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Human Rights Day – A call to recognise and protect the rights of victims of armed violence



Yesterday, December 10, was Human Rights Day. Proclaimed in 1950 by the UN General Assembly, it celebrates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Since then, the world has seen great advancement towards the international protection of human rights.

But today we must remember that much remains to be done. Today, AOAV calls on all states to recognise the rights of victims of armed violence in a specific international instrument.

This year is particularly important because it marks the 20-year anniversary of the formation of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  In the last two decades, the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court has entered into force, the UN has established the mandate on trafficking in persons and the Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by every country in the world – with the exception of Somalia and the United States. These achievements do not represent the sum total of progress towards improving the status of worldwide human rights, but they are a reminder that progress has been made.

This is an occasion to look to the past and celebrate those achievements in making the world a more fair and just place for everyone. We should also look to the future, and continue to call for more effective and targeted action. Sectors of society that are at higher risk of being victims of human rights violations have been provided with a special framework for their protection. Among others, children, women, trafficked persons and people with disabilities have their own specialised instruments that not only address their different needs, but also reaffirm their status as rights-holders. As such, states have the obligation to respect and promote their rights.

Each year more than half a million people die in armed violence. Put another way, one person dies every minute as a consequence of armed violence. Millions more are left with permanent injuries and disabilities. Only 12% of them are killed in conflict settings. Yet victims of armed violence do not have their rights recognised as such. The rights of victims of armed violence are scattered through different international and domestic legal instruments. This lack of clarity can lead to a second victimisation especially in the case of those who do not belong to other groups protected by specific norms – like women, children or victims of crime.

AOAV firmly believes that victims of armed violence should be recognised as a specific group with particular needs. Having acknowledged our progress on Human Rights Day, AOAV calls for another step forward with the recognition of the rights of victims of armed violence within international and national laws.