December 10th, nineteen hundred and forty eight; after the shattering global slaughter of the Second World War a new organisation meets in hope. The horrific truth of the death camps is still emerging – the cold-blooded extermination of Jews, socialists, gays, Slavs, gypsies, Resistance members and even Allied POWs who proved to troublesome to the Nazi regime – the horrific atomic legacy those who survived the nuclear annihilation of Nagasaki and Horishima, a new, terrible legacy that lives in the very cells of the survivors, is claiming victims after the fighting finished. Cities lie in ruins, from Glasgow to London to Hamburg to Stalingrad, families are homeless, many are and will remain incomplete with loved ones who will never come home.
And in the face of this, sixty years ago today, the new United Nations announced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human Rights have had a bad reputation in a section of the media but let’s ignore the Daily Mail reading bigots who constantly tell us human rights legislation is just a charter for villains (no, its not perfect, yes some sneak round it an abuse it, but on the whole we need it). Have a look at just a dozen of the articles below and think how many are bent, circumvented or simply ignored and broken every single day somewhere in the world – and even here in the ‘free’ democratic world, think how many of these have been abused by democtatic governments: condoning (or even using) torture, long detention with no trial, illegal intercepts of communication, not to mention outright lies told to justify violence and warfare. And away from governmental abuse think on the inherint injustices – no one shall be a slave and yet how many women are trafficked and sold into sexual service with no more rights than a slave of old? Everyone should be equal before law, yet we all know that the law (as it always has) is more equal to those with plenty of money or powerful friends. Consider… Well, I’m sure you can all think of other examples.
- All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
- Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
- Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
- No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
- No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
- Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
- All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
- Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
- No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
- Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
- (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
- No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.