Human rights and politics

Bulatlat perspective

When, six days ago, President Duterte offered to host a world summit on human rights, people were aghast. It’s not as if the Duterte administration is the prime mover of respect for human rights considering the more than 7, 000 extrajudicial killings in the government’s war against illegal drugs.

Two days ago, President Duterte and US President Donald Trump, during their first bilateral meeting, were quoted in news reports saying that human rights and the dignity of life are essential. Their joint statement read:

“The two sides underscored that human rights and the dignity of human life are essential, and agreed to continue mainstreaming the human rights agenda in their national programs to promote the welfare of all sectors, including the most vulnerable groups.”

US President Donald Trump is not the paragon of human rights either. Amnesty International – USA published a report on how the Trump administration threatens human rights during its first 100 days in office. The report has the title 100 WAYS TRUMP HAS THREATENED HUMAN RIGHTS – AND HOW WE FOUGHT BACK.

Well, Trump’s predecessor former US President Barack Obama, who caught the ire of President Duterte for raising the issue of human rights and extrajudicial killings in connection with the latter’s war on drugs, is no angel either when it comes to human rights. Obama ordered 563 drone strikes, compared to 57 under his predecessor Bush.

The Duterte administration’s human rights pretensions have barely warmed up when two days ago, President Duterte was at it again, this time lashing out at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for raising the issue of human rights, rule of law, and extrajudicial killings during the sidelines of the ASEAN summit.

So what do these show?

The issue of human rights is merely a political tool that is largely used or ignored depending on the political objective of the one using it.

Albert Einstein was right when he said:

“All of us who are concerned for peace and triumph of reason and justice must be keenly aware how small an influence reason and honest good will exert upon events in the political field.”

So where does that leave the peoples of the world who are genuinely affected and concerned with the total disregard of governments on human rights and the dignity of life?

All rights that people enjoy now, even those that people do not enjoy but nevertheless enshrined in international covenants, are products of people’s struggles and assertions. The Bill of Rights of England, passed as law in December 1689, the earliest law on human rights, came from the Declaration of Right presented to King William III and Queen Mary II.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen of 1789 was a product of the French Revolution.

The US Declaration of Independence of 1776, which was penned by Thomas Jefferson, recognized individual rights as well as the right to revolution. This was the product of the American Revolution against British colonization.

Human rights were won over by the struggles of peoples; and for us to fully enjoy it, we also have to fight for it, to assert it. It will never be given to the people on a silver platter. (

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