Law can be defined as the set of rules and regulations which are enforced by the government to punish criminals, solve disputes between individuals and govern behaviours of individuals in the society. The history of law is as old as civilization. Law was practised by the ancient Egyptian civilization as early as 3000 BC. Often there was a king or an emperor who would govern their kingdom or empire according to their own set of laws. For example, in olden days if someone stole something or killed someone, he would be fined or even sentenced to death.
In some parts of the world, the law (when implemented fairly) has protected the rights of individuals. After the WWII, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in the UN general assembly. The citizens of the countries that adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in full or part enjoyed full protection of their rights in contrast to the citizens of other countries without the law. The violation rate of human rights in Europe reduced to a great extent after the implementation of law. Similar results were achieved in North America, Japan and some other countries. Implementation of the law protected the rights of individuals in these countries and no one bothered to go out and fight for his/her rights. However, lawlessness in countries like Afghanistan, Ethiopia and some other conflicted countries of the world produced catastrophic consequences. Many rights are not given to citizens of these countries but taken away. It would not be an exaggeration to say in a country like Afghanistan lawlessness is one of the major reasons for terrorism, corruption and the loss of thousands of human lives.
Unfortunately, law cannot guarantee the rights of individuals all the time. There have been many occasions in history that discriminatory laws were enforced against a particular group of people to legalise their persecution.
For example, in the 18th century institutionalised racism was practised against the black population of America. Various discriminatory laws were devised to deny the Black populations their basic rights. They were forced into slavery. Most of the court’s decisions against blacks encouraged the whites to continue their oppression and maltreatment of the black population. Violence against blacks and riots broke out in the country. No one was held accountable for their inhumane behaviour and treatment of the blacks.
Similarly, the Nazi regime used several discriminatory laws to justify the genocide of Jews in Germany. Jews were asked to pay a heavy amount of money in order to escape the miseries and sufferings of the forthcoming laws. Only a few wealthy Jews could afford to pay the money and leave Germany, but most of them stayed in Germany to endure the brutality of the Nazi regime. Jews were blamed for the defeat of Germany in World War One. Hitler introduced a new law in which Jews were declared “Untermenschen” – The Sub Humans. Jews lost their German citizenship under the new law and the marriage between Jews and Germans were prohibited. It was illegal for Germans to shop at Jewish-owned shops. On buses, parks and trains Jews were allocated specific seats. Even a night curfew was imposed on Jews.
After introducing several harsh discriminatory laws against Jews, Hitler implemented his final solution. When Nazis captured Hungary in 1944, they started the deportation of Jews of Sighet. First, the Jews were forced into small ghettos, and after two days were packed in trains and deported to Birkenau. In Birkenau families were separated, men and boys on one side, and women and girls on the other. Wiesel (who survived the holocaust and wrote the book “Night”) and his father were separated from his mother and sister and they never saw each other again. Jewish men and boys were then divided into two groups; those who were fit to work and those who were good for nothing but the fuel of the furnace. Wiesel and his father were taken to one of the work camps of Auschwitz: Buna. Even whilst they were fed inadequately, the Jewish prisoners were required to work harder normal. Some Jews lost their lives in the Birkenau furnaces, others perished in the freezing cold, and still more in the work camps. After a period of harsh treatment and intense labour, Wiesel’s father died of dysentery. Very few Jews (Wiesel was among them) survived the harsh and painful treatment of the Nazis and were liberated by the American army in 1945.
In summary, if the law is implemented fairly and equally, it can protect the rights of individuals. Murders, robberies, terrorism and other crimes can be prevented, and citizens can live peaceful and happy lives. Europe, North America and Japan are some of the examples of when law protects the rights of the individuals. On the other hand, if the law is twisted and used to justify the persecution of minorities, it cannot protect the rights of individuals. The treatment of Jews in Germany and Blacks in America are two unfortunate cases when law could not protect the rights of individuals.