Human Rights Day: Freedom, Equality and Justice for All

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 and sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected.  The United Nations have chosen “Freedom, Equality and Justice for All” as the 2023 theme.

The Declaration did of course build on earlier models, such as the Bill of Rights and the  Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme, both published in 1789. Some rights were recognized in these earlier instruments as well, whereas others had not been stated that clearly and emphatically before. For example, Article 6 recognizes the concept of legal capacity: “Everyone has the right to be recognized everywhere as a person before the law”, and Article 15 states “Everyone has the right to a nationality.” These concepts are corner stones for individuals seeking legal protection in court.  Other novel concepts were contained in Article 20: “No one may be compelled to belong to an association”, and in Article 21: “Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.”

The Genocide Convention

The same week in 1948, another seminal international law instrument was issued, the Genocide Convention. One day before the Declaration, on 9 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the first universal human rights treaty of the United Nations era and the keystone of the international legal regime against genocide. To mark the occasion, Professors Berster, Schiffbauer and Tams have published the second edition of their article-by-article commentary on the Convention. The General Introduction is available on-line for the coming two weeks. Philippe Sands “East Street West Street” tells the story, amongst other stories, of Rafael Lemkin who coined the term “genocide” and was instrumental in creating the Convention.

Write for Rights

Finally, here is our traditional link to amnesty international’s champaign “Write for Rights”, and here is from amnesty international:

„Writing a letter, sending a tweet, signing a petition. Surely you can’t change the world with something so simple? Yes, you can!

Since Write for Rights started in 2001, millions of people, just like you, have changed the lives of those whose human rights had been stripped from them. In fact, since 2001, more than 50 million actions have been taken, while over 100 people featured in our campaign have seen a positive outcome to their case! Taking just a little bit of time to send, post or write a letter really does make the world of difference to the people we have supported through the campaign – and we’re continuing to make an impact.”


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