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SHRC Celebrates 60 Years of the Universal Declaration

Date: 12 October 2008

Human Rights Day will be celebrated in Scotland today [10 December] with a series of events to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The Scottish Parliament will hold a debate in support of the UDHR, and the Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson MSP will host an event to celebrate the 60th Anniversary.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) will also launch a national consultation on its programme of work, the first step in meeting its mandate to protect and promote human rights in Scotland.

Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the SHRC, highlighted the opportunities and challenges facing human rights globally, and in Scotland.

He said: "Since the Universal Declaration was published in 1948 scores of countries have, like Scotland, enshrined human rights into their national laws. There is now a realisation that human rights can solve problems and bring about social progress. This is as true for Scotland as any country in the world.

"The SHRC will be at the forefront of promoting and protecting human rights in Scotland over the coming years."

"However, even in 2008, billions of people around the world remain unaware of their human rights, or can’t realise them. When crises in the financial markets, security and the environment affect us all, protecting human rights is truly a global mission. I hope that, six decades from now, human rights are a reality for everyone, everywhere. The Scottish Human Rights Commission will play its part to bring that about in Scotland."

Professor Miller spent yesterday morning [Tuesday] with pupils at St Paul’s RC High School in Glasgow, as they debated crucial human rights issues, including police stop and search policies, in a United Nations styled debate.

Professor Miller said: "I’ve been struck today by how determined this group of young people are to live in a fair society. This generation have grown up with an awareness of human rights, but they also know their responsibilities, and they are passionate about improving their community."

"The Universal Declaration is in good hands with them. Sixty years from now – with their vigilance – human rights should be more recognised and respected everywhere."

Lauren Bentley, 15, said that the Universal Declaration helps people everywhere gain equal treatment.

"Human rights mean you can’t be treated any differently than anyone else, no matter of your age, race, sexuality, or anything else. I think equality is very important. I shouldn’t be treated any differently than people who are older. The Declaration is great because it is your rights written down on paper."

Notes for Picture Editors:

  1. Images from St Paul’s have been circulated by photojournalist Chris James (07990 972109) to all picture desks. The new SHRC logo has been circulated to picture desks via Newslink.

  2. Picture editors can download the 60th Anniversary logo from: www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Pages/Logo60.aspx. Pictures of the drafting committee in 1948, including Eleanor Roosevelt, are available from the media office of the OHCHR: www.ohchr.org

Notes for Editors:

  1. The Scottish Human Rights Commission was established by an Act of the Scottish Parliament and is mandated to promote and protect human rights in Scotland. The Commission also has an international role alongside other national human rights institutions.

  2. The SCHR is chaired by Professor Alan Miller, with three other Commissioners, Professor Kay Hampton, Ms Shelagh McCall and Mr John McNeill.

  3. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) took two years to draft, and was adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1948. The Declaration was one of the first major achievements of the United Nations - in the aftermath of WWII the then 58 member states of the UN viewed the Universal Declaration as a common statement of goals and aspirations. The UDHR has 30 articles, amongst its provisions the right to life, liberty, equality before the law, and freedom from slavery, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, and arbitrary arrest or detention. In Scotland human rights are enshrined in law through the Scotland Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998.

Contact:

Jenifer Johnston, SHRC, 07736 885 497