Amnesty International and Waterstones have jointly published a booklet of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights illustrated by 14 cartoons by renowned illustrators and cartoonists. The book includes works by; Steven Appleby; Liza Donnelly; Merrily Harpur; Michael Heath; Tony Husband; Neil Kerber; Martha Richler (Marf); Fran Orford; Chris Riddell; Royston Robertson; Gerald Scarfe; David Shrigley and Judith Vanistendael. This cartoon is by David Shrigley.
The cover illustration of Know your Rights, is by Ali Ferzat, a Syrian political cartoonist who famously had his hands broken by pro-government militia for his satirical cartoons about government abuses. Ferzat was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine last year.
Scottish author and comedian A.L. Kennedy has written the introduction. She movingly describes the impetus to draft a binding international human rights charter that transcended national government, to prevent the horrors of the Second World War being repeated.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” in the belief that such a pronouncement could be “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
It was a noble aim and in turn the European Convention on Human Rights was ratified just five years later – 60 years ago today- on 3 September 1953. The UK played an intrinsic part in the drafting and consensus around the Convention, which was proposed by Winston Churchill.
Both the Convention and the UDHR were part of a distinct agenda from the world powers to deliver a human rights framework of protections and obligations, through which it was believed that the most serious human rights violations of the Second World War could be avoided in the future.
A.L. Kennedy writes in the introduction:
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born out of a remarkable time in mankind’s history. It was 1946, and the world was recovering from its first and, thus far, only truly global conflict.
“Our species had shown itself to be capable of conjuring hell on earth and to be on the brink of complete self-destruction. We had perfected new tortures and systematised their use, we had classified other humans as less than human and destroyed them using murder factories, we had profited from the possessions of the dead and even the raw materials harvested from their bodies, we had invaded territory for profit, we had pursued ideologies based on unsustainable hatred, fear and rage, we had indulged every form of greed, lust and selfishness, we had oppressed and exploited populations, we had used rape as a weapon and a recreation, we had destroyed cultural artefacts, sources of joy and inspiration, we had invented the firestorm and the nuclear bomb, we had killed millions, maimed and traumatised millions more. Our actions became literally indescribable – we had to invent new words for them, words like “genocide”. No myth or monster, it seemed, could be worse than the truth of us.
“But that wasn’t the whole truth.”
In their joint Afterword, Amnesty UK’s director Kate Allen and Waterstones’ Managing Director James Daunt write:
“There is a profound affinity between books and human rights, best summed up in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which states: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression’.
“We need to cherish and uphold our human rights now and always, because all of us in the human family need them.”