Identifying the Human Rights that were Violated in the Sharpeville Massacre

On this page, we identify the human rights that were violated in the Sharpeville massacre.


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Title: Violation of Human Rights in the Sharpeville Massacre

The Sharpeville Massacre was a turning point in South African history that led to a global outcry against apartheid. The event took place on March 21, 1960, in the township of Sharpeville, where police opened fire on a crowd of black South African protesters, killing 69 and wounding nearly 200. The peaceful demonstration was against the pass laws, a central element of the apartheid system. A number of fundamental human rights were egregiously violated during this tragic incident, which will be identified and discussed in this essay.

  1. Right to Life

The most blatant violation of human rights in the Sharpeville Massacre was the Right to Life, as stated in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The South African police’s indiscriminate use of firearms resulted in the deaths of 69 people, a clear infringement on this basic human right.

  1. Right to Peaceful Assembly and Association

Article 20 of the UDHR guarantees the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. The protesters at Sharpeville were exercising this right, gathering to protest against the pass laws peacefully. The response from the authorities, which escalated to violent suppression and mass murder, was a gross violation of this right.

  1. Right to Freedom from Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
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Article 5 of the UDHR prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Many of the protesters at Sharpeville were not just killed but also wounded and treated inhumanely by the police forces. This brutality violates the inherent dignity and the right to humane treatment that every person is entitled to.

  1. Right to Equality Before the Law

The right to equality before the law without discrimination, as stated in Article 7 of the UDHR, was violated by the very nature of the apartheid regime. The pass laws that the demonstrators were protesting against were discriminatory and unequal, targeting the black majority in South Africa and denying them the same rights and protections as the white minority.

  1. Right to Freedom of Thought and Expression

As per Article 19 of the UDHR, everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. By protesting against the pass laws, the people of Sharpeville were exercising this right. The brutal response they faced effectively punished them for expressing their opinions, hence infringing on this basic right.

The Sharpeville Massacre is a stark reminder of the systemic violations of human rights that characterized the apartheid regime in South Africa. The egregious breaches of the right to life, the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, the right to equality before the law, and the right to freedom of thought and expression are evident in this tragic event. The aftermath led to intensified national resistance to apartheid and escalated international pressure on the South African government, eventually contributing to the downfall of this oppressive system. However, the massacre underscores the vigilance required in safeguarding human rights and the devastating consequences of their violation.

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