AlfredandBruna1-9bf64Professor Bruna Molina of Webster University, Geneva, and Professor Alfred de Zayas of the Geneva School of Diplomacy are respectively the President and Vice-President of a new NGO in Geneva –– the International Bill of Rights Association. More than 1,000 persons have already signed the condensed version of the proposed Bill of Rights. The Secretary of the Association is Professor Kirk Boyd of Berkeley University, a leading trial lawyer in San Francisco. We asked Ms Molina and Mr de Zayas some question about their new association and here are their (joint) replies.
Q: What is the purpose of your new association?
We aim at the drafting and adoption of a new instrument that condenses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all core human rights treaties into one. The general idea is that the Bill of Rights will be truly universal and that all lawyers throughout the world will be able to invoke it before their local courts.
Q: Hasn’t this been done before?
No. Precisely one of the problems with the human rights promotion and protection system is that there are too many conventions, covenants, treaties, protocols and declarations. What is needed is one document that encompasses them all. We discussed this very issue and an earlier draft of the Bill of Rights at a successful conference held at Berkeley University in November 2009. This conference was attended by the first UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr José Ayala Lasso (Ecuador), the former Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan (Guyana), Special Rapporteur Professor Manfred Nowak (Austria), ICTY Judge Theodor Meron (USA), Professor David D. Caron, President of the American Society of International Law, and many other international experts.
Q: What is the major obstacle to the adoption of such a Bill of Rights?
Quite frankly, people have become allergic to standard setting. They argue that the time for standard setting is past that now it is the time to develop mechanisms. We disagree. Standard-setting is a continuing process. Moreover, we are not creating “new” rights. We just want to make them user-friendly. We also have elaborated a much longer Bill of Rights with commentary, but we would be happy to have civil society agree with our vision and sign the simplified document (see accompanying box). We see our task as one of consultation with civil society, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, governments –– with the ultimate aim of adopting the Statute of a World Court of Human Rights. We welcome all constructive proposals from DIVA readers. Their comments may be sent to:
alfredBruna2-cdd3bQ: What is the purpose of such a court?
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has no competence to examine complaints submitted by individuals. Only States and certain inter-governmental organizations like the UN, ILO, WHO have standing before the ICJ. We believe that the time has come to establish a court that has universal jurisdiction and whose judgements and advisory opinions are binding.
Q: What activities does your association undertake?
We have held side-events during many sessions of the Human Rights Council. We also have synergies with numerous non-governmental organizations, such as PEN International and Earth Focus. Last December we held a successful conference to celebrate the International Day of Human Rights, during which Professor Bertrand Ramcharan and other experts spoke. I believe that we can make a difference. In Ovid’s phrase: Gutta cavat lapidem –– which may be translated as “a drop of water hollows a stone”. The website of the International Bill of Rights Association
PREAMBLE We the people of our international community, our human family, declare that there are certain fundamental rights that are inherent in every human being, that they are inalienable for all people in all countries, and they are enforceable in the courts of all countries: Each of us, by signing this document, agrees as follows:
Article 1 (Human Dignity) Human dignity is the source of all human rights and every person can enforce in court the rights stated herein, whether they are in their homeland or any foreign land.
Article 2 (Freedom of Speech and the Media) Every person and the media has the right to freedom of speech and expression; this right includes freedom to see, receive and share information and ideas, whether the ideas are popular or not, and to freely criticize government, religious or business leaders through any media and regardless of borders.
Article 3 (Education) Everyone has the right to education, from pre-school through college, for free or low cost.
Article 4 (Freedom of Assembly and Association) Everyone has the right to gather peacefully, in small groups or large ones, without weapons, and to hold meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets in public squares and other public places.
Article 5 (Health Care) Everyone has a right to free or low cost health care, including vision, dental and mental care, as well as sufficient food necessary for good health.
Article 6 (Life) States may not practice capital punishment, and given that weapons of mass destruction entail a grave threat to the right to life of all humanity, the use of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical, biological or other similar types of weapons is prohibited.
Article 7 (Physical Integrity) Torture or cruel and degrading treatment are prohibited.
Article 8 (Freedom of Religion) Everyone has the right to choose his or her own religious beliefs, including the right to change one’s religion, or to have no religion, and government and religion shall remain separate.
Article 9 (Equality) Everyone is equal before the law and entitled to equal protection of the law, no one shall be prejudiced or favored because of his or her birth, race, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, age, color, disability, wealth, language, national origin, faith, religion or political opinion.
Article 10 (Representation and Voting) All power to govern emanates from the people through their choice of representatives and not from military position, religion, caste, heredity or any non-elective title or position; therefore, anyone over 18 years old has the right to run for office and to have the chance for election through a secret ballot.
Article 11 (Environment) Everyone has the right to a clean and healthy environment, including water that is safe to drink, food that is safe to eat, and air that is safe to breathe. In addition, both for the benefit of future generations and for the species themselves, there is also a right to the preservation of species and their habitat.
Article 12 (Shelter) Everyone has the right, along with his or her family, to shelter with safe water, electricity, and sanitary conditions, but every person or family given assistance with shelter has a responsibility to temporarily work on behalf of society.
Article 13 (Physical and Intellectual Property) Everyone has the right to own, buy and sell property and the government may not take private property except for public use, and if it does, then it must pay market price for the property. Also, everyone engaged in cultural, artistic and scientific fields has the right to the protection of their intellectual property.
Article 14 (Labor) Everyone has the right to choose his or her occupation or profession and to a living wage for their work, as well as the right to form and join a union and to participate in the activities and programs of a union, including the right to strike and collective bargaining.
Article 15 (Privacy and Information) Everyone shall have the right to privacy in his or her home, hotel room, vehicle, or vessel and to have interpersonal relations as they choose; therefore, eavesdropping or surveillance of private communications is forbidden without a court order as part of a criminal investigation. In addition, everyone has a right to access, obtain, and correct information collected about them unless such information is part of a criminal investigation or prosecution.
Article 16 (Family Life) People of full age have the right to marry and men and women are entitled to equal rights at marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
Article 17 (Children) Every child has the right to a name and a nationality from birth and no child under 18 may be recruited as a soldier or otherwise used in armed conflict, even voluntarily.
Article 18 (Citizenship and Movement) No citizen may have his or her citizenship revoked, nor may any citizen be denied the right to enter freely and leave his or her country, but citizens also have the responsibility to share the costs of public expenditures, including the payment of taxes.
Article 19 (Culture) Everyone has a right to his or her cultural identity, including the right to use his or her own language and engage in his or her own cultural traditions, provided that such exercise does not hinder the traditions of others, or violate the rights embodied in this Bill of Rights.
Article 20 (Arrest and Fair Trial) No person shall be arrested or imprisoned without a judicial warrant and an arrestee has the right to counsel. Any charges shall be made in a courtroom open to the public, including the news media, and an arrestee has the right to have the validity of the arrest or detention determined within 72 hours by an independent judge. Everyone who is charged with any criminal offense has the right to be released prior to trial absent a showing that they will flee or are a danger to others. Trial includes a fair public hearing by an independent and impartial court within three months from arrest and to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law.
Article 21 (Search and Seizure) Everyone is protected from unreasonable searches and seizures of his or her person, home, car and belongings, among other things therefore, a search warrant must be obtained from the court prior to the search unless the search occurs during or shortly after the commission of a crime and there is evidence linking the items seized to the crime.
Article 22 (Due Process of Law) Everyone is entitled to fair procedures to safeguard his or her rights; therefore, no one may be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
Article 23 (Responsibility for Violation of Rights) Any private individual, private or public company, or public official, agent or employee of the government, who violates the rights set forth in this Bill of Rights is not immune from liability, qualified or otherwise, and is responsible to pay damages, including attorneys’ fees and costs, to the person whose rights have been violated.
Article 24 (Trial for Violation of Rights) Any person, organization, or company who claims a violation of this Bill of Rights by government officials, agents, or employees or any private individual or private or public company shall have a right to trial by a jury of at least six of his or her fellow citizens to decide if these rights have been violated.
Article 25 (Independent Judiciary) Judges must be independent and impartial at all times, therefore, no person shall give a judge any money, gift or service other than the judge’s official salary, and no party to a case, nor any person acting on his or her behalf, may speak to a judge about a case without the presence of, or at least knowledge of, the other party.
Article 26 (Funding Rights and Courts) The rule of law and rights herein benefit the citizens and businesses of all countries, therefore, each country shall annually contribute one percent of its gross national product into an international fund for the use and support of educational, healthcare and judicial facilities and salaries internationally, including the Courts described in articles 27-34. The funding shall be distributed by an international non-governmental organization comprised of leaders appointed in a similar manner to the judges on the International Court of Human Rights described below.
Article 27 (Composition of the Court) An International Court of Human Rights shall be created. The Court shall be comprised of one judge from each country that has ratified this Bill of Rights in its entirety, without reservation. Regional courts, subject to review by the International Court, and composed of one judge from each country in the region, shall also be organized through the continued operation of existing regional courts, or the creation of new ones.
Article 28 (Terms of Service for Justices) The judges’ terms for the International Court of Human Rights and the regional courts shall be 6 years and no judge may serve more than two terms.
Article 29 (Application of the Bill of Rights in All Countries) The rights included in this Bill of Rights may be raised before the courts of all countries, as well as all regional courts.
Article 30 (Supremacy of Rights) This Bill of Rights establishes a minimum standard to which all people are entitled and are superior to any law that conflicts with them. Any country may enact a law or interpret its own Constitution to provide for rights greater than those guaranteed by this Bill of Rights.
Article 31 (Submission of Claims in Country of Origin) No claim for a violation of rights may be brought before the International Court of Human Rights until the claim has first been brought in the domestic courts of the country in which the claim arose, including an appeal to the highest domestic appellate court, as well as any regional court, however, a case may originate at the regional court if there is a showing of strong and convincing evidence that redress from the domestic court is untimely or impracticable.
Article 32 (Hearings at the International Court on Human Rights)Cases are heard by Chambers of fifteen judges, fourteen randomly selected, along with the judge from the country in which the case arose. A Chamber’s decision may be reviewed by two-thirds of the Court, randomly selected, along with the judge from the country in which the case arose, if a majority of the judges on the Court agree to review it.
Article 33 (Court Decisions) Once a case has been admitted, oral argument shall be the norm and a written decision by the majority of the Chamber shall be published in an official reporter. Dissenting opinions shall also be published and each judge may write separately or join in an opinion by a group.
Article 34 (Enforcement of Decisions) Decisions of the International Court of Human Rights are enforceable through the domestic courts in the country from which the case arose. Failure of any government to comply with the decisions of the Court may result in expulsion from the International Bill of Rights treaty following a vote of two-thirds of the judges of the Court.