Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70

29 December 2018 By Paul Martin


PARIS – The French capital, where seventy years ago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was issued at an international conference, this week played host to a call for action against rights abusers worldwide.


Inside the French Foreign Ministry’s ornate chambers at the Quais d’Orsay, an array of victims and activists from Egypt, Russia, Syria, Venezuela, China, DR Congo and Iraq gave chilling accounts of how human rights had viciously been denied in their countries.


The invited guests also heard a pledge from the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to use his country’s positions in 2019 –  as yearlong president of the G7, its UN Security Council presidency in March, and its presidency of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers – to place human rights at the forefront of world diplomacy and action.

French Foreign_Minister_Jean-Yves_Le_Drian_in_October_2018

He also pledged that France would help finance the rebuilding of Sinjar, a town destroyed by extremists from the militant Islamist group ISIS in the process of an attempted genocide of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq from 2014 to 2018.

Le Drian said his country’s strategy is aimed at boosting the effectiveness of international actions. He pledged France’s commitment to

  • supporting victims of ethnic and religious violence, particularly in the Middle East.
  • the security of journalists, particularly through the implementation of the International Declaration on Information and Democracy initiated by Reporters without Borders. It was signed at the Paris Peace Forum on November 11 2018.
  • unconditional protection of individuals entitled to asylum and our ongoing commitment to the security of rights activists.
  • stepping up the fight for the universality of civil and political rights.
  • defending and promoting the rights of LGBTI individuals, with the aim of achieving the universal decriminalization of homosexuality.
  • renewing support for international human rights law, the defence of multilateral institutions and the International Criminal Court, and the  abolition of the death penalty worldwide.
  • strengthening dialogue with civil society.

“We will welcome 100 Yezidi women and their children, who were victims of Daesh [ISIS], ” Le Drian announced.


Two speakers with personal experience of sexual violence against women called for nations or international organisations to use military force to capture and then prosecute the perpetrators, rather than in effective give them impunity by lack of action.


Julienne Lusenge (right), who founded Female Solidarity for Peace and Development in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said United Nations peacekeepers had in some cases joined in abuse of women rather than protecting them from the militiamen in Africa’s eastern Congo.

The only effective intervention had been for a three-month period when French troops intervened to clear out the militiamen, then left. The militiamen continue to occupy the areas in the forest where women had been planting and harvesting crops and vegetables vital to sustain hard-pressed communities, she added.


Lamiya Aji Bashar, 20, (above) survived 20 months of captivity, during which time she was sold five times as a sex slave to fighters or commanders of ISIS in northern Iraq and Syria.

Despite repeated surgery in Germany, Lamiya’s face still bears the scars of her ordeal.  As she and two others were trying to escape captivity,  a nine-year-old girl alongside her trod on a landmine.  The explosion killed the girl and also Lamiya’s best friend.

Survivors: Nadia Murad (left) and Lamiya Aji Bashar escaped Isis enslavement to become advocates for Yazidis, and were last month awarded the EU’s Sakharov human rights prize
An AP photo showing Lamiya (right) before completing her many plastic surgery operations on her face, alongside her fellow-Yazidi Nadia, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018

She claimed the world was not actively searching for over 1,000 girls and women still being held by ISIS criminals in the much-diminished territory they control.



An exhibition of 30 newspaper cartoons was displayed, lambasting human rights abusers.  Entitled ‘Human Rights – still some way to go’, these Cartoons for Peace will tour the world in 2019. Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, said the cartoons “pay tribute to all those fighting on the front line to protect human rights.”


The famous French cartoonist Plantu, who set up the network, said it will “promote freedom of expression, human rights and mutual respect between peoples of different cultures and beliefs through the universal language of newspaper cartoons”.


Plantu also paid tribute to the cartoonists from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killed by Islamist terrorists in their Paris office nearly four years ago.