To Nelson Mandela it was “a sudden ray of hope at one of our darkest moments” and “an inspiration to many millions of South Africans – proof they were not alone”.
To Mary Robinson “a tree planted for mankind as a symbol of justice in fertile soil following the end of a great cataclysm”.
To the Dalai Lama “a natural law that ought to be followed by all peoples and governments”.
Three towering and visionary thinkers – one source of inspiration: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration is 70 years old on 10 December and, as the charity named in honour of its co-author, French-Jewish Nobel Laureate Monsieur René Cassin, we are marking the occasion with two very special events:
- Jewish Human Rights Heroes – Monday 10 December, 7-9pmPhilippe Sands QC, award-winning author of ‘East West Street’, and barrister and blogger Adam Wagner will celebrate the Jewish contribution to the development of international human rights.Jewish Museum London, Raymond Burton House, 129-131 Albert Street, London NW1 7NB. Tickets £6.50 & £8.50
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70 – Wednesday 12 December, 7.30pmIn a world marked by increasing volatility, inequality and nationalism, has the Declaration fulfilled its promise as the dawn of a new era?” Francesca Klug – leading authority on the history, politics and practice of human rights – gives her expert analysis of the UDHR and its legacy.JW3, 341-351 Finchley Road, London NW3 6ET. Tickets £12 & £15
I hope you can join us at one or both of these evenings.
Another anniversary – 9 November was the 20th birthday of the Human Rights Act. The Act is the Declaration’s ‘grandchild’ (the ‘parent’ being the European Convention on Human Rights, which the Human Rights Act incorporates into UK law so ‘bringing rights home’). We celebrated with a week-long campaign reminding people how the Act helps ordinary people in everyday situations.
The centrepiece of the campaign was the premiere of the film Sunrise, not Sunset – which tells the story of how the Human Rights Act kept an elderly couple together after their local authority placed them in separate care homes.
Sunrise, not Sunset is funny and moving, and just 13 minutes long – you can watch it via our You Tube channel
The Universal Declaration – Mandela’s ‘ray of hope’ – continues to shine a light on the scourge of modern slavery, the widespread but often hidden blight that Theresa May has called “the great human rights issue of our time”.
On World Anti-Slavery Day in October, I was able to invoke the authority of the Declaration as the foundation of our work on this issue:
“Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, co-drafted by our namesake René Cassin, prohibits all forms of slavery. I am proud of the steps that the Jewish community is taking to address modern slavery and ensure that the legacy of the UDHR is upheld”.
The UDHR’s origins as a response to the horrors of the Holocaust are clear in its preamble : “Disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind”.
Jews were not alone in being victims of those ‘barbarous acts’ – and every year René Cassin mobilises the Jewish community to remember the Roma murdered by the Nazis. On Roma Genocide Memorial Day on 2 August in London’s Hyde Park, Kindertransport veteran Ruth Barnett spoke on behalf of René Cassin:
“As a human rights organisation, René Cassin stands for the rights of everyone, everywhere. We believe that there can be no human rights for anyone unless they are accorded to all. Therefore, we stand in solidarity with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community today, and every day, which continues to be subject to adverse discrimination and faces multiple disadvantages”.
And René Cassin has continued to speak out for another minority facing discrimination and disadvantage – asylum-seekers held indefinitely in detention.
We set out our rationale for this work in our submission to a Parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention in September:
“Migration and seeking asylum are central to the Jewish experience. Granting refuge to those who seek shelter is a core value within the Jewish tradition and one that the community remains committed to.”
In our last newsletter we told you about Yuri, a young Jewish man fleeing anti-Semitic persecution, who found himself locked up in the UK’s immigration detention system. Yuri’s testimony of the trauma and isolation of detention confirmed our belief in the value of a Jewish Visitors Group in providing the lifeline of a sympathetic ear to detainees.
We are making good progress with this new initiative – we have recruited and trained our first tranche of visitors and have started discussions with immigration centre management with a view to beginning visits in the near future.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was an enlightened response to the nationalism and intolerance of the 1930s and 40s. Today, these same problems are again on the rise. As the UDHR turns 70, its message is as vital as ever.
Please help René Cassin’s work to promote the Declaration’s vision of a world of freedom, justice and peace. We rely on the generosity of our supporters for the funds to continue this vital work. You can make a one-off or regular donation to René Cassin via our website at www.renecassin.org/donate/
PS If you have any comments or questions about any aspect of René Cassin’s work, I would love to hear from you – please email me via [email protected]