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70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

Today, 10 December 2018, marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a document that forms the foundation of most, if not all human rights treaties since.

The UDHR is the bedrock upon which states, individuals, and groups, have sought to build a common standard for the rights of all peoples, no matter from where they hail.

However, on this auspicious date, individual and collective human rights have arguably never been more under threat.

The Guernica Group calls upon all nations to refocus their attention on respect for human rights of their citizens, and further, reiterates those previous calls made of the international community to ensure that all individuals, all victims, have the right to redress for those crimes that have erstwhile, been committed with impunity across the world.

The UDHR was heralded by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948, as being “drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural background from all regions of the world as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations”.

In being drafted and agreed by representatives of a true cross-section of the international community, the commonality of human rights is exemplified, as noted by Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, that “Human rights are universal and eternal…They are also indivisible”.

We all accept that there is no criteria that must be satisfied for human rights to be granted, however, the situation in many states globally, and the reactions of the international community to those situations would suggest that the opposite is true.

Many states are united in their condemnation of the daily atrocities we have, and continue to, witness in Syria, and have sought to develop an accountability mechanism, and yet other states continually veto such efforts.

Those states in favour however, do not appear to demand that same right of accountability and redress for victims of crimes against humanity in Bangladesh, or in Egypt, are we to infer therefore that to some Governments, the rights of individuals in one country matter more than those in another.

The UK Government remains steadfast in its refusal to provide arms to the Assad regime, given the crimes being committed, and yet, it does not hold the Government of Saudi Arabia to the same standard, and is only too willing to support and further the conflict in Yemen, and thus directly contribute and facilitate the commission of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.

The international calls for accountability in Sri Lanka were all but universal, and yet what has been done to achieve that since the end of the conflict, where is the right of redress for the tens of thousands of civilian victims.

Most recently, the Rohingya, often seen as the most persecuted race of peoples in the world, have been targeted with renewed levels of violence by the Government of Myanmar, causing over three quarters of a million fleeing for their lives and escaping to Bangladesh.

Accountability, redress, freedom, justice, and human rights,are but words unless there is action and consequence to give them meaning.

Currently, the only consequence, is that brought about by the inaction of states, and by the passive approach of the international community.

The UDHR has meaning, it has a meaning that transcends economics, diplomacy, and politics; it is this transcendence that brought it into being 70 years ago, and yet those other factors are often deemed to be more relevant.

As Governments and individuals, we must all redouble our efforts to give effect to those auspicious words of others, and thus give those words meaning, now, perhaps more than ever before since the end of the second world war that was the catalyst for its birth.

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