Human Rights – 70 years

Modern Human Rights law came out of the aftermath of the Second World War as a response to the barbarism of that war, with the UN in 1947 setting up a Human Rights Commission, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, which after consderable discussion came up in 1948 with the non-binding  Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at at Palais de Chaillot, Paris on the 10 December 1948, 70 years to the day before this ‘Shut Guantanamo!’ protest at the US Embassy by the London Guantanamo Campaign.

December 10 is celebrated in countries around the world as Human Rights Day or International Human Rights Day, though it is an anniversary that passes almost unnoticed in the UK.

Almost 17 years – since January 11th 2002

When the Council of Europe (not to be confused with the EU) was set up in 1949, it immediately began work, led by Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, a British MP who had been a prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, on a European Convention on Human Rights, completed in 1950 and ratifed three years later, with the European Court of Human Rights  established in Strasbourg to oversee it.

The Council of Europe now has 47 member states, including almost all those with any territory in Europe such as Turkey and Russia, along with Iceland, and is thus a much wider body than the EU

In 1998, the UK Human Rights Act was passed, incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights  into domestic British law; it sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone in the UK is entitled to and means they can be argued in British courts rather than having to go to Strasbourg. It came into force in the UK in October 2000.

The protest was held outside the US embassy in Nine Elms, London because the US has been clearly contrravening the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its treatment of prisoners held at Guantanamo (as well as in other secret military prisons in countries around the world.)

The US activities are a violation of many of the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but particularly:

Article 5
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.


Article 9
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

But the UDHR was a non-binding declaration and its provisions have never been incorporated into US law, although there are some similar provisions in the US Bill of Rights (which were based on those in the 1689 UK Bill of Rights.)

70 years of Human Rights

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