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United Nations Found Lacking in Measures to Protect Human Rights

December 7, 1964
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European measures to safeguard human rights were offered today as a blueprint for global action by a European expert at a meeting of the World Jewish Congress American Section in the Commodore Hotel, on the occasion of the 16th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Dr. Heribert Golsong, registrar of the European Court of Human Rights in Strassbourg, told the JDC conference that action taken so far to protect human rights internationally requires a series of practical steps. Under present conditions there is no effective universal control in cases of alleged violation of human rights, he said, and when such rights are violated, complaints may be submitted to the UN which in turn passes them on to the member state involved. There is no public exposure of the case and it is not unusual for such complaints to lie, gathering dust, for years without action, Dr. Golsong declared.

In Western Europe, however, special measures for the international protection of human rights have successfully been set up by the European Convention on Human Rights, an interstate agreement, which at present is binding upon 15 Western European states, he said. Among these states are the Scandinavian and Benelux countries, Britain, Italy, Austria and the Federal Republic of Germany. A European Commission and a European Court of Human Rights were set up under the provisions of this convention and are invested with full jurisdiction to hear complaints submitted by Governments or by individuals.

Dr. Golsong emphasized that, in a great number of cases, satisfactory solutions had been reached even before the proceedings were completed. He said that governments were “most anxious to avoid a final judgment against them, and were therefore willing to take unilateral action, including a change of legislation under attack, each time there is a risk of losing the case.”

Dr. Maurice L. Perlzweig, director of the international affairs department of the WJC, addressing the conference, pointed out that the United Nations “has so far failed to create effective machinery for the protection of human rights.” Describing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as “an historic document which has exercised an important moral influence,” he said that its value depended on the voluntary compliance of governments, and there had to be a binding covenant. In spite of “years of discussion of the clauses of such a Covenant, there is still no effective agreement on measures of implementation and no such agreement is yet in sight,” he stressed.

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