Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Take My Advice | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The human rights wave started forcefully after the Second World War, driven by the feeling of guilt for the evils committed by humanity, and reached its peak during the second half of the 20th Century. Treaties and charters personifying human rights in all the political, economic, and social fields then followed successively after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1946.

The Cold War imposed strategic priorities that overshadowed the human right but this issue played its role during that war in bringing down the Soviet Union, which was forced to improve its humanitarian image and joined the Helsinki Charter (1975). Compliance with the Helsinki principles compelled it to rein in the totalitarianism.

The human rights wave renewed its ascendancy in all fields before the Cold War had ended. We saw women rights (1981), children”s rights (1990), and others at the international level. Non-governmental organizations involved in monitoring and following up on human rights, uncovering the violations, and supporting the victims multiplied, like Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch organization, and hundreds of other such organizations.

The International Court of Justice is old and became affiliated to the Security Council after the latter”s establishment. But humanity took a big step forward in 1997 when it formed the independent International Criminal Tribunal to try the crimes of aggression against human rights and war crimes.

Some Islamic tendencies believe that these human rights are a tool in the hand of international hegemony. Yes, human rights issues can be exploited but the United States that is exploiting them for political purposes is not fully happy with the human rights culture as it stands accused by it. The &#34Human Rights Watch&#34 organization pointed out that the US national law called Patriot Act violates human rights. Many human rights thinkers reproached the United States for its violations. For example, Lord Stein said about the Guantanamo prisoners: &#34Jailing them in this way is a disgrace for US justice and in breach of international law.&#34 The United States also opposed setting up the International Criminal Tribunal and therefore the latter cannot be regarded as a tool for its policies.

Many Arab countries are ruled by regimes that are at total variance with the principles and values of this universal human rights wave. They even derived their methods and institutions from Stalinism and fascism. They are regimes that have the following characteristics in common:

–A single ideology,

–A single party in control,

–Security apparatuses with absolute powers,

–A media to cover up the truths,

–The use of economy to back the ruling authority.

They are regimes known for killing their opponents and covering up the truths and they know no boundaries when subjecting everything to their authority. Killing opponents is not the monopoly of the pupils of Stalin and fascism. Democratic countries did resort to it too. For example, a congressional committee revealed in 1976 that the Central Intelligence Agency killed presidents hostile to the United States, like Patrice Lumumba, Rafael Trujillo, Salvador Allende, the presidents of the Congo, Dominican Republic, and Chile. But the transparency in democratic countries pursues and uncovers these practices while they are covered in a thick veil in totalitarian countries.

A large number of countries are still living under regimes that are lagging behind the course of humanity and which are committing aggressions against human rights regularly.

These countries have to realize that these practices are not internationally acceptable anymore. Like the defunct human slavery system, political slavery is on its way to disappear.

Rafik al-Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, philanthropist, and reformer, was assassinated on 14 February 2005. The Security Council appointed an investigation commission which issued its report on 19 October. This assassination and in the region”s known conditions was a political earthquake whose first effects was the change of the government in Lebanon democratically, a change that will definitely go all the way until it reaches the state presidency. But the earthquake will not stop there.

Syria has an important national and pan-Arab role. It was the safety valve for Lebanon when it closed the pages of the civil war. It represented and continues to represent the pan-Arab steadfastness in the face of the capitulation schemes. But like other regimes, the Syrian one does not rise to the required level of participation, accountability, and transparency. The report of Detlev Mehlis (the investigation commission chairman) has put it under suspicions.

No matter how professional and legal the report is, it is going to cause a major political bang from the following angles:

–Israel will exploit it against Syria that is standing fast in the face of capitulating to its ambitions.

–The United States will exploit it against Syria in four issues: The Iranian dossier, the Iraqi one, the Palestinian dossier, and the domestic one (to divert attention from embarrassing domestic scandals).

–The Syrian people will raise their voice to demand democratic change.

The best thing that the Syrian leadership can do is block the way before the exploitation by the regional adversary and the international one by embarking on a national reform program that brings about a democratic change through a national Syrian conference that programs a peaceful and free transfer of authority under the umbrella of freedoms and human rights.

As to the Security Council, it is hoped that it will not be driven to adopt the agendas of certain countries. Sanctions against Syria will be futile and even harm the Syrian people in vain. This does not mean letting the culprits escape punishment. Some countries will propose setting up a special international court to try the culprits. But these special courts are subject to international arbitration. The International Criminal Tribunal is the right tool for completing the investigation and trying the culprits. This case should be referred to it so as to bring the culprits to account.

The International Criminal Tribune is independent and cannot be exploited. It targets the culprits, unlike the economic sanctions that target innocent civilians.

Prime Minister Al-Hariri”s assassination and Mehlis”s report are two thunderous events and the situations in Al-Sham region (greater Syria) should not remain as they are in their wake.

The attack on the Israeli and US intentions is likely and legitimate. But no matter how strong it is, it will not be enough to protect the situations and keep them as they are.

The change in the region is coming and it is better for it to be in a direction that satisfies the Syrian people”s legitimate aspirations. Syria”s leadership can pull the rug from under the feet of the homeland”s enemies by identifying itself with the Syrian people so as to achieve their legitimate aspirations and by cooperating with the international community to bring the culprits to account. It is in their hands, not in the hands of others.