“We have…seen how new technologies are facilitating the violation of human rights, with chilling 21st Century efficiency. In breach of international law, mass electronic surveillance and data collection are threatening both individual rights, and the free functioning of a vibrant civil society,” says Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“Armed drones are also being deployed, without due legal process, for the remote targeting of individuals. So-called “Killer robots” – autonomous weapons systems that can select and hit a target without human intervention – are no longer science fiction, but a reality.”
Human Rights Day marks the anniversary of the adoption by the General Assembly of the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year’s observance also marks 20 years since the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the creation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
High Commissioner Pillay said in her statement that the Vienna declaration had crystallized the principle that human rights are universal, and committed States to the promotion and protection of all human rights for all people, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems. “Continued vigilance is needed to ensure that new technologies advance rather than destroy human rights. No matter the scale of these changes, existing international human rights law and international humanitarian law governing the conduct of armed conflict remain applicable. States must ensure that they are applied. “
In a message on Human Rights Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on UN Member States to “fulfil the promises they made at the Vienna Conference.”
He also paid tribute to Nelson Mandela “one of the great symbols of human rights of our time…whose lifelong commitment to human dignity, equality, justice and compassion will forever remain an inspiration as we continue to build a world of all human rights for all.”
Photo: The UN flag flies at half-mast in remembrance of the late Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa.UN/Eskinder Debebe.
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