Human rights, duties and obligations of citizens and future challenges | Sunday Observer

Human rights, duties and obligations of citizens and future challenges

6 December, 2020

There should be a system of law to regulate the relations of the states with one another. We assume that a law of nations exist to deal with the world family. The modern Law of Nations originated with a few hundred nations in Western Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War with the destruction of properties and human deaths in large numbers. The Law of Nations is classified as a branch of ethics rather than law or as international morality.

The United Nations which replaced the League of Nations is the only world body. Every state habitually commits acts of selfishness which are often injurious to other states and yet are not contrary to international law. The fine balance is maintained by the UN and the domestic law in the regulation of the legal systems in both jurisdictions for mankind. The world court applies treatises, international customary law, general principles of law recognised by civilised nations and doctrines of international law based on professionals as sources of law, judicial decisions, general assembly resolutions and soft law to be applied in the law making and decision-making process in addition to the decisions of the court.

There is a world court in existence but not an Executive or a Judiciary to act on world members except through the UN by indirect means with the five permanent members of the Security Council, namely, the United States of America, China, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and France. The process of punishment of rogue states is complicated and time consuming.

Human Rights

Decisions of the International Court of Justice are binding on nations on voluntary acceptance based on international law and conventions the nations have agreed to abide by. Agreements and decisions agreed upon and decided by arbitrations and agreed upon are honoured by the nations in conformity with the coconscious agreed upon and accepted by the nations.

Human Rights are inalienable inherent rights attached to humans. They are universal to every person around the world who deserve to be treated with dignity and equality based on rights. They include freedom of speech, privacy, health, life, liberty, security and adequate status of living. People must act with due diligence to avoid infringement of the rights of others.

How are those rights protected and enforced gobally and locally?

The global human right instrument is the UN Charter and Human Right Convention being a by-product detailing the duties of governments to protect human rights abuse by third parties, and it is their duty to maintain international standards worldwide and locally. The UN Global compact is derived from the universal declaration to promote human rights and dignity, promote tools and resources aligned with the UN guiding principles on business and human rights. Thirty articles of declaration of human rights based on principles such as: everybody is born free, equal before the law, against discrimination, right to life, free of slavery, equality of life, and self-determination are main ingredients of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Human Dignity dated December 10, 1948.

Human Rights became one of the purposes of the United Nations and when the Charter imposes obligations upon members to this end, the Charter was followed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and a series of multilateral treaties through the United Nations such as the European Convention, the American Convention on Human Rights, African Convention, International Labour Convention and Four Geneva Red Cross Conventions. Mention should be made of the group rights such as self-determination and the establishment of the International Criminal Court and similar institutions.

Articles 55 and 56 of the UN Charter impose upon the United Nations and its members the legal obligation to promote respect and observe human rights centred largely on the UN Commission with member states distributed among various political blocs. Political blocs are based on world, regional and municipal politics on the principle that foreign policy is an extension of the local policies of the governments in power which consists of politicised human beings. Politics of the nations and the leaders play a main role in formulating world policies and working arrangements which are extremely politicised.

Human Rights and Sri Lanka

There is an international protection mechanism and domestic systems of state parties. The United Nations Charter is the main international document followed by the Convention on Human Rights and Protocols providing individual protections with supervisory jurisdictions by subsidiary bodies such as the Human Rights Commission and committees in addition to many other conventions, acts, treaties and protocols to protect collective and individual human rights. Treaties play a main role in shaping the policies of States and international organisations that have different and separate mechanisms to protect, preserve and enhance the human rights of the subjects. The United Kingdom has the traditional legal systems, conventions and practices now armed with the new Human Rights Act in force, whereas in Sri Lanka the constitutional guarantee is in Article 14(1) enforced by Article 126 on all kinds of freedoms in line with the Human Rights Convention. The Human Rights Commission Act no 21 of 1996 in Sri Lanka will function under Section 10 (a to f) of the Act in the protection, promotion and enhancement process engaging with the international community on very positive lines.

Duties and responsibilities of the person and the State

Apart from rights enjoyed the man and the state is bestowed with rights and duties to the world and the society, which is provided by religions and the international instruments, especially after the introduction of the UN Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights providing rights, duties and responsibilities. The United Nations was established as a result of death and destruction in the Second World War and the ineffective nature of the League of Nations.

The UN initially started with 58 western nations which increased to the current number, subsequently followed by the Convention of Human Rights of 1948 that all human beings are born free and with equal dignity and rights. State responsibility arises from the breach of any obligations owed under international law. There are provisions to protect the collective and individual human rights by various conventions and treaties in addition to the procedure adopted in respective member nations.

The writer is a President’s Counsel, former Ambassador to UAE and Israel, President, Ambassadors Forum, LLM London UCL, Solicitor in England and Wales.