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Human Rights issues that grabbed the global headlines in 2018

December 10, 2018

We observe the Human Rights Day on December 10 every year to commemorate the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. Adopted on December 10, 1948, the declaration lays down universal values and a shared standard of achievement for every individual across the globe. While the declaration is not a legally binding treaty, it has had a profound influence on the development of international human rights law and has set the pace for over 60 human rights instruments that define the standard of human rights today. Unsurprisingly, it is the most translated document around the globe – available in over 500 languages presently.

On December 10, 2018, as we mark 70 years of the adoption of the UDHR, the curtains come down on UN’s year-long campaign #StandUp4HumanRights which aimed to “call on people to take action for greater freedoms, stronger respect and more compassion for the rights of others”. Despite consistent efforts to protect human rights, hostility toward human rights and advocates of human rights continues to rise across the globe. So this year’s Human Rights Day exhorts everyone to stand up for their rights and those of others.

On this day, let’s take a look at some of the top global human rights issues that have generated considerable buzz this year.

1. Violence against Women

This year, while the #MeToo movement spurred women in several countries to raise their voices against sexual harassment and abuse, a number of high-profile cases of alleged sexual harassment by politicians and celebrities highlighted ongoing barriers to justice for victims.

2. Facebook’s Nemesis

In March this year, free speech, privacy and electoral integrity came under public scrutiny when a former employee of Cambridge Analytica blew the whistle on the firm’s practice of harvesting data from millions of US Facebook users with an aim to influence the 2016 presidential elections.

3. Rohingya Crisis

In August, a UN Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar delivered a scathing report detailing crimes against humanity, war crimes, sexual violence and possible genocide by Myanmar’s security forces against the Rohingya. Following this shocking report, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) put in place a mechanism to collect and preserve evidence to aid future prosecutions for atrocity crimes in Myanmar. Also, several Western nations started imposing targeted sanctions on military officers named in the UN report.

4. Crackdown against Turkic Muslims in China

Turkic Muslims in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region have long been victims of repression. In 2018, Human Rights Watch and others reported an escalation in this repression with the government detaining one million people in political re-education camps, with evidence of their torture and mistreatment. Muslims not detained still face pervasive controls on freedom of movement and religion.

5. Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights  infringements 

Saudi Arabia grabbed the international headlines in October when Saudi dissident and prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The case prompted a close scrutiny of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. The country’s repression, incarceration and ill-treatment of human rights activists includes the alleged inhuman treatment of leading women’s rights defenders.

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