New Delhi, March 13 (IANS) On the occasion of Commonwealth Day, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) on Monday urged the intergovernmental organisation to ensure liberty and rule of law in its member-nations as in many of these countries governance was marked by "abuse of power, corruption and human rights violations".
"The occasion (Commonwealth Day) will once again see member-states pronounce affirmations to the fundamental principles of the Commonwealth Charter -- democracy, rule of law and human rights.
"Unfortunately, the reality is that these core values are currently under severe strain. A majority of the 2.4 billion people living in Commonwealth countries live in poverty, deprived of rights.
"In too many countries governance is marked by abuse of power, corruption and state violence as well as religious intolerance, attacks on free speech, hate speech, the right to associate and discrimination on grounds of race and gender," the CHRI, an independent organisation working to protect human rights in Commonwealth countries, said in a statement.
It pointed to the diminished role that governments are playing in securing people's rights and in curbing their freedom instead, in the name of economic growth and progress.
"The race for markets and economic growth is often an excuse for curbing rights. However, these are not inimical to each other and economic growth must assure basic rights," the rights body said.
Commonwealth Day is celebrated by 52 member countries, including India, which form the Commonwealth and were formerly British colonies. The day is not necessarily celebrated formally and not many are aware of it.
However, the occasion is marked by a speech from the British Queen who also hands over a baton on the same day a year before the quadrennial Commonwealth Games, to start off a relay race.
The day is celebrated annually on the second Monday of March.