The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 marked the high watermark of post-war idealistic aspirations. It is indeed a nobly phrased document, ringing with lofty ambition.
The most important provisions of the Declaration are:
“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,
“Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
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“Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations…..
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.
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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.
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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.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
It is obvious from a cursory glance that in this first decade of the 21st century, most of the above provisions are being scornfully trampled over by governments and powerful groups all over the world, including those of the USA and UK who should, one would have hoped, be keen to occupy the moral high ground to which they still pay occasional lip-service. But there is little solid support for fundamental human rights, even in the UN Human Rights Council, and even more disturbingly, as a recent report from the delegate of the International Humanist and Ethical Union to the latest UN discussion of these issues at Geneva makes clear, there is a concerted and increasingly successful drive by Islamic states to undermine the whole concept. Keith Porteous Wood says:
The body overseeing Universal Human Rights is the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Taking part in their meetings is a sobering experience. While there are countries, groups and individuals who make wonderful contributions, Human Rights are undoubtedly becoming less universal and inalienable. The individual’s rights are in great danger of becoming alienated in favour of group rights – often for religions.
The proceedings of the UNHRC have become a constant battle between Western nations, on the one hand, and the numerous members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), aided by a few countries who always support them and in turn receive support from them. These include
So, the 56 OIC countries are also making considerable progress on an international declaration on defamation of religion – a kind of all-religions blasphemy super law. Anyone seeking to draw attention to the capital offence of apostasy will be lucky even to be heard, and there is no chance of any action. Anything deemed the slightest bit critical of Islam is immediately jumped upon, and possibly even excised from the official record.
But the problem is much more serious even than apostasy laws or threats to freedom of expression. The whole edifice of Universal Human Rights is crumbling before our very eyes, and the “West” is letting it happen. With all the support the OIC can muster, and with painfully little active opposition from the “West”, those supporting the Universal declaration no longer have the upper hand. There are some honourable exceptions such as
And the Secretariat are coming under increasing pressure to give the OIC an unobstructed run. The opportunities for non-Governmental organisations that are prepared to speak out — such as the International Humanist and Ethical
The OIC Secretary-General, Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu issued a statement to mark Human Rights Day 2007. It reads, in part: “Respect of Human Rights through effective protection and promotion of equality, civil liberties and social justice is a milestone in the OIC Ten Year Plan of Action. In this regard the OIC General Secretariat is considering the establishment of [an] independent permanent body to promote Human Rights in the Member States in accordance with the provisions of the OIC
According to Wikipedia “The CDHRI concludes that all rights and freedoms mentioned are subject to the Islamic Shariah, which is the declaration's sole source. The CDHRI declares ‘true religion’ to be the ‘guarantee for enhancing such dignity along the path to human integrity’. It also places the responsibility for defending those rights upon the entire Ummah.” This is paving the way for second-class, religious-based group “rights”, rather than individual Universal Human Rights. And unless we are careful, many of the countries with the greatest need of Universal Human Rights support (and a high proportion of them are in OIC countries) will come under a shariah system....The whole Universal Human Rights machinery is unravelling for the second, and perhaps final, time while Western states stand by, drumming their fingers in resigned acceptance.
Meanwhile, the most vulnerable in the world are being betrayed.
We must all try very much harder to support Human Rights from attack, whether that is from religious or cultural forces. Please do anything you can to raise consciousness of this impending crisis for humanity and to put politicians and diplomats everywhere under pressure to take responsibility for protecting Universal Human Rights.
Clearly, it is the inhabitants of theocratic countries who most need the protection of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – yet the supposedly ‘democratic’ Western countries are doing little if anything to ensure its survival, let alone its global enforcement. This issue needs to be seriously addressed at the forthcoming meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in