Today marks the fifty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Human Rights in 1948; a day which was later to be known as the “International Day for Human Rights”.
The Declaration is the first human rights document which was agreed upon internationally, setting up a world-wide dream of a new age in which human rights would be respected. The Declaration is considered the reference upon which the actions of nations and groups are based on.
This declaration has seen numerous difficult stages in which human rights activists and organisations have worked to transfer the soul of the declaration into practical and procedural measures which guarantee its implementation internationally, reflected in the hundreds of conferences and meetings which took place around the world, and the tens of agreements that have been established, each one reflecting a different aspect of the original Declaration.
In order to end these endless meetings which were taking place, experts around the world established what is known as the “Principles of Human Rights”. These principles are seen as the guarantors of the spirit of the Declaration, and without them, the articles of the Declaration are only merely scattered legal laws which can get lost in the international political and diplomatic maze.
Among the most prominent of these principles is the Universality of Human Rights principle, as well as the Lack of Indivisibility of rights, and the Rule of Human Rights over the rule of National Sovereignty- which was quite prominent in the era before the Declaration of Human Rights.
The international community has confirmed the importance of the activation of these principles many times, within what has been termed as the “International Cooperation in the field of Human Rights”. It is considered one of the purposes of the United Nations, and also considered that human rights and basic freedoms are rights which all humans gain from birth- and which governments have an utmost duty to protect. All of this is with an emphasis on universality, interdependence and indivisibility, in accordance with the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (1993) – a declaration which is used as a reference for human rights work across the globe.
This legislative action has been coupled with great efforts across the world to spread a culture of human rights and strengthen its principles among the ordinary person, in order to build an integrated system which sustains and activates human rights.
However, these efforts which have kept experts and activists across the world busy for many decades, have been subjected to violent political blows which severely shook the credibility of human rights, and weakened the ability of any side to portray human rights as a system alternate to one in which human rights is abused, oppressive regimes supported, as well as the other circumstances which led to the formation of the Declaration of Human Rights.
The way in which the international community has dealt with the violations of human rights taking place in Syria is a clear and flagrant example of the weakness of human rights organisations, which have not been able to take action on both a governmental level and (even) on an activist and organisational level. The international community- led by politicians and UN representatives- have done everything in their capacity to uphold the principle of impunity from criminal punishment, and have pushed towards rehabilitating criminals instead of punishing them! In addition to this, the international community has ignored the widespread and previously unheard of violations of human rights which have been practised, as well as the role played by foreign militias in Syria, and has instead made clear that human rights cannot- in any case at all- reach the same influence and importance that political and economical interests have in international politics.
This negative treatment of violations of human rights did not take place only on the governmental and international level, but was also practised by many non-governmental organisations across the world, and especially in the Arab world, which ignored the serious violations taking place in Syria. Some of the organisations did not even condemn any single one of the crimes and genocides committed, whilst others attempted neutrality in the face of such crimes.
It is of no doubt that the humiliating and shameful treatment of the international community with regards to the Syrian issue has left its impact on the current Syrian generation in particular, as well as all those that are interested in this region. It will leave an even deeper impact on the coming generations which will have no faith in the credibility of international law concerning human rights, thus making it more difficult to support efforts of spreading the culture of human rights in Syria and the wider region.
SHRC, in remembering that Syria was one of the founding states of the United Nations and a participating country in the preparation of the Declaration of Human Rights, calls upon international organisations to carry out their duties and put pressure on their governments to revive the spirit of the Declaration and protect what has remained of the human rights system which was built during the last 55 years.
Syrian Human Rights Committee