Comment on the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Today marks 70 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”) was adopted at the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948, after being drafted based on the pledge of the international community to never repeat the tragic violations of human rights that occurred during World War II.
The UDHR, which consists of a preamble and thirty articles, sets out in detail the basic human rights, such as civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, that people in all countries should enjoy as their birthright. Its basic principles have been incorporated into the constitutions and laws of more than 90 countries, and its values remain alive in different legal forms in various countries around the world.
The UDHR has formed the foundation of numerous international human-rights declarations and treaties, and serves to underlie several major international treaties that Japan has ratified, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“ICESCR”), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Japan is obligated to respect, protect and fulfil human rights in accordance with these treaties. Together with the UDHR, these treaties are expected to be used in domestic courts as international standards on human rights, as well as playing an important role in the process of policy making, etc. Unfortunately, it cannot be said that the UDHR and other human rights treaties have been implemented in an effective manner in Japan, as our country still faces a lot of human-rights problems. At its general meeting in 2008, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (“JFBA”) called for the establishment of individual complaint procedures and a national human-rights institution based on human-rights treaties, but this has also not yet been achieved.
When looking at the world as a whole, armed conflict never stops, and torture, persecution and indiscriminate murder continue to persist despite being prohibited under human rights treaties. Hunger and poverty are also serious human rights violations that cannot be overlooked. Although the UDHR has been translated into more than 500 languages and has played a role in widely disseminating the importance of human-rights protection, there still remain many challenges to be resolved before “the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom from fear and want” as stated in the preamble to the UDHR.
Today, marking the occasion of the 70th year since the adoption of the UDHR, the JFBA would like to reaffirm the principle that the protection of human rights is indispensable for securing the dignity of individuals and realizing peace throughout the world, and herein resolves to further continue its activities to protect basic human rights and realize social justice in accordance with international standards, including those under the UDHR.
December 10, 2018
Japan Federation of Bar Associations