Special Correspondent

Advocates’ panel commemorates World Human Rights Day

KOCHI: Indian Constitution would have remained a document of words of assurance in terms of human rights but for the efforts made by former Supreme Court Justices V.R. Krishna Iyer and P.N. Bhagwati, according to Ramavarma Regunathan Thamburan, who works for the UN mission in Timor-Leste.

While being a Supreme Court Justice, Mr. Iyer had turned a mere ‘statutory right’ of bail into a constitutional right.

He had also introduced curbs on solitary confinement and the award of death sentence, Mr. Thamburan recalled. P.N. Bhagwati, former Chief Justice of India, known for his human rights-related judgements, was still advising the UN on human rights and heading tribunals investigating genocides and other rights violations.

Mr. Thamburanwas speaking on ‘Human rights in a global context’ on the World Human Rights Day commemoration organised by the Kerala High Court Advocates Association. Justice K. Balakrishnan Nair of the High Court opened the commemoration meeting.

Bad record

Mr. Thamburan, who was a lawyer at Kerala High Court, pointed out that when the historic United Nations Declaration of Human Rights was made in 1948, the United States, Britain and Soviet Union had opposed it because of their own record of extensive human rights violations.

He pointed out that Kosovo, Rwanda and Timor had seen massive human rights violations.

The ‘unimaginable atrocities’ committed in these countries showed that human beings could become barbarians when the rule of law collapsed.

“They showed that people could be good wherever they are and that people could be bad whoever they are,” he said. Mr. Thamburan said good governance and institutional reforms within each nation were vital to the effective delivery of human rights. Police stations, polling booths and courthouses alone could not protect human rights. Immediately after the conflicts in their countries, for most Kosovans, Rwandans and Timorese, their urgent human rights concerns were related to the protection of women and girls, access to clean drinking water, provision of basic health care and removal of landmines.