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
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
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
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
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
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