At The Door Of The New Decade, We Must Strive A Better Legacy For Human Rights

Boko Haram Islamic Group based in Northern Nigeria


We closed the last decade with a very poor human rights record. It was a decade which saw two genocides, several instances of crimes against humanity and multiple cases of severe violations of human rights.

What should we do to ensure that this does not continue into the new decade? Among others, we must ensure that international crimes and human rights violations do not happen again. Prevention is key. However, we must also ensure an effective response to the crimes that were left unaddressed from the previous decade. What does this involve?

We need to make sure that crimes against the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, Myanmar, are duly investigated, the crimes are recognized for what they are and that the perpetrators are brought to justice. The events of the last decade in Myanmar have attracted attention from two international actors. The world awaits the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on provisional measures requested in the case brought before the court by the Gambia. Furthermore, the situation is also being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The victims and survivors of the Daesh atrocities must see justice being done. Daesh fighters need to be prosecuted in countries where Daesh perpetrated its genocide and crimes against humanity, or in other countries by way of the universal jurisdiction, or at an ad-hoc tribunal. Furthermore, the perpetrators must be prosecuted for the litany of crimes Daesh fighters were involved in, including murder, rape and sexual violence, torture, enslavement, forced labor, outrages upon personal dignity, forced displacement, using, conscripting and enlisting children; whether they amount to genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. The last decade has secured very few convictions. This is far from any sense of justice.

Boko Haram members in Northern Nigeria and beyond need to be brought before courts. The last decade triggered a preliminary examination at the ICC only and no further developments, a weak response to such a tragedy. Furthermore, the atrocities of the Fulani herdsmen in the Middle Belt, Nigeria, must not be dismissed as consequences of the climate change, but treated as crimes that need to be stopped, investigated and prosecuted. The last decade has not secured any developments in this direction.

Practices such as the so-called “re-education camps” and incarcerations of thousands (if not millions) of Uighur Muslims and forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners must be investigated and addressed. Other human rights abuses in China must be brought to light as well.

Considering only the above mentioned cases, it is clear that the last decade has left us with a legacy of crime and impunity. This vicious circle of violence and impunity must be put to an end once and for all. The new decade we are entering must bring hope in the international justice system and human rights frameworks - something that the international community aimed to achieve since the atrocities committed by the Nazis in the first half of the 20th century.

However, it is also important to emphasize that the above examples are only the tip of an iceberg. The last decade has seen violent attacks against those who exercise their right to a peaceful protest, be it in Hong Kong, Cameroon, Nicaragua, India and many more.

The last decade has seen severe censorship of those speaking up against injustice.

The last decade has seen severe limitations of the right to freedom of religion or belief, targeting numerous minorities as the scapegoat.

Again, only the tip of an iceberg.

The last decade has seen severe attacks on human dignity that cannot be ignored anymore. We must seek new ways to improve human rights records all over the world, and so strengthen the protection of human dignity for everyone everywhere. Time for reflection was yesterday. Time for action is now. Otherwise, there will be no tomorrow.