No to double standards on human rights

By Saleh Mamon

In the last month there has been comprehensive coverage in newspapers, TV and online on the violations of human rights by China concerning the Uighur nationality in the Xinjiang province in North West China. The allegations range from the detention of Uighurs, mostly young men and women in the so called re-education facilities, to the forced sterilisation of women. The highlight of this was the grilling of the Chinese ambassador on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday 9th July. The audience was shown a video clip of blindfolded individuals rounded up by uniformed Chinese forces. The Chines ambassador had the default answer that China had faced terrorism in the province and was responding to a security threat. Furthermore, that the Uighur and Chinese peoples lived in harmony in the province. These allegations are extremely grave and China needs to be held to account.

Consider Kashmir in India. It is one of the most militarised regions in the world. For decades there has been a long record of human rights violations in the region. The abuses range from mass killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual abuse to political repression and the suppression of freedom of speech.

The west has never held India to account for these violations. As usual the Indian government is using the same trope that there are terrorist activity and security threats to justify its policy and actions. The Indian army have a ‘free pass’ in the Armed Forces Protection Act which gives all its soldiers total immunity.

In 2015, Prime Minister Modi was welcomed in London, over a decade after the Gujarat massacre in 2002.  He was accorded the honour of speaking in Parliament by PM Cameron and signed deals worth £9 bn between British and Indian firms. He visited Trump in the US and Trump in return visited India in 2020 with much fanfare. At that time mobs attacked the Muslim community in the north east of Delhi. At no time, Trump has ever expressed any concerns over India for its victimisation of Muslims by vigilantes given a free licence by the BJP government. It is the only country in the world where Muslims are lynched. Human rights defenders are locked up and some journalists critical of the government have been killed.

Moving west, first to Pakistan, its army has been involved in a counterinsurgency campaign in Balochistan. This involves treating the entire Baloch population as terrorist suspects. Disappearances of individuals and killings are common. Afghanistan’s long war has been mired with human rights violations with missiles targeting wedding parties, night time raids by US and British forces killing innocents, incarcerations and so on.

These violations are rarely reported in our media, compared to the focus on Iran which is always subject to intense criticism on human rights. During the invasion of Iraq from 2003 and its subsequent occupation, the US and British forces committed gross violations of human rights – the murder and rapes in the town of Haditha, the torture and humiliations in Abu Ghraib, the repeated bombings of Fallujah and many other towns where civilians were killed and displaced.  All these have now been erased from history and displaced by the horror of the Islamic State.

Similarly, Syria has come under relentless criticism for its violations of human rights and war crimes. But it is rare to see Turkey being criticised for ravaging cities and towns in its southeast using the alibi of fighting Kurdish terrorism. Its occupation of parts of North East Syria has led to widespread displacement of civilians and ethnic cleansing. Similarly Egypt under Sisi, who took over after the uprising in 2011 and the brief rule by Morsi, where imprisonment, torture and show trials are commonplace.

Finally, Israel. There has a long record of the Israeli defence forces’ and security services’ involvement in torture, killings, imprisonment, bombings and the collective punishment of families with their homes being demolished.  These include night raids to round up children, forcing confessions from them and the imprisonment of children without any legal representation.

After 9/11, following a resolution by the UN Security Council, all governments rushed to pass draconian anti-terrorism laws which were used to suppress dissent and opposition. Internationally there was a complete failure by the Security Council to ensure that these terrorism laws would not violate the provisions of international human rights law.

There is a desperate need to strengthen international human rights across the world. This should be done consistently in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1948. Past experience since World War II shows that for decades human rights have been used for geo-political interests.

During the Cold War, western governments and the media highlighted the violations of human rights in the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries, while ignoring widespread abuses of human rights in Latin American countries under military dictatorships with close relationship with the United States.

Noam Chomsky has consistently exposed these double standards over decades.  Such double standards have seriously undermined the upholding of universal human rights across the world. It is high time that we spoke out boldly against them and demand that such double standards are abandoned.

All countries which violate human rights law should be held to account stringently. Our media have a key role to play in this and are failing because of their compliance with British foreign policy. The alternative media and social platforms should take up the banner because that it is the morally right thing to do.

Minimal moral integrity requires that not only should China be held to account for violating human rights, but also all the western allies who commit human rights violations. The mainstream media should stop condoning the violations of human rights by India, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt and Israel forthwith.