“Human rights have caused violent attacks” and “human rights protect and abet violence” are arguments I have frequently seen on social media. As a human rights educator, I am sorry to see such arguments, and it has called me to analyze the public perception of the very essence of human rights.
It can be seen clearly in history that human rights emerged to prevent discrimination and violence. The international concept of human rights is based on human dignity regardless of race or religion. Humans value peace.
As people tried to bring justice after the genocide and war atrocities committed in World War II, the concept that all humans are equal in dignity and rights emerged, along with the idea that discrimination in any form should not be permitted. People began to accept that every person and government are responsible for preventing human rights violations.
It is an incorrect argument [regarding Rakhine] that national security and human rights are two different things. National security should mean acting to protect the life and property of all those living in the country. The genuine act of national security is protecting the rights of all.
Protection of rule of law and security should benefit human rights. The unnecessary restriction or violation of the rights of people in the name of national security is unacceptable. International human rights treaties clearly state that freedom of movement may be restricted in times of national security emergencies but that human lives may not be harmed.
The preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads, “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of 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 clear that human rights are intertwined with peace.
Regarding the ongoing violence in Rakhine State—whatever reason behind it and whoever commits it—violence is violence. A civilized society will not accept violence for any reason. A community that respects human rights condemns any violence—not only in Myanmar but also around the world.
Human rights is the foundation of peace, and this cannot be promoted through violence. Violence seriously threatens the life and security of people, and is against the essence of human rights. The violence in Rakhine State puts the security of thousands of people, especially women and children, at risk.
Violence creates an endless circle of hatred and retaliation, and worsens unfairness and injustice. It is the responsibility of everyone with respect for human rights to strongly condemn any form of violence by anyone.
Violence does not serve, but sabotages human rights. Violence is not an answer, but mutual respect between human beings is.
Societies need to bring justice for the victims of human rights violations, no matter who the perpetrators are. It is the responsibility of every person to condemn the violation of these rights. True human rights contribute to permanent peace.
Human rights is about equality, mutual respect and recognition of diversity, which are the key elements of peace. It focuses on harmony between individual rights and collective rights. Only promotion of such human rights culture can bring about peace. And only with peace can human rights be protected even more so.
Promotion of human rights is not only about condemning violence but also creating pacifists instead of aggressors. Those who respect human rights should regard any violence as an assault on mankind—not only when it is targeted at them.
Human rights does not discriminate. It is a humane notion that rejects any and all violence.
Aung Myo Min is the executive director of Equality Myanmar, a Yangon-based human rights defender and promoter.