Human Rights in Conflict

Posted on March 18, 2010


It would be a cliché to begin with “Have you ever wondered about…”, or “Can you imagine….”, or with emotionally clenching yet true figures about the number of deaths. No sentence can truly capture the emotion felt by the people and the mayhem faced in the Occupied Territory of Western Sahara.

It is not the western part of the Saharan Desert, nor is it closely associated with the same. Western Sahara is a country in the African continent, a country in conflict, under colonization of the Moroccan government even as you read through this article. The country is divided into two parts: one occupied by Morocco, and the other controlled by Polisario, the liberation front of Western Sahara since 1975. The political aspect of this conflict is debatable, but that is not the point of focus here, presently. The probable question to ponder over is the claimed human rights violations taking place in that part of the country which is controlled by the Moroccan authorities.

A public document (Dated 06/11/2009) released by Amnesty International, an international non-governmental organization focusing primarily on preventing human rights violations stated the following:

“Amnesty International continues to urge the Moroccan authorities to take concrete measures to ensure that the rights of all Sahrawis to freedom of expression, association and assembly are fully respected and that Sahrawi human rights defenders, in particular, can collect and disseminate information and views on human rights issues without
fear of prosecution, harassment or intimidation. Such rights are enshrined in international law, notably the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Morocco is a state party, and the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized
Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998.”

Human Rights Watch, another international non-governmental organization, dedicated to defending and protecting human rights stated:

“Human rights conditions deteriorated overall in 2009 in Morocco, although the country continued to have a lively civil society and independent press. The government, aided by complaisant courts, used repressive legislation to punish and imprison peaceful opponents, especially those who violate taboos against criticizing the king or
the monarchy, questioning the “Moroccanness” of Western Sahara, or “denigrating” Islam.”

What is to be highlighted in this entire issue is the denial of the right to self determination to the Saharawis (the original inhabitants of Western Sahara). This right is embodied in the Charter of the United Nations and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. According to this right, which is fundamental to every individual, all people have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. Common citizens are not allowed to express their opinion about the same, and peaceful demonstrations are also withheld. Freedom seems to be a non-existing concept.

Isn’t the right to decide one’s own country’s political status and freedom not as significant as the right to life and liberty? Should there be any distinction made between the fundamental human rights? Aren’t all human rights equally significant to every individual?

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