Daily Archives: April 23, 2004

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RAMSEY CLARK “ON THE FIFTIETH
ANNIVERSARY OF THE UNIVERSAL
DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS”

by Ramsey Clark
(attorney, teacher, writer,
former Attorney General during
the Johnson Administration, and
founder of the activist organization,
International Action Center, founded
in 1991 to protest U.S. military
aggression and foreign policy[ies])
from the Appendix of
Acts of Aggression,
Policing “Rogue” States
,
Copyright © 1999 by Edward W. Said,
Noam Chomsky and Ramsey Clark

“”The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty, but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.” So observed Abraham Lincoln at, for him, the darkest moment of the American Civil War. He had just received reports of the massacre of 800 Union soldiers, former slaves whose ancestors were brought from Africa in chains. They were the first such unit to be engaged in combat. Caught and overwhelmed at Ft. Pillow, Tennessee on the Mississippi River by a much larger Confederate cavalry force under Nathan Bedford Forrest, every man was killed. Forrest reported the river ran red for hundreds of yards. After the war Forrest was a founder of the Ku Klux Klan and engaged in racist violence for two decades.

“Four score and four years (eighty-four years) after the Ft. Pillow massacre, in the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948, the U(nited) N(ations) General Assembly found “a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance,” and proclaimed its declaration in order to provide “a good definition.”

“The Universal Declaration was dominated by the experience, concerns, interests and values of a narrow segment of the “people of the United Nations,” primarily the United States, England and France. It emphasized political rights developed over centuries from their histories with little concern for economic, social and cultural rights. Still it was and remains an important contribution in the continuing struggle for justice.

“In the fifth paragraph of its preamble the Declaration notes the United Nations has affirmed “… the dignity and worth of the human person and the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.” Article 1 provides “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Article 5 states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Article 25 declares, “(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care….”

“The United States government pays lip service to the Declaration, but its courts have consistently refused to enforce its provisions reasoning it is (supposedly) not a legally binding treaty, or contract, but (allegedly) only a declaration. This ignores the fact that international law recognizes the provisions of the Declaration as being incorporated into customary international law which is binding on all nations.

 

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