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International Human Rights Day

December 10 is annually observed by the global human rights movement as “the International Day of Human Rights.” It represents the date when in 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration is described by the UN as: “a milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being — regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. It is also hailed as “the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages.”

On this year’s Human Rights Day, the UN has started a year-long campaign to mark the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2018. In social media, the campaign is denoted as: #StandUp4HumanRights.

The concept of human rights is relevant in any context and place. It has unique importance for countries such as Eritrea, which are suffering from gross human rights violations. Since June 2012, the Eritrean government has been the subject of intensive investigations by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva. In June 2016, a commission of inquiry established by the HRC published its second and most authoritative report on the situation of human rights in Eritrea in which it said that there are reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea since 1991. The catalogue of crimes against humanity documented by the commission include the following abhorrent violations that have been and are committed with the knowledge or acquiescence of high-ranking Eritrean government officials: enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, other inhumane acts, persecution, rape and murder. Crimes against humanity are one of the three major categories of atrocity crimes, which are punishable by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

ELS uses this occasion to renew its commitment of ending the pervasive culture of impunity in Eritrea, and contributing its role in ushering the establishment of a politico-legal order, anchored on respect for the rule of law. ELS will actively involve itself in the year-long campaign to mark the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among other things, by organising thematic events meant to amplify the significance of the Declaration.