Exactly seventy years ago, on 10 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration, adopted in response to the atrocities of World War Two, is the first document defining human rights as inviolable and as belonging to all people, regardless of who they are and where they live. Although it is not legally binding, it is the cornerstone of the history of human rights and the development of the international human rights system.
Today, when we are marking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, when we have numerous international human rights treaties and developed protection mechanisms, there is still a gap between the main principles and values of the Declaration and reality. Numerous armed conflicts, strengthening of authoritarian regimes, terrorism and poverty are again putting to the test the commitment of all states in the world to peace and respect for human dignity.
The International Day of Human Rights is also an occasion to alert to the concerning state of human rights in Serbia. The period behind us was characterised by threats to the independence of the judiciary, the main “guardian” of human rights, suppression of the freedom of expression and undermining of the economic and social rights of Serbia’s citizens. The increasingly aggressive political rhetoric of the leaders of the countries in the region and non-resolution of many outstanding issues in constructive dialogue contributed to the creation of a social climate increasingly marked by ethnic intolerance.
Respect for human rights and equality of all people are the fundamental values of mankind for which we, unfortunately, still have to fight. This is why Human Rights Day is an occasion to express our gratitude to human rights defenders and emphasise the invaluable role they play in the fight for the freedom and equality of all people. It is also an occasion to remind decision makers that the exercise and protection of human rights depend the most on their readiness to respect the fundamental principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the Constitution and other international human rights treaties. The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights will continue investing efforts in building a more just society, a society founded on the values proclaimed in the Declaration, a society in which all individuals are free and exercise their rights on an equal footing.