech and expression which are non-existent in the Chinese mainland.

Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and one of the world’s significant economic hubs. Currently the city of Hong Kong is witnessing huge protests and social unrest which was triggered by the introduction of a controversial piece of legislation, namely, the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 (hereinafter referred to as the Extradition Bill).

What began as just resentment against a law has now assumed bigger proportions and has turned into a social and pro-democracy movement. So far, a large number of civilians have been injured in the protests. But the protestors have vowed that they would continue their fight their demands have been fulfilled.

What is the Extradition Bill, 2019 all about?

The Extradition Bill, 2019 was passed by the Hong Kong government in February this year. The Bill states that Hong Kong government will accept legal request from other countries for extradition of criminal suspect, who have fled to Hong Kong after committing a crime in their territory, to face trial. The Bill allows extradition to mainland China and even to those countries with which Hong Kong does not have an extradition treaty.

The Bill allows extradition of only those fugitives who are accused of offences that are punishable with a sentence of at least seven years. Extradition of people accused of political and religious crimes is also not allowed. The Bill grants the power to decide on an extradition request to Hong Kong’s Chief Executive whose decision would then be reviewed by the courts.

The Bill came to be introduced in the wake of an incident in February 2018 when a 19-year-old man, after murdering his 20-year-old pregnant girlfriend in Taiwan, fled to Hong Kong. Though the Taiwanese officials sought help from Hong Kong to extradite the criminal, Hong Kong government could not comply with the request due to lack of an extradition agreement with Taiwan.

What was the reaction of the people of Hong Kong to this Bill?

The Bill was introduced to plug the loophole which allowed criminals like the 19-year old to avoid the law. However, the opponents of the Bill are of the opinion that the enforcement of this Bill would subject the people of Hong Kong to arbitrary detention, unfair trial and torture under the China’s harsh and biased judicial system. They justify their view by citing the case of Lam Wing Kee who, in 2015, was abducted, detained and charged by China with the allegation that he was operating a bookstore illegally in China. Mr. Lam was reported to have made the statement “I don’t trust the government to guarantee my safety, or the safety of any Hong Kong resident.”

This Extradition Bill comes amidst the growing Chinese influence in the governance of Hong Kong and also the increasing authoritative tendency of the Hong Kong government. Therefore, this Bill is widely viewed as another blow to the democratic rights of the people of Hong Kong.  

People from all walks of life have strongly opposed the Bill. The public unrest against the Bill which started as marches on street has turned uncontrollable with the protesters striking at the government headquarters and forcing the shutdown of the international airport for two days. Few road ways and tunnels were also shut down. The continued protest has completely paralysed Hong Kong, the international finance hub.

How has the government responded to the protests against the Bill?

Though initially the government refused to back down, the widespread nature of the protest compelled the government to reconsider its stand. On 15th June, 2019, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the present Chief Executive of Hong Kong, suspended the controversial Extradition Bill and on 9th July, she declared the Bill as dead. The Bill was formally withdrawn on 4th September 2019.

However, the withdrawal of the Bill has done little to pacify the protestors with them terming it as an action “too little, too late” and one of them commenting that “it is like applying band-aid on rotten flesh”. The protestors say that the withdrawal of bill will not compensate the blood and tears of the protestors.

These statements imply that the public resentment is not just about the Bill anymore but about the threats against the larger democratic rights of the people of Hong Kong as a result of the increasing Chinese influence. Due to the continued disappointment and unrest among the people, Ms.Lam suggested “to replace conflicts with conversation”.

What has been the response of the international community?

The US and other Western countries have extended their support to the Hong Kong protestors and have called for a peaceful resolution of the issue.

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, said “Democrats and Republicans continue to stand united with the people of Hong Kong in demanding the hopeful, free and democratic future that is their right.” The US is also looking forward to expedite the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Bill, a bipartisan Bill, the stated objective of which is “to renew the historical commitment of the United States to uphold freedom and democracy in Hong Kong at a time when its autonomy is increasingly under assault.”

The British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, asked China to grant basic freedom to Hong Kong. Hunt warned China of severe consequences if it did not respect the Sino-British Joint Declaration, 1984, which enshrined the “one country, two systems” principle.

Beijing has not taken this external support for the protestors very well. It views them as unnecessary interferences by external actors which have only encouraged the protestors to continue with the chaotic situation. Beijing sees the current crisis as an internal issue which it wants to deal with internally without any external meddling.

What are the human rights concerns that the public protests in Hong Kong raise?

Human Rights in Hong Kong are enshrined in the Basic law and the Bill of Rights Ordinance (Cap. 383). It is generally perceived that the people of Hong Kong enjoy greater civil liberties than those in mainland China. However, there is a concern over freedom of assembly in Hong Kong as it has been restricted by the Public Order Ordinance.

Unfortunately, the ongoing civilian protests have witnessed gross human rights violations. It is reported that the police authorities are using harsh power to suppress the protestors. This disproportionate use of power by the police muzzles the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression and assembly. It also puts into jeopardy the principle of participatory democracy.

It is been argued that human rights violation in Hong Kong is a failure of the ‘one country, two systems’ rule.

What are the demands of the protestors?

Hong Kong has been witnessing continued mass protests for the past few months now and it has resulted into chaos, public unrest and major political predicament. The frustrated protestors have been demanding the following:

  • The controversial Extradition Bill must be withdrawn
  • The Chief Executive, Ms. Lam, must resign
  • The government must retract its characterisation of violent clashes as “riots”
  • There must be full independent inquiry into the actions of the police.
  • All those who are arrested in connection with the clashes must be unconditionally freed.

Though the first demand has been fulfilled, Ms. Lam has refused to fulfil the other demands of the protestors so far.

The way forward…

Over the years, China has been trying to undermine the autonomy that is guaranteed to Hong under the “one country, two systems” rule. The Extradition Bill is just another example of China attempting to meddle into the internal affairs of Hong Kong. Therefore, the present public outrage in Hong Kong is a show of resistance to not only the Extradition Bill but also to the repeated attempts of China to suppress the democratic rights of the people of Hong Kong. Therefore, this movement has the potential to decide the future of Hong Kong’s democracy and autonomy.

As rightly said by a report, “there is no reward to be gained by silence on the Hong Kong conundrum”. Significant support for peaceful resolution will reassure the people of Hong Kong that what they are doing is right and this will lead to a good outcome.

Therefore, the international community must come out in strong support of the people of Hong Kong who are fighting for justice and democratic rights. They want a bright future for their country with proper governance. Compromise and wise decisions would be the contributing factors for peace in the present conditions.

-This article is brought to you in collaboration with Rutuja Gujar from Sandip University, Nashik.

Analysis: NRC in Assam

Reading time: 4-5 minutes.

A severe humanitarian problem rooted in the North-eastern state Assam emerged in the form of National Registry of Citizens of India. The NRC is the list of Indian citizens in Assam that was first prepared in 1951 following the Census of 1951 conducted under the 1948 Census of India Act.

The list has now been updated for the first time since then to identify the illegal immigrants in Assam. This issue embarks the sovereignty of this nation and amalgamates it with humanitarian crisis. The Final  National Register of Citizens (NRC) which was published on 31st August 2019, left out more than 19 lakh applicants out of the 3.29 crore individuals who applied for inclusion of names in NRC in Assam.

This exercise was carried out and monitored by the Supreme Court of India for a prolonged period of five years. The purpose of this exercise was to check illegal immigration from Bangladesh. The NRC updating process in Assam is governed by Rule 4A and the corresponding Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. These rules have been framed as per the cut-off date of Midnight of 24th March 1971 decided as per Assam Accord.

What came out as the consequences of NRC? And what are the possible future actions associated with them?

Many stories of individuals from Assam in relation to the NRC have come out and persistently form a pile of ramifications of this Final NRC draft over the due course of time, with no resolution in the future. The individuals who have been left out of this draft have a right to proceed with an appeal in the Foreigners’ Tribunal within 120 days from the release of the draft.

From a logistics standpoint, deportation of excluded individuals to Bangladesh not being an available option, the hindsight of holding multiple thousands of individuals in detention centres for years seems unreasonably difficult to manage for any administration personnel. Nevertheless, in order to accommodate the excluded individuals, detention camps have been set out across the State of Assam at places like Goalpara, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Silchar, Kokrajhar and Tezpur. These camps are nothing, but district jails labelled as detention camps.

There was a government notification in Assam on the basis of Supreme Court Order on Indian Citizenship Act, 1955 that births up to December 3, 2004 were eligible to be a citizen of India where either of the parents holds Indian citizenship. However, the children born after 3 December 2004 would not be eligible to be included in the NRC if either parent is declared as a doubtful voter, declared foreigner or a person with his case pending in the Foreigner’s Tribunal. This would leave out the children those who were born in the last 15 years and whose either of the parent’s citizenship is in the doubt or declared void.

What can be the further implications of NRC?

The discussion so far has been limited to the state of Assam, but the advocates of NRC propose to carry out the same exercise throughout India, with suggestions of “Kashmir” being the most outright and the other states being proposed were West Bengal and Kerala. The dilemma of NRC has popped up at the moment when the world faces a major crisis of immigration throughout from Europe to the United States of America. The US is facing similar crisis from the Mexican border and Europe Union gathering the same from the Mediterranean region.

What solutions can be resorted to curb the threat of this humanitarian crisis?

The need of the hour is to come up with solutions for the same, more so, long-term solutions rather than momentary solutions. An article by Head of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) Sanjeev Tripathi provides for certain suggestions such as a Bilateral Agreement between India and Bangladesh which would involve return of nationals of Bangladesh who have illegally entered India after verification.

In addition to the same he also urges legislators to come up with a refugee law that shall draw distinction between refugees and illegal immigrants and in turn provide for a clear definition to the same. To extend the scope of the said solution a mechanism of incentivization shall be enforced and subsequently a counteracting mechanism should also be brought into the system.

The incentives would be in the form of work permits, granting refugee status and permission to live and work in the period of verification. The article also highlights the forms of disincentives which as being suggested by the Head of RAW could be considered through an amendment to the Foreigners Act in the shape of penal punishment for the acts that include but are not limited to providing accommodation to a foreign national, concealment of the presence and identity and subsequent facilitation of illegal immigrant and the acts of the similar nature. 

Under the proposed bilateral assistance, financial assistance must be provided to Bangladesh in order to implement a national identity system similar to that of India’s Aadhar. The process should preferably start in the border areas. India may also consider introducing a system of keeping biometric records of Bangladeshi nationals while granting them visas to visit India, Tripathi recommends.

It is of utmost importance that the Government deliberates on this issue in consultation with the political leaders and civil society groups, for this is a question of individuals who have been rendered stateless. The action taken by the State Government has been limited to set up of multiple detention centres to house all of those who have been deemed as foreigners by the Foreigners’ Tribunal. It is still a question if the promised legal aid for appealing their exclusion will be dispensed to them impartially and effectively.

Not only have these individuals lost their voting rights but also their right to hold any land or property. The extended question is that does this exclusion also denies them the access to government welfare schemes as those relating to health and education on two levels: one for the individual who has been excluded and other for their progeny.

In conclusion…

The fear of illegal immigration has been a question in the politics of Assam. Some added fuel to the fire of fear while others created vote bases out of the same. The people who created vote bases were those who portrayed their image as a protector against these so called ‘foreigners’ often termed as ‘termites’ by Union Ministers of the current regime. However, it is time for the nation to value these individuals as human beings and not look at them merely as political subjects. One needs to evolve from the political standpoints to an inclusion-based environment that embraces humanity and social communities.

-This article is brought to you in collaboration with Vishwajeet Deshmukh from Government Law College, Mumbai.