67 years ago, on 10 December 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a historical act that called upon the entire world to recognise and respect every human being's inalienable rights "without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status". Every 10 December, World Human Rights Day marks the anniversary of this milestone of our history. This year's celebration recalls the four freedoms that form the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the two major human rights Covenants. The four freedoms (freedom of speech, and of worship; freedom from want, and from fear) were first articulated in 1941—dark times for humanity—by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his speech to the US Congress.
Each year, World Human Rights Day reminds us how far we have come since the first half of the 20th century, and how far we still have to go to make respect for human rights a reality worldwide. The Greens have always been deeply involved in the fight for human rights, which is one of our core values. We asked Green MEP and Spokesperson for Human Rights Barbara Lochbihler to comment on the meaning of this day. She said: "in war not only truth dies first. Human rights, also, are of no importance when governments preserve their interests or cling to their power using fighter jets, tanks and rifles. At the moment we are experiencing this especially in the Middle East: Assad is using barrel bombs against residential districts, Saudi Arabian air strikes are killing Yemenite civilians, Turkey is bombing Kurdish PKK positions, often striking people who are not involved. The coalition attacks led by Saudi Arabia in Northern Yemen have caused the deaths of hundreds of civilians, including children. These grave human rights infringements cannot remain unpunished".
Indeed, the human rights situation is dire in many countries, including the ones neighbouring the EU. There is increasingly limited space for civil society, increasing restrictions and censorship are placed upon non-governmental organisations or the media, and activists suffer from severe human rights violations and harassment.
Examples include the Saudi Arabian online activist Raif Badawi, who, in October, was awarded the 2015 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, with the Green Group in the European Parliament nominating him for the shortlist. "Guilty" of creating an online platform for political and religious debate in his country, Badawi was arrested in 2012 on charges of insulting Islam and apostasy. In 2014, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes, the first of which he received in January 2015, with the following set suspended only due to international condemnation and his bad health.
Another example is Can Dündar, the editor-in-chief of a major Turkish newspaper, Cumhuryiet, who, at the end of November, was arrested together with the head of the paper's Ankara bureau, Erdem Gül. The journalists, whom EGP Co-chair Monica Frassoni and Green MEP Ska Keller had met during their trip to Turkey in October, were accused of spying, divulging state secrets, being members of a terror organisation and violating state security through an article they had published in May. This article raised allegations that Turkey's National Intelligence Organisation was delivering arms to rebels in Syria.