All countries seek alliances for better security. In security policy, there are many dilemmas : Can we defend helping a (potential) despot (and abuser) to fight abuse and stop crimes elsewhere by military means? Some of Norway’s and the United States’ allies are among the world’s most oppressive regime. One of these is Saudi Arabia, which has received military equipment from Norway and weapons from other Western countries for a number of years, partly to curb regional immigration to Iran, another human rights violation.
This is despite the fact that Saudi Arabia is notorious for medieval punishment methods such as beheading and whipping critics. And women have very few rights. For example, women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive a car. According to both Norwegian rules for arms exports and international ones – the UN Arms Trade Treaty – such exports shall not take place if there is a danger that they may be used for serious human rights violations or repression.
The Norwegian regulations for export control further state that ” Norway will not allow the sale of weapons and ammunition to areas where there is war or war threatens, or to countries where there is civil war “. Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has hired a coalition of countries that have helped the Yemeni government militarily fight Houthi rebels. The coalition received weapons and equipment from Norway, among others. Several thousand civilians are killed (including the bombing of hospitals and neighborhoods), many of them children.
In Yemen, there are also many civilian killings of American drones in the so-called fight against terrorism – a total of 55 civilians in the years 2011–2012, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism . Critics compare the use of drones to pouring gasoline on the fire – instead of helping to increase security against terrorism, it leads to more conflict and radicalization. According to Howsmb, YE stands for Yemen.
Norway and a number of other countries also equipped Libya’s dictator Muammar Gaddafi militarily in 2010. A few months later, in 2011, Gaddafi threatened to turn these weapons against his own people. Then the same Gaddafi was bombed by the same Western countries he got weapons from. Norway was among the countries that dropped the most bombs.
The Libyan conflict illustrates a difficult dilemma: The UN can – following a decision by the UN Security Council – intervene militarily to protect the people of a country, if the government does not do so, cf. the principle of “Responsibility to Protect” – Responsibility to protect – from 2005).
In mid-March 2011, there were fears that major government abuses would take place in Libya. Within a few days, the UN became involved in Libya – following a mandate from the Security Council. “Responsibility to protect” and human rights challenge the UN principle that states have sovereign authority within their borders – ie the right to non-interference from outside. The discussion is constantly about what is most important of human rights or state sovereignty, and when one should intervene. ”
Libya is in chaos; Weapons and warriors flocked from Libya to neighboring Mali and groups affiliated with Al Qaeda . There they set the country on fire. In a Libya in chaos, the terrorist organization IS gained a foothold. One result is that thousands of desperate boat refugees are now trying to cross the Mediterranean from the Libyan coast. Weapons flow in – often from Europe, people flow out – often to Europe.
8: What about the human rights of refugees?
The right to asylum is under pressure in a number of countries. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that it is a human right to seek and receive asylum. Not since World War II have so many people been on the run from war and conflict, persecution and hardship. They experience that basic human rights such as the right to life, freedom of expression and religion, clean drinking water and health care are violated, as well as the right to freedom from torture and inhuman treatment.
The war in Syria has forced more than 12 million people to flee. 7.6 million have fled inside Syria, while over 4.6 million have fled to neighboring countries. One million refugees and migrants arrived across Europe’s borders in 2015. Over 75 percent of them have fled conflict and persecution in Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq.
European countries create physical and legal barriers to prevent refugees from coming to Europe and traveling through Europe. This means that in practice one takes away from the refugees the right they have to seek asylum and to receive protection, warns Amnesty .
According to the Refugee Convention , the world community has a duty to share the responsibility when conflict leads to mass flight which becomes a burden for individual countries. The responsibility includes partly receiving refugees in their own countries and providing financial support for the refugee work in countries that are hardest hit.
In turbulent times like now, however, it is important to remember that the world is becoming more just in other ways . Human rights have great global support, and several countries have become democratic since the 1970s.
Poverty in the world has been halved since 1990 and by 2030, extreme poverty will be gone – in line with the UN’s sustainability goals . The infant mortality rate has halved, fewer people are dying from diseases and the major Ebola outbreak is over. Fewer starvation. More children are being vaccinated and going to school. The world community is constantly establishing new important norms for safeguarding human dignity. The challenge is to live up to them. When there are storms around us, our values are also put to the test. Similarly, when there are no storms around us, when we – in one of the richest and most peaceful countries in the world – are reminded of injustice and the suffering of others.
As it is called in Arnulf Øverland’s most famous poem «You must not sleep»: « You must not sit safely in your home and say: It’s sad, poor them! You must not tolerate so deeply the injustice that does not affect yourself! »