New Internationalist

Simply… How To Stop Abusing Human Rights

March 1992

new internationalist
issue 229 - March 1992

[image, unknown] How to stop abusing human rights
- a guide for governments

Illustration by CLIVE OFFLEY

Open with style

Every country should incorporate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into its constitution. If this is technically impossible (for example where there is no constitution as in the UK) the government should pass a bill expressing a formal commitment to abide by the standard of human rights outlined in the Declaration.


Sell the programmes

All governments should regularly publish translations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in their own national languages in leading journals and relay its message through the popular media, so that the maximum number of people can be made aware of what their rights are.


Make the rules fair

Ensure that all existing legislation in the country conforms to the guidelines laid down by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There is no point in a country asserting a commitment to the adherence of human rights if it still has laws which contravene these rights.


Check for cheating

A government with a real commitment to human rights will have nothing to hide and so allow itself to be monitored by the United Nations. It will understand that by inviting the world to examine its behaviour, it will be helping to set an international standard for the way that governments should treat their people - and encouraging other governments to be open also.


Retrain the powerful

Retrain those in positions of power so that they understand human-rights principles and act accordingly in the way that they treat the public. Such groups might include the army, police and civil servants.


Acknowledge the winners

Any country giving aid must take into account the human-rights record of the recipient country-and withhold aid where necessary. This would exert meaningful pressure on oppressive governments to improve their human-rights records.


Remember the losers

A Human Rights Victims Day should be declared and observed every year as a day of remembrance. It could be preceded by lessons on human rights in schools and universities, and demonstrations in memory of those who lost their lives. This would help raise people's consciousness about human rights and popularize an international code of behaviour and a set of moral principles.


Ban dangerous events

Governments should recognize that most human-rights abuses occur in wars and work to eliminate them. They should phase out arms production and conscription, and work to establish the United Nations as an impartial and powerful guardian of world peace.

Ideas have come from The Update to the World Human Rights Guide, by Charles Humana, (to be published by Oxford University Press in New York and London, in the summer of 1992). Also from Julia Hausermann of Rights and Humanity in the UK.

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This feature was published in the March 1992 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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