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Science, People & Politics

Science, People & Politics. First volume (1-3), Volume 2, issue 2, March-April 2007. First posting 1.5.07. Final corrected posting 1.5.07 08.14 g.m.t.

Darfur, its future and Human Rights

Set aside the Human Rights Act and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Start from scratch.

What are human rights and how are they determined? Are human rights rights conferred because one is born human and not a dog? Can we address the question of what human means by asking whether the word human in the phrases human being and Human Rights is an adjective or a noun? Does it mean that a particular physical entity is human or is a being that behaves as a human? Does the humanity exist from the moment of conception or at a later stage of genetic development - three days later, say; and does the human right exist to the time of irreversible, body-wide total cell apoptosis and loss of all conscious perception? If so perhaps it is compassion - for the dying and for the executioner and witnesses - that has made it a norm for executioners to blindfold those being beheaded or hanged.

Quickly, then, one sees this question of Human Rights is not a schools' essay.

If a Human Right is a right conferred on a being who is genetically human it is slightly easier to think about than if one is considering a right that is conferred on a being who behaves in a way considered human. That is because one does not then need to open the can of worms of deciding in a god-like manner what is and is not human behaviour. If one did one would have to deal with the vexed reality that acts of torture are manifestations of human behaviour and to consider that the torturer has the same rights as the saint.

For the sake of argument, then, and to avoid the passion of moral judgement, consider that a Human Right is a right conferred on a genetically-human physical entity, rather than a physical entity manifesting human behaviour. One does not then have to make moral judgements about whether a torturer is entitled to have their rights as human beings respected. They do.

What rights does one have as a human being that are applicable to any human being?

One starting point for exploring that question is to consider the extremes of the span of what might be defined as being alive as a human. It might be that those extremes set the boundaries of rights. If that is the case then to be treated with compassion might by some be thought of as a Human Right. In normal life in normal circumstances one would never think consciously that being treated and treating with compassion is a Human Right, but would probably instinctively try to do so according to one's personal belief in what it is to be compassionate. Therein lies a rub if one is thinking about a Human Right. Compassionately motivated action might, because of personal perception and preference or one's liking or disliking of another person turn out to be a contravention of Human Rights. Say one thought that to hide a person's work was compassionate because one thought their work was bad then, in fact, one would be hiding what is not one's own and would have contravened the individual's right to self expression. In other words if one is driven by feeling alone rather than by principles enshrined in law and custom and practice there is as much risk of contravening Human Rights as there is of respecting them.

Back to the drawing board.

We are human before we are male or female. Before we have nationality, or race, before we have a consciously chosen religion, and before we have the conferred social status of our family. We are human despite our cognitive ability, before we acquire education or the social status we later build for ourselves. We have and hold this humanity throughout our life - from birth to death - irrespective of the illnesses we develop, the crime committed against us or by us, whether we are in prison or free, despite the length of time we live, the wars foisted on us or fought by us, the lottery wins or pension losses. Beggars or Kings, criminals or not we look at the same blue sky. What we share is being alive and a right to the life our birth bestowed on us.

If this is our first most basic Human Right, conferred simply by being born, what are our secondary rights consequential to our shared humanity of being alive, and what, if any, is the order of priority of these rights in our lives?

If our birthright is being alive I suppose our next human right must be to live according to our own choices when those choices are without criminal actions or intent. To live we have freedom of expression in political issues and creative endeavour. We are free to be writers, researchers, teachers or doctors. There may be barriers and in that case politics comes into its own. To exercise the richness of our thinking and creating we need to be free and free to choose.

To take another adult human being's autonomy when that human being is not a criminal, and is in no danger and is no danger to anyone is a negation of their birthright. I know because this was done to me in mid 2004. I keep comparing the action undertaken by psychiatrists who destroyed my life as surely as did criminals to the activity of psychiatrists in Stalin's Soviet Union. In Russia perhaps individuals were saved from something worse on occasions. Probably not, but possibly. That was not the case in the UK, and in what was done to me in mid 2004 (Google my name), and the consequences are still crippling me psychologically. In my case I, a mentally healthy woman, said explicitly - twice - that I was willing to go into hospital, though the timing was not convenient and my real need was to talk to the Police as well as to a doctor. And then twice without cause or need I was deprived of my freedom by the Police and then by the Medical profession. These actions have actually destroyed something in me and did so at the time and it is something that money will not mend. Did these people abuse my Human Rights? Yes - totally. They deprived me of liberty without explanation and have left me afraid in my own country. They have left me vulnerable to criminal actions and the ignorant too afraid to challenge medical abuse and malpractice -- not error, but flat out malpractice. And I am not qualified to challenge those medical opinions -- all different and all but one given in contravention of decent, even basic clinical practice.

To take a human being's right to choose is to disrespect their humanity and citizenship. Imagine that the police were to turn up at your door and say I want your voting card. You are not allowed to vote and we will not tell you why. Have they taken a Human Right or negated your citizenship? Imagine you go to the Police and say drugs have destroyed some of my mind, and they will not acknowledge the crime. Have they negated your humanity? Yes, and your citizenship. If you walk into the police station with the bleeding stump of an arm and they say we will not acknowledge the crime, have they negated your humanity and place in the human family? Yes.

Have they abused a Human Right? Possibly not. The police taking your voting card or police denial of violent action against you is crime by them or ought in my mind to be considered such. Whereas the deprivation of liberty without cause and in circumstances that cannot be challenged for 28-days - as would have been the case for me had I not walked out of hospital in mid 2004 in Scotland - is a Human Rights' abuse with the potential to lead to the State-sanctioned "crime" of incorrect forcible medication. It was not a game to me. I was terrified. I learned nothing. I gained nothing. I was destroyed by the Medical actions taken without my knowledge or consent, without compassion and with total disrespect for my humanity and competence. Alright the Police were already not treating me as a citizen and victim of crime and as a professional woman, and that was bad, but is was dwarfed by the total terror of my vulnerability to the Human Rights' abuse of the medical profession.

There is a place therefore where crime and Human Rights abuses are entangled and it is particularly bad when one is dealing with actions by paid members of the State. Starving people in concentration camps and forcing them into gas ovens is crime - heinous crime - not a Human Rights' abuse alone. Torturing and killing them and making them disappear is crime and Human Rights abuse. Doing so for an accident of birth or an opinion you do not like is a Human Rights' abuse and a crime. Taking a professional woman, denigrating her effort to be professional, arresting her, then depriving her of freedom and labelling her with illnesses she does not have, and assuming she is guilty not innocent is crime and Human Rights abuse by the State and its minions. It is contrary to a precious precept that one is innocent until proven guilty.

Where does that leave us? For me it leaves me with the thought that Human Rights start with a singularity comprising the concept that the essence of being human is that we are alive and share the knowledge of the preciousness of that life and living whether we like one another or not. This singularity then blossoms into a three-dimensional schema of situational ethics in different times and places and circumstances from war to deprivation and to plenty. In each situation we can ask are we expressing our humanity, that which is ours and no one else, or have non natural actions by other human beings stolen aspects of our birthright and expression of our natural humanity. In my case: yes. I can and will never forget that in 2004 no one cared that the State, not illness or accident or crime alone, had needlessly deprived me of life and stolen something from me and in so doing covered for basic serious crime. I will never recover what was mine and which was my birthright. In my country the Medical profession instead of healing and respecting me did not care that I had nearly been killed by drugs/exposure and did not listen. Police inaction covered for the criminals. I was reminded yet again of the implacable, irreversible nature of death.

Helen Gavaghan, Hebden Bridge, UK. 30th April, 2007.

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