Today, Thursday 10 December, is International Human Rights Day.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations at Paris on 10 December 1948. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, it was intended as a benchmark the significance of which is expressed in the first line of its preamble:
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world…
The 30 Articles of the Declaration represent common standards, intended to be universally recognised and internationally applied. Those which most closely inform our daily work at MOJO are Articles 7 to 11:
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.
As we mark this anniversary, we reflect that these were intended as minimum standards, to be met without exception. They are, in reality, mere aspirations. We don’t accept that, 72 years after the Declaration of these standards, we can do no better than meet them some, or even most, of the time. There is a lot of work still to be done.