Monday, March 4, 2013

Holy See statement on Human Rights by His Excellency Archbishop Dominique Mamberti at the opening of the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council

The 22nd Session of the Human Rights Council commenced last week in Geneva with statements in the High Level Segment by Government Ministers and Ambassadors.

His Excellency Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States reminded the meeting that the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and its related Conventions were agreed in the aftermath of the second world war in order to prevent future repetition of the immense tragedies of the past. He was also highly critical of the tendency of the Human Rights Council to attempt to create so called ‘new rights’ while failing to uphold the genuine rights set out in the founding documents and conventions. We have highlighted some of Archbishop Mamberti’s remarks below.

Archbishop Mamberti told the meeting;

[…] the way so-called “new rights” are discussed and recognized by the Human Rights Council puts at risk the universality and indivisibility of human rights and, consequently, the credibility of the Council as a promoter and defender of the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. A fundamental question ought always to be present in our minds: are human rights universal because a majority of countries recognizes them, or are they universal because of an ethical claim which is prior to their recognition by states and which comes from the dignity of every person?
The Holy See firmly believes that human rights should be judged by their reference to the founding principles and objectives enshrined in the basic documents where the nature and innate dignity of the human person are key elements. In his 2009 Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI rightly observed: “A link has often been noted between claims to a ‘right to excess’, and even to transgression and vice, within affluent societies, and the lack of food, drinkable water, basic instruction and elementary health care in areas of the underdeveloped world and on the outskirts of large metropolitan centres. The link consists in this: individual rights, when detached from a framework of duties which grants them their full meaning, can run wild, leading to an escalation of demands which is effectively unlimited and indiscriminate.”
The Archbishop went on to say; 
[…] No lasting peace can be achieved without a true recognition of the dignity of every human person. Peace is not only reached when armed conflict ends, however important a step this might be; peace is earned by a society in the long term when the rule of law translates into action the standards of human rights as recognized by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and by the international Conventions on human rights, a task that the Holy See constantly advocates in the most diverse circumstances.

Key to this search for international peace in a globalized world is, once again, the preservation and promotion of the universality and indivisibility of human rights.
In today’s context of an ever-growing inter-connection between societies, adhering to the standard of human rights becomes both increasingly more important and a condition for social harmony and peace. This requires defending the life of the human person, from conception until natural death; protecting the rights of the child, especially the right to have a family, founded on marriage between one man and one woman, and upon whom falls the primary responsibility of education of children; defending the rights of disabled people, of migrants and of refugees; protecting freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of association and so on; combating discrimination based on sex, religion, race and colour; and combating violence against women.
In the context of the discussion on human rights and how they should be given concrete and practical application, special attention must be paid to the right to life, to its promotion and to the deepening of our understanding of it. No peace can come without the true recognition of the value of human life. Respect for the value of life is by no means a limitation or contradiction of expressions of freedom. On the contrary, freedom of choice flourishes where the deeper and prior value of human life is acknowledged and safeguarded. Indeed, “openness to life is at the centre of true development ... By cultivating openness to life, wealthy peoples ... can promote virtuous action within the perspective of production that is morally sound and marked by solidarity, respecting the fundamental right to life of every people and every individual.”[…]