Week 538 – 2007-12-16: Human Rights Day – to Remember for a Whole Year

Posted on 17 December 2007. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 538 |

The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 538

The statement of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, issued at the occasion of the UN Human Rights Day on Monday is, of course, issued not just for this day. – So it is appropriate to remember her words about the core values of human rights: “inherent human dignity, justice, non-discrimination, equality, fairness and universality, apply to everyone, everywhere, always.” She reminds us also that to care for the establishment and the preservation of human rights is not just something for policy speeches: “Many have died in the pursuit of these ideals.”

She pointed out that to care for human rights means not to speak only about achievements, but “to reflect upon our individual and collective failures to stand up against violence, racism, xenophobia, torture, repression of unpopular views and injustices of all sorts.” Thus, she declares that to care for human rights, is not only something which shows up in some abstract statistics about a society, but it is a personal and and individual challenge to stand up and to act – a challenge for everybody to act so that we avoid to be counted among those who failed, while “violence, racism, xenophobia, torture, repression of unpopular views and injustices of all sorts” continue.

While we may ask whether or not others lived up to this challenge, we have to ask this first of all to ourselves: Did we and do we act, or did we fail to act where we see violence, racism, xenophobia, torture, repression of unpopular views and injustices of all sorts going on around us?

We may keep this consideration with us for the next twelve months – until the next Human Rights day.

There were, even during the course of the past week, enough opportunities to reflect – and to act. Land grabbing and the eviction of people continued – even while a new Penal Procedures Code and the Civil Procedures Code are now in place – new developments welcomed by the the UN Secretary-General’s Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia.

There are two quite different cases reported where efforts to communicate did not materialize.

There is the widely published fact that non of the meetings requested by Mr. Yash Ghai – he had requested to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen and with the Minister of Interior Mr. Sar Kheng, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Mr. Chan Sarun, the Minister of Justice Mr. Ang Vong Vathana, the Co-Chairpersons of the Legal and Judicial Reform Councils, as well as Mr. Om Yentieng, an advisor to Mr. Hun Sen and Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of the Government – did happen.

But there was also he report about a refusal by Cambodian opinion leaders from the field of culture, who rejected to cooperate with a Thai company of filmmakers – experienced in historical productions in Thailand – who intend to make a film about the life of King Jayavarman VII, who reigned around the turn from the 12th to the 13th century. It is reported that this company was looking for technical cooperation, but – “as for the content of the story, everything is to be written and managed by the Cambodian side.”

It is very difficult to understand why such cooperation “would cause historical confusion” – as it was reported as the reason not to cooperate.

Would such open international cooperation not be an excellent field to overcome a long history of not so good neighborly relations, where “violence, racism, xenophobia, and the repression of unpopular views” had played a negative role?

It seems that to listen and to talk to each other has in many cases contributed to the building of mutual understanding, cooperation, and finally “towards the greatest fulfillment of human potential, a promise which is at the heart of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” – to again quote Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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