By JESSICA HILL
Inquirer Editorial Assistant
Bruce Van Voorhis, writer and editor for the Asian Human Rights Commission,
At a time international HR defenders in
Van Voorhis said his team of 25 fulltime staff members along with interns and volunteers are trying to bring human rights awareness to countries such as
According to Van Voorhis, any of the countries he deals with rule by law instead of establishing rules of law. This means that leaders in these countries make or fail to repeal laws that contradict a persons right to basic human rights.
Many times, he explained, the laws limiting a person's rights effect the poor or minorities. This is evident in culture where if a woman marries of her own desire rather than agreeing to an arranged marriage, often times the bride's family will scar her face with acid if they find her to show the world that she has disgraced her family.
Also, certain countries have laws in place which allow witness protection services only once a case has been filed. However, to file a case, police must have a statement from a named witness. This creates danger for the potential witness and deters many people from reporting injustices.
In some of the countries he works with, Van Voorhis said he encounters "disappearances." In
Many times these people who have disappeared are imprisoned for months or even years or they are never seen again. This often leaves their families wondering if they are alive and fearing that if they are vocal about the disappearance they may be the next to vanish.
While organizations such as the United Nations exist, they have limited power to help people who are being denied their human rights, Van Voorhis said. The UN can issue sanctions against countries who disobey, but often times these sanctions are not enough to deter the mistreatment.