Anniversary of human rights celebrated around the world

By Rachel Bass

Today, thousands of people across the globe will celebrate the United Nations’ adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 56 years ago.

As one of the United Nations’ first orders, the Declaration is a standard for how people around the world should be treated, said Lauren Ziegler, a member of Amnesty International and sophomore in LAS.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a well-respected, well-thought out composition of human rights and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t celebrate or respect it,” Ziegler said.

The concept of human rights predates the United Nations and has origins in religion, said David Hopping, a University professor of sociology.

“Human rights is simple,” Hopping said. “It’s not about color, race or citizenship. It’s about those rights entitled to you on the basis of being human.”

The University’s Amnesty International chapter is honoring the adoption of the Declaration with a letter-writing event held at the YMCA on Friday, said the chapter’s co-president Kasey Umland, senior in LAS. Club members will have a table set up in the Murphy Lounge from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. They will spend this time writing holiday cards to prisoners around the world in order to boost prisoners’ morale, Umland said.

Club members will also write letters to governments around the world asking officials to free people Amnesty International suspects are being tortured. Other letters will address more specific cases of prisoners of conscience – people put in jail for expressing their political beliefs, Umland said.

Mamun al-Humsi, a former member of the Syrian People’s Assembly, is one such prisoner, Umland said. Syrian police arrested Al-Humsi in October 2001 after he publicly denounced the government and called for democratic reforms. Amnesty International claims he has been denied medical care for his diabetes.

“Mamun al-Humsi has a high likelihood of getting out,” Umland said. “It will be a morale booster (for Amnesty International) if he does.”

Hopping pointed to the current Sudanese genocide as one of the biggest threats to human rights facing the world today. No one has a handle on the complicated issue of Sudan, Hopping said.

Umland said she hopes the world’s human rights issues will resolved one day. But on a smaller scale, she wants people to walk away from the letter-writing event knowing that every person is connected to the rest of the world regardless of where that individual lives, she said.

“We can’t stop human rights abuses from happening, but we can do our best to ensure that it’s known that it will not be tolerated,” Umland said. “We want to change people’s conceptions about human rights.”