On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The rights seem so simple and so obvious that we in New Zealand quite easily take them for granted.
The document is not legally binding in the way a treaty is, but it does formally define what is meant by fundamental freedoms and human rights in the legal sense when those terms are used in other treaties and the United Nations Charter.
In his press release yesterday, Keith Locke points out a couple of instances where NZ doesn’t live up to the declaration, even after 60 years:
For example, the Immigration Bill, currently before Parliament, does not provide all new migrants the fair public hearing provided for in Article 10 of the Universal Declaration. Evidence against the migrants can be kept secret from them.
Our immigration criteria are biased against non-English speakers contrary to the anti-discrimination provision in Article 2 of the Declaration.
Despite adopting the Declaration, the United States violated or falsely reinterpreted multiple principles in order to execute the occupation of Iraq and the building of Guantanamo Bay, a situation that President-elect Obama promises to rectify as soon as he is sworn in.
It is clear that human rights are something that we have to work on continuously and never take for granted, even in our supposedley mature democracies. It is a living document that should be celebrated and enforced to the best of our ability.