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Nature of the theory “human rights rank above state sovereignty”
27/9/2007 16:18' Send Print

After the cold-war period, US imperialists and some other western European countries promoted some extremely odd theories, particularly the one that says “human rights rank above State sovereignty”. They have even declared that non-democratic countries that do not respect human rights are not considered sovereign countries! Their theory that “human rights rank above State sovereignty” has been used by aggressive and reactionary forces to justify their policies of invasion and military intervention in other countries over the last few decades.

Is it true to say that nowadays human rights rank above a state’s sacred sovereignty and “constitute a higher value than it”? These issues are new in both theory and practice and need to be clarified.

In fact this theory is only a disguise used by neo-colonialists. In the past, in order to expand their colonies, imperialists used the classic method of attacking the citadel and occupying the land. Nowadays they brazenly intervene in the internal affairs of sovereign countries by using diverse plots and tricks in many forms, not completely to occupy territory but to impose their idea of human rights on other countries and nations. It is necessary to say that right from the start, those who introduced and supported the theory of “human rights rank above State sovereignty”, “global human rights” or “non-frontier human rights” are intentionally dodging the fact that no one in the world can live outside a community or nation. The world cannot exist without clear-cut boundaries between countries. They also neglected to mention the fact that in the current world, there are more than 200 countries and territories and thousands of different ethnic groups who follow different religions and have different cultural traditions. People who live in countries and territories that belong to different socio-political systems are at the same time, impacted by two relationships, namely human rights and national sovereignty. Human rights means relationships between individuals while national sovereignty is the relationship between the community of individuals in that country. These two basic relationships are on a different level and must be approached differently, so it is impossible to compare them. It is illogical and ridiculous to rank a State’s sovereignty to the same level as human rights and then consider human rights to have a higher value than sovereignty. This is the wrong methodology to use, in fact it is fair to say that it is a fraudulent exchange with malicious political intentions.

Will human rights be ensured if State sovereignty is violated and trampled upon? And how can we define the existence of an independent country without national sovereignty?

Everyone knows that human rights are the greatest treasure known to mankind and not a singular product of the bourgeoisie or Western capitalism. Human rights are the product of civilisation’s that have been created over time during social struggles and the nature reform process. They form a dialectic unity between class structure and human nature. However, human rights are always been won and developed in certain socio-historical situations, economical, political, cultural, national conditions and definite national boundaries. They are regulated by socio-economic and socio-political factors of that particular nation. Countries, whether developed or not, have all created their own concept of human rights and according to which, have their own mode of human rights. It is impossible for a nation to impose its human rights values on another nation, as although human rights are universal, national sovereignty prevents any illogical imposition. Any nation, class or force that considers themselves as the representatives of human rights for the whole of mankind, imposes their country’s human rights criteria on other countries, and makes the concept of “human rights rank above State sovereignty” or “non-frontier human rights” to be the basis for interfering in the internal affairs of independent and sovereign countries will seriously violate the basic principles of international law.

Paragraph 2, Article 4 and Paragraph 2, Article 7 in the United Nations Charter affirms the basic principles of respecting and ensuring equality of national sovereignty. The Declaration of the World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna, Austria on June 25, 1993 stated that all nations have the right to self-determination and with that right, they are free to decide their own political institutions and pursue their own way of economic, social and cultural development[1]. Former French President J. Chirac also acknowledged that not one nation, no matter how mighty, dynamic or modern it might me, is allowed to force the whole world to abide by its own laws. The international community has issued declarations and conventions on human rights and asks that all countries follow it. Besides, no country is allowed to impose its own constitution and laws on another to control the human rights of others. They also cannot take it as a pretext to brazenly intervene or violate the sovereignty of any other nation in any forms.

However, everyone knows that over the last few decades, warlike forces have relied on the strength of the dollar, aircraft, rockets, guns and even the nuclear “ogre” to shower disaster and death on many other countries and nations in order to control the world. They have used every trick they can to subdue national liberation movements in Asia, African and Latin America and are prepared to use force to quell the will of any nation that is determined to struggle for its own national independence and freedom but does not comply to their demands. In the last decade of the 20th century, the country that considered itself “a knight in shining armour for human rights” has started 40 wars to punish countries which did not comply with its “values”. In their wars of aggression, international forces have not hesitated to use every means of war, some even banned by the UN, in the name of defending human rights. They have continued to find pretexts to judge and label this country and others, as violating human rights or causing humanitarian disasters. They have ignored the UN and sent their arms and forces to an independent and sovereign country to arrest its State President and massacre many innocent civilians. This country, which was expelled from the UN Human Rights Commission in 2001, in the name of defending human rights, used human rights as a tool to realise their dark political plot. Should human rights be imposed by stronger countries on weaker ones? Is it the realisation of the theory that “human rights rank above State sovereignty”?

It is whimsical that while preaching about human rights to other countries, bellicose forces only bring up individual human rights, the political rights of citizens and personal freedom while denying the right to independence, existence and the development of a whole nation. If a country is stripped of its right to independence and sovereignty, how can its people realise their human rights? History and reality has proved that, sovereignty is a collective of human rights of the people in a country so it must be respected and protected by international law. A violation of national sovereignty means trampling upon the human rights of the entire people in that country. That is why the so-called “human rights ranks above State sovereignty” is impossible and can never happen.

In reality, national sovereignty is defined as the foundation for defending and developing the genuine human rights of the people in each country. Any country which has no national sovereignty (or does not have it yet) cannot mention human rights and the people’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is impossible to mention human rights if national sovereignty is lost. Modern international law recognizes human rights and national sovereignty as foundational principles and the international community is responsible for defending human rights and national sovereignty. Human rights in each country can only be improved after the State gains national sovereignty, is led by an organisation and supported by its people’s efforts. So, it is impossible to put human rights above national sovereignty. Only after national sovereignty is assured, can true human rights be defended and developed.

Obviously, despite modern international legal standards, human rights are related to a certain country or nation, allowing for specific historical factors and levels of economic, cultural and social development, traditional customs and habits and the law and political regime of that country. It should be mentioned that currently many issues have emerged in international relations that require the international community to join efforts to find solutions. However, in principle, the realisation of human rights cannot affect the implementation of the Constitution and laws of that country. So, it is necessary to reaffirm that the theory which says “human rights rank above State sovereignty” in essence, is untrue, anti-humanitarian and deceives people. It deludes people to believe that “human rights are supreme”. That theory completely violates the principles of national equality and inviolable sovereignty which are defined by international law. Finally, that theory is aimed at realising hegemony and political power, imposing the “value concept” and realising the “gunboat diplomacy” policy of international warlike and reactionary forces and find a pretext to put pressure on and intervene in the internal affairs of other countries and nations.

For the Vietnamese people, the first human right is the national right to self-determination and independence. The thousand-year old tradition of national construction and defence as well as the experiences of the Vietnamese revolution over the last decades show that when the country is lost to foreign invaders and the people become slaves, it is impossible to achieve human rights. After losing your country you will lose everything. Reality in Vietnam shows that the defence and development of human rights are determined, first of all, by the national literation process and that human rights can only be realised through national independence and freedom. The Vietnamese people from many generations have sacrificed their lives to wrest back national sovereignty, because “Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom”. With the correct renewal policy of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the Vietnamese people have realised the objectives of rich people, to have a strong country and a fair, democratic and civilised society for the last two decades. This is the biggest and most important manifestation of human rights in Vietnam and the defence of Vietnam’s national sovereignty.

Recently, hostile forces have undertaken political and ideological acts of sabotage, slandered and attacked the political regime and the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam. They have encouraged, gathered and supported reactionaries, opportunists and malcontents and formed opposition forces and reactionary organisations in order to destabilise the political and economic situation in our country. The legislative body of this country, every year gives itself the right to judge, assess and comment on the human rights situation in other countries in the world and has even issued the Human Rights Act on Vietnam. This is illegal behavior in modern international affairs that have principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries and a national right to self-determination and equal sovereignty between nations, which are acknowledged in Articles 1 and 2 of the UN Charter.

In an integrated world as the globalisation process is taking place, many complicated issues cannot be solved by any one nation itself. So, it requires international cooperation to ensure human rights. However, international and regional cooperation must be based on the foundation of equality and mutual respect of each other’s independence and sovereignty according to the essential principles of modern international laws and practice. No country is allowed to take advantage of human rights issues as a tool to put pressure to bear on international relations, connect human rights to economic aid and trade, and involve international organisations in helping political plots while settling human rights issues.

Our world is unified but diversified and complicated with the identity of each nation. Although human rights are specific, they have become a part of international life. So, instead of imposing the international gendarme’s viewpoint which says “human rights rank above State sovereignty” and “non-frontier human rights”, we should include human rights issues in bilateral and multilateral dialogue, according to the principles of equality and respecting national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

We may affirm that the theory which says “human rights rank above State sovereignty” is completely wrong. It even contains ill political intentions and justifies international warlike and reactionary forces’ aggressive policies. Therefore, that theory cannot stand firm before reasonable countries who conform to the international laws of peace and justice in the world. The theory which says “human rights rank above State sovereignty” will certainly be ignored by history and reality./.

[1] International documents on human rights, Human Rights Research Center and the Information and Science Institute under the Ho Chi Minh National Political Academy, Hanoi, 2000, p. 102.

Nguyen Duc Thang