“POINT OF VIEW” FOR TUESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2013

“POINT OF VIEW” FOR TUESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2013

Today, December 10, is celebrated internationally as Human Rights Day in recognition of the date in 1948 on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaiming its principles as the “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.” The rights set out in the Universal Declaration are described as being universal, indivisible and inalienable, which put simply means – everyone has them, everyone has all of them and everyone has them by virtue of being human.

Jamaica became a member of the United Nations shortly after independence, on September 18, 1962, and in doing so acknowledged the Jamaican state’s acceptance of the rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We have gone on to sign on to and ratify many important human rights conventions and treaties, which come with obligations to maintain and protect the rights of people living in Jamaica and acknowledge our role as part of a global human rights community.  Some of these are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Although Jamaica has a long history of being a voice for human rights in the international arena, it is quite common and fashionable here at home to speak of human rights with a measure of disdain, as though human rights are something negative and optional. But as a modern democracy and a member state of the United Nations, Jamaica cannot ignore its duty to protect the rights of its own citizens and all people living within our country. There is a lot of work to be done, by both our government and other bodies, through “teaching and education to promote respect for [the] rights and freedoms” set out in the Universal Declaration.

Have you ever read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? One of the things that Jamaicans for Justice seeks to do in its public education campaigns – in schools, in communities and in the media – is to familiarize people with these human rights. And so, in honour of Human Rights Day, we would like to share a simplified version of the 30 declarations of what we, and many others, consider one of the most important documents of the modern era:

1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind.

3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.

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

6. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

7. All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection by the law.

8. Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him/her by the constitution or by law.

9. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

10. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.

11. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

12. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with their privacy, family, home or correspondence, or to attacks upon their honour and reputation.

13. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement.

14. Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy, in other countries, asylum from persecution.

15. Everyone has the right to a nationality.

16. Men and women have the right to marry and have a family.

17. Everyone has the right to own property.

18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

20. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

21. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his or her country.

22. Everyone as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights.

23. Everyone has the right to work. Everyone has the right to form and join trade unions.

24. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure.

25. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well being.

26. Everyone has the right to education.

27. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community.

28. Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realised.

29. Everyone has duties to the community.

30. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying any right to engage in any activity aimed at the destruction of the rights and freedoms set forth.

As we celebrate Human Rights Day, and as we join with the global community in recognizing the life and work of one of the great human rights defenders of our time – Nelson Mandela, let us commit to working towards justice for one and justice for all.

Happy Human Rights Day!