Don’t Stop Ireland’s Beating Hearts
Eleanor Roosevelt (1984-1962) chair of the United Nations Human Rights Commission
THE VISION of a world order founded on respect for human rights and democratic institutions and which would permit widespread participation of citizens, arose from the ashes of the second world war.
Eleanor Roosevelt steered the work of diverse social, political and religious participants to create the founding stone of that new world order in the form of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Institutions of the United Nations and legally binding documents followed from that initial start and much hope was invested in the new forum for international cooperation. Notions of political power before the advent of the UN had manifested themselves in totalitarian systems where an elite would impose rule form on high. The new system was the antidote to that but old ways die hard.
Roosevelt told the United Nations:
“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his (her) own weight, this is a frightening prospect.”
The temptation for the influential to wield the institutions of political power for their own interests and preferences are strong and the most carefully planned structures are still vulnerable to becoming instruments of powerful elites.
This has increasingly become evident of the United Nations and other international institutions. The recent decision by an unelected and barely accountable body of the UN, the Human Rights Committee, has recently made an astonishing assertion:
Laws which restrict women from having the lives of their babies ended amounts to ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment’.
The Human Rights Committee is supposed to oversee the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. This is the legally binding treaty which includes the assertion that
“Every human being has the inherent right to life.”
This treaty does not refer to “person” – which is one way in which attempts are made to remove human rights for the pre-born by claiming that certain human beings are not persons. Also the document makes provision such that “Sentence of death shall not be carried out on pregnant women.”
So what is happening here?
The United Nations at a previous time did apply logic and so included elsewhere in its documents is the explicit protection of life before birth but now we see that the instrument is to be used to achieve the result that the powerful want. Protection of life before birth is now more vulnerable than ever before.
For those of us for whom universal human rights, logic and rule of law remain precious components of a civilised society, this recent judgement, above, should act as a spur to action. We must return to the visionary path set upon by Eleanor Roosevelt and the many people of good will who wanted to overcome the violence and injustice that arises from the arbitrary use of raw political power. The decision of the Human Rights Committee is not compatible with that vision.
Young students and SPUC Scotland ‘Project Truth’ volunteers demonstrating for the absolute ECHR article 2 right to life to be protected.
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