Hillary Rodham Clinton
In February of 1946, the United Nations established the Commission on Human Rights.
Forty-nine winters ago the world acknowledged the new common standard for human dignity, a code for the peoples and governments of the world to live by. The place was Paris. The delegates who came together to craft the language hailed from countries as diverse as Lebanon, Chile, France, China, and Ukraine. And the dream was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first international agreement on the rights of humankind.
Some of humanity's greatest lessons emerge only after the deepest tragedies. This Declaration took shape in a world ravaged by the horrors of militarism and fascism. In the wake of the most violent revelations of the depths to which human beings can dehumanize one another, the world as a whole was ready at last to agree upon these standards for human rights.
….a passage from that document: "Disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind. The advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief, and freedom from fear and want have been proclaimed as the highest aspirations of the common people. Therefore, the General Assembly proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations."
The document goes on to state what should be obvious, but too often is not: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights….. That act did not, however, take place in a vacuum. It was a response to evil. Those who study the Holocaust know that Nazis were able to pursue their crimes precisely because they were able progressively to constrict the circle of those defined as humans. From the moment they came to power, they proceeded step by step to dehumanize, through laws and propaganda, the mentally ill, the infirm, gypsies, homosexuals, Jews -- they whom they identified as lives unworthy of life.
This cold, dark region of the human soul, where people withdraw first understanding, then empathy, and finally even the designation of personhood from another human being, is not, of course, unique to Nazi Germany. This new device, this ability to dehumanize, has been witnessed in all times and places. And it is precisely this device that the Declaration attempted to help us resist.
Thankfully, in the half-century since the birth of the Declaration, we have as a global people managed progressively to expand the circle of full human dignity. Because of this document, individuals and nations alike have a standard by which to measure fundamental rights. Many of the countries that have emerged in the last 50 years have drawn inspiration from the Declaration in their own constitutions. Courts of law look to the Declaration. It has laid the groundwork for the world's war crimes tribunals. And it has prompted governments to set up their own commissions to safeguard basic liberties.
It would appear that The United States Supreme Court has lost sight of the ideals established after the horrors World War II. They have just set the United States back 50 years. They should be ashamed!