GILC Statement on the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Fifty years ago, the nations of the world affirmed their commitment to protect and promote human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Understanding that "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 nations of the world committed themselves to protect the rights of privacy, equality, human dignity and freedom of speech. As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is essential that the international community reassert its commitment to respect and promote human rights regardless of physical borders.

The rights cemented in the UDHR are as essential, and as threatened, today as they were fifty years ago. The undersigned organizations, members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign, would like to remind the citizen nations of the world of the guarantees of freedom of expression and privacy enshrined in the UDHR.

Article 19 of the UDHR provides that "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression...through any media and regardless of frontiers." However, governments continue to restrict expression on the Internet. In China, software dealer Lin Hai is awaiting sentencing for releasing 30,000 email addresses to a dissident group in the United States. Civil rights groups in the United States are fighting a court battle against a law dubbed Communications Decency Act II, which would restrict access by adults to online content.

Although Article 12 of the UDHR states that "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy..." governments around the world seek to monitor and intercept communications on the Internet and elsewhere. Recently, under pressure from the United States, 33 countries in Europe, North America, Asia, and South America agreed to limit the exportation of mass-market software that would protect the privacy of Internet users. This software, which scrambles data so that it can only be read by its intended recipient, is widely used by human rights groups, including GILC members, to ensure the safety and integrity of sensitive information. In Singapore, all Internet service providers (ISPs) are controlled directly or indirectly by the government and in Russia, a proposal is being debated to connect all ISPs via a black box to the Federal Security Service to monitor all Internet communications.

The Internet holds the promise of being the greatest tool for communication and freedom of expression. The undersigned members of GILC encourage the governments of the world to recognize and promote this potential in accordance with the principles of the UDHR. The undersigned members of GILC also encourage the governments of the world to avoid restrictions on any software that protects the privacy of an individual's communications.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Bulgarian Institute for Legal Development

Center for Democracy and Technology

Derechos Human Rights

Digital Freedom Network (DFN)

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

Electronic Frontiers Australia

FrEE (Electronic Frontiers Spain)

Electronic Frontiers Texas

Electronic Privacy Information Center

Equipo Nizkor

Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft (FITUG)

Human Rights Watch

Imaginons un Réseau Internet Solidaire (IRIS)

Index on Censorship

Liberty (National Council of Civil Liberties)


Privacy International

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