1. The importance of Human Rights
2. Importance of Human Rights for Business and Investment
3. Where do human rights start?
4. What is the Bill of Human Rights and what does it mean for me?
5. What do these Economic, Social and Cultural rights embodied in the
covenant mean for a person?
6. What is the specific relation of the economic and social rights to
7. Why does OVOP ask for an Optional Protocol to the Economic Covenant?
8.What is the significance of an "Optional Protocol" to a Covenant ?
9. What are the rights of a person embodied in the Covenant on Civil and
10. Can a signatory government choose and pick one right against another?
11. Why has the United Nations failed to live up to its human rights aims ?
12. Why have so many individual complaints forwarded to the Human Rights
Commission been labelled by the Commission as "inadmissible" ?
13. How could OVOP help the individual person whose rights have been
14. What are main violations of human rights in Western Industrialised
15. The covert methodology and mechanisms for committing human rights
violations in developed countries.
16. Why is the support of the worldwide community essential ?
17. How can real change be achieved ?
18. OVOP urge the establishment of an International Human Rights Court
equivalent to the European Court of Human Rights with access for the
individual person living outside its jurisdiction and with the right to appeal
decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee.
1. The importance of Human Rights
We are all custodians of human rights, the birthrights of all human beings!
Human Rights could be generally defined as those rights which are inherent in our
nature and without which we cannot live as human beings. Human Rights as
fundamental freedoms allow us to develop fully and use our human qualities, our
intelligence, our talents and our conscience and to satisfy our spiritual and other
needs. They are based on mankind's increasing demand for a life in which the
inherent dignity and worth of each human being will receive respect and protection.
Human Rights - civil, cultural, economic, political and social - should be taken in
totality and not disassociated from one another.
"Today, in every part of the world, men, women and children of all faiths and
tongues, of every colour and creed, will gather to embrace our common human
rights. They will do so in the knowledge that human rights are the foundation of
human existence and coexistence; that human rights are universal, indivisible and
interdependent; and that human rights lie at the heart of all that the United Nations
aspires to achieve in peace and development. Human rights are what make us
human. They are the principles by which we create the sacred home for human
dignity." [Kofi Annan, United Nations 10 Dec 1997]
"Human development and well-being, literacy, good health and employment, like
civil, political and cultural rights, are not favours or acts of charity bestowed on the
poor. They are the human rights, and they are as valid today as they were fifty years
ago" [Gustave Speth, Choices, December 1998, UN Publication: Freedom from
poverty is a Human Right!]
"The beliefs inscribed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were not
invented 50 years ago. They are not the work of a single culture or country. They
have been with us forever, from civilization's first light. Sophocles wrote about them
2,500 years ago when he had Antigone declare that there were ethical laws higher
than the laws of Theban kings. P.C. Chang, who helped draft the Universal
Declaration, pointed out that Confucius articulated them in ancient China. The belief
that we must respect our neighbors as we would respect ourselves resides at the
core of the teachings of all the major faiths of the world." [Statement by United
States First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights]
"Men, by nature free, equal and independent, no-one can be put out of this estate
and subjected to the political power of another without his own consent. The only
way whereby anyone divests himself of his natural liberty and puts on the bonds of
civil society is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for
their comfortable, safe and peaceable living on among another, in a secure
enjoyment of their properties… The fundamental rights to life, equality, liberty and
the pursuit of happiness are not drawn from any empirical source or discovered
through rational argument; they may be given by God but the proof of their existence
is what we all feel and think them - they attach 'inalienably' to the human person,
like a shadow. They are not the end product of philosophical inquiry but the starting
point for it, imposing a duty on government to order itself in a way which will
maximise opportunities for individual fulfillment." [John Locke (1690)]
"The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for amongst old parchments
or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of
human nature by the hand of divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured."
[Alexander Hamilton (1787)]
2. Importance of Human Rights for Business and
There is growing interest of business in human rights. More and more investors
choose "ethical investments" and by that prefer companies that are responsible and
respect human rights including observance of environmental concerns etc.
"Diverse reasons bring business leaders to become active in human rights. Some
because of bitter experiences when unacceptable conduct directly affected the
bottom-line. For civil society is scrutinising corporate conduct much as it has
watched the behaviour of Governments in the past."
"Some business leaders may think that the political and social environment of the
country they are doing business in is none of their affair and that whether or not
there are human rights abuses is irrelevant. That is a short-sighted attitude and one
that is not borne out by experience. The rights in the Universal Declaration
contribute, both directly and indirectly, to the social and political conditions
conducive to business. The payoff for observation of these rights is a stable
business climate and a reliable workforce. Violations of human rights, on the other
hand, represent obstacles to business. You can do business in situations were
human rights are violated, but without knowing the risks, and taking action to
mitigate these risks in the longer term, will it be sustainable? This is the essence of
the 'business case for human rights'." (UN Publications)
Governments, which breach the international treaties on human rights, show
disregard for commitments and can reasonable, be expected to breach other
contracts. Investors should be aware that their investments in such countries are not
safe and not protected by law.
In some countries the law - if any protective law exists at all - is not applied unless
one has the financial means and the time needed to enforce this law with a court
battle. Not that this would guarantee the application of the law! The application of the
law depends in countries which use the adversarial system on the cleverness of a
lawyer and the willingness of a judge to apply the law. . In cases where contracts
are in dispute the courts may 'imply rights' which are not part of the contract at all
and were never intended. Such a situation is not only an appalling discrimination
and violation of human rights but causes that tremendous amounts of money which
otherwise would be invested into productivity have to be spend for the unproductive
and destructive fight in the courts, and even if one wins in some countries there is
no effective remedy.
In countries with such systems of law a minefield of criminality within the society is
created as people lose respect for the law altogether.
Company executives understand that the future protection of shareholder value will
be enhanced if the government of the countries they are involved with respect and
apply the principals of human rights.
3. Where do human rights start?
"Human rights are not something far away, they start in communities and
neighbourhoods" " In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they
cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual
person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory,
farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and
child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination.
Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without
concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for
progress in the larger world". [Spoken by Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt, who chaired the
Human Rights Commission in its first year.]
4. What is the Bill of Human Rights and what does it
mean for me?
Today many human rights instruments make up the international human rights
framework. Along with the Universal Declaration (1948), two crucial instruments
make up the International Bill of Rights, the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights (1966), and the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (1966) and its two optional protocols. "Thus the International Bill of
Human Rights represents a milestone in the history of human rights, a veritable
Magna Carta marking mankind's arrival at a vitally important phase: the conscious
acquisition of human dignity and worth." [Fact sheet 2 UN]
"Human rights are about collective responsibility, both as individuals and as
members of groups, institutions, and governments, to the people we live and work
with, to an individual person, to our country, to the global community. Each
individual person is accountable and answerable if human rights are ignored and
violated." (Human Rights Publications)
5. What do these Economic, Social and Cultural
rights embodied in the covenant mean for a person?
International human rights law has been designed to protect the full range of human
rights required for people to have a full, free, safe, secure and healthy life. The right
to live a dignified life can never be attained unless all basic necessities of life, such
as work, food, housing, health care, education and culture, are adequately and
equitably available to everyone. Based squarely on this fundamental principle of the
global human rights system, international human rights law has established
individual and group rights relating to the civil, cultural, economic, political and social
spheres. Of all global human rights standards, the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provides the most important international legal
framework for protecting these basic human rights. [Fact Sheet No.16 (UN
6. What is the specific relation of the economic and
social rights to Environment Protection?
Under this covenant a person has the right to environmental protection. Rights to
food, health, habitat and livelihood depend on environmental protection and the
complementary relationships between promoting and protecting human rights and
promoting and protecting environments.
These rights include, for example, rights of access to officials responsible for
designing or administering development activities; of access to information and to a
fair hearing for people who claim to be threatened or harmed by development
projects; and to redress and impose accountability on development actors who
disregard the rights of affected people.
"Recognising that adequate protection of the environment is essential to human
well-being and the enjoyment of basic human rights, including to life itself."
[Convention on Access to information, public participation in decision-making and
access to justice in environmental matters]
Unless these rights are implemented in the law of a country environmental
protection is not being taken seriously.
7. Why does OVOP ask for an Optional Protocol to
the Economic Covenant?
"At present it is not possible for individuals or groups who feel that their rights under
the Covenant have been violated to submit formal complaints to the Committee. The
absence of such procedure places significant constraints on the ability of the
Committee to develop jurisprudence or case-law and, of course, greatly limits the
chances of victims of abuses of the Covenant obtaining international redress" [Fact
Sheet No.16 (Rev.1), The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights]
"There are numerous arguments supporting the adoption of a complaints procedure
under the Covenant. These include the improved enjoyment by people of economic,
social and cultural rights; a strengthening of international accountability of States
parties; increased congruence in the legal standing and seriousness accorded to
both International Covenants; a refinement of the rights and duties emerging from the
provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
and a structural and concrete affirmation of the indivisibility and interdependence of
all human rights. It is also argued that such a procedure would encourage States
parties to provide similar remedies at the local and national levels." [Fact sheet 16
8. What is the significance of an "Optional Protocol"
to a Covenant ?
In the absence of an optional protocol individuals cannot complain about any
violation of their rights under a particular covenant against a government.
Optional Protocols allow a person to lodge a claim with the International Human
Rights Committee. Economic and social rights listed in the Universal Declaration
which would be appropriate under an optional protocol to be enforced by individuals,
or by groups are not only the right to equal pay for equal work, to access a social
security system, to join trade unions, for children to have free education at primary
level but very importantly the fundamental rights relating to the environment.
9. What are the rights of a person embodied in the
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?
The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966). In addition to the right of
self-determination and the right to equality and freedom from discrimination, this
covenant sets out the right to life; the right to freedom from torture and slavery; the
right to liberty and security of person; the right to freedom of movement and
residence; the right to equal protection of laws; the right to privacy; the right to
freedom of thought, conscience and religion; the right to freedom of expression; the
right to freedom of assembly and association; and the right to take part in the
conduct of public affairs. This covenant has two optional protocols (one addressing
the death penalty and the other allowing for the bringing of individual complaints)
The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights sets up a Human Rights Committee to
consider progress reports from States, which have ratified the covenant. The
Committee may also hear complaints by such States that other States, which have
ratified the Covenant, have failed in upholding the obligations under the Covenant.
Under the Optional Protocol to the Civil and Political Covenant, individuals under
certain circumstances may file complaints of human rights violations by ratifying
States. Under the Second Optional Protocol to the Civil and Political Covenant,
States must take all measures to abolish the death penalty. [UN Fact Sheet No 2]
10. Can a signatory government pick and choose
one right against another?
Countries cannot pick and choose among these rights, ignoring some while insisting
on others. Only as rights equally applied can they be rights universally accepted.
Nor can they be applied selectively or relatively, or as weapon with which to control
the innocent via punishment for offending the strong and influential.
Some governments set a bad example by demonstrating that they are not bound by
the covenants and take the view that they can pick and chose only the bits they like
from their contracts with the UN.
A current example from a developed "Western nation" is the Prime Minister of
Australia Mr John Howard who said recently in a radio interview "You can ignore
your obligations under an international treaty if you choose to."
" The reason why you can ignore them is because in the end there is no sanction
against you. Other than the sanctions of being seen as having potentially breached
some agreement that you have signed."
Government could be expected to be alarmed if their citizens followed such a path
over contracts they had signed and adopted a pick and choose approach over
paying or not paying ferderal taxes, council rates, and the like.
"All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. The
international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner,
on the same footing, and with the same emphasis. While the significance of national
and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds
must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political,
economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and
fundamental freedoms" [UN Fact Sheet No. 16 ]
11. Why has the United Nations failed to live up to its
human rights aims ?
The UN can only be the sum of its parts. OVOP feels the evidence is that some of
the very nations that seek to portray themselves as being in the forefront of human
rights action actually operate to maintain situations of systemic human rights abuse
and also place profit above honesty and respect for human rights.
The reality is that Governments had no intention in the first place of implementing
these rights into their national law. Only due to the pressure by the public and
non-governmental groups (NGO's) some governments have made a few amendments
to their laws.
12. Why have so many individual complaints
forwarded to the Human Rights Commission been
labelled by the Commission as "inadmissible" ?
From personal experience with an application it is clear that complaints are not
analysed or investigated, they receive 'consideration' and that is all. Thus a UNHR
Committee 'view' when published lacks detailed reasoning, may well be
unrecognisable and indeed fly in the face of the actual facts of a case. It is also
clear from what other observers of the process have written that being a very
powerless entity the UNHR Committee does not relish or antagonising or even
criticising UN members.
The UNHR Committee is not established as a human rights court and has no power
to enforce its views. The Human Rights Committee has been starved of funds, with
part-time members and a handful of overworked staff.
Its reports fail to transcribe the facts, to recognise the evidence and "side track" into
technicalities as a way to avoid adverse decisions.
The extend of UNHR Committee's failure is shown in the following: World-wide only
645 communications were registered from 1986 - 1995. More than half of which were
later withdrawn or declared 'inadmissible'.
The Commission hides behind the word 'inadmissible', a term never defined but
merely to be an excuse for incompetence and unwillingness.
Because of the failure of the UNHR Committee we have a situation in the world best
recognised by the Human Rights Commissioner herself:
"The international system's achievements to date in implementing human rights
standards cry out for fresh approaches. As we prepare for the 50th anniversary of
the Universal Declaration ….I do not see this 50th anniversary of the declaration of
Human Rights as an occasion for celebration. Count up the results of 50 years of
human rights mechanism, 30 years of multi-billion-dollar development programs and
endless high-level rhetoric and the general impact is quite under-whelming… there is
a failure of implementations on a scale which shames us all."
13. How could OVOP help the individual person
whose rights have been violated?
OVOP seek to assist victims over the submission of cases to the UNHR Committee
by lodging their complaint and to collect case data so as to map out what is
actually happening. As a Non-Government Organisation OVOP express people's will
for human rights and by that extend pressure on the UNHRC to act on what they
OVOP will make the details of claims public - internationally. [see
Documents-Cases] OVOP want to see results not words on paper!
"NGO's (non-governmental organisations) are essential in providing details and case
studies which would not be available from Government sources…Therefore we are
dependent on information from the field.." [UN publication]
On 9 December 1998 the UN issued the Declaration on the Rights and
Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect
Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In this
declaration it is stressed that the NGO's …have an important role and responsibility
in contributing, as appropriate, to the promotion of the rights of everyone.." ..."In the
new Millennium , NGO's would have to lead the way in the quest to advance the new
understandings of security, democracy and justice" [UN publication]
14. What are main violations of human rights in
Western industrialised countries ?
Governments ignore the legal obligation to comply with the international covenants
they have signed and agreed to implement into the law.
The Covenants are international legal instruments and when Member States of the
United Nations ratify a Covenant they become a "State party" to it, agreeing to a
series of legal obligations to uphold the rights and provisions established. States
accept a solemn responsibility to apply each of the obligations embodied therein
and to ensure the compatibility of their national laws with their international duties,
in a spirit of good faith. Through the ratification of human rights treaties, therefore,
States become accountable to the international community, to other States which
have ratified the same texts, and to their own citizens and others resident in their
Western industrialised nations that do not adhere to the treaties they signed are not
only in breach of contract they also produce an international relations climate that is
damaging to the development of human rights. They set a bad example for
"The gap between the rhetoric of human rights and the reality on the ground are of
concern to everyone. They are the primary concern of national governments which
can either vindicate or erode them every day in their laws and policies, in the
administration of justice, the workplace, the marketplace." [Stanford University,
Wesson Lecture 1999, 3 November 1999 Statement by Mary Robinson United
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights]
Legal systems and legal education are at the heart of the universal failure by nations
to respect human rights. Some existing legal systems were not designed to respect
human rights. Rather they were designed to repress and control populations, and to
protect the property of the rich. They are the very means of abuse.
Inconsistent application of the law by the courts, combined with a situation where
the law has become the master of the ordinary people not their servant, is a very
corrosive mix and leads to the public having no intellectual respect for the legal
system. And in response to this gap in understanding officers of the legal system
move towards a position of having no respect for the human rights of the public.
Judges, in some systems have a very wide discretionary power to determine
whether a person must comply with the law or is exempted, such determinations
being based on the status, race, religion etc. of a person. This discretionary power,
an open invitation to discriminate and oppress, is a covert and most appalling way
for human rights abuse to be exercised by governments against their own people.
Courts, via the doctrine of the separation of powers, provide a system of plausible
deniability for governments to avoid formal responsibility for abuse of human rights
and allows hidden influence to rule. 'Independent' has become synonymous with
'unaccountability' and the legal system thus selectively applied via plausible
deniability becomes a major social and political weapon.
15. The covert methodology and mechanisms for
committing human rights violations in developed
OVOP comes across appalling human rights abuses in so called developed
countries and is seeking to try to give these 'silenced victims' a voice. Many of these
countries portray themselves as the model human rights defenders whilst in reality
they cowardly use their government agencies and legal systems to covertly silence
victims. Common features of this scam include the following.
Press and media oppressed by stringent defamation laws dare not report legal
process violations encountered by people, which in any case would sound
unbelievable to the average 'man in the street' who has become brainwashed by the
stream of 'lawyer as hero' TV soap operas plus various 'good news' legal stories that
are passed for publication by a handful of sub-editors who act as the unofficial
censors of the mass media ensuring that political correctness is a common attribute
of all published stories . Today mass media have become an automatic
disinformation system that acts, without even needing to be given explicit orders, to
protect and hide the more serious state sponsored human rights abuses.
Competent lawyers who wish to have a future in their chosen profession know which
cases are supposed to reach the courtroom and which are frowned upon by the
powers that be. As the official view is that in countries "free of serious human rights
abuse" it follows that one will not find an advocate easily for such a case, particularly
if it is the legal system that is the source of the abuse !
Government and government agencies stand by and watch such 'highway
robbery' taking place claiming that they have no power to act.( This is where the
concepts of independent agency and the doctrine of the separation of powers
really come into their own and stop any action being taken by anyone.)
These so-called democratic developed countries scream loudly about human rights
abuses elsewhere and their leading legal figures point the finger towards
undeveloped nations who use guns and overt violence to suppress their citizens who
seek justice and access to human rights.
Ironically it is some of these very same 'legal eagles' who are at the centre of the
much more subtle machinery used to destroy dissidents in developed nations.
Corrupt legal process is a most effective and covert means of destroying people, and
it has the distinct advantage in this information age that it does not produce images
of blood flowing on the TV news.
Mental abuse also kills. It just takes longer and is very painful because it is a long
and lonely process over a long period of time. Such victims are discarded by society
because it is so easy to classify them as unstable misfits and losers. They need
not be recognised officially and need not be integrated back into society after having
been abused because the abuse officially does not even exist. Such people become
part of an increasing welfare underclass who are not on the official statistics.
Society does not wish to see nor hear from such people. They have become
invisible . This is the same type of technology and methodology used for many
years in Australia to destroy the original inhabitants. And the local 'legal eagles'
even had an answer when Australia was found guilty in an international court of
genocide over this treatment of a race of people. Their solution was that genocide
was not recognised by Australian Law. So it did not exist !
16. Why is the support of the worldwide community
What is the greatest force in the Universe?
Einstein was asked this. His answer: "compound interest!" OVOPs hope is that
"compound interest" in the sense that via today's information technologies millions
of people can be exposed to the truth in an ever expanding way and that so informed
the "people power" generated will enforce an implementation of human rights.
People around the world working and acting as a world-wide community are the best
hope for the individuals, for victims, for future generations to force the establishment
of an effective and enforceable human rights environment:
"I come back to the role of the individual. One of the strongest impressions I
preserve from the past two years is the importance of the "bottom up" approach to
human rights - the role played at grassroots level by communities and individuals.
Countless examples from around the world show us the extent to which individuals
are willing to give of themselves, to be personally accountable so that rights we tend
to take for granted can be assured. And, at the same time, many examples show
how easy it can be to forget that without continuous commitment to the fight for
human rights, the foundations of democracy can all too easily be eroded. ... The
hope for a culture of human rights is rooted in the belief that personal commitments
are necessary to support and strengthen the laws and systems that protect such
rights." [UN HR Commissioner]
"The input of non-governmental organizations is central to the operation of the
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights" [Dr. Philip Alston, the
"NGOs are essential in providing details and case studies which would not be
available from Government sources. In the case of economic rights, we need to
know what is happening in practice because legislation is marginal. Therefore, we
are dependent on information from the field. We were the first committee to make
NGOs a full partner in the sense that we devote a part of our session at the
beginning to information from NGOs which we use in debate with Government
representatives. In addition to these functions, committees play a significant part in
the mobilization of public awareness with the organization of such activities as
international years, decades and world conferences." [UN Publication]
"The involvement of civil society and non-governmental organizations in fighting for
and demanding recognition of basic rights has played a central role in the
advancement and promotion of human rights around the world. Grassroots
movements to encourage entire communities to know, demand and defend their
rights will send a positive and strong message: that people everywhere are adamant
that human rights should be respected." [UN publication]
17. How can real change be achieved ?
As a first step, human rights abuses and the failure of governments to implement
human rights must be exposed by the combined voices and efforts of ordinary
people from around the world. This is now becoming possible for the first time due to
the availability of better communications systems, particularly the Internet.
18. OVOP urge the establishment of an International
Human Rights Court equivalent to the European
Court of Human Rights with access for the individual
person living outside its jurisdiction and with the
right to appeal decisions of the UN Human Rights
The European Court of Human Rights has become the model human rights court
and is an encouraging example on how international human rights law can enforce
fundamental rights, freedoms and justice for all European citizens and residents.
Based on the right to equality under the international covenants people in other
regions demand to have the same rights as people in Europe to bring their matters
before an International Human Rights Court.
People who do not live in Europe have no access to an international court of human
rights to have matters of human rights abuse heard. That in itself is not accordingly
to the UN Bill of Human Rights which declares that all people have equal rights -
without distinction of any kind - to an effective remedy if their rights have been
violated. For example under Article 25 of the European Convention, 'any person,
non-governmental organisation or group' could bring their matter before the bar of
international justice, if their State has accepted the 'right of individual petition'.
OVOP supports the demand for the establishment of an International Court of
Human Rights equivalent to the European Court of Human Rights - to be established
in the Australian/Asian region - to hold states accountable for upholding the law and
implementing their international human rights commitments.
Thus, while securing the rule and enforcement of the law is crucial, so too is
adopting measures that enable people to exercise their rights under the law.
"Regardless of their excuses, a country that does not adhere to the
principles of human rights is not in a state of civilisation!"
[ONE VOICE - ONE PEOPLE Human Rights Defenders]