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December 16 2009 | NEW YORK, UNITED STATES

European Union

Sant'Egidio's Cities for Life, President of European Parliament: "It reminds us of our strong stance against capital punishment"

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 European Union


Brussels -


More than ever before, we Europeans must stand up for human rights. 61 years after the birth of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights we still live in a world where basic human values are Challenged on a daily basis across the globe, even sometimes within our own countries And societies.


The UN Declaration was inspired by various intellectual, philosophical and religious traditions, making it truly universal. It is precisely this universal character of its proclaimed rights and values that we must strenuously preserve, resisting attempts of cultural and historic relativism. This stems from our shared conviction that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.


The universality of the Declaration also entails that we must all continue our struggle for the values we believe in. On this day we must recall the preamble of the Universal Declaration stating that "the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world"


The responsibility to uphold, defend and promote human rights and fundamental values is shared by all levels of society but it begins with individuals in their communities. For instance, the Community of Sant'Egidio and the Cities for Life initiative commemorates the first official abolition of the death penalty in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1786. By uniting 1200 cities across the globe it reminds us every year on 30 November of our strong stance against the capital punishment.


In many parts of the world ordinary citizens make extraordinary efforts and defy Harsh realities by standing up for human rights, taking risks and all too often paying the ultimate price for their courage. On 9 December we also remember the 11th anniversary of the UN General Assembly Declaration on human rights defenders.

The European Parliament recognises the contribution of such remarkableindividuals and organisations by the Sakharov Prize awarded for the freedom of thought every year.


For us, parliamentarians, diplomacy means speaking openly.

Through public debates, hearings and resolutions we never hesitated to speak out against human rights violations or to raise our voice for human rights defenders. The European Parliament has always favoured the power of conviction and dialogue and promoted democratic principles through supporting the European Instrument for Human Rights and Democracy, as well as action on the ground, for instance, through election observation missions. The European Parliament should work towards ensuring that the Commission, including the new Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Civil Liberties, and the High Representative work together with parliamentarians and others in this common effort to meet our citizens' expectations.


In this respect we recall the enormous potential that exists among Former Members of the European Parliament who, thanks to their experience and political engagement, can act as real Ambassadors for human rights and democratic values. As a result of their personal commitment, but also their unique role in society, they are especially well placed to offer an invaluable contribution to promoting these rights and values, complementing the efforts of communities, elected political representatives and civil society organisations.



President of the European Parliament


Lord Henry


Former President of the EP




President of the EP



Former President of the EP



Former President of the EP


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