(HN, December 10, 2010) -- Today is International Human Rights Day. The date was chosen to commemorate the adoption, by the UN General Assembly in 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the first global enunciation of the inalienable rights of mankind. This year's observance highlights human rights defenders who act to end discrimination.
Here is a round-up of events, developments and comments from around the globe:
- At the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies in Oslo today, Actress Liv Ullmann read out the final statement the winner - the jailed Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo - made at his trial in December 2009 on charges of subversion against the state. "I have no enemies and no hatred," Ullmann read, as Norway's King Harald and Queen Sonja listened. "None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies."
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has asked China to release Liu, who is sentenced for 11 year prison for a political revolt against China - saying he is an example of a human rights defender who is paying a heavy price for his activism. Liu participated in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest in Beijing and is one of China's most prominent activists fighting for greater political freedom and human rights. Pillay added that she will hold talks with Chinese officials for the release of Liu.
- The Britain-based business risk assessment firm Maplecroft released a report in connection with Human Rights Day. It ranks the Democratic Republic of Congo as the worst country for human rights, along with Somalia. Another three sub-Saharan African nations ranked among the worst 10: Sudan, Chad and Zimbabwe. In Asia, Pakistan, Myanmar [Burma], Afghanistan, North Korea and China get the lowest marks, with Russia the worst in Europe.
- US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday asked American embassies across the globe to open their doors to civil society activists and to listen to their concerns. "The US is committed to promoting and defending civil society around the world. And we will continue to remind leaders of their responsibilities to their citizens under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," Clinton said in a statement issued on the occasion of Human Rights Day.
- Chaloka Beyani, an expert in international law at the London School of Economics, said many governments still refuse to face up to what the declaration means in practice. "Within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 21 says that the authority of the government is based on the rights of the people and yet we have seen many instances in Africa and elsewhere where election and their outcomes have been usually contested, from Zimbabwe, Kenya 2007, and now Cote d'Ivoire as we speak, where there was an election, a winner was announced, but the incumbent president refuses to leave office."
- "An overlooked feature of the declaration is that it ends with duties and obligations upon an individual to their community. Sadly, we have become obsessed with rights, without any corresponding sense of duty, obligation or responsibility. I truly believe that with rights come responsibilities. There needs to be a balance, for our privileges can be no greater than our obligations." - Prashanth Shanmugan - a geopolitical strategist, writer and a United Nations Ambassador for the Global Atlas of Human Rights - writing in Australia's National Times.
- Said Michael C. Williamsis, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, in an op-ed to mark Human Rights Day: "This year’s global celebration of Human Rights Day is dedicated to 'human rights defenders who act to end discrimination.' I believe that human rights concern us all and that every Lebanese and every resident of this country can benefit from the initiatives mentioned above. Lebanon can do a great deal to further improve its human rights record and can count on the support of its friends and partners in the international community in this effort."
- HUMNEWS staff, agencies, UN, VOA