Fundamental precepts of international law agree on one aspect pertaining to good governance -- the observance and upholding of human rights. This commitment originates from the United Nations Charter, which reaffirms the faith of the people of the world in fundamental human rights.
In the recent past, over the last year, the OIC-Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission has come under international scrutiny, as to whether this institution is being able to focus not only on important human rights issues and violations taking place within the matrix of Islamic countries, but also on unjust application of force by the non-Muslim majority on people of the Muslim faith living in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
These developments have led me to try and ascertain how the OIC-IPHRC has been responding to issues held as important within the international structure of human rights. This has been reflected in the different messages issued by the OIC-IPHRC over the last few months, and also recently with regard to what is happening in Gaza due to the abuse of human rights by Israel.
A list of aggressions
On April 8, the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) condemned, in the strongest terms, the ongoing aggression against the innocent and peaceful Palestinian protesters, including the media and medical personnel on the Gaza Strip border, resulting in the indiscriminate and arbitrary execution of at least 32 Palestinians and injury to more than 1,000 others by the Israeli occupation forces since March 30, 2018.
It also called for an immediate end to the ongoing Israeli aggression and has also been critical of the inaction on the part of the UN Security Council in this regard.
This human rights body is indeed self-governing and autonomous despite the differing approaches towards observance of human rights amongst its members
It has also urged the UN to commence immediate and independent investigations of the ongoing human rights violations so that the perpetrators can be held accountable in relevant international courts of justice.
Similarly in an inter-active mode, the IPHRC, on March 21, has affirmed its commitment to recognizing, addressing, and eradicating all forms of racism and ethnic oppression across the world. The commission has underscored that Islam believes in the principles of equality among all human beings regardless of caste, colour, creed, or religious beliefs. It has expressed regret that, lately, the signs of intolerance and failure to accept diversity are ominously translating into a growing tide of xenophobia, hatred, and discrimination.
The IPHRC has reminded the international community that hate speech, including Islamophobia, must be countered to ensure peaceful coexistence in all societies.
To this end, the IPHRC has urged the need to implement the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 that conveys global resolve to combat all forms of discrimination, hatred, and violence based on one’s religion or belief to avoid clash among cultures.
The commission has welcomed the adoption of Resolution No 72/157 by the UN General Assembly on December 19, 2017 and Sustainable Development Goals 2030 which recognize respect for cultural diversity as an integral element for ensuring sustainable development of nations and cultures through promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, tolerance, mutual respect, inter-cultural understanding, and global citizenship and shared responsibility. This belief in equality has led the commission on April 10, 2017 to strongly condemn the terrorist attacks on the Coptic Churches in Egypt the previous day.
The above views of the commission will require political will of all the concerned states and concerted support of the media.
It will also require all stake-holders and the international community to develop and implement strategies and practices to reduce racial injustice and dismantle racism and ethnic oppression worldwide.
Agents of change
In similar vein, the IPHRC, on March 7 called for sustained engagement and empowerment of women to play their due role towards peace building, decision making, and societal development and transformation. This is an important issue as most of the developed world assumes that there is discriminatory behaviour towards women in Muslim societies and effort towards gender empowerment is missing.
The commission, while observing the International Women’s Day 2018, highlighted the importance of empowering women as agents of change to implement peace building and peace promoting strategies. Such a measure, if it can be followed and implemented within conflict-driven societies, Muslim or non-Muslim, would definitely help in shattering stereotypes and barriers regarding women, which impede realization of their inherent human rights guaranteed to them by Islam.
In this regard the IPHRC has emphasized the need of OIC member states to enhance international collaboration in -- (a) reviewing and strengthening institutional frameworks and legislation pertaining to women with a view to improving their enforceability and creating synergies with gender sensitive international development mechanisms, and (b) fostering and enabling environment through advocacy, inter-sectoral coordination, and good governance for effective implementation.
These are indeed very forward-looking proposals and reflect the sovereign nature of the OIC commission.
The commission has also welcomed the unanimous adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2401 regarding Syria and has called on the parties to Syria’s conflict to cease hostilities without delay, ensuring a “durable humanitarian pause” to enable unhindered humanitarian aid deliveries and medical evacuations of the critically sick and wounded.
Similarly, the IPHRC has also been very vocal about the Rohingya situation. In its 13th session held in Jeddah from April 15 to 19 the OIC-IPHRC has urged the Myanmar government to take firm steps to immediately end the violence against its Rohingya population, bring the perpetrators of violence to justice, revise and replace all discriminatory policies and practices against them, and ensure a sustainable and voluntary return of Rohingya refugees in safety, security, dignity, and with ensured livelihood to their homeland in Rakhine State.
This was issued despite clear disagreement on this matter by Myanmar authorities supported by China and Russia.
All the above elements tend to justify that this human rights body is indeed self-governing and autonomous, despite the differing approaches towards observance of human rights amongst its members.
Muhammad Zamir, a former ambassador, is an analyst specialized in foreign affairs, right to information, and good governance. He is currently Commissioner of the OIC-IPHRC and can be reached at [email protected]