The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a revolutionary document achieved in the history of human rights. The United Nations General Assembly adopted this report in Paris on December 10, 1948, which was drafted by legal and cultural representatives from across the world. This document protects human rights universally
The effects of the World War II triggered the establishment of the UDHR. During that period, the allies in the war adopted the four freedoms: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom from fear, and freedom from want. These freedoms were reaffirmed by the United Nations Charter, and each member state was to commit to the fundamental human rights. Following the conclusion of the World War II, it became apparent that four freedoms did not define adequately the rights it referred.This weakness, therefore, suggested the need for a universal declaration which could give specific attention to rights of individuals.
The UN Economic and Social Council formed a Commission on Human Rights in June 1946. This board was made up of 18 members from different backgrounds and nationalities. This body was tasked to formulate a bill of rights. The commission came up with a first Universal Declaration of Human Rights Drafting Committee that was tasked to write the articles contained in the declaration. The committee completed its assignment in May 1948, and the commission discussed it further before voting on December 1948 and adopted on December 10, that year.In 1978, some of the articles of the declaration were given legal status by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Below is a discussion of some of the key articles.
Article 4: Freedom from Slavery
This article protects and individuals’ rights not to be held in slavery or forced to work. The article defines slavery as owning someone as a personal property and forced labor as being made to do work that you are not willing to do. The right to be protected from slavery is absolute meaning there are no limitations. The right against forced labor, however, do not apply to work done in prison during a sentence, the work that a government assigns an individual during a state of emergency, and when the work is part of the normal civic obligation.
Article 5: Freedom from Torture and Degrading Treatment
This article protects and individual from physical and mental torture, degrading and inhuman treatment, and extradition or deportation if there is a risk of being abused in the foreign country. Article 5 defines torture as a deliberate cause of severe suffering to a person through punishment or intimidation. Inhuman treatment, on the other hand, refers to physical assault, psychological abuse, and threatening to torture and individual. Treating someone in a degrading or humiliating way is referred to as degrading treatment. There is, however, no limitation on this right.
Article 16: Right to Marriage and Family
Article 16 protects the rights of people of a marriageable age to marry and have a family. The right to marry though is subject to a country’s laws on marriage even though such laws should not interfere with the principles of the right.
Significance of These Rights Today
The declaration has been listed by the Guinness Book of Records as the Most Translated Document after its translation into 501 different languages. Governments committed themselves and their people to uphold the human rights set in the declaration, and this has helped in its protection. The declaration has influenced constitutions of most nations since 1948, and many laws have adopted. This statement is a foundation for some international laws, national laws, and treaties to date.
The thirty articles of this declaration despite not being legally binding have been a subject of a significant improvement of human rights globally as the items in this declaration had been drafted in most national constitutions and even international treaties that are legally binding. It’s because of this declaration therefore that member states have protected human rights of individuals.