Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

Degrading Treatment as Human Rights Violation


Degrading Treatment as Human  Rights Violation

People sustain inhuman treatment in times of war and peace across the world and their rights and “inherent dignity” are violated in one way or another. Although there is a set of globally accepted moral and human principles which form the foundation of international instruments, the pain and sufferings of human societies and individuals continue unabated. During the war, civilians; including women and children, war prisoners, the wound and sick; undergo violence and atrocities. Warring sides hardly observe the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).  
Both warring sides – be it states or state and militants – have to observe humanitarian law and human dignity. In some cases, atrocities, cruel practices, and inhuman treatment in civil conflicts outweighed international conflicts. For instance, the harsh practices of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the acts of violence and barbarity of the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria, etc. were highly offensive and outraged the human conscience. Therefore, both governments and anti-government parties have to practice upon international instruments, human acts, and ethical code. Governments are not allowed to humiliate the militants or violate their human rights.
On the other hand, human rights and dignity of all individuals, including combatants and non-combatants, are inviolable. Combatants are not allowed to target civilians at all. Similarly, war prisoners, “the wounded and sick in armed forces in the field” should be treated with humanity.
“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” this is stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Although human or inhuman treatment is widely stated in international instruments, it is still ambiguous to some extent. It is said that inhuman treatment includes an act which leads to indescribable mental or physical pain and sufferings or practices which are contrary to the fundamental principles of human treatment especially violating one’s “inherent dignity”. Even degrading a dead body of a human being is considered inhuman treatment. To realize inhuman treatment, for which there is not a unanimous definition, one is advised to refer to public conscience, human principles, and the “golden rule” which is beyond cultural or geographical restrictions. Golden rule, which says do to others what you want to be done to you, is deep-seated in all cultures and religions and agreed upon globally.
There are a number of fundamental principles accepted globally and prevailing in all cultures. Generally speaking, there are four intra-cultural principles: First, commitment to the non-violent culture and respect to life. It is stated in religious tenets and ethical code that do not kill anyone or respect one’s right to life. Based on this fact, one will be free to exercise their rights to life and liberty to the extent that others’ rights or freedoms are not harmed. Resolving social and political conflicts in a non-violent manner is strongly advised.
Second, commitment to the culture of solidarity and fair economic system. It is widely advised by religions that one has not to rob anything and treat individuals with honesty and justice. It indicates one’s right to property.
Third, commitment to the culture of tolerance and honest life. Individuals and human societies will have to exercise tolerance toward one another and accept one as s/he is regardless of their race, sex, color, or creed.
Fourth, commitment to the culture of equal rights and participation of men and women. Religious tenets and ethical codes suggest that one is not supposed to commit immoral sexual act and people have to respect one another. Sexual exploitation or discrimination is deemed one of the ugliest sorts of humiliation. Exploiting one – be it a man or a woman – sexually, forcing children into sex labor, or treating one in inhuman way are not acceptable at all. The mentality of inferiority or superiority on the basis of gender is not tolerable. Patriarchal system, which promotes violence, should come to an end and men and women need to hold each other in respect. These aforementioned principles are accepted widely in different cultures and religions. 
Human rights norms are deeply rooted in ethical codes and moral conscience. Fundamental rights and freedoms are based on moral standards. Thus, morality is the mainstay of human rights and humanitarian law. It is said that the principle of respecting human dignity is the cornerstone of humanitarian law. To view the globally accepted principles that are based on humanity and universal ethics, individuals and human societies need to practice upon them so as to put an end to violence and atrocities. Indeed, if we do not observe international instruments, ethical code, or humanity, people will suffer inhuman treatment and violation of their rights and dignity.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan and freelance writer based in Kabul. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

Go Top