Today is International Human Rights day, celebrating the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, that set forth guiding principles regarding the value of human life and the way we live together.
The document affirmed the right to life for all people without qualification. Though there was debate at the document’s creation, and even a proposed amendment creating an exception for those legally sentenced to death, Eleanor Roosevelt urged the committee to resist this amendment. She argued that the declaration should create a universal charter of human rights toward which societies could strive, leading to the day when no government would kill its own citizens for any reason.
Today also makes the 6th anniversary of the founding of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights (MVFHR). The founding group of MVFHR gathered at the UN Church Plaza in New York City, offered public testimony, and signed a document stating, “In the name of victims, we pledge to end the death penalty around the world.”
MVFHR’s first public statement shortly thereafter stated:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that sets forth the most basic principles regarding the value of human life and the way human beings ought to treat one another, was inspired by victims, demanded by victims. It grew out of the suffering of millions of civilians murdered under the brutal regimes of the Second World War, and its adoption on December 10, 1948 was a way to honor the loss of these lives, and an attempt to give meaning to the loss, by asserting that such violations are neither moral nor permissible under any nation or regime.
Now is the time to raise our voices again and insist that violations of human life in the form of the death penalty or other state killings are not permissible under any nation or regime. It is time to call for the abolition of the death penalty because the only way to uphold human rights is to uphold them in all cases, universally.
We believe that survivors of homicide victims have a recognized stake in the debate over how societies respond to murder and have the moral authority to call for a consistent human rights ethic as part of that response. Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights is the answer to that call.
TADP is deeply grateful to all individuals, particularly those who are survivors of murder victims, who work on behalf of human rights around the world through the abolition of the death penalty. We, like Eleanor Roosevelt and those who created this Declaration in 1948, continue to work for the day when we live in a world without the death penalty.
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