10 December 2008
Today, 10 December 2008, marks 60 years since the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It was the anniversary of that landmark event that inspired a recent conference at the University Centre Saint-Ignatius Antwerp, Belgium, entitled The Local Relevance of Human Rights: an interdisciplinary conference on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A diverse mix of academics, lawyers, activists and victims of human rights violations from all over the world came together on 16-18 October 2008 to present papers, participate in workshops, and share experiences about achievements realised and obstacles faced in the practical implementation of human rights at a local level.
Al-Haq participated in a workshop on The Local Relevance of International Humanitarian Law, while General Director Shawan Jabarin had been invited to participate as a plenary speaker in a conference panel on Armed Conflict, Human Rights and Peace. Unable to attend in person due to the continuing travel ban imposed on him by the Israeli military authorities, Mr. Jabarin‘s paper was delivered on his behalf at the conference by a representative from Al-Haq.
Entitled Peace and Human Rights: Palestine as a Case Study, drawing on Al-Haq‘s experiences from the last 30 years, the paper provides an analysis of how efforts to achieve peace have met with failure after failure, due to continuous disregard for the human rights of the Palestinian people, as enshrined since 1948 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The paper goes on to provide an analysis of the current political and legal environment, the ongoing indifference to human rights while "negotiations" continue, and an assessment of the potential future scenarios. The notion that peace and human rights must coexist is widely accepted. The issue becomes much more complex and divisive when we ask, which has to come first? The case of Palestine provides a clear enough answer, that without respect for human rights, there can be no peace.