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Friday, December 7, 2007

When rights become privileges

We are currently preparing for human rights day that is celebrated worldwide on 10 December. I will proudly spend this day gagged and tied up walking through the rainy streets of The Hague in a silent protest for those who are suffering in silence and silenced after being abused.

Freedom of speech and association is a basic human right and all we had to do was to send a fax to the police and voila’ - we can hit the busy shopping streets with our placards and banners. We are even allowed to enter the parliament to talk to those in power!

It strikes me how privileged we are, and how ironic it is that those that suffer the most, living in countries where there is a true and pressing need to speak out, also are those unable to do so. Freedom of speech is a human right governments easily grant - in countries where it won’t constitute a threat to the said regime.

Indeed this applies not only to civil and political rights but to the general adaptation of international human rights standards as well. Since the creation of the United Nations and the promotion of universal human rights for all, it has been the most repressing regimes that have been objecting the most. The international human rights regime has been rejected as ‘post imperialism’ or ‘western, neo-liberal propaganda’ by governments in attempts to justify practices such as genital mutilation, torture, persecution of minorities and/or homosexuals and gender discrimination.

It is true that the contemporary human rights doctrine was based on a ‘western’ liberal philosophy, and some of the critique may be justified.

Nonetheless, it also appears that the people it is set out to protect - those who are tortured in prisons or forced into exile because of their identity - rarely object to the idea of universal human rights. What they want is the right to live a life in peace, free and equal, regardless of ethnicity, sex, religion or political/sexual orientation.

You can use your democratic freedom and give others a voice by joining us in our protest this Monday, 10 December on Human Rights Day in The Hague.

I am looking forward to meet you there!

For more details about our demonstration see

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