HUMAN RIGHTS - THE FACTS
The world is very different now from the one in which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drawn up in 1948. Countries have a responsibility to the international community and must answer for their actions - even if this doesn't stop widespread abuses of human rights.
Treaties (on trial)
Ratification of major human-rights conventions, 1 March 1997
Countries that have ratified or acceded
Countries that have not ratified or acceded
Prevention and punishment of genocide, 1948
Convention on the status of refugees, 1951
Economic, social and cultural rights, 1966
Civil and political rights, 1966
Elimination of discrimination against women, 1979
Convention against torture, 1984
Rights of the child, 1989
|Since the Universal Declaration there have been a number of treaties relating to human rights. The majority of countries have now signed up to these. Major exceptions include the US, which has not ratified the treaties on the rights of the child nor on women, nor those on economic, social and cultural rights. Switzerland and Afghanistan are among the countries which have not acceded to the convention on women. The convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment has been accepted by little more than half the world's nations, with Indonesia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Belgium among the objectors.|
Indigenous peoples have their livelihoods threatened, their lands taken away and their cultures colonized.
Positions of governments on indigenous peoples 1997
|Violence against women|
Violence against women, in the home and outside it, is a global phenomenon. Worldwide, more than 20 per cent of women experience some degree of domestic violence during marriage. Women and children are the primary victims of today's wars.
Disability is a human-rights issue says the UN, which in 1992 adopted a World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons. In 1993 they produced the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. Although not legally enforceable, these offer an international instrument with a monitoring system. But they require strong political and practical commitment by governments.
During 1996 at least 4,272 prisoners were executed in 39 countries and 7,107 were sentenced to death in 76 countries. These were the figures known to Amnesty International; the true figures are certainly higher. But there are now 58 nations which have abolished the death penalty; plus 15 which have abolished it for all but exceptional circumstances. There are an additional 27 which have the death penalty but have not used it for ten years.
The graph shows the number of executions carried out each year in the US since the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme court in 1976
Since the end of the Cold War there have been at least 30 major armed conflicts (more than 1,000 deaths in a year). Humanitarian emergencies have increased from 5 a year in 1985-89 to 26 in 1994 - with a slight decrease in 1995.
And yet... the world is disarming. Arms sales have dropped, there are fewer soldiers in the world - down from 24.6 million in 1994 to 23 million in 1995. The number of battle tanks and combat aircraft has also dropped.
1 UN Center for Human Rights, 1997.2 The Indigenous World 1996-97, IWGIA.3 Domestic Violence Action and Research Group, Tokyo 1994.4 US Bureau of Justice.5 UN Special Rapporteur on Rwanda.6 The World's Women 1995, UNDPI.7 Information Kit on the United Nations Standard Rules, Disability Awareness in Action,1995.8 The Death Penalty Information Center, Washington. 9 World Development Report 1997, World Bank. 10 Vital Signs 1997/8, Earthscan/Worldwatch Institute.
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