Kinds of rights
There are different kinds of rights that may be enjoyed or not by the residents and aliens of any country. These rights could be seen in terms of basic, private, social, economic, political, public, and procedural rights.
It is necessary to go into the details of each of these rights before coming to the question of whether such rights need to be curtailed, deleted, or new rights introduced for the purpose of betterment.
Basic or Fundamental rights: This could be seen in terms of the right for life and living, right for personal independence and autonomy, right not to be discriminated against or incriminated, etc., right to speech and expression, etc.
This could be seen in terms of the right to own and enjoy the property, to be seen as a person, right to marry and rear family, etc.
Social rights envisage right to education, work, social assistance from the state, which are rights provided by the state.
Economic rights could be seen in terms of the right to take part in economic activities like business, trading, etc., and enjoy profits and economic benefits.
Political rights could be seen in terms of the right to vote and take part in public and welfare schemes. To contest elections and work in public or state bodies, like police, military, customs, etc.
Next, public rights which are seen in the context of the right of freedom of expression, speech, movement, religion; also rights of assembly, organize labor strike and form and promote associations.
Finally, procedural rights could be seen in terms of a right to due legal process, access to courts, lawyers, appeals and seek judicial review. This could be used not only in the context of immigration but in other cases also.
Rights that need to be promoted or curtailed
It is now proposed to consider whether any of these kinds of rights need to be curtailed or promoted or if fresh rights need to be introducing in order to seek betterment at the individualized or state levels. It is often felt that certain rights may evoke controversy and doubt whether they need to be enforceable or not.
It is necessary that the private rights to personal freedom, immunity against arrest and detention without cause, right of restricting people to marry in other countries, and rear families there, and movement of aliens need to be included. Again, the rights regarding citizenship, owning property in another country, giving the same fundamental rights as the citizens of the country, etc, need to be considered.
Again it is also necessary to introduce amendments in the Rights relating to prisoners of war and the treatment meted to them. It is seen that there are gross violations of fundamental human rights in treatment provided to political prisoners and alleged terrorists/ agents or accomplices.
Article 13 of Geneva Conventions III provides that “Prisoners of war be treated humanely at all times. Any unlawful act or omission by the detaining power causing death or seriously endangering the health of POW in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention.” (Duhaime).
However, it is seen that this is not always carried out especially in the case of terrorists’ suspects. It is common knowledge that people cannot be detained without show cause or confessions extracted from them under duress or mental, physical torture. Therefore, it is necessary that laws enforcing the rights of international prisoners need to be enforced.
The next area where human rights need to be enforced more stringently would be with regard to the treatment of aliens at par with natural citizens in areas of employment, professions, and economic areas. It is often seen that this right is often transgressed in order to protect the home economy and also to reduce cheaper foreign labor, which may not always be the consonance and harmony with the human rights of expatriates. Although they may be better qualified and suited for local employment, it is seen that locals are preferred, in line with laws of naturalization, etc. The fundamental social laws governing the right to employment need to be enforced more firmly.
It is to be affirmed that the ambit of human rights need not be restricted to just political rights in terms of the right to seek election and become an MP, or participate in socially relevant forums, or be given the right and choice of voting.
According to Shue, there are both positive and negative rights, the negative could be seen in terms of state abstaining from using Third Degree methods on offenders, and the positive could be seen in enforcing “the right to protection against torture.” (Donnelly, 30).
It is also necessary that the right to property is enforceable as advocated by Cranston. There are contentious issues when property rights are compared with employment rights in that employment produces incomes, whereas property alone “simply cannot provide economic security and autonomy for all.” (Donnelly, 32).
In the context of positive and negative rights, the idea is the enforcement of action or the negation or non-action respectively. These are important since non-action could be treated as culpable as the action itself. If A assaults B it is a positive right violation, in that A has infringed the fundamental rights of B in terms of protection of his life. If A were to go to a deserted place where he finds B in a pitiable condition, on the verge of death, if A were to leave him in the desert and go away, it is as culpable an offense as anything else. Here apparently, A has not done anything violent, he has not assaulted or harmed anybody, but his inaction on humanitarian and human rights grounds could be seen in terms of being a culpable offense. Both actins and non-actions, exertion of negative or positive rights could be construed to be offenses, although they may involve different settings and scenarios.
Human rights violation in Iraq
Coming to the second part of the paper, it is seen that there were gross instances of human rights violations in Iraq under its dictator, Saddam Hussein. He crushed his opponents mercilessly and in 1988, he was instrumental in the commission of the mass murder of nearly 100,000 Kurdish rebels through the use of chemical weapons. (Saddam Hussein: Crimes and Human Rights Abuses). During the reign of Saddam Hussein, the human rights record was dismal and as a matter of fact, it was non-existent. He ensured that anybody who opposed his policies was suitable punished or killed. Even women and children were not spared and his regime has been responsible for the killing and wounding of several hundred children. His animosity to the land endowed Kurds was heavy and he was instrumental in deporting several thousand Kurdish from their homes and lands. Their properties were confiscated and distributed among Iraq Arabs.
His misdeeds were not only restricted to the Kurd tribal. He was against the Shias who constituted a large chunk of the population. They were not allowed to occupy high and responsible positions and were persecuted in many ways.
“The Shia community, who make up 60% of Iraq’s population, is Iraq’s biggest religious group. Saddam has ensured that none of the Shia religious or tribal leaders can threaten his position. He kills any that become too prominent.” (Saddam Hussein: Crimes and Human Rights Abuses, 16).
The Shia community in Iraq was a target for Saddam’s government. It is reported that thousand of Shais were forced to leave Iraq and move into Iran. All the elderly people, womenfolk, and children were forced to leave their homes and health and the young able-bodied were arrested and taken to unknown destinations never to be heard about.
“More than half a million Shi’a Muslims, at the very least, were systematically expelled over the course of the 1980s. They included large numbers of women, children, and the elderly. The male heads of these families, together with other younger male relatives, were arrested and imprisoned indefinitely without charge: most remain unaccounted for today.” (The Iraqi Government Assault on the Marsh Arabs).
Thus it is seen that this country had low basic rights records in dealing with military personnel and army deserters but also with the civilian population. He ruled with a great deal of autocracy and scant respect for world opinion. It is widely alleged that under his rule, Iraq had gathered a large number of weapons of mass destruction but this allegation could not be substantiated or proved since international inspectors could not locate any weapons of mass destruction (WMD)
The trial of Saddam Hussein began in 21005 after he was apprehended by US forces in Iraq. Although he was later convicted of causing the death of 148 people in the village of Al Dujail who was allegedly plotted to assassinate him, his trial is seen as a farce and the pre-conceived fact that needed to be administered at the behest of the US.
“Saddam Hussain was also denied access to legal counsel for the first year after his arrest, and complaints by his lawyers throughout the trial relating to the proceedings do not appear to have been adequately answered by the tribunal.” (Iraq: Amnesty International Deplores Execution of Saddam Hussain).
The regime of Saddam Hussein had been harsh to those who opposed his governance and arrested and killed them in thousands. It was not unusual during his time to round up people and kill them through firing squads, or firing indiscriminately at residential locations killing or maiming innocent unarmed residents, especially in the areas of “Basra, Al Nasariyya and al Amara.” (The Iraqi Government Assault on the Marsh Arabs).
The poor record of the regime in human rights is evident from the killing of major religious leaders, prominent among whom killed were Ayatollah al Sadr, during February 1998.
Although it was officially announced by the Iraqi government that the assassins were arrested and executed, it was believed to be the handiwork of the government.
This culminated in a series of anti-government demonstrations which the security forces quell with the use of force. Fierce fighting between the government security forces and the opposition forces was seen and the government took advantage of the turmoil to politicize the issue and call for arrests and detention of many persons, many of whom were charges as suspects and remanded in jails without trials.
The high-handed government and its violent suppression of public sentiments earned it a bad name and even people in the government began to feel apathetic towards it. The ordinary man in the street wanted to see the end of the Hussain regime but was fearful that he would be tortured or persecuted, throw into jail without parole if he uttered a word against the government. Thus the Iraqi people bore the ignominy and endured the sufferings, hoping for the day when this Government would be out of power and have to pay for their evils.
The main cause of conflict between the Saddam Hussain administration and the US and other Western powers was regarding the weapons of mass destruction (WBT) which Iraq was believed to have stockpiled. This was also a prime reason not lifting the economic and other sanctions against Iraq placed by the Western powers. But it has been proved, quite to the contrary that no WMD was found in Iraq.
“Even before formally declaring war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the President had dispatched American military special forces into Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction, which he knew would provide the primary justification for Operation Freedom. … Even during Operation Freedom’s penetration of Iraq and drive toward Baghdad, the search for WMDs continued. … As the coalition forces gained control of Iraqi cities and countryside, special search teams were dispatched to look for WMDs. None were found. “(Dean W. John: 2003: Missing weapons of mass destruction: Is lying about the reason for war an impeachable offense? A Desperate Search For WMDs Has So Far Yielded Little, If Any, Fruit.
Reasons for the human rights violations
The next part of the paper deals with the rationale behind Saddam Hussein’s actions. In precise terms the reason why he :
- Launched an attack against the Kurdish rebels and people in the north.
- Forced Southern Shiites to move into Iran.
- Launched a prolonged tirade against the Western powers, particularly, the US and UK.
The Kurdish rebels are believed to have launched a coup for ousting the government of Saddam Hussain, and in retaliation, he had launched a massive attack on the Kurds rebels in order to crush them. Thus the conflict between the Kurdish and the government forces formed war of attrition and the main sufferers were the innocent people of Iraq who were tortured and imprisoned in the name of aiding and abetting the rebel forces.
In Iran, it is seen that the Shites were rebelling against the government and thus were not liked by Saddam Hussain. He feared that a similar uprising could also take place in Iraq by the Shiite population there. He was determined to stop this at any cost. Moreover, he and his followers believed in the Arabization of Iraq and the Shiite stand was much against this. Therefore, he wanted the Shiites whom he believed were from Iran to go back to their homeland. This was the main reason for him to force the Shiites to go back to Iran so that the government could usurp their lands and divide them among the government loyalists.
The cause for the US Iraq standoff was the oil issues. President Hussain wanted to control the oil fields and oil deposits and thus be in a position to dictate terms to the US. The rich and powerful oil companies in the US thought otherwise and wanted larger shares of the profits and deposits for themselves. The oil economy factor was the principle for Iraq to adopt a defiant stand towards the US. Moreover, the US’s friendship with Iran was also viewed by Iran with consternation and dismay, not to speak of anger. The powerful economy of the USA along with strong and faithful allies in the Middle East which could neutralize the strength and potency of Iraq was viewed with contempt and dismay by the Iraqi government.
Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was condemned by all law abiding nation, and the Allied forces launch an offensive to remove Iraq from Kuwaiti soil and free the oil rich sovereign. It was a war that Iraq lost and this forced them to cede a lot of their interests in this border country. This was one of the reasons why the Iraqi army, on its return after defeat at the hands of the Allied forces, burned down a large number of oilfields, thus worsening the environmental problems in the country.
Thus it is seen that while the major factor for the drift between the Hussain dictatorship and US was polito-economic and socio- economic, the poor and innocent Iraqi civilians were made to bear the brunt of the dictator’s wrath and they were also pressurized by American intelligence to give away details of hideouts of Iraqi offenders and criminals.
Although the intervention of the allied forces ensured that the stressful time for the Iraqis are over, with the General and his men no longer available to terrorize them, the genesis of democratic way of life and normality in the country needs a long time more. This could be seen from the fact that it is the Allied and peacekeeping forces that are maintaining peace and stability in Iraq, and a lot of public money is being spent on the upkeep of militia in Iraq. There are constant fears that, with the pressures of return of the troops now stationed in Iraq, especially with the question of American presidency over, the question still looms large in the minds of the average Iraqi on the streets is that when and if the troops are returned, whether peace and security of the average Iraqi family could be maintained and how?
It speaks volumes of the courage and fortitude and resilience of the people of Iraq that they have been able to bear the brunt of a remorseless and dictatorial regime for many years. But the question of peace returning into the streets of Iraq is still a far cry. Although President Hussein’s days are over, he still commands a cult figure and still has many supporters, within and outside Iraq who would be more than willing to take up his cause.
Whether they would be able to form a strong force to upstage a democratic process and, more significantly would democracy be sustainable in the Iraqi context only time and history can tell us.
For the moment, the factor is stands out is that Iraq, frail yet courageous, is a symbol for the world over that dictatorship does not, and cannot survive in a democratic world.
Finally it is the word and action of the democratic process and the will of the people that would survive any catastrophe, even one as strong and powerful as the Saddam Hussain episode.
It is a lesson for all civilized countries that living on borrowed time does not do a world of good for any country, big or small. In a fast changing world based on tumultuous economic and social development and growth, no ruler can afford to stifle the voice of the people and rule for long. Sooner or later, whether in Yugoslavia, Bosnia and even in certain Latin American countries, brutalized and vandalized by successive dictatorships, the forces of goodness and democracy rule has emerged after the spell of darkness.
Duhaime, Lloyd. The Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War. 2008. Web.
Donnelly, Jack. Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. Cornel University. 2002. Web.
Saddam Hussein: Crimes and Human Rights Abuses. Foreign and Commonwealth office London. Nov. 2002. Web.
The Iraqi Government Assault on the Marsh Arabs. Human Rights Watch. Jan. 2003. Web.
Iraq: Amnesty International Deplores Execution of Saddam Hussain. Amnesty International. 2008. Web.