"Bad things happen because good people allow them to happen."
World Human Rights Day!
Mm ... today is World Human Rights Day, but I guess every day should be. It certainly is to me, and countless others who work on many fronts to make a difference.
What is it?
Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The formal inception of Human Rights Day dates from 1950, after the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V) inviting all States and interested organizations to adopt 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.
When the General Assembly adopted the Declaration, with 48 states in favor and eight abstentions, it was proclaimed as a "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations", towards which individuals and societies should "strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance". Although the Declaration with its broad range of political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights is not a binding document, it inspired more than 60 human rights instruments which together constitute an international standard of human rights. Today the general consent of all United Nations Member States on the basic Human Rights laid down in the Declaration makes it even stronger and emphasizes the relevance of Human Rights in our daily lives.
What are human rights?
Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.
Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law , general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.
Universal and inalienable
The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law. This principle, as first emphasized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948, has been reiterated in numerous international human rights conventions, declarations, and resolutions. The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, for example, noted that it is the duty of States to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems.
All States have ratified at least one, and 80% of States have ratified four or more, of the core human rights treaties, reflecting consent of States which creates legal obligations for them and giving concrete expression to universality. Some fundamental human rights norms enjoy universal protection by customary international law across all boundaries and civilizations.
Human rights are inalienable. They should not be taken away, except in specific situations and according to due process. For example, the right to liberty may be restricted if a person is found guilty of a crime by a court of law.
Interdependent and indivisible
All human rights are indivisible, whether they are civil and political rights, such as the right to life, equality before the law and freedom of expression; economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to work, social security and education , or collective rights, such as the rights to development and self-determination, are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent. The improvement of one right facilitates advancement of the others. Likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others.
Equal and non-discriminatory
Non-discrimination is a cross-cutting principle in international human rights law. The principle is present in all the major human rights treaties and provides the central theme of some of international human rights conventions such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The principle applies to everyone in relation to all human rights and freedoms and it prohibits discrimination on the basis of a list of non-exhaustive categories such as sex, race, colour and so on. The principle of non-discrimination is complemented by the principle of equality, as stated in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
Both Rights and Obligations
Human rights entail both rights and obligations. States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfil means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights. At the individual level, while we are entitled our human rights, we should also respect the human rights of others.
Amin Senatorzade, a former child migrant from Afghanistan, left his homeland for Turkey and found himself detained in Turkey, Greece, and Norway. At 16, Afghan-born Gholam Hassanpour migrated alone to Greece from Iran and was placed in detention. Mariane Quintao, a former child migrant from Brazil, spent three weeks in detention in the United States.
According to the International Detention Coalition (IDC), more governments are using detention as a measure against irregular migration. This results in thousands of migrant children being imprisoned or held in detention centers, some for long periods of time. In addition to the violation of their rights due to undue detention, many of them are held without their parents present, leaving them particularly exposed to physical, sexual and psychological abuse.
The IDC was able to provide six children with a unique platform to share their personal experiences in detention during a side event, “Hear Our Voices—Children in Immigration Detention,” at the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s annual Day of General Discussion (DGD) on the Rights of All Children in the Context of International Migration held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva earlier this fall.
Six formerly detained children shared their stories by performing a play called “Always Behind My Back.” The presentation was produced during a one-week workshop where the group collaborated on art projects, shared their stories, and participated in creating the presentation’s key messages for the theatre presentation.
“The art was used as a focus for the telling of the often very traumatic stories because it allows for a measure of emotional distance and limits re-traumatisation,” says Glynis Clacherty, the IDC’s child participation facilitator and researcher. Clacherty explains that the stories were recorded and used for creating the script in order to fully capture their experiences in detention.
“I was on the boat with 70 people,” says 15-year-old Bashir Youseidei, who was detained for seven months in Australia having migrated from Afghanistan. “We didn’t have any food and any water for seven days. I was excited to arrive when I got there (to Australia) to get an education. But, I got really sad when I saw the fence … It is always behind me, here—the memory.”
Many of these children shared similar stories. Marianne performed an original song during the event about her detention in the United States. “They wouldn’t talk to me. They wouldn’t answer me, they would never say anything,” she says. Gholam arrived in Greece seven years ago from Iran without his parents. He was a victim of abuse by the police who detained him. “The police took me and another boy and four men and they beat us very hard,” says Gholam. At 16, Rim Tekei Salomon spent six months in an Israeli detention camp. “My parents left Eritrea during the war to Sudan. I was born in a refugee camp.”
Clancy's comment: What can I say? As an Australian living in the so called 'lucky country', I am appalled by the attitudes, actions and decisions of politicians in our federal parliament in regard to refugees.
As I recently wrote on a book trailer I produced, 'Life's short - use it. There's plenty to do.'