Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Dear Friends

Fifty-nine years ago today the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The opening sentence of the Preamble of that document speaks a fundamental truth and timeless aspiration:

"(R)ecognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."

We are getting closer to the day when the world recognizes that a state execution, the ritual killing of a human being by agents of a government, is a human rights violation, not a criminal sanction. I look forward to the time when International Human Rights Day is celebrated in a world where nations and people live without executions.

Below is the International Human Rights Day posting from "For Victims, Against the Death Penalty," MVFHR's blog. MVFHR's staff, board and members honor all who work daily for human dignity and for human rights, and to end capital punishment. And are grateful to all who, today and every day, support the work of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights.

In solidarity,

Renny Cushing
Renny Cushing, Executive Director
Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights
2161 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140
617 491 9600 Office
617 930 5196 Mobile
For Victims, Against the Death Penalty
The web log of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights

Monday, December 10, 2007
Happy Human Rights Day and Happy Birthday MVFHR
Today is International Human Rights Day and the third anniversary of the founding of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights. I'm remembering the ceremony at the United Nations Church Plaza on December 10, 2004, when several victims’ family members spoke powerfully and movingly about their reasons for working against the death penalty and several allies and friends saluted the new organization. All who were present signed a document pledging their commitment to working to end the death penalty.

It’s been a full and busy three years, during which we've been moved and energized and enraged and determined and so many other feelings that this work engenders. Now we're full of plans and hopes for the next three years, but today is a day to pause and thank everyone who makes MVFHR the powerful voice for victims and against the death penalty that it is. If we haven't heard from you in a while (or even if we have!), take a moment to drop us a line and let us know how you are and what you've been up to. (You can send email to sheffer@aceweb.com)

In celebration of Human Rights Day, here is an excerpt from Sister Helen Prejean’s book The Death of Innocents:

It was to be expected when Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was debated back in the 1940s that such a declaration, which granted everyone the right to life without qualification, would provoke debate, and one of the first proposed amendments was that an exception ought to be made in the case of criminals lawfully sentenced to death. Eleanor Roosevelt urged the committee to resist this amendment, arguing that their task was to draw up a truly universal charter of human rights toward which societies could strive. She foresaw a day when no government could kill its citizens for any reason.

And here is the U.S. Human Rights Network’s inspiring statement about the importance of focusing on human rights work in the United States:

Underlying all human rights work in the United States is a commitment to challenge the pernicious belief that the United States is inherently superior to other countries of the world, and that neither the U.S. government nor the U.S. rights movements have anything to gain from the domestic application of human rights. Rather, in the view of a growing number of U.S. activists, the U.S. government should no longer be allowed to shield itself from accountability to human rights norms.

Finally, here is a snippet of what Renny Cushing wrote in the first issue of MVFHR’s newsletter, Article 3:

In the human rights community, there is talk about how to integrate respect for universal human rights with recognition of the harm suffered by victims. There is talk of the need to hold accountable those who violate the human rights of others. How do we hold nations - or individuals - accountable? How do we respond to one violation of human rights without involving ourselves in another such violation? How can we apply an ethic of respect for people’s humanity consistently to those who have committed crimes and to those who have been victimized?
These questions drive our work at Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights and they will inform the stories we publish in Article 3. We decided to name this newsletter Article 3 knowing that a lot of people might at first wonder about its meaning. But this name - like our work in general - is an act of faith that people can be invited to look closer, to consider more deeply, to ente r into new ways of thinking. We believe people can come to see that the death penalty is a violation of basic human rights and that it is time for nations across the world to abolish it.

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