December 10 2013 saw the 65th anniversary of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on what is known as International Human Rights Day (IHD).
The first thought that came to my mind was how? Notwithstanding the tremendous progress that we have seen throughout the years, the world is rapidly advancing and more human rights issues are surfacing. It is fair to say that there have been recent developments which have led to the tightening of human rights control laws as well as the misuse of power to interfere with the human rights of individuals.
Here, in the oldest unbroken democracy in the world, we consider human rights a mere abstract ideal, and forget that they pervade our everyday lives. Does it make a difference whether an unfairly prejudiced young male is advised to know his rights as opposed to his human rights? In essence many say that they are one in the same. However, the truth is that we may subconsciously argue that there is no difference when it is arguably very different. It is not so much the term itself or inferences that accompany it but the perception it creates. When the term ‘human’ is removed from the sentence so is a sense it leads to the dehumanisation of the situation in question. Actions are less considered because of the view that the offence has a lesser human rights connotation attached to it.
It appears that it’s only human rights if, and only if the State is involved. This contributes to blurring the notion of what is ‘grave’ enough to constitute human rights in a person’s ordinary course of life and what is not. The United Nations’ states that ‘International human rights law lays down obligations which States are bound to respect’. However there exists selective compliance of human rights laws in some Member States.
For example, although there has been increasing evidence portraying the UK’s complicity in torture such as the post 9/11 programme, the Justice and Security Act protects the State by allowing them to present evidence in secret civil hearings. This clearly negates the State’s accountability and makes it unchallengeable by claimants and their lawyers.
The late Nelson Madiba Mandela passed on the 5th of December 2013; five days before the anniversary celebration of International Human Rights Day. He is an inspirational figure that fought for the restoration of his country’s dignity and everyday human rights that his people were denied. There are many countries who are still fighting who would also ask how upon hearing about UDHR’s 65th anniversary.
If we rely on Member States to uphold human rights laws, they should do so without selectivity. A person’s human rights are a sensitive and precious right that each and every human should enjoy.
Clemence Mimbulu, BPP Manchester