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Definition. Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. —Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
Classification A. According to Source 1. Natural Right 2. Constitutional Right 3. Statutory Right B. According to Aspects of life 1. Civil 2. Political 3. Economic 4. Social 5. Cultural C. According to Recipient 1. Individual 2. Collective D. According to Historical Development 1. First Generation Right (Civil & Political) 2. Second Generation Right (Economic, Social, & Cultural) 3. Third Generation Right (IP’s) E. Derogable and non-derogable rights 1. Derogable 2. Non-derogable Characteristics A. Inherent –Human Rights are inherent because they are not granted by any person or authority. B. Fundamental - Human Rights are fundamental rights because without them, the life and dignity of man will be meaningless. C. Inalienable - Human Rights are inalienable because: They cannot be rightfully taken away from a free individual. They cannot be given away or be forfeited. D. Imprescriptible - Human Rights do not prescribe and cannot be lost even if man fails to use or assert them, even by a long passage of time. E. Indivisible - Human Rights are not capable of being divided. They cannot be denied even when other rights have already been enjoyed. F. Universal - Human Rights are universal in application and they apply irrespective of one’s origin, status, or condition or place where one lives. Human rights are enforceable without national border. G. Interdependent - Human Rights are interdependent because the fulfillment or exercise of one cannot be had without the realization of the other. Theories A. Natural Law Social Contract – We surrender some of our rights for the common good B. Positivist Theory Rights emanate from the State; If it’s not in the law, it is not a right. First Generation Rights, Second and Third A. 1st generation: Right to life Right to liberty Right to property and security of person Right to protection and due process Freedom from slavery, torture and degrading punishment Right to fair trial Right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty Right against ex post facto law Rights of privacy of person and correspondents Right to travel Right of Expression Freedom of Religion Freedom of Nationality Freedom of Suffrage and to be elected as public officer Right to marry and form a family B. 2nd generation
The ICCPR states in it's preamble. 1996 United Nations) At the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. The Declaration is a yardstick by which to measure the degree of respect for. Work Fair conditions of employment Join and form a union Social security Adequate standard of living Shelter. as well as his or her civil and political rights". the Organization of African Unity. social and cultural rights. The Universal Declaration has informed the constitutions of nation states and it's principles have been included or adopted by the Council of Europe. "in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted and proclaimed. at the International Conference on Human Rights in Teheran. Customary International Law (Recognized principle among countries thru time) 3. and the American Convention on Human Rights. INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS [ Moira Rayner] This Covenant is one of the most important protections of all human rights. Sources: 1. over 150 countries once again re-affirmed their commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights expressed in the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action. has not diminished the widespread influence of the Universal Declaration. It seeks to regulate the means and methods of war. until 1976. when the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and The International Covenant on Economic. It protects those who are no longer/ not participating in the war (e. conscience. and compliance with. Treaties/Conventions 2. Inhuman or Degrading treatment or Punishment. rights of the child. WORLDWIDE INFLUENCE OF THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE INTERNATIONAL BILL OF RIGHTS by Kim Gleeson From 1948.simply the law of war. religion and belief contained in the Universal Declaration and the International Convenants. the Universal Declaration was once again declared "a common understanding of the peoples of the world concerning the inalienable and inviolable rights of all members of the human family and constitutes an obligation for the members of the international community". and clothing Education Culture Protection of Family Health 3rd generation Healthy environment Development Indigenous People VI. IHRL vs IHL(INT’L HUMANITARIAN LAW. General Principles of Law recognized by civilized nations 4. The coming into force of the Covenants. proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1981. Judges of the International Court of Justice have invoked principles contained in the International Bill of Human Rights as a basis for their decisions. in 1969. Statute of the International Court Of Justice (ICJ) VII. the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Countries who sign this Covenant absolutely guarantee to protect all the rights it covers. Nearly all international human rights instruments adopted by the United Nations bodies since 1948 elaborate principles set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. "The Universal Declaration has come to be regarded as an historic document articulating a common definition of human dignity and values. food.C. the ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his or her economic. In 1968. along with the Convenants make up the International Bill of Rights. Today the Universal Declaration. (Excerpts from the Centre for Human Rights.field of int’l rules wherein citizens can claim or demand from our government IHL . and it made headlines in 1998 when China adopted it. The Universal Declaration has established many of the principles for a number of important international conventions and treaties-the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel. prisoner) United Declaration of Human Rights VIII. entered into force the Universal Declaration stood alone as the international standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations . at Costa Rica. They belong to any individual within their . International Law -body of principles that govern states A. by which State parties accepted legal as well as the moral obligation to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. GENEVA CONVENTION) IHRL. international human rights standards everywhere on earth".g. clearly defines the nature and scope of the principles of non-discrimination and equality before the law and the right to freedom of thought.
It guarantees our right to peaceful assembly (with restrictions only for safety. Ethnic. social or economic standing . someone who is starving or sick is hardly 'free'. This Covenant is a charter for individual autonomy and self-determination. The Covenant protects fundamental rights. Oddly. which was adopted as late as 1989. the right to an adequate standard of living. The treaty sets up a Committee Against Torture and people may raise complaints about cruel treatment to that committee at any time. The Convention does not excuse torture under any circumstances whatever.who have a discretion in how they spend their money . The Covenant prohibits incitement to war. is designed to eliminate the death penalty. Individuals have the right to marry whoever they so choose and the family's and children's rights must be especially protected. and to freedom of association (including joining trade unions). that it is far too dangerous for the children. The second. The rights the Covenant deals with are those people need because they live in communities. intimidate or coerce anyone or that is inflicted for any discriminatory reasons. Governments who sign this Covenant also promise to protect marriage. health and others' freedoms'). . It guarantees humane treatment if people are detained according to law. family. We are entitled to freedom of thought. under the European Human Rights Convention. In September 1998 the European Court of Justice said that it was 'cruel. the family. This gives governments . The ICCPR has two Optional Protocols. whether there is a war or emergency on. It says that children who have been lawfully arrested or detained must not be jailed with adults: the reason is. to put pressure on the observer. and prevent. and there is no mechanism for individuals to make complaints about the breach of these rights. guarantees freedom to move around and choose where to live. We have the right to hold and express opinions.and cruel. religious or linguistic minorities have the right to preserve their culture. or access to power. Few do that willingly. CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL. 'torture'. home or correspondence' and 'unlawful attacks on a person's reputation or honour. and religion. associating with other people. such as liberty and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention. scientists and writers are entitled to the benefit and control of the works they create. promises fair trials.deliberate treatment causing very serious and cruel suffering . free primary education for children). or even if the torturer is merely 'obeying orders' from a superior officer. INHUMAN OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT [Moira Rayner] This Convention requires governments to prohibit. Any one who believes they have beenwronged and has exhausted these domestic remedies. punish. We must be allowed to take part in public affairs and to vote. inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment' is not defined.' The only sensible interpretation of this proviso is that such sanctions would not be 'lawful' if their purpose was wrongful . It protects our economic and social rights. the first allows individuals (not just states) to lodge complaints with the UN about human rights violations. the Convention does not cover pain or suffering 'arising only from. to achieve 'progressively' the full realisation of the Rights it protects. detain and prosecute offenders.' These rights 'cost' because often social and economic rights depend on someone else giving up their share of resources. can take their complaint to theUN's Human Rights Committee. inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.every reason to state that they just cannot afford them. Anyway. It prohibits slavery or forced labour. SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS [Moira Rayner] This Covenant is one of the cornerstones of human rights. The Covenant says that every human being has an 'inherent right to life' . It prohibits torture . These are the rights that 'cost': governments have to spend money to provide standards of living. at least if the child is hit with an object. Other cruel. beliefs. or meet cultural expectations. and review interrogation rules and practices. if it is carried out by or with the acquiescence of a public official. It guarantees rights to social security. Artists. The Covenant protects. woman and child on earth. intimidation. getting a confession or any one of the prohibited reasons. Torture is the infliction of severe pain or suffering that is intended to get a confession. The Covenant says that governments must act 'to the maximum of available resources'.' This could include vilification. yet there are no real performance measure for governments. It means marginally less 'severe' conduct of the same nature. and the wellbeing of pregnant women and those women who have recently given birth. whatever their status . which means a minimum standard of living.punishment. It can include being forced to watch someone else being hurt. or racial or religious hatred. to 'just and favourable' conditions of work. for a stepfather to use a stick or a cane to beat a young boy.without any 'distinction' or discrimination. They need to be read with the ICCPR and other rights. These are some of the most important rights of all. and the right to education (including compulsory. such as falsely claiming that a political opponent is a sexual deviant. INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON ECONOMIC. The rights protected include the right to work.including their sex.territory. It may include what some adults call 'corporal punishment' of children. and may be asserted against any authority on earth. to the best possible physical and mental health. It guarantees the right to participate in cultural life and to enjoy the benefits of social progress. The rights it protects belong to every man. inhuman and degrading treatment (which is different only in degree). among others. Countries who sign the Convention are obliged to arrest. train their law enforcement and military personnel about the prohibition against torture. and the right to join trade unions. race. inhuman or degrading treatment'. than it is to promise that 'no child will live in poverty. and protects our right to 'privacy. to discredit the person. nationality. conscience. It is far easier to respect or acknowledge a right such as the right to vote.but the Covenant allows capital punishment in some circumstances. Signatories promise to provide an 'effective remedy' for their violation.
their rights and duties towards children. with adults. so it addresses prejudices and assumptions explicitly. at present. This Convention has a wider reach. they are entitled to be brought up in an atmosphere of love and understanding. Children's 'best interests' must be the first consideration in all decision-making for children: in other words. naturally. They are entitled to the same economic. inhuman or degrading treatment. Women's rights are human rights. There is a positive duty to modify cultural and social practices that create stereotypes or reflect prejudices about female inferiority because of their sex. discrimination in access to and the type or choice of education. States must also eliminate political discrimination (such as the right to vote and hold public office).anyone under the age of 18 . and allows them to create 'temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women' . and freedom from torture or other cruel. Children are also entitled to special protections and safeguards. exclusion or restriction' based on sex. and it affects the protection of rights in private (or family) life as well as public life. They must not be discriminated against because of their parents' status or beliefs. but the prohibition on racial discrimination covers any right covered by any treaty. Women must also have equality with men before the law. This seems to require. the right to choose when to bear. social and cultural rights as adults. or arbitrary deprivation of liberty. descent or national or ethnic origin. CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION [Moira Rayer] This prohibits any 'distinction. Children also have special. exclusion. be taken seriously. including freedom of thought. and to social security. .affirmative action. unless their best interests demand it. and they have to put their desires and interests second to their duty to ensure that all children achieve their full potential. cultural or any other field of public life'. ensure women's equality in choices of work. though it is under active consideration. which includes the right to own property and enter into their own contracts.they may provide special health services for women as well as ensuring their equal access to health care. including those covered by other human rights treaties. The Convention asserts that a child has the right to be brought up in a family environment of love and understanding. in any field. The Convention requires women's equality in economic and social life. become pregnant or had children (maternity leave with pay and child care should be provided). They are entitled to special protection if they are deprived of the family environment in which. including cultural. political. or lesser people. Children may not be taken from their parents against their will. and property. the Preamble makes clear. freedom of expression and the right to be heard in decision-making affecting them.CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD [Moira Rayner] This Convention has been signed by more countries than any other human rights treaty. social. adults have to put their interests before their own preferences. They must take steps to eliminate trafficking in women and the exploitation of women's prostitution (it does not require the eradication of prostitution itself). impairing women's fundamental rights and freedoms. The Convention prohibits any 'distinction. Unfortunately.they must. and also explicitly covers the right of access to public places and services (such as access to public transport and buildings). therefore. economic. children. The Convention also requires equality in relation to marriage and the family. and requires governments to take steps to address the special difficulties of rural women. or has the effect of. be their first consideration.and to recognise that children have precisely the same human rights as adults. such as equal rights to choose their husband as the husband has to choose a wife. than the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. restriction or preference based on race. whether mentioned in the Convention or not. equality being one of the Convention's goals. This important Convention does not excuse discrimination against women for any reason. as a special developmental need. The Convention requires the government protect the human rights of children . which is either intended to. protective rights. Essentially. which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition. so that they may assume full adult responsibilities in due course. The Convention obliges nations to pass laws to ensure the equality of women. their equality. because others have to protect their rights for them. at least. and how many. and prohibit dismissal because women have married. conscience and religion. It lists a wide range of civil. this Convention reminds governments of the full humanity of all children. economic social and cultural rights. in other words. wages and conditions. there is no provision for individuals to make a complaint if the rights it addresses are violated. and then only after a fair hearing. or positive discrimination. as well as deliberate acts that disadvantage women. It simply states that adults must take children seriously. and the special duties all owe to protect their rights. vulnerability and dependency. in moral terms as human beings. or marital status. Children are the least able to claim the rights this Convention protects. consistent with their developing maturity. and not treated as non-people. There is not. A key provision is the child's right to parental guidance and direction. enjoyment or exercise on an equal footing of human rights and fundamental freedoms in political. any procedure for complaints under this Convention. and that the State must support parents in that role. but their vulnerabilities too. because of their age. and ensure their equality on the other. Another is the right to play. CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN [Moira Rayer] The Convention obliges governments to prohibit discrimination against women on the one hand. Governments have to take special measures to provide care for women during pregnancy . A key right of the child is the right to participate in decision-making and in community life . in other words. traditional or religious grounds. that governments make sure that pregnant mothers have good ante-natal care. 'before as well as after birth'. because children's 'best interests' would. It requires governments to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination and guarantee equality before the law with respect to every human right. The Convention covers 'preferences' as well as discrimination. colour. until equality is actually achieved. The Convention recognises that parents should raise their own children and are their best protectors. This covers unintentional (or indirect) discrimination. such as the ICCPR. privacy. Their rights include the full range of civil and political rights as are covered by the ICCPR.
or treaties or conventions in force. The statute itself is a compromise reflecting the diverse interests. The 'indirect' effect was that they could never meet the condition of getting a job with the company.where there is no intention to act in a prejudicial or unfair way. the international community experienced an historic moment when the Diplomatic Conference concluded. but only in public life. The Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court needs 60 ratifications before it enters into force and the Court is established. racism in your own kitchen is not covered by it. Therefore. ethnicity and so forth. The majority of the people in the neighbourhood were African Americans. immigration laws. It does not receive petitions or complaints from individuals. with the adoption of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court. under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. The Convention also requires governments to make laws to prohibit and prevent racial vilification or incitement to racial hatred. Many human rights treaties provide that the Court can hear a matter if it is referred to the court by one of the parties to the dispute. at any time. which seem 'private' but carry over into their public participation. 'Race' includes skin colour. which provides that all members of the UN are parties to the Statute. at the close of the Twentieth Century. but where it becomes obvious that the 'equal' law. which must be an intention to achieve the advancement of racial minorities. embarrassed nations who have failed to comply with the Council of Europe's European Convention on Human Rights. The Rome Statute is not a perfect instrument . This is quite different from CEDAW. regardless of State consent. the policy was indirectly discriminatory. The Statues of the court is an integral part of the UN's Charter. The International Court of Justice has no jurisdiction over the individual.the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. and Affirmative action (positive discrimination) is allowed so long as it is discontinued after it has achieved its objective. The so-called principle of "complementarity" means that the International Criminal Court will not override national court processes and will only be able to exercise jurisdiction in situations where States are "unwilling or genuinely unable" to deal with particular cases.no 'human rights' enforcement agency does . finally. which explicitly covers discrimination against women in the home as well. and it does not hear claims against people who are said to have breached international law. As the vast majority of modern armed conflicts are to be found within countries rather than between countries. It has been less used than the European Court of Justice which has. That is likely to take some time and the Court will probably not become operational until early in the new millenium. for a range of reasons related to their disadvantage social and economic status. for example. crimes against humanity. against the government not individuals. once established. It was also announced that the Court would have jurisdiction over war crimes committed in internal as well as international armed conflict.The Convention covers all kinds of discriminatory or prejudicial acts. THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE [Moira Rayner] This court can hear cases referred to it. The majority of those people did not graduate from High School. for the Court to be effective and relevant it is essential that it reflects current realities. and non-citizens. The new Court . and all matters provided for in the United Nations Charter. or policy. because of a characteristic of their race. after five exhausting weeks. with only 7 votes against. opinions and standards through-out the world for dealing with the prosecution of those who plan or commit actions that cause profound and horrific human suffering.like all multilateral treaty texts it includes a number of weaknesses which reflect necessary political compromises to reach broad international agreement. The adoption of the Statute represented the culmination of more than 100 years of previously unsuccessful effort to establish such an institution. and their historical position as descendants of former slaves. iii. A government can make laws with respect to nationality. It is not entirely clear whether this Convention also covers 'indirect' race discrimination . war crimes and aggression (although jurisdiction over aggression will be dependent upon the successful negotiation of an appropriate definition of the crime of aggression for inclusion in the Court's Statute). The Convention provides three exceptions to the duty to prohibit race discrimination: i. that complementarity will not prevent the Court from dealing with a matter referred to it by the United Nations Security Council which already exercises constitutional authority. to theUN's' Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Over 170 States participated at the Rome Conference as well as a number of Non-Governmental Organisations and International Organisations. or circumstance in fact results in disadvantage because of a person's race. nationality. In other words. But it is one mechanism for addressing breaches by governments of their international contractual obligations to comply with treaties.though there is a provision that a government may. A country can decide who are to be its citizens. ii. declare that they recognise the jurisdiction of the Court as compulsory. but not citizenship nor. It is important to note. The fact that the Statute provides for a stronger. on several occasions. In the early hours of 18 July 1998. without any special agreement. the overwhelming majority of independent sovereign nation States had demonstrated a commitment to terminating the reign of impunity for the commission of gross atrocities in the world. It does not have the power to enforce its determinations . Article 14 of the Convention gives anyone who feels that their rights have been violated under this Convention the right to complain. Now. or service. citizenship and naturalisation (provided that they do notdiscriminate against any particular nationality). in relation to any other state accepting the same obligation. and their duties in it. is testament to the prevailing mood of the international community to convict and punish those responsible for the worst atrocities. will sit in The Hague and will exercise prospective jurisdiction over alleged acts of genocide. INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT [Tim McCormack & Helen Durham] It is said that "All Roads Lead to Rome" but in the case of the International Criminal Court it took much longer to get to Rome than it ought to have done. The new Court. An example of indirect race discrimination comes from a key US decision. This is because women's disadvantaged status is precisely because of the importance of the home. and which does not lead to separate rights (such as the former South African policies of apartheid). in general terms. more effective Court than many anticipated and still received 120 positive votes. however. A company had a policy that it would only hire workers who had graduated from High School.
widow of President Franklin Roosevelt of the United States was appointed to chair an interim group of 9 members.just what role the state should have in enforcing the rights in its territory. an important reference to human rights. Article 68 was included. and is seen as an essential foundation for building a world in which all human beings can. justice and peace in the world". and through that recognition provide "the foundation of freedom.whether male or female. rich or poor. Although the declaration was endorsed in December 1948. in the centuries to come. This reference to human rights. The leaders felt there must be a better way for the nations and peoples of the world to live together and sort out their problems and laid plans for establishing what was to become the United Nations. they included in the preamble to the Charter of the UN. a stately mansion in Georgetown.) The relevant part of the preamble said: "We the peoples of the United Nations [are] determined . Washington DC. for members of a majority or a minority in the community. and explains the background to it rather than being part of its operative provisions. communist or capitalist. FrenchmenRene Cassin and Dr Charles Malik of Lebanon. and is more than a recommendation. including action at national level. it decided that the declaration should contain both civil and political and also economic and social rights. An atomic bomb was about to be set off that would show what enormous destructive power humankind could unleash in targeting nations as well as individuals. The Commission's view was that the declaration should be a relatively short. AN INSPIRATIONAL DOCUMENT The Commission then turned to formulating the declaration. It thus avoided the more difficult problems that had to be addressed when the binding treaty came up for consideration . some 18 years later. (An international declaration is a statement of importance. again chaired by Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt. and included China's P. It decided to name it the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). wealth and so on. Article 1 reflects the inspirational nature of the project. The UDHR draws lifepreserving messages from the past. regardless of race. Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt. the two covenants (the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic. largely as a result of pressure brought to bear on the political leaders by some 42 United States nongovernment organisations. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood". The Commission met for the first time in January 1947 and considered several critical issues. and cruelty almost beyond belief had been inflicted on members of the Jewish race in Europe and on prisoners of war in detention in Asia and Europe. It should be the foundation and central document for the remainder of an international bill of human rights. It was fortunate that the Commission made the decision to separate the formally legally binding covenant from the initial declaration. It required the Economic and Social Council to set up commissions in the human rights and economic and social fields. the world climate was ready for a great leap forward in the recognition and observance of human rights. THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS by Peter Bailey OBE AM In less than half a century. It concluded that it should work to develop first a declaration rather than a treaty. In the words of the first preamble to the UDHR. (A preamble is an important introductory section of a legal document. Thus the Commission is one of the very few bodies to draw its authority directly from the Charter of the United Nations. inspirational and energising document usable by common people. The reason for including it in the main text is to state firmly the basis of all human rights.C. black or white. which is binding in international law. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the UDHR) has come to be regarded as possibly the single most important document created in the twentieth century and as the accepted world standard for human rights. the new Commission of Human Rights of 18 members. By June the interim body had suggested that the new Commission should make its first task the development as soon as possible of an international bill of human rights. look forward to living in dignity and peace.Chang. the rationality of human persons and their obligation to deal fairly with everyone else. two world wars had been fought in less than 30 years. When representatives of the four major powers met in 1944 at Dumbarton Oaks. PRODUCING THE FRAMEWORK FOR THE INTERNATIONAL BILL OF RIGHTS In April 1946... Social and Cultural Rights) that emerged to define the obligations of each state were not ready for ratification (formal approval by the governments of the world) until 1966. In late 1945. It was included only after much controversy about whether it was just stating the obvious. Article 7 follows up this theme by saying that all are to . but it is less than a treaty. The very name emphasises the UDHR was to set a standard of rights for all people everywhere . to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights. and whether the mode of enforcing civil and political rights should be different from that for economic and social rights. Its decisions have greatly influenced the human rights development since then. was followed up by six references throughout the UN Charter's operative provisions to human rights and fundamental freedoms. in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small". Later in the year. and has high moral and often political significance.) Perhaps most important of all. The outcome was the establishment of a Commission on Human Rights. or whether it should be included in the preamble rather than the main text. equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family ". in the dignity and worth of the human person. Inspired by the great South African preapartheid leader Field-Marshall Smuts. it was to reflect "recognition of the inherent dignity and . A CRITICAL HISTORICAL MOMENT As the second World War began to close. sex. victor or vanquished. It proclaims in ringing terms that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. In addition. was appointed. often simply because they were members of a particular race or religion...has the potential to be the most significant multilateral institution since the creation of the United Nations itself in 1945. leaders of the world's nations met in San Francisco to form the United Nations.
(There are 30 Articles in the Declaration. The Assembly. There was also a draft based on work done in preparation for an American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. then it can be said to have achieved an important political and moral status. For these three reasons. Tribute should be played to three different groups. to mark the 30th anniversary of the UDHR. but the six communist countries then members of the UN. A country cannot repudiate international customary law. It can however be implied from rights such as the right to life and to an adequate standard of living. means that there are now virtually unchallengeable grounds for asserting that the UDHR rights have become part of international customary law. to liberty. It would be easy to ask questions about current arrangements or plans that hardly seem to do this. in an rare gesture of appreciation. At the human rights conference in Teheran in 1978. there was the enormous work done by the secretariat. but at least they had not voted against it. only two days before it rose until the next year.just in time to be taken by the General Assembly before it concluded its meeting for the year. it is now usual to refer to the UDHR as setting out the content of those rights and freedoms. to the many prominent people who provided drafts to the Committee for its consideration. which only bind a country once it has accepted the treaty obligations. to Eleanor Roosevelt and her advisers. Perhaps. to security of person (Art 3) and to an adequate standard of living (Art 27). It was fortunate that the Committee's chairman at the time was Charles Malik. where it struck difficulties. that people owe duties of an inalienable kind to the state. They give every human being the rights to life. as so many dictators and even democratic leaders have claimed. Articles 28 and 29 have not received much discussion. it is true) as an influential statement of standards. They do not. Firstly. even by countries that are doubtful about the wholehuman rights enterprise. and in its debates. The Soviet Union. These included noted international lawyer. and also Saudi Arabia and South Africa. the Universal Declaration managed to emerge successfully from the complex and politically hazardous processes of the United Nations to become its human rights flagship. housing and medical care. that brought all this material together for the Commission to consider. But they do have obligations to their fellow human beings. and also the right to necessary food. Finally. The draft then went to the Economic and Social Council. of which 17 could be regarded as relating to civil and political rights and 8 to economic and social rights).be equal before the law and have a right to protection against any form of discrimination. which did not change the text but arranged for it to go to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly. twelve of its fifteen members voted in favour. Notice that the Article does not talk about the state. Although. the last an economic and social right. and British author H G Wells. gave Mrs Roosevelt a standing ovation. So it has become a part of the fabric of the UN itself. as Article 1 also emphasises. most if not all the provisions of the UDHR have almost certainly become a part of international customary law. the Charter has only a few articles that refer to human rights and fundamental freedoms. That means that. just ahead of the advent of the Cold War and the consequent slowing down of many constructive developments. mainly from the US Department of State. On the evening of 10 December 1948. The UDHR is an increasingly powerful instrument for the achievement of human dignity and peace for all. The Declaration had not managed at that time to achieve full recognition from the communist and certain middle eastern countries. First. Third. Professor Hersch Lauterpacht of Cambridge University. the Ukraine and Yugoslavia (the Soviet bloc technically had only two members) abstained. The view is steadily growing among international lawyers that practice (always an important source of international law) includes not only acts such as observing rules about navigation at sea but also acts such as voting for resolutions at United Nations and other international gatherings. When countries such as Burma. at last reached agreement . Articles 3 and 27 are probably the core of the substantive provisions in the Declaration. There is danger in claiming. the representatives of 84 nations unanimously declared that the UDHR states a common understanding of the inalienable rights of all people and constitutes an obligation for the members of the international community. There were no dissenting votes. Second. abstained. Somehow. at which at least 168 amending resolutions were considered. After no less than 81 long meetings. the only significant lack is in the area of the environment. she was able to maintain a generally harmonious atmosphere during virtually the whole of the long meeting phase. Argentina. it has become accepted (often rather reluctantly. When the Commission finally took its vote on 18 June 1948. But they are explosive in their significance. . Overarching all the particular rights are Articles 28 and 29. the Committee. unlike treaties. looking back at the UDHR after half a century. THE GROWING STATURE OF THE UDHR So. because it underlines the responsibility all people have to their community. Equally important. the General Assembly endorsed the text of the UDHR without amendment. Article 28 emphasises the responsibility of the whole international community for seeking and putting into place arrangements of both a civil and political and an economic and social kind that allow for the full realisation of human rights. The very large and increasing number of ratifications of the two human rights Covenants. for example in relation to the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples of 1960. the UDHR has become almost an extension of the UN Charter. Notwithstanding the initial difficulties and resistance. Article 30 is also of high importance. whatever their particular view may be. led by Professor J P Humphrey. Byelorussia. and have not been given legally binding force in the two Covenants. and the right to social security (also covered in Art 22). The right to an adequate standard of living is interesting in that it specifies as part of it the right to health and well-being not only of a person but of his or her family. clothing. all countries in the world are bound. and the fact that the rights stated in the UDHR are commonly recognised as well founded in moral and good practice terms. China and the former Yugoslavia feel bound to defend themselves when they are accused of being in breach of the UDHR. the Declaration has probably achieved a stature in the world that even the most optimistic of its founders in 1948 would not have expected. on 6 December 1948. The first three are core civil and political rights. such as those relating to trade and investment arrangements and perhaps some of those planning to eradicate international crimes such as genocide and war crimes. and is often referred to in resolutions of the UN General Assembly. those who boldly moved to form and then approve the provisions of the UDHR have left an abiding legacy for humankind that will rank with the great religious contributions of past centuries. as it can a treaty obligation.
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