Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the foundation of our modern human rights principles, was adopted by the United Nations.

Created following the atrocities of World War II, the UDHR enumerates  fundamental human rights that are to be protected for people worldwide regardless of race, gender, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. These inalienable rights are the basis of freedom, justice, and peace in the world. Click here to learn more about the UDHR.

What do human rights have to do with civil liberties?

The short answer: everything. The framers of the Constitution believed in equality and the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (In fact, many of the rights laid out in the Constitution apply to all persons, not just citizens.) The UDHR is an international document that in many ways mirrors our Constitution — a way to bring these rights to the entire world.

Unfortunately, since the UDHR was adopted, the United States has done much to undermine the document’s power internationally. In addition, the U.S. has viewed the document as a guideline for foreign policy only.

The ACLU believes that the UDHR should be more than simply a set of standards to which we hold other countries; it should also be an extension of our Constitution to be used to examine that state of human rights in our own country. In this way, we see issues such as the government’s inadequate response in the wake of hurricane Katrina; pervasive discrimination against minorities in the areas of education, housing, and criminal justice; use of the death penalty; treatment of undocumented immigrants; and torture and indefinite detention of “enemy combatants” as violations of both civil liberties and human rights. READ MORE»