Human rights are made for times of unrest

Ukraine_Human rights in times of unrest Header

Human rights are made for times of unrest

The International Society of Human Rights connects sections of human rights defenders from many countries on all continents. On UN’s Human Rights Day 1993, December 10, 1993 25 Ukrainian human rights activists – members of the International Society for Human Rights globally – established the international public organization “International Society for Human Rights – Ukrainian Section” (ISHR-US). Today ISHR in Ukraine has more than 3,500 members.

The observation of court trials always has been a vital instrument. In 2020, more than 150 reports on trials in the Ukraine were written. The general report build on these monitoring reports consists of three parts: the first part – identification of the negative trends in the judicial system; the second part – analysis of the collected information; and the third part – short reports on the monitoring of court sessions.

Having met the lawyers involved in the writing of this report I have to underline the importance of such unbiased information about the situation in Ukraine and its value to the international community. Unbiased reports from a purely legal perspectives like this are an intrinsic part of European civil society and the idea of a modern democracy.

The protection of human rights defenders and lawyers is a prominent concern for the ISHR, the United Nations, and other international human rights organizations. Publicizing the work of human rights defenders often is an effective way to enhance their protection.

However, lawyers seeking to protect the human rights of accused persons often face the risk of persecution by those who prefer to keep such criminal cases quiet and out of public view. It is important for human rights organizations to sensitively balanced the value of disseminating information publicly and the possibility that by doing so, they may risk exposing lawyers or other human rights defenders to physical harm.

Human rights have not been hammered out by the global community for sunshine weather and vacation time, but in 1948 after the most devastating war of all times. International human rights standards even started out decades before that time, as rules for war times as the Red Cross rules, to have minimum standards even in war.

Thus times of turmoil, civil war, legal insecurity and even war are not times to give up on human rights, but are times to even more emphasize that all human beings share the same human dignity and the same human rights and that the major and most honorable task of all States is to preserve them. This includes the necessity for the State to watch its own performance – called checks and balancies in political history – and the need for civil society to watch and evaluate how the State is performing.

The human rights label is ingenious, and one can derive the most important characteristics of human rights from it.

Human rights are universal. They simply apply to “people”.

Human rights are individual since people exist only as individual persons.

They are, however, also social, since there is never only one person. Rather, there are always people in society, and rights apply to everyone at the same time.

They are egalitarian because they are derived from what it is that makes being human the same and not from what differentiates people or is conferred upon them.

Human rights exist prior to the state because being human precedes everything else.

Human rights are enforceable, i.e., they are not only observations, appeals, or demands; rather, they are rights that can be enforced in a court of law.

They are indivisible because people are themselves indivisible and people stand in the center; no political system or ideology is in the center.

They are inalienable (meaning they cannot be taken away from a person) since an individual, even in the worst situation or as a criminal, remains a human being.

Thomas Schirrmacher, Prof. Dr. Dr.
President of the International Council of the ISHR

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