OPINION

No moral compass

The annual report released by the Amnesty International yesterday painted a bleak picture of the world today. The combined effect of violence by armed groups and states’ violations of rights constitute the most serious assault on human rights and humanitarian law over the past 50 years, Amnesty said in the introduction to the report. In an outright condemnation of the terrorist acts carried out by armed groups as serious crimes that sometimes amount «to crimes against humanity and war crimes,» Irene Khan, secretary-general of the human rights group, expressed grave concerns over the stand of certain governments. «Governments are losing their moral compass, sacrificing the global values of human rights in a blind pursuit of security… The global security agenda promoted by the US administration is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle. Violating rights at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses has damaged justice and freedom, and made the world a more dangerous place.» Unfortunately, the truth of Amnesty’s allegations is demonstrated by recent developments in Iraq, Palestine, Chechnya, Sudan and numerous other conflict zones that have, in many cases, democratically elected governments at the helm. It is less than two weeks since this page warned about the tragic consequences engendered by the cracking morality of western governments and their human rights violations in the pursuit of security. It would be naive to expect terrorist groups or illiberal regimes to put the brakes on their rapid slide toward moral degeneration – a state of affairs that is reflected in their embrace of violence. It was the liberal western democracies that first came up with the idea of human rights and which, at certain point in history, fixed humanist principles as the main underpinning of their political systems. Respect for human rights came to symbolize the moral superiority of western societies over the Socialist countries and the authoritarian establishments in the Third World. There is still time for western governments to defend the value system that they claim to represent. It would be a severe blow to the future of humanity if human rights were to be respected in a selective and opportunistic fashion.