December 10 – Human Rights Day
Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organizations to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.
This year's Human Rights Day is devoted to the launch of a year-long campaign for the 50th anniversary of the two International Covenants on Human Rights: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 1966.
The two Covenants, together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, form the International Bill of Human Rights, setting out the civil, political, cultural, economic, and social rights that are the birth right of all human beings.
"Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always." aims to promote and raise awareness of the two Covenants on their 50th anniversary. The year-long campaign revolves around the theme of rights and freedoms -- freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear -- which underpin the International Bill of Human Rights are as relevant today as they were when the Covenants were adopted 50 years ago. For more this year's theme and the year-long campaign, see the website of the UN Human Rights office.
"At that time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States identified four basic freedoms as the birthright of all people: freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, joined forces at the United Nations with human rights champions from around the world to enshrine these freedoms in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today’s extraordinary challenges can be seen – and addressed – through the lens of the four freedoms. On Human Rights Day, let us recommit to guaranteeing the fundamental freedoms and protecting the human rights of all," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a special message.
Facts and Figures about the two Covenants
The two Covenants are legally binding treaties for the States that are parties.
168 States are party to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights today.
164 States are party to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today.
The two Covenants were adopted by the UN General Assembly on 16 December 1966, and entered into force in 1976, after a sufficient number of countries had ratified them.
Each of the Covenants is monitored by a committee of experts, who review the progress of States parties to the treaty. They also hear individual complaints and assess if States need to remedy the situation.
Along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the two Covenants form the International Bill of Human Rights. which sets out the rights that are the birthright of all human beings.
Belarus ratified the Covenants in 1973. The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was ratified in 1992, but Belarus has not yet signed the Second Optional Protocol to this Covenant, which aims at the abolition of the death penalty.
It is also worth noting that over the last 18 years, Belarus has regularly missed the deadlines for the submission of reports on the implementation of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. According to the established procedure, the State must report to the Human Rights Committee on the implementation of their obligations every 4 years. However, Belarus’ last report was considered by the Committee in October 1997. The following report was to be submitted in 2001, but Belarus failed to do it in time. This year, the Committee sent to the state a list of issues to be considered before the submission of the fifth periodic report on Belarus, the adoption of which was preceded by the active work of a coalition of Belarusian human rights organizations who sought to inform the Committee about the most important violations of the Covenant in Belarus.
For Belarusians, the UN Human Rights Committee is the only international court where they can seek justice in case their rights have been violated by the authorities. The first complaint was submitted to the HRC in 1997. Since then, the Committee has registered 180 complaints from Belarus. In 79 cases, the Committee established violations, the consideration of eighth complaints has been suspended after the Committee had lost touch with the authors. 17 complaints were declared inadmissible. In two cases, no violations were found. As of August 2015, 76 complaints were pending consideration at the Committee.