Human Rights Not Quite Universal

Last weekend, across the globe people were commemorating International Human Rights Day on December 10th. Such days are important and carry a positive message. However, it is also a time to look at the shortcomings in human rights found far too often eleven years into the 21st century.

In this post, we consider the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was ratified in Paris in 1948. Sixty-three years on and some fundamental freedoms are still absent for many minorities, including the Roma.

Here we have picked five articles from the Declaration and have presented corresponding films to show that, for the Roma living in Europe, some rights and freedoms are by no means universal.

Article 3

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

A boy clings to a barbed wire fence in Mitrovica in a settlement ridden with lead poisoning

“Trapped” tells the forgotten story of the Mitrovica Roma, a once prosperous refugees population abandoned by the international community and left to die of lead poisoning in the toxic Mitrovica camps.

Full film available here:[item]=56

Article 11

(1)  Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence. (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Taken from our film "Guilty Until Proven Innocent". Roma families were abruptly expelled from France in the summer of 2010.

“Guilty” uncovers the roots of the issues at stake around one of the biggest media stories of 2010, the collective expulsion of Roma from France, and brings to light damning evidence of institutionalized racism in Europe. A story of immigration and rejection as seen through the eyes of Roma.

The entire film can be found here:[item]=80

Article 14

(1)   Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

The potential success of integration of Roma is clear to see through the eyes of three school children. But with their status uncertain, deportation or repatriation against their will is a source of constant worry in “Uprooted”. The whole film will be available very soon but in the meantime, here is the trailer.

Article 17

(1)   Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

A young Roma girl savoring the last days of Sulukule

“Last Days of Sulukule” follows the final days of the famous district of Istanbul where a 1000 year old Roma neighborhood and UNESCO World Heritage Site was demolished by the local government in 2008.

Watch the full film here:[item]=56

Article 26

(1)   Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

This film “Ukraine 2008 – School Segregation” investigates the widespread problem of school segregation, covering the shocking story of social and educational exclusion in the Ukrainian town of Uzhhorod.

Young Roma boys smiling in Ukraine as they brave school segregation policies nullifying their education

Watch the whole film on segregation here:[item]=57