Rule of Law and Human Rights


Dr. Khine Khine Win

In recent years, there has been an increased interest in rule of law as an assurance of stability, human rights and economic development. Rule of law takes on several meaning and it does not have a precise definition. Its meaning can vary between different nations and legal traditions. For instance, in the definition proposed by United Nations: “the rule of law refers to a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities public and private including the State itself are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated equally enforced and independently adjudicated and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards”.(UN Security Council 2004). In addition according to Collins Student’s dictionary, the rule of law is “the principle that everyone is subject to law”. Everyone means every human being without distinction.
There is also no precise meaning for human rights. Nevertheless, 1993 World Conference on Human Rights affirmed the crucial connection between the international peace and security and the rule of law and human rights placing them all within the larger context of democratization and development. It shows that universally agreed the rule of law and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing as well as the rule of law and the maintenance of human rights are connected. Indeed, the rule of law is woven into the structure of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR from the very beginning.  UDHR states in his preamble that ‘whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law”. It reminds if human beings are not to be compelled or to resort to violence against oppression, human rights should be protected by rule of law.
Nowaday, the international human rights regime has become the subject of more critical scrutiny as it has become more powerful. As a result, there is now greater awareness of a number of legislative, conceptual, normative, political and practical weaknesses on human rights framework. In this connection, NAVI PILLAY, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the rule of law was the backbone for the legal protection for human rights. Likewise, it must be grounded in human rights. Where as respect for the rule of law demanded compliance with the principles of equal legal protection and prohibition of discrimination on any grounds, such as race, sex, disability, language, religion, national or social origin, and property.
The rule of law should be a living reality properly understood by ordinary people. It is constitutionally more important than is generally realized. In other words, the rule of law is as supreme as the constitution itself. United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said the rule of law was like the law of gravity:  it ensured the world remained grounded, so that order prevailed over chaos. It united societies around common values, anchoring us in the common good.  But unlike gravity, rule of law must be nourished by continued efforts by genuine leaders. Strengthening rule of law meant consolidating the United Nations’ three pillars:  peace, development and human rights. So strengthening rule of law is crucial for human rights and also strengthening the rule of law fosters an environment that facilitates sustainable human development and the protection and empowerment of women, children and vulnerable groups.
When countries fail to establish justice and rule of law, peace and stability are suffer first. So strengthening security, strengthening peace, strengthening justice, strengthening stability must be done through the rule of law.
Indeed, the rule of law is the vehicle for the promotion and protection of all human rights. At the national level, the rule of law is at the heart of the social contract between the State and individuals under its jurisdiction and it ensures that justice permeates society at every level.  It guarantees the protection of the full range of human rights and drives protection of human rights.
As you all know well, State has the prime obligation to respect, protect and fulfill of human rights for their citizens. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfill means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights. Responsibility to protect human rights resides first and foremost with the states themselves.
I cling to my belief in rule of law because it is important. It may be the single greatest achievement of our society. It is the vessel that keeps all our other values safe and establishing the justice, stability and growth required for sustainable development and poverty eradication.  As I mentioned before rule of law is the vehicle for the promotion and protection of human rights. So if we have excellent vehicle we don’t need to worry about the enjoyment of human rights. Rule of law vehicle drives us to full enjoyment of our rights and fundamental freedom.
Without establishment of rule of law, respect of human rights can never ever happen.

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