Judicial Efforts to Combat Inhumane Conditions of Existence
Inhumane Conditions of Existence
About one fifth of humankind, over one billion human beings, lives in conditions hardly fit for animals. Such conditions are designated as inhumane conditions of existence. They may include a chronic lack of basic resources to maintain human dignity, including the lack of adequate food, clean water, basic health resources, shelter, sanitation, education and safety. Such conditions are not the result of fate but of human agency, of acts of omission and commission, neglect, complacency, wilful blindness, recklessness and malice.
Yet, states have agreed to respect in all circumstances minimal norms of humanity, both as a general principle and through the adoption of detailed prescriptions. The general principle is the absolute prohibition of inhumane and degrading treatment, a rule of customary international law enshrined in human rights treaties and in international humanitarian law. The minimal standards of humanity contained in the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted by ECOSOC in 1957, and in the Third Geneva Convention applicable to Prisoners of War, contain detailed specifications regarding basic resources to which prisoners are entitled in order to maintain their humanity. The existence of such detailed specifications concerning food, water, shelter, clothing, bedding, sanitation, health, access to culture and recreation, demonstrate the recognition by states of an obligation to secure, even to convicted murderers, humane conditions of existence.
The recognition and fulfilment of basic human entitlements to life in dignity, framed in the language of rights and obligations, is the foundation of every civilized society. Securing procedural rights to every person, including the right to petition judicial authorities, is based on the need to empower individuals in modern, urban societies with legal protection against abuse of administrative and economic power as well as on the democratic principle that no person should be compelled to rely on arbitrary benevolence of the powerful.
The process of globalisation, which entails increased international flows of ideas, people, products and capital across traditional national borders, is threatening the fledgling regime of human rights protection that relies on states? capacities to regulate economic life. At the same time, powerful global actors, who are not parties to human rights treaties and do not possess specific obligations to the human person, use states as means to deregulate ? to their advantage ? the global market place. The compound nature of these processes threatens to subject the well-being and sometimes the very survival of large populations to the mercy of blind market forces. There is a pressing need to balance this development by strengthening the procedural capacity of individuals and groups to assert their economic rights at the national, regional and international level and to deter, through penal sanctions, the adoption of policies whose intent or foreseeable effect is to cause vast zones of destitution. Governments of national states continue to remain, individually and jointly, the main actors responsible for securing human rights to everyone.
Consequently, we undersigned, make the following Declaration
1. Every person is entitled to an existence in dignity by virtue of being a human being.
2. The entitlement of dignified human existence is a social predicate, which necessarily places obligations on others. By virtue of their power to affect economic and social conditions, states, corporations and international organisations are under a standing moral duty to take into consideration the effects of their acts and policies on the enjoyment by individuals of their right to existence in dignity.
3. States are under the duty to prohibit, suppress and repress acts of inhumane treatment, including measures that subject human beings to inhumane or degrading conditions of existence or to perpetuate such conditions. This obligation requires of states and international organisations to consciously refrain from adopting policies which are likely to cause or perpetuate inhumane or degrading conditions of existence within or outside their own jurisdiction.
4. A second obligation, enshrined as a pledge in the UN Charter, extends to the duty of states to promote human rights, including by soliciting or providing international assistance. This obligation extends not only to the provision and acceptance of aid, but equally to other policies pursued by states, including policies in the fields of trade, investment, finance, and disarmament which affect economic and social conditions States who, without justification, divert scarce funds to harmful, dangerous, unlawful or capricious projects, may violate their international pledge to promote human rights and economic well-being.
5. Persons compelled to live in inhumane conditions, either directly or as a result of the adoption of socially regressive policies by their own state, by other states or by international organisations, are effectively denied the enjoyment of their fundamental rights. They are designated herein as victims of economic oppression.
6. Victims of economic oppression are entitled to remedies which may include rehabilitation, restitution, compensation, the determination of the truth regarding the causes for their victimization and/or the punishment of offenders.
7. In order to secure the rights of victims of economic oppression and deter such oppression, states must provide potential victims with effective means to assert, claim and access remedies. One means towards this objective is the widespread adoption by UN member states of an Additional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
8. Policies adopted and pursued with the intent or knowledge that they will subject a civilian population to inhumane conditions of existence or perpetuate such conditions, with the effect of causing increased morbidity and mortality rates, are designated as the international crime of economic oppression. The Contracting Parties to the Statute of the International Criminal Court are urged to include economic oppression as one of the crimes against humanity under the jurisdiction of the Court.
9. International civil society and organisations in the fields of human rights, development and global justice, are urged to endorse this Declaration, publicize it and press for the adoption of the proposed measures by states and international organisations.