The International Declaration of Human Rights

In light of events in Iran and elsewhere, it seems fitting to remember that on June 18, 1948, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights –chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt– adopted its International Declaration of Human Rights setting up a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.”  The document was approved by the United Nation on December 10, 1948, now celebrated as Human Rights Day.

Article I states:

  • 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.

Here is a New York Times account of the historic commission vote:

http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0618.html#article

Several of the Declaration’s Articles seem especially salient at the moment:

Article 5.

  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 18.

  • 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.

Article 19.

  • 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.

Article 20.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  • (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
  • (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
  • (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

The full text of the document approved on December 10, 1948 can be found here:

http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

http://www.un.org/events/humanrights/2007/udhr.shtml

This is also a good reason to recall the extraordinary life and work of Eleanor Roosevelt, the woman called “First Lady of the World” by Harry Truman.

Here are some links to Elanor Roosevelt sites:

Her home at Val-Kill, a national historic  site:

http://www.nps.gov/elro

Official White House biography–

http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/first_ladies/eleanorroosevelt/

A PBS “American Experience” film on Elanor Roosevelt

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/eleanor/Don't Know Much About History