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Human Rights Day 2010 focus on HR defenders

Every human has the right to live with dignity, free of any form of discrimination. All should have freedom of movement, freedom of expression, freedom from exploitation and religious freedom, to mention a few rights. Collectively, these are called Human Rights.

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of international law.

The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law. This principle, as first emphasized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948, has been reiterated in numerous international human rights conventions, declarations, and resolutions. The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, for example, noted that it is the duty of States to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems.

Every year on December 10, the world marks International Human Rights Day under a designated theme. The theme for this year is human rights defenders who act to end discrimination.

Non-discrimination is a major principle in international human rights law. The principle is present in all the major human rights treaties. The principle applies to everyone in relation to all human rights and freedoms and it prohibits discrimination on the basis of a list of non-exhaustive categories such as sex, race, colour and so on. The principle of non-discrimination is complemented by the principle of equality, as stated in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

Discrimination takes many forms. It could be discrimination against minorities, women, migrants, people with disabilities or discrimination on religious grounds. All these contravene human rights norms.

Human rights defenders acting against discrimination, often at great personal risk to both themselves and their families, are being recognized and acclaimed on this day.

According to the UN, "Human rights defenders speak out against abuse and violations including discrimination, exclusion, oppression and violence. They advocate justice and seek to protect the victims of human rights violations. They demand accountability for perpetrators. In so doing, they are often putting at risk their own safety, and that of their families".

Some human rights defenders are famous, but most are not. They are active in every part of the world, working alone and in groups, in local communities, in national politics and internationally.

Human Rights Day 2010 will highlight and promote the achievements of human rights defenders. The Day is also intended to inspire a new generation of defenders to speak up and take action to end discrimination in all of its forms whenever and wherever it is manifested.

As the UN Human Rights Council points out "Human rights defender is a title each and everyone of us can earn. It is not a role that requires a professional qualification. What it depends on is regard for our fellow human beings, an understanding that we are all entitled to the full range of human rights and a commitment to seeing that ideal become a reality".

Many are highly qualified people who have special skills as lawyers, journalists, doctors, architects, or teachers: many others have little or no education but they all have in common the fundamental conviction that human rights must be protected and promoted.

Many activities have been organised around the world to mark the International Human Rights Day, which marks the birth of the Human Rights Charter of the UN. -PS

 

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