10 December 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the day the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Debates, which had started during WWII with its gross destruction and devastation to ensure that similar atrocities would never happen again and an international order dominated by peace be established, yielded results immediately after the end of the war and the Charter of the United Nations was signed on 26 June 1945 at the conclusion of the United Nations Conference on International Organization assembled in San Francisco.

The Preamble to the Charter presents the concept fundamental human rights and underlines the significance of human rights in protecting peace. Under Article 55 § C of the Charter, the UN was given the obligation to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion” with a view to the creation of conditions of stability and well-being which were necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations.

The drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights commenced on 29 April 1946 with the establishment of the “Commission on Human Rights” within the UN. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights with a preamble and 30 articles was drafted by the commission and adopted by the UN General Assembly assembled in Paris on 10 December 1948. The formal inception of Human Rights Day dates back to 4 December 1950, after the General Assembly passed resolution 423 (V) inviting all States and interested organizations to adopt 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.

The adoption of the Universal Declaration, based on the idea that human dignity and value constitute the foundation of rights and that these rights are universal, is a major achievement for all humanity.

The Preamble to the Declaration states that the recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world; it is essential, if human beings are not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.

Human rights are being instrumentalized and are at risk on the 70th anniversary of the declaration

However, an international system based on the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration has yet to be established. The fundamental idea that human beings have inherent and inviolable rights regardless of their race, color, gender, sexual orientation, language, religion and creed, belief, ethnic identity; political, personal and philosophical convictions has still not been sufficiently promoted worldwide. Today, the United Nations, in contradiction to its very grounds for existence, cannot be effective enough in preventing/putting an end to wars and civil wars that account for the major causes of rights violations, in intervening into refugee crises, in protecting natural and cultural heritage worldwide, in fighting poverty and injustice, and eliminating all kinds of discrimination particularly against women.

Moreover, we have been going through an era witnessing an erosion in human rights within which human rights themselves have been instrumentalized; on-going economic crises, armed conflict and war have been threatening human rights within the intervening 70 years in spite of the fact that the United Nations and the Council of Europe had both been built upon a system based on human rights and democracy. The recent “yellow vest” (gilets jaunes) protests in France and in some other European countries merely constitute one of the signs of the current crisis around the world.

Today the ideal of coexistence based on human rights is threatened by global state of emergency regimes imposed on account of all forms of “war” including economic, cultural, religious, ethnic, etc. all around the world. This ideal is sacrificed to bilateral commercial or international regional interest agreements. What is indeed being faced is a major crisis of humanity. The manifestation of this crisis both in Turkey in particular and around the world in general is the systematization, popularization, and the imposition of all kinds of violence to societies as the sole fact of life. The only path to lead in order to get out of this crisis, which humanity sadly faces on the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration, is the unconditional protection and realization of the principles and values enshrined by the Declaration itself.

It is among our primary tasks to remind everyone once again of human rights in this era during which this setback in the world gives way to an increase especially in the number of refugees/asylum-seekers/immigrants whose rights are rendered to be issues for negotiation which, in turn, contributes specifically to the instrumentalization of human rights, and the United Nations and the Council of Europe systems’ shortcomings and inefficiency emerge more clearly with regards to the universality of human rights and their subjection to international protection.

Turkey’s human rights and democracy problem deteriorated

The dire straits in the world also facilitated the downward spiral in Turkey and the country entered a new era during which its human rights and democracy problem gradually deteriorated, moved away from resolving its fundamental problems, and steadily became more authoritarian. It is seen that Turkey has not been able to implement a genuine conflict resolution since it could not solve its Kurdish issue, therefore, could not secure its democratization and stepped into a contrary state of affairs transitioning to an authoritarian presidency model through a constitutional amendment which in turn produced round-the-clock rights violations.

In addition to the rising authoritarianism of the regime in an environment of constant armed conflict, we now live in an environment where a significant setback process in economic and social rights has started having been affected by the economic crisis in the country which led to an increase in unemployment and poverty, and labor organizations that want to fight these are being coerced.

Turkey has been governed by a state of emergency (SoE) regime which has gone way beyond its grounds for declaration, been implemented arbitrarily and free from all kinds of control, and given way to gross rights violations within the last two years. While citizens have been deprived of their “right to have rights” via SoE practices and emergency decree laws, both the relationship among the members of the society and the relationship between the state and the citizen have ceased to be one based on human rights and democracy. We see that this situation which brought about a severe erosion in the sense of equality and justice within the society has sustained its place in 2018 as well.

Further, the “new regime” –which went into force with the 24 June 2018 elections that was held under an amended election legislation that was rendered vulnerable to the control and manipulation of the political power under the SoE conditions, pressure and coercion— has made the SoE permanent and perpetual through an ample number of successive legislative modifications. At the current stage the parliament has ceased to serve as a political power, which should function as a checks and balances mechanism and a body where citizens seek their rights via their deputies and express their demands, and has simply been transformed into an apparatus of legitimization/approval for the executive power. The idea of a rights-based regime has been abandoned; the institution of law has been rendered an instrument of silencing and intimidation against social segments that do not express gratitude and consent. The country has succumbed into a severe political, cultural and economic crisis brought about by not only the impacts of militarist and hawkish policies pursued both at home and abroad but also by the consequences of neoliberal economic policies that have been implemented for long. Unemployment, poverty and exclusion have become the major sources of rights violations that large social segments have been subjected to. Flexible and precarious employment, and corporate murders have virtually become the fate of employees. Legal regulations to take back women’s vested rights and attacks directed against these; exclusion, coercion and obstacles regarding the LGBTI+ movement, disregard of millions of refugees in the country by depriving them of their rights, subjection of different ethnic and belief groups to discrimination by harassment, deteriorating oppression on human rights defenders and segments engaged in the struggle for rights have all constitute crystal clear indicators of the attempt to discard human rights values in their entirety from social life.

To read the full report in English please click: IHD-HRFT Special Report on 10 December 2018 Human Rights Day


Featured image: http://www.un.org/en/events/humanrightsday/