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MFHR Message on the occasion of the 68th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the 50th anniversary of the two international UN Covenants

The Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights (MFHR) firmly committed to defending actively internationally recognized human rights, wishes to remind everyone that on 10 December 2016 we commemorate the 68th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). In fact, this year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the two international UN covenants, which derive from this instrument.


After the end of the Second World War, the need to restore the protection of human rights which were abolished by the offences of totalitarian Nazi and fascist regimes was perceived as imperative. Against this background, right after its establishment in 1945, the United Nations set up a Commission tasked with the drafting of a Universal Declaration containing the basic principles to which all peoples of the world should adhere. René Cassin, a well-known French jurist and judge, was elected as Chairperson of the Commission. He insisted that civil and political rights – supported by the bloc of Western countries – as well as social, cultural and economic rights– supported by the bloc of Eastern countries – should be considered as basic principles. Cassin’s greatest contribution has been that despite the major reactions of both sides to the text, he did not backtrack on declaring that human rights of all kinds are equally important and should thus be respected. He even had the courage to put the draft text to a vote of the nations of the world, and as a result it was accepted by 48 states, while no state dared to dissent – there were only 8 abstentions. Thus, in 1948 the UDHR, which is founded on the principles of the UN Charter, was adopted.


Human rights situation was significantly improved following the adoption of the UDHR, especially through the signing of the two Covenants – the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. More precisely, given that there was no possibility to adopt a single Covenant which would define the content of human rights as recognized by the UDHR in a more detailed and binding manner, a method to encourage mutual tolerance of one another bloc’s arguments was devised. More particularly, by means of a single resolution on 16 December 1966, the UN General Assembly drafted two separate covenants, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Thus, both blocs had to adopt them, maintaining different positions only in the ratification process. Greece ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights through Law 1532/1985 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights through Law 2462/1997.


The adoption of the above-mentioned Covenants was followed by a series of other international conventions, in application of each UDHR article. In addition, throughout the years, almost all states had to ratify both Covenants. In this way, the role of René Cassin was proved, who, thanks to his intelligence and far-sightedness, realized that his approach would be accepted in the future and therefore did not accept any compromise on the issue of the human rights that should be defended. On the contrary, he succeeded in formulating the rights in such a way that ensured a steady and gradual course towards them taking legal effect. Thanks to the great René Cassin and his efforts, the two international Covenants have now become the basic human rights protection instruments and act as a beacon for every action taken by all democracy and human rights’ defenders.


However, the above applies only in theory, as in practice, human rights violations are so numerous that the world has ended up being a criminal lunatic asylum. Let us not forget that there are still people who have demonstrated their commitment to defending substantially human rights, such as President Obama, President Juncker, Pope Francis 1st, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Archbishop of Albania, Anastasios, as well as other defenders, such as the ones that in risk of their own lives, attempted to rescue the intentionally plunged into the sea migrants arriving in certain countries. It is most unfortunate that the Nobel Prize was not eventually awarded to the simple Greek islanders who were nominated for their work rescuing migrants.


We call upon everyone and especially all powerful officials of democratic states, to support those genuinely struggling for a real and active promotion and implementation of these important human rights instruments. We affirm that we will always be on their side with all our means!

Athens, 10 December 2016