Tuesday, December 6, 2022

The first declaration of Human Right in the Peace Palace

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By the Dr Ali Fahimdanesh, Legal Adviser of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Netherland [1].

On the first of December 2014, H.E. Mr. Alireza Jahangiry, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic Iran and the Secretary-General of the Hague Academy of International Law, Prof. Yves Daudet unveiled a replica of Cyrus Cylinder at the Peace Palace, The Hague, where the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the Hague Academy of International Law have their seats.

The gift, a 22.5 x 10 cm replica of the clay cylinder kept in the British museum, London, was presented to the peace palace by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and in view of its nature it is placed in the Building of the Hague Academy of International Law.

During the ceremony, speeches were made by H.E. Ambassador Jahangiry and, the Secretary-General of the Hague Academy, Prof. Yves Daudet and the General Director of the Carnegie Foundation Mr. Steven van Hoogstraten.

At this juncture, I would like to briefly touch upon the story of the Cyrus Cylinder, a human rights charter belonging to the ancient Persia, also described as the First Declaration of Human Rights;

  1. Cyrus the Great (585-529 BC), the Iranian Emperor and founder of the first Persian Empire carved the First Declaration of Human Rights on this cylinder. Cyrus is admired more as a liberator than a conqueror of his vast empire because of his respect for human rights and humane treatment of those he ruled. Cyrus gives account of how he achieved this with the aid of Marduk, the god of Babylon. He then describes measures of relief he brought to the inhabitants of the city, and recounts how he returned a number of images of gods, which Nabonidus had collected in Babylon, to their proper temples throughout Mesopotamia and western Iran. At the same time, he arranged for the restoration of these temples and organized the return to their homelands of a number of people who had been held in Babylonia by the Babylonian kings.
  2. The Cylinder is an important document for the following reasons. Firstly, it records that Cyrus occupies Babylon peacefully, preventing bloodshed and looting; secondly, it says that Cyrus absolved the inhabitants of the city from forced labor which had been imposed upon them by the Babylonian kings; thirdly, Cyrus says that he sent back god statues to the shrines from which they had been removed; fourthly, he sent deported peoples to their homelands. The first Charter of Human Rights in 1971 was translated in all the official languages of the United Nations and its provisions parallel the first four articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  1. From ancient Iran, the idea of human rights spread quickly to other civilizations and has continued until contemporary ages through several famous documents which are the written precursors to many of today’s human rights documents. However, the roots of the human rights have been attributed to Greek civilization but it is clear that in present times, both the “Athenian Democracy” and the “human rights principles contained in Cyrus’ Proclamation” have merged in a way that democracy and human rights have become integrated and inseparable. No doubt that both Athenian Democracy and Cyrus’ Proclamation would then prove to be only two drops in the vast ocean of human rights aspirations. Only then could the ambiguity surrounding the universality of human rights be removed.
  2. Once it is understood that all civilizations result from constant interactions between cultures, the futility of some human rights misconceptions leading to a confrontational approach between cultures might fade away. Indeed, “tolerance and respect for diversity facilitate universal promotion and protection of human rights and constitute sound foundations for civil society, social harmony and peace.” Only then might a constructive dialogue between different cultures begin.

 

  1. This strategy requires some tangible action to overcome the new emerging challenges posing serious threats to mankind including poverty, famine, armed conflict, unprecedented loss of civilians, mostly women and children, violence and extremism. It is essential to uphold some fundamental principles such as rule of law and mutual respect and global support for a world against violence and extremism. It was in the same spirit that the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran proposed the resolution A/RES/68/127 entitled “World against Violence and Violent Extremism” at the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly and gained a unanimous support and approval.

 

  1. The promulgation of a culture of dialogue is a key step towards the promotion and protection of human rights and the fight against extremism and violence. The “respect for the dignity of others” as an important point in this regards requires that “Human Rights Education” this world education take into account “other” civilizations’ experiences of egalitarian conceptions

In conclusion, as Cyrus the Great stated 2550 years ago, I also wish everyone the most profound peace, security, prosperity and progress without distinction of any kind such as race, color, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.


[1]My comment in this article is based on a personal capacity and no in any official capacity as Iranian diplomat or Legal adviser.

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