Equity in an Emergency: The Imperative of Climate Justice in Pakistan

Yasir Ali

PhD Scholar and Teaching Associate 

Department of International Relations, University of Karachi 

Amidst rising environmental catastrophes and crises, Pakistan appears to be standing on the very crossroads. Climate change and its extremely serious impacts is actually not limited to any country, as it equally hits rich and poor nations alike. However, the most vulnerable countries like Pakistan are the ones who get affected by it the most fiercely. Along with other states on earth, Pakistan faces the issue of rapid climate crisis.

The country is blessed with various ecosystems ranging from the majestic peaks of the Himalayas to the fertile plains of the Indus Valley, is endangered by this ongoing threat. Climate change is yielding more unpredictable weather occurrences, the melting of glaciers, more disastrous floods and longer regional droughts. These consequences further aggravate already marginalized communities, endangering human security and increasing its vulnerabilities.

Pakistan produces less than 1% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world but continuously ranks in the top countries that are most vulnerable to climate change impacts as stated by the annual Global Climate Risk Index. In 2022, a catastrophic flood that submerged a notable area of Pakistan took lives of more than 1,700 people and displaced many others. Key structures such as roads, bridges, and electricity grids suffered extensive damage, and crops were devastated on millions of acres.

This is not a one-off event. It is getting worse every year, which is caused by climate change. From the 1960s till now, Pakistan has seen a general rise in average rainfall during monsoons as a result of temperature increase. According to climate models, extreme precipitation events becoming even more intense as global warming goes into its continuation. India is already the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and has continued to show lukewarmness even at the recent COP2 inter sessions. Pakistan on the other hand has to compete with an uncertain scenario of the fast melting Hindu Kush glaciers along with a global climate emergency already looming over it.

With the country’s proliferating population and straining resources, the destabilizing effects of climate change become more pronounced. The poor households are at the greatest risk of losing their food security since the temperatures, precipitation, and extreme conditions are becoming extremely harsher causing a reduction of major crop production in some farming areas. Water shortages force millions of children to leave school and work instead for their families gathering supplies. For that they have to travel great distances to find them in remote places. This leads to youth unemployment, an upsurge in civil conflicts over resources, as well as insecurity and an increased sense of injustice.

In response to this catastrophe, Pakistan has actively engaged on the international stage, demanding climate justice and asking for global commitment in dealing with climate change issues. Pakistan’s ratification of the Paris Agreement and pledge towards the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions serve as a realization of the country’s accountability in confronting the climate crisis. Also, programs such as the Billion Tree Tsunami and the Clean Green Pakistan campaign demonstrate the government’s determination to improve the environment and development.

Nevertheless, despite the adoption of different strategies, there remain many obstacles that make it difficult for the government of Pakistan to put its climate policies into practice. The fact that the country is still largely dependent on fossil fuels, along with poor infrastructure, and the limited financial resources makes the transition to a low-carbon future a struggle. On the other hand, unequal distribution of resources increases the vulnerability of marginalized communities to climate change and thus limits their efforts to adaptation.

In order to overcome this situation, Pakistan has to make sure the climate justice has the prominence and priority in their policy-making. This means reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and creating opportunities for participation, as well as shielding the vulnerable groups with services and strategies that make them resilient. Investments in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and climate resilient infrastructure will not only help to reduce the negative impacts of climate change, but is also essential for achieving the inclusive development. Besides, forming global partnerships with the United Nations, non-profit organizations, as well as the private companies is a very powerful way of gathering the funds and expertise for climate change improvement.

In addition, the development of Pakistan’s policy on climate justice has to be based on a pledge to protect the rights and interests of its people, now and in the future. This needs an effective leadership that will come up with cutting-edge solutions which will help in squaring with the climate alteration challenges. In the turbulence of the uncertain and changing climate, Pakistan will have a decisive role to undertake to build a more equitable and sustainable world for everyone.

Transforming Lives: A Decade of Street Children’s Journey in Pakistan

Syed Muhammad Ali Bilgrami

CEO Bilgrami & Associates International


As I write this article in April 2024, memories flood back to a pivotal moment exactly a decade ago. Nine courageous street children and myself, touched down at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. Our mission? Having represent Pakistan in the Street Child World Cup held in Rio, Brazil and won the bronze[1]. As we stepped off the plane, we were greeted by a sea of 4,000 charged football fans from across Pakistan[2]. The airport staff scrambled to get us outopening and closing one gate after the other, as this was the first time these street children experienced genuine affection and, most importantly, respect. No police officers snatched their meagre earnings or subjected them to beatings. No one molested or ridiculed them. For once, they were heroes, not invisible outcasts.

The 2014 Situational Analysis

Globally, street children faced complex socio-political challenges: India (11 million[3]) Egypt (1.5 million)[4] Kenya (0.3 million)[5] Philippines (0.25 million)[6] Germany (0.02 million)[7]. In Pakistan alone, an estimated 1.5 million[8] street children grappled with poverty, neglect, and violence[9]. Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar harboured most of this population. These resilient souls survived independently, away from formal social structures. Their numbers surged due to factors like domestic violence, family issues, poverty, peer pressure, and addiction[10]. The War on Terror also contributed to internal displacement, further swelling their ranks. Illiteracy, health issues, and vulnerability plagued them[11], with many falling victims to sexual assault[12] and crimes[13]. There was no policy or legislative agenda for them by the government.

The Turning Point

In 2014, everything changed after Street Child World Cup. The nine champs became Pakistan’s sensation, advocating for street children’s rights and protection. The National Assembly passed a groundbreaking resolution, providing social security and protection—a first. These children became ambassadors, coaches, and social workers, elevating football’s popularity in Pakistan. Corporates like HBL and the World Group supported their rehabilitation and reintegration through football.

Today’s Grim Reality

Fast-forward to today, and the situation is dire. Street children remain abandoned, betrayed by both the government and NGOs. The sport-for-development model lies forgotten, with no initiatives in sight. National Strategic Plans and Action Plans for Children overlook street children entirely. Despite two general censuses, no mapping or census has been conducted. Critical data gaps hinder policy development. UNICEF and INGOs have withdrawn funding, leaving these vulnerable children uncounted and unheard. Climate change now exacerbates internal displacement, and poverty persists as the primary driver. Protection centers are scarce, and government facilities fall short. Are we silently letting them go? Street youth involvement in crimes is rising. Is this society’s justice for ignoring them as children?

In this ongoing struggle, we must remember that street children remain “uncounted, unheard, and unseen.” Research is crucial to address the risk factors pushing them onto the streets (M. Ansari, 2019a). 


Pakistan faces a significant challenge with a large population of street children. To effectively address this issue, a combination of policy changes and social initiatives are needed. Conducting a national census of street children will provide crucial data for informed decision-making. Updating national action plans specifically focused on street children, along with expanding social safety nets for vulnerable families, are essential steps. Investing in education, healthcare, and regulations for safe street work activities are also key. Strengthening child protection mechanisms and reviving sports development programs like football can offer protection and opportunities. Public awareness campaigns are crucial to shift societal attitudes towards street children. Engaging the private sector through CSR initiatives and promoting community-based rehabilitation programs further strengthen the support system for these vulnerable children. By implementing these recommendations, Pakistan can work towards a future where all children are safe, protected, and have a chance to reach their full potential.

[1] https://www.thenews.com.pk/tns/detail/556574-pff-and-players-of-street-child-world-cup

[2] The Express Tribune. https://tribune.com.pk/story/692840/street-child-world-cup-the-young-heroes-return-to-pakistan

[3] Consortium for Street Children’s Civil Society Forums: South Asia, 12-14 December 2001, Colombo (with Child Hope and PEACE) and East and South East Asia, 12-14 March 2003, Bangkok. Reporting by KKSP Foundation (citing ILO figures); Aparajeyo (Bangladesh); Asha Rane (India); Save the Children UK China Programme (China); World Vision Myanmar (Burma); Terre des Hommes-Lausanne, Vietnam and partners (Vietnam).

[4] UNICEF Egypt (http://www.unicef.org/media/media_39599.html)

[5] IRIN-KENYA: Nairobi’s Street Children: Hope for Kenya’s future generation (http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=69987)

[6] World Street Children News (http://streetkidnews.blogsome.com/2003/11/14/children-in-detention-in-the-philippines/)

[7] Earth Times (http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/news/191615,growing-number-of-street-children-in-germany-report-says.html)

[8] Asian Human Rights Commission (http://acr.hrschool.org/mainfile.php/0228/461/)

[9] Identification of Key Vulnerabilities amongst street working and living girls in selected towns of Karachi conducted by Azad Foundation in 2008.

[10] Identification of Key Vulnerabilities amongst street working and living girls in selected towns of Karachi conducted by Azad Foundation in 2008.

[11] Identification of Key Vulnerabilities amongst street working and living girls in selected towns of Karachi conducted by Azad Foundation in 2008.

[12] Ibid

[13] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2013/3/14/pakistan-detains-suspected-child-bombers

Freedom of Expression vs Right to have Correct Information

Shaista Tabassum 

Professor of international Relations 

Dean faculty of Arts and Social Sciences 

University of Karachi, Pakistan

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right as given by Art 19 of the UDHR. The basic gain of this freedom is to increase knowledge and create understanding by dialogue on any issue among the people in any society. For any democratic culture the freedom of expression is the essential and primary stepping stone for democratic values to grow. 

In Pakistan, public faced suspension of social media when the government in the end of December2023 has gradually limited the use of social media platforms. Initially by limited access and later on slowing down the X (formerly Twitter) Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Needless to mention that Pakistan is among the top most subscriber of Facebook in the World. It was reported that due to the underwater cable faults the access to internet was slowed down, however, later on the blocking was unofficially accepted on grounds that  it was due to the presence of blasphemous content or religious immorality on the social media [atforms. The blocking was primarily caused due to reports of the misuses of social media against the government, judiciary and the military establishment. The material used by the political opponents to spread disinformation based on propaganda and twisted facts using AI technology, thus creating chaos, anti-state and anti-military establishment propaganda. In societies like Pakistan where the literacy rate is below 60% there are high chances of public being easily influenced by the disinformation. Growing concerns were expressed by the religious community on the available online content and literature as misinterpretation of Islamic laws and practices equally challenging the very fabric of the society. Pakistani society is a conservative internally and is extremely sensitive on religious sectarian lines. The material on sensitive issues linked to blasphemy and pornographic material is popular and has wide market especially among the illiterate and rural young people. 

The freedom of expression is the basic human right of an individual, if it is denied, restrained or limited he or she cannot be consider as free. Every individual has complete freedom of thinking expression and writing. Any restriction is the violation of the principles of international Human rights laws.  The debate on freedom of expression becomes more complex when the use of such rights violates or caused damage to the rights of others. Thus it is agreed by international conventions that the freedom of expression is not an unrestricted right it must be balanced by the duties or responsibilities abide by the state the media and the individuals alike.  The 1950 European convention on HR very clearly agreed that this right may be limited. The primary reason being the protection of other’s rights. Article 10 of the convention is the crux of this debate, which says’

‘’everyone has the right to freedom of expression” but that this freedom may by subject to restrictions for a variety of reasons, including to protect the rights of others: The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

This leads to yet to an extended discussion on the concept of Human rights. At the tip of the ice burg, every individual has the right to have knowledge and information but which is authentic, correct and genuine knowledge based on truth and facts not fictions or disinformation. Plato believed that knowledge is achievable but for him true knowledge must be trustworthy and also of the real. Any state of mind which cannot defend this claims cannot be the true knowledge.

While looking it from this angle it appears that the laws introduced by any government in such situation where the flood of information/disinformation is influencing the minds of the people the freedom of expression and the right of genuine information coincide in the state policy. The government as the custodian of the people security in every respect preferred that the public must be given right information. Now it is up to the masses to decide which right they prefer to have. Correct information or freedom of expression.

Technology and Human Rights: Balancing Privacy and Security in the Digital Era                                                                               

Anju Gupta

                                                                                  Head Department of Political Science

                                                                                  JECRC University, JAIPUR(India.

The rapid advancement of technology has brought about a paradigm shift in growing world, where technology is advancing with each passing minute; the convergence of technology and human rights has become a prominent and pressing concern. Technology is bringing countless new innovations and advantages for us in terms of communication, transportation, and security, but at the same time it has presented us with significant challenges concerning the protection of individual privacy and human rights violations. The challenge is to strike a balance between privacy and security in the digital era.

  Innovation comes with its own set of concerns. Encryption can be used to protect sensitive data, while anonymization techniques can be used to protect personal information. Additionally, technology can be used to monitor and track individuals, which can help to deter crime and ensure public safety.. This is where the dilemma arises when technology is used for data breaches to expose personal information to unauthorized individuals, while surveillance technologies can be used to track people’s movements and activities. Additionally, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) can raise concerns about bias and discrimination.

The whole conversation about technology and human rights revolves around the fundamental issue of privacy. We all have the right to privacy, to keep our personal information, communication, and daily activities confidential. But the prominent question is whether Is it possible in this digital era where our online behavior is constantly under scrutiny or surveillance? Technologies like facial recognition, fingerprint detection, and AI-driven surveillance systems are brought forward to enhance the security system; however, this raises concerns about the potential misuse of this data for abuse, financial identity theft, and discrimination.

 The challenge is to strike a balance between privacy and security in the digital era requires a multifaceted approach that involves:

Transparency and Accountability: Organizations collecting data must be transparent and accountable. Accountability systems are necessary to guarantee to use data in a responsible and moral manner.

 Ethical Technology Development:  Developers and engineers must ensure that ethics are their first priority. It is crucial to make sure that surveillance and AI systems are created with privacy protections in mind. 

Strong Legal framework: The government should introduce data protection laws globally to maintain the privacy and security of personal data. These gatekeepers will ensure that citizens’ data is morally and ethically used by the organization.

Public Awareness: Individuals need to be vigilant of the risks and benefits of using technology. They also need to be educated about how to protect their privacy and security online.

The impact of digital technology on human rights is complex and multifaceted. It is important to be aware of both the positive and negative impacts of digital technology in order to make informed decisions about its use.  There is a need to strike a balance between privacy and technology.  The digital age is not just to adapt to new technology but also to thrive while upholding the fundamental human rights values that form the basis of our democratic society. The way forward in this dynamic and linked world is obvious: we must choose a road that upholds people’s rights, protects their privacy, and assures their security. It’s a difficult road, but one that is necessary to uphold the values of democracy, freedom, and dignity that make the nations of the world what they are. The digital era is not necessarily a threat to human rights; rather, it can be a stimulus for peaceful coexistence between technology and mankind.

Cyberwarfare and human rights

Impact of AI and the Dark Web on Democratic Process

Cássius Guimarães Chai


The emergence of cyber warfare has introduced a new dimension to discussions on human rights, particularly in terms of disinformation campaigns and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) on the Dark Web to shape public opinion.

Using AI in disinformation campaigns poses a significant threat to democratic processes, as it can mislead voters and undermine elections on an unprecedented scale (Swenson, 2023). In this regard, we can cite the Brazilian example during the presidential campaign back in 2018 and the very recent attempt at the legitimate electoral proceedings of 2022. This is particularly concerning because AI-generated disinformation has become increasingly sophisticated, incorporating synthetic media designed to confuse voters, defame candidates, or even incite violence (Swenson, 2023). Nonetheless, this asymmetric narrative warfare can also be perceived in armed conflicts.

The Dark Web, intentionally hidden and inaccessible through standard browsers, has also been implicated in these disinformation campaigns. Its anonymity makes it an ideal platform for spreading false information and coordinating cyberattacks (Bhattacharya, 2021).

Disinformation campaigns not only undermine democratic processes but also erode public trust in these processes. Studies show that misinformation can damage public confidence in democracy. False or exaggerated claims are frequently disseminated by foreign interests to undermine election outcomes (Brookings Institution, 2022).

Using AI and the Dark Web in disinformation campaigns raises significant human rights concerns. For instance, the right to privacy can be infringed upon by collecting and using personal data in these campaigns (RAND Corporation, 2023). Furthermore, the right to freedom of thought can be compromised when individuals or groups are influenced by information manipulation (UNODC, 2023). Countering these threats requires a multi-faceted approach. This includes efforts to detect and counter deepfakes (RAND Corporation, 2023), development of strategies to counter disinformation (RAND Corporation, 2022), and regulation of the dark web (Bhattacharya, 2021). Usefully, the tactics depleted by contemporary counter-disinformation organizations can be grouped into six high-level strategies: refutation, exposure of inauthenticity, alternative narratives, algorithmic filter manipulation, speech laws, and censorship (Stray, 2019), in the form of gag orders, for example. However, these efforts must also be balanced against the need to uphold human rights, such as freedom of expression (MIT News, 2022).

In conclusion, the intricate issue of cyber warfare’s impact on human rights demands a more critical perspective that delves deeper into the subject. While it is crucial to safeguard individuals and societies from the harmful effects of cyberattacks, it is equally important to ensure that measures to combat cyber warfare and cybercrime respect and uphold human rights. A more constructive approach to addressing this issue involves engagement and developing policies that strike a balance not only between security and human rights, but also a more coherent and effective commitment of all the international community with a truly shared equal ethical, and accountable understanding of the meaning of human dignity. Only then can we effectively combat cyber threats while upholding the fundamental values of our societies.


Brookings Institution. (2022). Misinformation is eroding the public’s confidence in democracy. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/articles/misinformation-is-eroding-the-publics-confidence-in-democracy/

Swenson, A. (2023). AI-generated disinformation poses threat of misleading voters in 2024 election. PBS. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/ai-generated-disinformation-poses-threat-of-misleading-voters-in-2024-election

RAND Corporation. (2022). Information Warfare: Methods to Counter Disinformation. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/pubs/external_publications/EP69000.html

Bhattacharya, D. (2021). The Dark Web and Regulatory Challenges. Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. Retrieved from https://www.idsa.in/issuebrief/the-dark-web-and-regulatory-challenges-dbhattacharya-230721

Brookings Institution. (2023). Despair underlies our misinformation crisis: Introducing an interactive tool. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/articles/despair-underlies-our-misinformation-crisis-introducing-an-interactive-tool/

PBS. (2023). Misleading AI-generated content a top concern among state election officials for 2024. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/misleading-ai-generated-content-a-top-concern-among-state-election-officials-for-2024

RAND Corporation. (2023). Combating Foreign Disinformation on Social Media. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR4373z1.html

Stray, J. (2019). Institutional Counter-disinformation Strategies in a Networked Democracy. Companion Proceedings of The 2019 World Wide Web Conference. Retrieved from http://jonathanstray.com/papers/Counter-disinformation%20Final.pdf

PBS. (2023). U.S. lawmakers question Meta and X over AI-generated political deepfakes ahead of 2024 election. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/u-s-lawmakers-question-meta-and-x-over-ai-generated-political-deepfakes-ahead-of-2024-election

UNODC. (2023). Cybercrime Module 14 Key Issues: Information Warfare, Disinformation and Electoral Fraud.

Photo: Image by kjpargeter on Freepik

Back to the definition of “Human Rights”


Radwan Ziadeh

Many definitions have been proposed in order to define this term ‘Human Rights”. Among these definitions is that proposed by René Cassin, one of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968. He defined it on the basis that the science of human rights is a special branch of the social sciences whose subject It is the study of the relationships existing between people according to human dignity, while defining the rights and choices necessary to develop the personality of every human being. Therefore, this definition assumes the establishment of a modern science called the science of human rights, so that the criterion of this science is human dignity.

However, in 1973, a group of researchers, led by Mr. Karel Vasak, famous for his research and work in the field of human rights, created about five thousand words used in the field of human rights and entered them into the computer, and obtained the following definition according to this technical method: “Human rights are A science that concerns every person, especially the working person who lives within the framework of a particular state, and who, if he is accused of breaking the law or a victim of a state of war, must benefit from the protection of national and international law, and his rights, especially the right to equality, must be consistent with the necessities of maintaining public order”.

This definition assumes that the human worker is the first addressee according to this perspective, and that the principle of equality stipulated by the law is the one that takes priority.

In 1976, the Frenchman Yves Madieu published his book Human Rights and Public Liberties and put forward the following definition: The subject of human rights is the study of personal rights that are recognized nationally and internationally and which, under a certain civilization, guarantee a combination of affirming and protecting human dignity on the one hand and maintaining public order on the other hand.

All these definitions share in approaching the issue within the modern perspective of rights and law. They assume the existence of a modern state in which the law prevails. This law must guarantee freedom, dignity, equality, and justice for all citizens. However, Leah Levin tried to see the issue from another angle, and she sees that the concept of human rights two basic meanings: the first is that a human being (just because he is a human) has fixed and natural rights, and these are (moral rights) stemming from the humanity of every human being and aiming to guarantee his dignity. 

As for the second meaning of human rights, it is related to (legal rights) that were established in accordance with law-making processes in both national and international communities. These rights are based on the consent of the governed, that is, the consent of the owners of these rights, and not on a natural order as exists in the first sense. 

To this first meaning, the definition of the dictionary of political thought drawn up by a group of specialists leads to the fact that they are the rights that a human being possesses simply because he is a human being. Accordingly, human rights are defined within the state of nature, which is the state of freedom and equality that people are in before an authority arises among them that limits their right to exercise it.

According to the legal aspect, human rights are defined as an outcome acquired through human struggle over a long history, and their graph is rising with the development of the political and social conditions of the person.

But is it possible to talk about abstract natural rights of a person? Then how can these natural rights be defined and determined?

The term “human rights” is a relatively recent term, while natural rights are a term that was popular in previous centuries, specifically in the Middle Ages in relation to European development. We can say that human rights are the rights guaranteed to the human being, and related to his nature, such as his right to life, equality, and other rights related to the same human nature mentioned in international conventions and declarations.

The insistence on natural right stems from the desire to give a universal formula to these rights and not to link them to the law or the constitution, which makes them subject to the will of the authority or the state. In addition, this definition assumes mentioning the rights that coincided with the term and its emergence as a defined concept. This does not mean at all Denying the existence of human rights before it appeared as a term, as denying this is tantamount to affirming that before drawing the circle, not all rays were equal, in the words of Muhammad Si Nasser.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Human Rights Based Approach to Promote Tolerance and Accountability

Furqan Ahmed 

Area Study Center for Europe, University of Karachi

email: f_ahmed_10@outlook.com

I. Introduction: In recent years, violent extremism has become a bigger problem. This issue affects global peace and development and has been widely regarded as a significant threat to the world. The CVE programs were introduced for those countries where the security situations were very critical. These programs were mainly introduced to identify and control terrorists and violent extremists. Nevertheless, alongside these CVE programs, human rights violations have been violated. The main argument of this blog post is to discuss that the CVE programs should abide by the regulations and procedures of a human rights-based approach. The need for long-term solutions has never been greater or more challenging as the risks posed by violent extremism and terrorism continue to elude prediction. According to the United Nations (UN) ‘development, peace and security, and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing.[1] This propitiation talks about how human rights approach can be beneficial in countering violent extremism for promoting tolerance and accountability. 

II. The Human Rights Implications of CVE: There are numerous CVE programs whose strategies violate human rights—for instance, freedom of expression, non-discrimination or privacy. CVE programs have their share of stigmatizing and discriminating against many communities, such as targeting Muslim communities and violating their fundamental rights. The paper includes a whole section titled “Preventing Violent Extremism While Promoting Human Rights: Toward a Clarified UN Approach.” Where it discusses the two main justifications for using PVE programs to advance human rights. First, national governments’ interests and donor countries’ securities often prioritized in counterterrorism narratives over the concerns of local communities and individuals. “Second, even “soft” PVE approaches can be pernicious if they exacerbate preexisting social tensions and divisions or legitimize government crackdowns and oppression that involve human rights abuses.”[2] Similarly, on March 4, 2020, a report submitted to the Human Rights Council by the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, Fionnuala N. Aolain, was referenced in an article published by the Middle East Eye (MEE), a London-based news website. In her report, N. Aolain expressed concern over how the counter-terrorism policies adopted by the United Kingdom and the United States contribute to human rights violations.[3]

III. A Human Rights-Based Approach to CVE: Human Rights-Based Approach (HRBA) promotes inclusivity, accountability, and transparency. This approach supports community-led initiatives, education and awareness-raising programs, and legal remedies. Therefore, handling CVE programs as per the regulations and procedures of a human rights-based approach is beneficial. 

Promoting Tolerance and Accountability in CVE: Tolerance and accountability are among the essential factors in HRBA. Community engagement, dialogue, and monitoring are vital in promoting tolerance and accountability in CVE. “The UN System has responded accordingly with the UN secretary-general’s 2016 Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which recognizes the scale of the global threat and lays the groundwork for preventing violent extremism (PVE) through the UN system”.[4] International Peace Institute (IPI) produced a paper on “Preventing Violent Extremism While Promoting Human Rights: Toward a Clarified UN Approach”. The paper provides significant knowledge on preventing violent extremism and implementing PVE-aligned and PVE-specific activities. The research paper mentioned above backs up the claim to combat conflict and violent extremism through a human rights-based approach of this blog. 

IV. Challenges and Criticism of a Human Rights-Based Approach to CVE: Implementation of this approach draws numerous challenges. These challenges include a need for more political will and backlash among certain groups’ potential. This approach also comes with criticism, such as a preference for individual rights over collective security. The article “The Security Versus Freedom Dilemma. An Empirical Study of the Spanish Case” by Gonzalo Herranz de Rafael and Juan S. Fernández-Prados, speaks about the Covid-19 pandemic “was not only the first event that has forced public opinion to consider the dilemma of freedom versus security in a world dominated by the influence of so-called new information and communication technologies.”

V. Conclusion: In conclusion, CVE is a very critical issue, and to resolve this issue, human rights-based approach is fundamental. Because this approach helps promote inclusivity, accountability, and transparency, implementing HRBA has numerous challenges and draws much criticism. Individuals and organizations must support human rights principles through community-led initiatives and education awareness-raising programs. Security concerns must be kept in mind while introducing solutions. 


  1. https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/counter-terrorism-programmes-prevent-cve-violate-human-rights-un
  2. https://www.ipinst.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/1907_PVE-While-Promoting-Human-Rights.pdf
  3. https://oslo3.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Oslo_I_report.pdf
  4. https://community-democracies.org/app/uploads/2018/06/aitwr-3-1.pdf

[1] “How Human Rights and the Rule of Law can address terrorism”, Cheryl Frank, Institute for Security Studies. 

[2] Preventing Violent Extremism While Promoting Human Rights: Toward a Clarified UN Approach, Dr. Chuck Thiessen, Assistant Professor at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR) at Coventry University International Peace Institute, July 2019. 

[3] https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/counter-terrorism-programmes-prevent-cve-violate-human-rights-un

[4]  Preventing Violent Extremism While Promoting Human Rights: Toward a Clarified UN Approach, Dr. Chuck Thiessen, Assistant Professor at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR) at Coventry University International Peace Institute, July 2019. 

Freedom of Speech vs Protection of Religious Feelings – the Rabczewska’s Case Before the ECHR

Tomasz Litwin

Jesuit University Ignatianum in Krakow, Poland

In 2012, Dorota Rabczewska (a Polish female singer and celebrity) was fined PLN 5,000 (approximately €1,165) for publicly expressing the opinion that the Bible was written by someone under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The court judgement was based on the article 196 of Polish Penal Code: 

“Anyone found guilty of offending religious feelings through public calumny of an object or place of worship is liable to a fine, restriction of liberty or a maximum two-year prison sentence.”

The Polish Constitutional Tribunal in 2015 considered constitutional complaint submitted by Rabczewska and reviewed this rule. The Tribunal found it to be constitutional (Litwin, 2023).

The European Court of Human Rights judgements concerning freedom of speech and protection of religious feelings are diverse. In some cases the Court considered freedom of speech as more important: Giniewski v. France (2006), Klein v. Slovakia (2006), Sekmadienis Ltd. v. Lithuania (2018). In others it gave the edge to protection of religious feelings: Otto-Preminger-Institut v. Austria (1994), Wingrove v. the United Kingdom (1996), İ.A. v. Turkey (2005), E.S. v. Austria (2018) – (Litwin, 2023).  

On September 15, 2022, the ECHR delivered the judgement in case Rabczewska v. Poland and this is the last case up to date when the Court considered the conflict of freedom of speech and protection of religious feelings. The Court, like in similar previous cases, emphasised that both freedom of expression and freedom of religion are fundamental for democratic society. The freedom of expression concerns also statements that offend, shock or disturb. However, this freedom also carries the duties and responsibilities. In case of religion – to avoid the statements gratuitously offensive to others and profane. The state is also allowed to introduce measures that will ensure peaceful coexistence of the members of society, no matter of their religious and worldview convictions. However, the adherents of the particular religion should be prepared for a criticism of their beliefs, even a hostile one. In Rabczewska’s case, the Court declared that her statement “did not amount to an improper or abusive attack on an object of religious veneration, likely to incite religious intolerance or violating the spirit of tolerance”. Therefore, the Court evaluated the actions of Polish authorities as the violation of art. 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. 

This judgement cannot be regarded as breakthrough ruling. It rather summarises the previous case-law when freedom of speech collides with the protection of religious feelings. There is no general rule to solve such conflict of two values, both protected by the Convention. In every case the Court has to balance both values and carefully analyse the substance of the controversial statement. The offensive character of the statement is not enough to limit the freedom of speech. Such limitation should be considered if the statement could be regarded as broadly understood hate speech towards the adherents of the particular religion or as endangering the peaceful coexistence of religious and non-religious groups and individuals in the particular state. 

Such position of the Court should be supported, however some of its conclusions need further consideration. In general, the freedom of speech guarantees the right to criticise the particular religion or the religion in general, understood as the set of philosophical principles of how to live inspired by some conception of deity. Only the statements that endanger the particular person or group of persons because of their religious beliefs should be penalized, not those that strongly provoke them, potentially even causing riots. The doubts concerning the interpretation of the statement should be considered according to the principle in dubio pro libertate, supporting the freedom of speech. Therefore the potential state protection should concern only adherents of the religion but not its deity, prophets, ministrants, sacred texts or principles. 

Litwin, T. 2023. “The Freedom of Speech and the Protection of Religious Feelings: The Case of Dorota Rabczewska – Comparative Analysis.” In: O. Pérez de la Fuente, A. Tsesis, J. Skrzypczak (eds.). Minorities, Free Speech and the Internet. London: Taylor & Francis Ltd: Chapter 13. 

Rabczewska v. Poland [2023] App. no 8257/13.      

Freedom of expression in the time of War in Ukraine

Jedrzej Skrzypczak

Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland

  1. Introduction

Freedom of expression is guaranteed both in the legal order of the Council of Europe (the European Convention on Human Rights) and the European Union (Article 11 of the Chart of Fundamental Rights of the European Union No 2012 / C 326/02). Still, it should be emphasised that this freedom is not unlimited. However, as it was indicated in p. 2 of Article 10 ECHR, “The exercise of these freedoms since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary for a democratic society, among other in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety /../”.

  • Freedom of speech in times of war

Indeed, the state of war is one of the reasons why Freedom Of Expression may be limited. As US Supreme Court declared in Schenck v. the United States in 1919, “when a nation is at war, many things that might be said in times of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right. Additionally, the US Supreme Court declared that the government could restrict speech more in times of war than in times of peace”. (https://www.mtsu.edu/first-am additions/article/1597/free-speech-during-wartime)   

As shown in the doctrine, “American history confirms that in times of war, freedom of speech suffers. Unfortunately, the understandable push for security and order has caused excess efforts at branding many who dissent as disloyal”. (https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1597/free-speech-during-wartime) We can indicate many such cases, not only in the history of the USA. 

We can also point to a similar case recently also in the European Union. After Russia attacked Ukraine on 24 February, 2022, the European Union banned Russian broadcasting programmes on the territory of EU member states. As stated in COUNCIL REGULATION (EU) 2022/350 of 1 March, 2022, amending Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 concerning restrictive measures in view of Russia’s actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine, “the Russian Federation has engaged in a systematic, international campaign of media manipulation and distortion of facts to enhance its strategy of destabilisation of its neighbouring countries and the Union and its Member States. In particular, the propaganda has repeatedly and consistently targeted European political parties, especially during election periods, as well as targeting civil society, asylum seekers, Russian ethnic minorities, gender minorities, and the functioning of democratic institutions in the Union and its Member States. To justify and support its aggression against Ukraine, the Russian Federation has engaged in continuous and concerted propaganda actions targeted at civil society in the Union and neighbouring countries, gravely distorting and manipulating facts. Those propaganda actions have been channelled through a number of media outlets under the permanent direct or indirect control of the leadership of the Russian Federation. Such actions constitute a significant and immediate threat to the Union’s public order and security. Given the gravity of the situation and response to Russia’s actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine, it is necessary, consistent with the fundamental rights and freedoms recognised in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, in particular with the right to freedom of expression and information as identified in Article 11 thereof, to introduce further restrictive measures to urgently suspend the broadcasting activities of such media outlets in the Union, or directed at the Union. /…/ According to Article 2f 1., “It shall be prohibited for operators to broadcast or to enable, facilitate, or otherwise contribute to the broadcast any content by the legal persons, entities or bodies listed in Annex XV (i.e. RT – Russia Today English, RT – Russia Today UK, RT – Russia Today Germany, RT – Russia Today France, RT – Russia Today Spanish, Sputnik), including through transmission or distribution by any means such as cable, satellite, IP-TV, internet service providers, internet video-sharing platforms or applications, whether new or pre-installed”. Due to this regulation, any broadcasting licence or authorisation, transmission, and distribution arrangement with the legal persons, entities, or bodies listed above shall be suspended. 

National media market regulators made similar decisions in some European Union countries. For example, according to the Polish National Broadcasting Council Decision of February and March 2022, it was decided to remove Russian TV channels from the register of cable networks and satellite platforms. Cable operators had to remove some stations from the offer and satellite platforms from set-top boxes. Then Russian stations were removed from Canal+ and Orange’s offer. Pervyj Kanał (Channel One Russia) and Belarus 24 (TV Belarus) have joined the banned stations. (Read more at: https://www.wirtualnemedia.pl/artykul/krrit-rerezent-operatorow-sieci-kablowe-platformy-cyfrowe-pierwyj-kanal-bialorus-24;https://www.wirtualnemedia.pl/artykul/jak-odbierac-rosyjskie-kanaly-krrit-usuwa-sieci-kablowe-platformy-cyfrowe-russia-today-rossija-24-orange-polsat-box- canal-upc)

  • Freedom of speech in Ukraine durin the war

At the beginning of this section, it should be emphasised that according to the world rankings of media freedom, Russia and Ukraine occupy a rather distant place. According to the Press Freedom Index of 2021, Ukraine was ranked 97th out of 180 countries and 106th in 2022. According to the same list, this position is better than Russia’s; in 2021, it was rated 150, and in 2022, 155 out of 180.

In the case of Ukraine, it can be assumed that her position will be even weaker next year. Certainly, a severe justification for such an unfavourable trend is the necessity to deal with the attack by the Russian Federation and the war. Many actions and legal acts were undertaken, de facto introducing war censorship.

It should be reminded here that according to the Decree of the President of Ukraine №152 / 2022 following Article 107 of the Constitution of Ukraine, the decision of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, “On the implementation of a unified information policy under martial law”, of 18 March, 2022 was put into effect. As a result, President of Ukraine V. Zelensky introduced the unified information policy as a priority issue of national security, which is ensured by combining all national television channels, the broadcast content of which consists chiefly of information or information/analysis programmes on a single information platform for strategic communication – round-the-clock news Marathon Single News #UArazom”, “(see more: УКАЗ ПРЕЗИДЕНТА УКРАЇНИ №152/2022Про рішення Ради національної безпеки і оборони України від 18 березня 2022 року “Щодо реалізації єдиної інформаційної політики в умовах воєнного стану”, https://ua.interfax.com.ua/news/general/816002.html

Several other worrying trends should be noted. However, not all cases can be justified by the war and the fight against the Russian invaders. They seem to have nothing to do with Russian propaganda and information warfare. The hostilities were only a pretext to eliminate TV broadcasters independent of the authorities from the public space. Examples include the case of Channel 5, “Pramyj”, and “Espresso”. The Ukrainian national regulator announced on 4 April, 2022, that it would prohibit broadcasting these TV channels on the T2 digital network. The sender appealed to the court against these decisions. Mychajło Podolak, the adviser to the head of the President’s Chancellery, shed some light on the reasons for this decision, stating that the channels mentioned above from the so-called Petro Poroshenko’s pools (Channel 5, Priamyj and Espresso) had been excluded from digital broadcasting because they were harmful due to the narcissism of the former Ukrainian president and political opponent of President Zelensky.

Another disturbing case was the attempt to exclude pro-Russian journalists from nationwide Ukrainian TV channels without any fair trial and independent court decisions. Ukrainian journalists and human rights organisations called for dismissing journalists who had previously played with the enemy’s rhetoric and had spread Kremlin propaganda for many years. This list includes journalists such as Vasyl Holovanov, Tigran Martirosyan, Natasha Vlashchenko, Tetiana Honcharova, Nazar Dovhyy, Volodymyr Poluyev, Anna Stepanets, Anastasia Dauhule. They were accused of promoting the Kremlin’s narrative about the alleged US control of Ukraine, “discrimination” of the Russian language, spreading propaganda about a “civil war” in the Donbas, and justifying the Russian occupation of Crimea. Some journalists also called for cleaning the Ukrainian media space from Russian agents. “Now we have the chance to clear out the Ukrainian media space and to set up an institute of reputation to protect Ukraine from repeating the story in the future”.( see https://imi.org.ua/en/news/the-media-community-calls-to-exclude-pro-russian-hosts-from-participating-in-national-telethons-i45534). “Media Group Ukraine”, i.e., the sender who employs these persons, stated that currently, it had no doubts about the pro-Ukrainian civic stance of the TV hosts mentioned, whom the media community called for excluding from national telethons because of their pro-Russian narratives. (see: https://imi.org.ua/en/news/media-group-ukraine-does-not-doubt-the-pro-ukrainian-stance-of-the-hosts-of-medvedchuk-s-tv-channels-i45607).

3a. The case of social media. 

The resident of the Lviv region will be tried for posting a video on the social media TikTok featuring the movement of a column of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. A defendant (a 28-year-old man),  in April 2022, posted a video on TikTok showing a column of military equipment on the move (the number and type of vehicles). The prosecutors have filed an indictment for the unauthorised distribution of information about the movement of the Armed Forces under martial law (Part 2 of Article 114-2 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).(see: Reporters have been killed and injured while reporting on the war. RFE/RL’s Vira Hyrych, who died in a Russian missile strike in Kyiv on 28 April, https://www.rferl.org/a/world-press-freedom-index-rsf-russia-ukraine/31831712.html

  • Freedom of media in Russia

In Russia, for quite some time now, the government has taken virtually total control of news and information by introducing extensive censorship, blocking the media, and prosecuting non-compliant journalists, forcing many to emigrate. As mentioned, the country fell five places from 150 in the ranking in 2021 to 155 in 2022 when the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) lowered Russia’s rating for repression of journalists reporting protests in support of the Kremlin’s criticism of Alexei Navalny and the tightening of its media law as “foreign agents”.

In Russia, after the start of the war with Ukraine, military censorship was introduced: at that time, more than 3,000 websites were closed in the country – news publications, social networks, public organisations, trade and IT companies. Access to most websites was restricted at the request of the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation. In March 2022, the Office demanded that Twitter, Facebook and Instagram be blocked. Their owner – the Meta company – was recognised as an “extremist”. The list of banned resources also includes many media sites. Some, such as Meduza and Mediazona, were even blocked twice based on various decisions of the General Prosecutor’s Office. (see: https://mailbd.net/news/3000-websites-blocked-in-russia-after-the-start-of-the-war-with-ukraine-news-from-germany-about-russia-dw-3356/)

Additionally, in March 2022, Russia passed two laws that criminalise all independent war reports and protests against the war, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison. The law prohibits spreading “fake news” about Russian armed forces, calling for an end to their deployment. On 23 March, the Russian parliament adopted a decree effectively extending the ban on criticising the armed forces to the one condemning any actions taken by the Russian authorities abroad. The amendments expand the provisions on “false information” and “discredit” to government bodies such as the Russian Guard (currently involved in hostilities in Ukraine), embassies, consulates and emergency services. The penalties are similar to those laid down in the original law criminalising “false information” and “discrediting” the Russian armed forces. As a result, disseminating, for example, information in social media that Russia is waging war in Ukraine and not a “special military operation”, as Putin calls it, is punishable by imprisonment of up to 15 years.

Ukraine and human rights. A study of Russian brutality during the war

Vladyslav Zinichenko 

Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland

Russia failed the exam on compliance with human rights and international law during the war against Ukraine. This was the main conclusion of the presentation “Ukraine and human rights. Analysis of Russian cruelty that surprises the world.” The author made it after researching the period from 24 February 2022 to 1 June 2022.

To begin with, Russia has been part of the human rights protection system for about 30 years. However, it was not difficult for this country to erase the entire experience in just three months. Russians violated at least 67 articles from the following documents: 

1) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

2) Convention on the Rights of the Child;

3) Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;

4) Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;

5) Geneva Convention (III) Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War;

6) Geneva Convention (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War;

7) Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I).

Examples of their inhuman methods of warfare shocked the whole world. Russian commanders ordered to shell humanitarian aid lines, residential buildings and Ukrainian infrastructure facilities. Among other things, they fired at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is the largest one in Europe.[1] Russian soldiers raped, tortured, and executed civilians. Ukrainians were set on fire and brutally killed. Official UN statistics showed that 3 months of full-scale war became more tragic in terms of the number of victims (3930) than 8 years of war in eastern Ukraine (3400).[2][3]Furthermore, Russians shot at peaceful protesters, kidnapped children and representatives of local authorities. Unfortunately, this list can be continued endlessly. It is important to remember the fate of every person who suffered from the actions of the aggressor country.

The author has selected the TOP-5 most important articles that were violated by Russians:

i. The right to life.

ii. Freedom of expression.

iii. Prohibition of torture, reprisals, corporal punishment, encroachment on personal dignity, and all other acts violence.

iv. Protection of the civilian population and civilian objectives.

v. Illicit transfer and non-return abroad that shall be combated by state parties.

In conclusion, Russia has already committed a large number of crimes in Ukraine and continues to follow this path. It is obvious that the human rights protection system could not prevent them and save lives. Its mechanisms of work must be reviewed in order to minimize the number of similar cases in the future. We have no more time!

[1] Heintz J., Karmanaum Y., Chernov M., Russia attacks Ukraine nuclear plant as invasion advances, 04.03.2020, AP News, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-war-a3092d8e476949ed7c55607a645a9154. 30.07.2022.

[2] Conflict-related civilian casualties in Ukraine (2022), United Nations, https://ukraine.un.org/sites/default/files/2022-02/Conflict-related%20civilian%20casualties%20as%20of%2031%20December%202021%20%28rev%2027%20January%202022%29%20corr%20EN_0.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2Z0he3Nbqoc-z05jslIJo3xyur3d1Vi1ccME1mkaLSVrKop5ugEHfiBxQ.

[3] UA War Infographics, More civilians were killed in 3 months than in 8 years, 24.05.2022, Telegram post, https://t.me/uawarinfographics/602?fbclid=IwAR3dRvZNPGukqtFb0faqeJp5DYnwDvjot9myyRgz-5Sqm71j8WnVZLz9nfQ. 26.07.2022.