Tutu denounces rights abuses

2007-12-10 15:36

Cape Town - Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu and other elder statesmen on Monday denounced the rights records of Myanmar, Sudan, Chad and Zimbabwe at the launch of a new human rights campaign.

Tutu was speaking in Cape Town at the launch of the Every Human Has Rights campaign on the United Nations-designated International Human Rights Day.

There had been too many abuses since the launch of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 59 years ago, said Tutu.

He was flanked by Ireland's former president Mary Robinson - who had also served as the UN Human Rights high commissioner - and woman and child rights campaigner Graca Machel.

Tutu said: "The principles of the declaration have not been applied far and wide enough, even by the governments that originally signed the document."

Darfur region 'more awful'

Citizens needed to be galvanised to shame governments and create an ethos in which it would be more difficult to act with impunity.

He added: "I would like African leaders to be the kind of leaders that many of us hoped they were going to be." Tutu named war-torn Chad and the conflict-ridden western Darfur region of Sudan as among the most worrying cases.

"Our hope is that we can keep Darfur in the spotlight and spur on governments to help keep peace in the region," said Tutu, who described the region as one of the "more awful" places he'd visited.

The cleric then pointed to an empty chair on stage, draped in orange, saying it should have been filled by Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace prize winning opposition leader confined to her house for 12 of the last 18 years by the military junta of Myanmar.

He said: "The deteriorating situation in Myanmar serves as a stark example of why the world must reclaim the principles of the Universal Ceclaration and demand that they be recognised for all."

800 million people 'need more food'

The campaign, launched by a group of statesmen known as The Elders, seeks to make ordinary citizens watchdogs over human rights and was seeking a billion supporting signatures.

Robinson said the world was gripped by fear, discrimination and poverty.

According to him: "The response of governments to the hostile attack on the United States in September 2001 has been too often to unjustifiably sideline human rights obligations in the name of state security."

Machel said more than 800 million people did not have enough to eat - more than the populations of the US, Canada and the European Union combined.

African systems were letting the people down, said Machel, and continental leaders' hands were tied in dealing with human rights violators such as Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.

"Africa is bound by the systems we have. The only thing (we have) is to sit down and talk," she added. Machel is the wife of another Nobel peace prizewinner, Nelson Mandela.