By Melanie Nathan, December 10, 2015.
Statement by U.S. Secretary of State , John Kerry, released for International Human Rights day, lacks a robust reflection on all corners of this globe:
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was forged in the aftermath of World War II to protect freedom and prevent future atrocities. As we commemorate it today, we recall President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 Four Freedoms address, which inspired the Universal Declaration, and which the United Nations selected as this year’s theme for International Human Rights Day.
The “four freedoms” – of speech and religion, from want and fear – are as relevant and compelling today as they were when Roosevelt spoke almost three quarters of a century ago.
These freedoms and the Universal Declaration in which they are now enshrined serve as a beacon for Tunisians as they continue their brave transition from dictatorship to democracy; for Burmese who fought tirelessly to bring about this year’s historic election; for former member of parliament and human rights activist Murod Juraev of Uzbekistan released at long last; for prisoners of conscience who still long for their freedom, such as Liu Xiaobo of China, Bassel Khartabil of Syria, Leopoldo Lopez of Venezuela; and journalists, artists, religious minority leaders, and women’s rights activists detained unjustly in Iran.
On this day – and every day – we call on the government of Burundi to stem the alarming levels of violence threatening that country’s stability; on the governments of China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, among others, to stop stifling free and open media; and on the regime in North Korea to immediately shut down the camps where tens of thousands of political prisoners are starving, suffering, and working without pay.
We decry the ongoing repression and brutality of the Assad regime in Syria and we stand resolute in our fight against the terrorism perpetrated by Daesh, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab and other groups who have zero regard for human rights, or for human life.
Today, we recommit to the truth that human beings of every faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation and background are endowed with “equal and inalienable rights.”
The vigilant, unwavering advancement of those rights will make the world safer and more prosperous for us all.” John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State.
Allow me to add that it is on this day that we must condemn the harm being perpetrated against women, children and LGBTI people around the world. With this in mind I reflect especially on the anti-homosexuality milieu and push for more punitive legislation against LGBT people in African countries such as Sudan, DRC, Cameroon, Nigeria, The Gambia, Uganda, Kenya and others.
I also urge the United Nations and US Government to stand firmly against the serious human rights infractions in Saudi Arabia:
“Saudi Arabia continued in 2014 to try, convict, and imprison political dissidents and human rights activists solely on account of their peaceful activities. Systematic discrimination against women and religious minorities continued. Authorities failed to enact systematic measures to protect the rights of 9 million foreign workers. As in past years, authorities subjected hundreds of people to unfair trials and arbitrary detention. New anti-terrorism regulations that took effect in 2014 can be used to criminalize almost any form of peaceful criticism of the authorities as terrorism.” (HRW)
How do we in good conscience reward such countries by allowing leadership roles in the United Nations. I just cannot fathom this!
By – Melanie Nathan, Executive Director, African Human Rights Coalition.