The Right to Live
In 1948, shortly after the horrors of the Second World War, forty-eight countries signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
i. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
ii. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.Yet human societies are so entangled in the web of war that the Universal Declaration, a commendably sane and reasonable agreement, soon began to be eroded. First, an additional clause was signed allowing 'the State' to 'take measures' (in what it judged to be a 'public emergency') that break the terms of the Declaration. Then the European Convention on Human Rights (1950), which aims to 'guarantee the fundamental civil and political rights of Man' by making human rights a legal obligation, provided warmongers with a loophole. This Convention allows that a State may authorise killing as a response to 'unlawful violence' or to suppress an uprising; and also 'in time of war or other public emergency'. The proviso? Such killing must only result from 'the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary' - an impossible decision to make in the midst of the chaos of war, and an immoral dilemma at any time.
iii. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person
It means that governments have the legal power to decide that in some circumstances people can and should be killed: that is to say, they have the legal power to strip us of our most fundamental human right. Is this the sort of power we really want our government, or any other government, to have?
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