South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Published in The Daily Star on Dec. 09 by Professor Dr. Mizanur Rahman ::

Raise Your Voice For Human Rights

ON behalf of the National Human Rights Commission Bangladesh-JAMAKON, let me extend good wishes to all the readers. 66 years ago, on December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights –UDHR was adopted by the UN General Assembly. That precisely is the reason why December 10 is celebrated worldwide as the Human Rights Day.

For us, though, this day bears special significance. Our dear motherland –the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is a product of one of the basic human rights i.e. the right of nations and peoples to self determination. We reaped this harvest of human rights in the month of human rights, which is also the month of our victory in the liberation war 1971. The human rights day and the victory day are thus intertwined. Probably this explains why our hearts are filled with unbounding joy, why the nature is singing and dancing around us!

The theme of this year’s Human Rights day is- Human Rights 365 Days. This literally means that each day of the year is a human rights day! Human rights do not evolve around any one particular day, nor can human rights be confined to festive celebrations. Human rights are inherent, inalienable and indivisible rights of an individual. Therefore, the notion of human rights covers an individual every single moment, every second, every minute, every year, every day round the clock and round the year. Human Rights are, in poetic expression “Shadows following you, wherever you go”.

Lives of individuals may truly be changed through human rights. However, for better and effective protection of human rights, merely being rights conscious is not adequate. One must be equally diligent and careful about fulfilling his or her duties. As a matter of fact, time and again it has been proved beyond doubt that if one performs his or her duties specifically and in good faith, his/her rights are automatically realised.

We are committed to establishing a society where, human rights culture will have its abode on a solid and strong foundation. This, in turn, requires true appreciation of the multifaceted dimensions of human rights. In other words, protection of civil and political rights alone does not guarantee further development and effective protection of human rights. Simultaneous access to and realisation of economic, social, and cultural rights are equally essential. According to the opinion of many experts, in a developing country like Bangladesh, economic, and social rights are comparatively more significant. Nonetheless, we must not lose sight of the fact that if civil and political rights fail to attain a minimum acceptable standard in a society, despite protection of economic, social and cultural rights, the status of an individual may be compared to that of ‘a bird in a golden cage’.

This explains why the contemporary understanding of human rights evolves around the notion of ‘human dignity’. Every person is entitled to dignity and if this dignity is violated or impaired in any manner, question of human rights violation arises.

‘Human dignity’ is the sum total of various rights and freedoms. To this we should add the surrounding environment ensuring overall security. Back in 1941, the then US President Roosevelt proclaimed that ‘right to lead a life without fear or want is human right’.

So today when we are asking ‘Come! Let’s change lives through human rights’, we are as a matter of fact, voluntarily accepting certain obligations vis-a vis our neighbours and compatriots –to the best of our ability try to ensure for all irrespective of sex, colour, creed, religion caste, opinion etc. a life without fear and free from want.

An individual is engulfed by fear and uncertainty in a situation of violence and intimidation. It infringes human dignity and we must not let that happen. Moreover, if we truly believe in human rights, let us no doubt, even for a moment, that all perpetrators of human rights must face justice, today or tomorrow. Human rights cannot flourish if perpetrators of human rights are not dealt with severely.

If we sincerely want to realise the theme, ‘Human Rights 365 Days’, we must internalise the truth that ‘I am you and you are me’.  Let us take this vow and demonstrate our respect and full allegiance to human rights. A dignified life may be established only through promotion and protection of human rights, paving the way for realising the lifelong dream of the Father of the nation and our cherished goal- Golden Bengal (Sonar Bangla).

The writer is Chairman, National Human Rights Commission Bangladesh.