- The legal issue surrounding flag burning and its verdict in relation to human rights
- The First Amendment
- Comparison between the Arab and Western world on human rights
- Drawing comparison through cultural expressions
- Debriefing the two authors views
- Justification of Argument
March 22, 2014
What are human rights? It’s the rights humans have. Anybody and everybody born on this planet, irrespective of their nationality, sex, color, religion, and language are equal before the law, and are thus, entitled to be treated equally without discrimination.
The majority of people in the countries in the Middle-East, Africa, and to a certain extent, South America, face discrimination, and human rights issues.
Can non-government organizations, or the elite society of a country help protect their citizens from human rights issues” On reading In Defense of Professional Human Rights Organizations, by Azzam (2014), and Elites Still Matter When Protecting Human Rights, by Cordero (2014), it is apparent that they both failed to address what needs to be done to protect innocent citizens from human rights violations.
In a report in Human Rights, by an anonymous writer in 2009, said that, Kosba, an Egyptian woman, and a few other Egyptian participants, which included lawyers, journalists, engineers, researchers, pharmacists, and activists, participated in a three-week program on human rights abuse, in the U.S. On completing the program, Kosba voiced her opinion that, human rights in their country could come, “if there is an empowered civil society and a new generation of reformers who are grounded in their faith and freedom.”
Kosba’s view has a lot of authenticity, simply because, here, we have a person who has seen and experienced or heard of human rights discrimination at close range. Her view is a perfect example of what needs to be done to stop human rights violations in her country.
In 2013, as the man who tried to become another Hosni Mubarak, Mohamed Morsi was abdicated from office by the military. The so-called empowered civil society is none other than the government, for, it is the government alone, which can initiate and introduce laws to protect people from injustice. It is governments alone, which has the ethical and legal duty to ensure that their people live with dignity. Human rights cover a wide range of issues. It’s not just providing basic security and amenities to the public; it also covers social, cultural, economic, religious and other humanitarian issues. These are not issues that non-government organizations or the elite club members of a country can address or solve. It has to have the support of the government.
People diagnosed with a terminally ill disease should have the right to choose their fate in order to keep their dignity.
Euthanasia is defined as the intentional killing of a person on compassionate grounds, to relieve the person of misery and pain. In most cases of euthanasia, the affected person is put to sleep by a direct action of using a lethal injection, or terminating an action necessary to maintain life. For euthanasia to occur there must be an intention to act to kill. Euthanasia can be voluntary and involuntary, depending upon the seriousness of the case. Of these, the most common cases relate to voluntary euthanasia, where the affected person asks for mercy killing. Harsh as it may sound, euthanasia harbors around this category, for it is the only accurate, non-emotional word to describe the reality of the action and a word that the law uses
The debate on euthanasia continues to cover the front pages of medical journals and the like, yet, there are no clear winners so far, to address the plea of those who seek mercy killing. Dr. Donald Low produced a video eight days before his death, castigating the medical establishment for forcing unnecessary suffering on terminal patients.
Nursall (2014), reporting on euthanasia in The Star.com, wrote that Ed Hung, “who suffered from ALS, died on Sunday in Switzerland, the only country that allows physician-assisted suicide for non-residents.” The other countries that have similar laws for their residents are Belgium and Holland. Several states in the U.S allow doctors to prescribe fatal drugs to terminally ill patients.
The debate on both, assisted suicide and euthanasia continue to rage, as many people try to take the extreme step on medical and mental grounds. No one in their senses would think of killing themselves unless they face uncertainty of life, and/or excruciating pain. To live or die, is the right of a person, and no one has the right to object to that. As Dr. Low said, just before his death, that the medical establishment had no right to put him through such pain and torture.
There is a popular belief that euthanasia shouldn't be allowed even if it were morally right, because, should the law turn a blind eye to euthanasia, it could be abused and used as a cover for murder (BBC, 2005). This argument clearly shows that it has to be a law, that decides what is right and what is wrong, and not, any non-government organizations or the elite society.
Freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of association, freedom of assembly and petition are all expressions that are based on human rights. These are laws passed by legislation, approved by the government and practiced by the judiciary.
In 1984, during the Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas, a certain Gregory Lee (Joey) Johnson was part of a political demonstration. The protest was against some of President Reagan’s, and some Dallas-based corporation’s policies. In the heat of the moment, and sometime during the march, it came to light that Johnson had burned an American flag in full view of the demonstrators.
While the march was peaceful, and no one was physically injured or threatened with injury, several protestors who were witness to Johnson’s defamation, were offended by his action. Johnson was found guilty and convicted for desecrating the national flag in violation of a Texas statute. He was charged, and the case was allowed by the State Court of Appeals (Apel, 1989).
However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed their earlier decision, citing that, the State of Texas, consistent with their opinion of the First Amendment, would not punish Johnson for burning the flag. The court declared that Johnson’s act of burning the flag was an expressive conduct that could be protected by the First Amendment. The First Amendment ensured that there could be no prosecution of Johnson under the present circumstance, and so, concluded that the State could not file criminal charges against Johnson for his act. The statute too, did not meet the State’s goal of preventing breaches of the peace, and so, Johnson was not guilty of causing and serious public disturbances (Apel, 1989).
It would be illogical to even contemplate questioning certain Muslim nations whether they have such freedom available to them. It is the rulers who dictate and pass laws there, and the government is just an entity. The question, therefore, is not whether these countries have such liberties accorded to their citizens, but, can an elite league or a non-government organization, let alone, the government; have the power to overrule the hierarchy in those nations?
In the U.S, the First Amendment was passed into law by the government, and protected by the judiciary. Therefore, such human rights are clearly under the jurisdiction of the government, and not some non-government organizations or elite societies.
Would it be possible for them to disobey the hierarchy and take the matter to their Supreme Court? For a nation like Saudi Arabia, where it is illegal for women to show their face in public places, or drive cars on their own, such luxuries are a distant dream, because it is the law of the hierarchy, and not a law that allows them the freedom of expression.
It can be concluded that while both, Azzam (2014), and Cordero (2014), accept the importance of human rights, they are far less convincing in assessing how human rights issues need to be addressed. True, some elites and non-government organizations do have influence with their governments, but they don’t have the power to influence governments in issues as sensitive as this, which is, a human rights issue. It is only governments that can address the issue of human rights, and not non-government organizations or the elite.
Apel, Warren S, (1989), U.S. Supreme Court: TEXAS v. JOHNSON, 491 U.S. 397 (1989) 491 U.S. 397, Certiorari to the Court of Criminals Appeals of Texas, No. 88-155, Retrieved March 22, 2014, from http://www.esquilax.com/flag/texasvjohnson.html
Azzam, F, (2014), In defense of 'professional' human rights organizations, Retrieved March 22, 2014, from http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/fateh-azzam/in-defense-of-professional-human-rights-organizations
Anonymous, (2009), Human Rights, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, American Educational Trust, Volume 28(5), ISSN 87554917, p. 58-59
BBC, Religion and Ethics: Ethical Issues, bbc.co.uk, Retrieved March 22, 2014, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/ethics/euthanasia/overview/introduction.shtml
Cordero, F, (2014), Elites still matter when protecting human rights, Retrieved March 22, 2014, from http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/felipe-cordero/elites-still-matter-when-protecting-human-rights
Nursall, K, (2014), Canada's shifting landscape on euthanasia, GTA, Retrieved March 22, 2014, from http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/03/19/canadas_shifting_landscape_on_euthan asia.html
Shin, H, B, (2013), Human Rights, Asian Journal of International Law, Cambridge University Press, Volume 3(2), ISSN 20442513, p. 419-420, DOI http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/10.1017/S2044251313000118