ACLU Marks 60th Anniversary Of Landmark Human Rights Document

December 10, 2008 12:00 am

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New Administration Should Recommit To Principles Laid Out In The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Says Group

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NEW YORK – On the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the American Civil Liberties Union is calling on the incoming Obama administration to recommit to the rights and principles laid out in the document and use it as a guidepost for setting policy at home and abroad. The UDHR was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948 to codify the basic human rights of all people, and is widely considered to be the founding document of the modern human rights movement.

"The passage of the UDHR brought worldwide awareness of the basic rights and protections all people should enjoy," said Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. "Sadly, eight years of disastrous policy by the Bush administration have put the very rights embodied by the UDHR in jeopardy. It is time to fix the damage that has been done and restore our nation's commitment to upholding and protecting human rights."

Following the horrors of World War II, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, devoted itself exclusively to drafting the UDHR. The document, which was influenced by the U.S. Bill of Rights, contains 30 articles that detail specific rights that belong to all human beings everywhere, including civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights.

"Despite the prominent role the United States played in drafting the UDHR, we have failed to live up to our commitment to human rights at home and abroad," said Dakwar. "President-elect Obama and Congress can reestablish America as a leader on human rights at home and abroad by making policies that reaffirm our dedication to the principles laid out in the UDHR."

Tonight, Dakwar will moderate a panel of U.S. human rights experts and advocates at the U.N. "Bringing Human Rights Home: Opportunities for a New U.S. Administration" begins at 5:30 p.m. at the United Nations Church Center in New York. In addition, several ACLU affiliates around the country have planned events to commemorate the anniversary. A full list of events is available online at:

More information about the UDHR, including a new publication by the ACLU, "Human Rights Begin at Home: Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the UDHR," and a petition urging Congress and President-elect Obama to recommit the U.S. to the principles of the UDHR, is available online at:

Also today, the ACLU of Massachusetts released a report on the human rights of immigrants. The first-of-its-kind study details poor jail conditions, denial of medical care and violations of due process against immigrants held for months in detention centers without being accused of a crime. "Detention and Deportation in the Age of Ice" is available online at:

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