WASHINGTON – Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission), issued the following statement commemorating the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“Sixty years ago today, the nations of the world — still recovering from the vast and overwhelming losses of World War II — adopted a declaration on human rights. Reflecting the world’s aspiration to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, this declaration has stood as an enduring statement of common principles for six decades. Every subsequent regional or global human rights instrument — including the Helsinki Final Act — springs in part from this historic text.
“As Chairmen of the Helsinki Commission, we often commemorate this anniversary with a degree of longing — recognizing that, sadly, the soaring aspirations of the Universal Declaration remain so far from reality in so many places. This year, too, we regret that manifestations of racism, anti-Semitism and extremism are on the rise in some OSCE countries, that the most fundamental rights set forth in the Declaration, including freedom of belief and freedom of speech, are under threat, and that those who defend these rights must sometimes do so at great personal risk and some are even killed for their efforts.
“Nevertheless, we are encouraged by the prospect of a renewed American commitment to these rights, which our country has pledged to promote and observe. To this end, in particular, we will work to ensure that human rights will be protected by the rule of law and that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. We will support the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo. And we will ensure that the United States can once more advance human rights around the globe by leading by example at home.”