WORLDPOST
01/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Beatings, Protests, Arrests Mark 60th Annual Human Rights Day

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

The Financial Times reports that the UN human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, said there are high hopes the Obama administration will have a better record on human rights than the Bush administration.

Mr Obama has pledged greater co-operation with the UN and other international agencies, although the pace of policy change is likely to be determined by Hillary Clinton, his choice as secretary of state.

She will not be lacking for advice. The incoming administration was this week urged to make the prevention of genocide a central plank of its foreign policy and to prepare the US military to deploy abroad if necessary to protect civilians against their own repressive governments.

YouTube has become one way for people living around the world to discuss ideas and advocate for an end to human rights abuses, writes Ramya Raghavan on the Huffington Post.

There are individuals who use YouTube as a megaphone for social change and there are nonprofit organizations that tap the endless talent and passionate users on the site for support, allowing anybody from around the world to get involved and make a difference. This is evident in the powerful campaigning taking place on YouTube around the current crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kumi Naidoo writes about the five things that can be done to advance the Universal Declaration. The first is to work towards full gender equality.

Rape and other forms of sexual violence are being used as a weapon of war in far too many places around the world. The high profile cases of such atrocities in places like Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo show that these acts are conducted in order to humiliate, punish, control, inflict fear and displace women and their communities. These rapes and other sexual violence constitute grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. In parts of the world, the death of mothers in childbirth and children in infancy are still routine - deaths that could be prevented by the availability of simple healthcare. Millions of women persist in daily struggles to realise their rights to livelihoods, resources, assets and basic services. It is critical that gender equality is achieved in every sphere of human activity and particularly in every level of government. Failure to do this will likely see the same kind of indifference and subservience in the face of the violation of hundreds of millions of women around the world by our predominantly male political leadership around the world.

To commemorate the day, activists around the world have staged protests and demonstrations. Not all governments have responded kindly.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that Cuban police beat a well-known Cuban activist last night.

[Belinda] Salas, the director for the Latin American Foundation of Rural Women (FLAMUR), says she, her husband, and another couple were leaving the US Interests Section in Havana, where the group regularly sends e-mails and news to Cuban activist groups based in the US and Europe, when two police cars stopped next to them. Eight officers began to beat them on the street, just after 1 p.m. Tuesday, and detained her husband and the two other activists.

Salas says she does not know where they are being held, but she says she knows the motive. "They want to sell the image that they respect human rights, so they beat us to avoid our peaceful protests planned for [Wednesday]," says Salas, who was interviewed by the Monitor earlier this summer for a story on women activists in Cuba, part of a series on change under way in the island nation since Raúl Castro took the helm from his brother, Fidel Castro.

In China, the Associated Press reports that two dozen people protested outside China's Foreign Ministry in Beijing.

Kneeling outside the front gate of the building, the group held up letters of complaints and called for redress for illegal detentions, government seizures of land and abuses by local courts.

One woman clasped a bright red copy of the constitution close to her chest, and another a white banner in English that read: "Safeguard human rights." Others held photos of relatives allegedly beaten in labor camps.

Xinhua is running an interview with China's director of the State Council Information Office, Wang Chen, in which he discusses how China has improved on human rights.

The past three decades have witnessed historic changes in all aspects of the society in China. But the most profound changes that have taken place should be those in the people and their concepts, their living standards and their dignity and values. Over the past 30 years, the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government have persevered in reform and opening up in its economic and social development in an all-round manner and integrated the universality of human rights with the concrete national conditions and have made unremitting efforts to promote and protect human rights, thus blazing a new trail for human rights development that has distinct Chinese characteristics, thus resulting in a synchronized and coordinated development in the human rights cause and the political, economic, social and cultural development. It is not exaggerating to say that China has made historic progress in human rights and that China's human rights conditions are in the best historical period.

The New York Times reports that the Chinese press marked the day by running editorials that promoted free speech and civil rights. And yet, despite the editorials, the Chinese police detained people who tried to protest.

It was also a busy day for public security officials, who were dispatched to quell a protest of about 40 people who rallied outside the gated headquarters of the Foreign Ministry. After about 30 minutes calling for free elections and demanding a crackdown on corruption, the demonstrators were herded onto buses and taken away.

For Liu Xiaobo, one of China's most high-profile dissidents, Wednesday marked the third day of detention for what friends and relatives say was his role in drafting a bold public letter that demands political, legal and constitutional reform.

Huffington Post blogger Susan Morgan writes about the history of Human Rights Day as well as the world's current human rights challenges.

According to Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, the human rights movement has made significant strides in the years since the signing of the UNDR. "Sixty years ago, violations of human rights were barely noticed," he said. "Today they are headline news. Governments are always tempted to violate human rights, but the Declaration has spawned a movement that is now able to ensure that abusers pay a hefty price." Human Rights Watch is being awarded the 2008 United Nations Prize for Human Rights in recognition of the vital role it has played in trying to end abuses over the past 60 years.

The Voice of America reports that President Bush is marking the day by meeting with bloggers and activists who come from countries ruled by oppressive regimes.

A White House spokesman says Mr. Bush will first meet in the Oval Office with doctor and writer Halima Bashir to get what the spokesman called a first-hand account of what is taking place in Darfur.

Bashir is the co-author of a memoir about living in Darfur, Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur, and has spoken out internationally about the atrocities committed there.

Mr. Bush will also hold a teleconference with bloggers from Egypt and Venezuela, while bloggers from Burma, Iran, China, Cuba, and Belarus will join the president in person at the White House.

President-elect Barack Obama released a statement today:

"When the United States stands up for human rights, by example at home and by effort abroad, we align ourselves with men and women around the world who struggle for the right to speak their minds, to choose their leaders, and to be treated with dignity and respect. We also strengthen our security and well being, because the abuse of human rights can feed many of the global dangers that we confront -- from armed conflict and humanitarian crises, to corruption and the spread of ideologies that promote hatred and violence.

"So on this Human Rights Day, let us rededicate ourselves to the advancement of human rights and freedoms for all, and pledge always to live by the ideals we promote to the world."

Read more HuffPost stories on Human Rights.