Sunday, 24 August 2008

A Better Bill of Rights


At the Apartheid Museum yesterday morning, I saw a summary of the terms of the South African Bill of Rights. We have no equivalent here in the United Kingdom. I envy the South Africans for having such a clear, unequivocal statement on the limits of government power to discriminate or oppress.

The summary in the Apartheid Museum pictured above reads as follows:

The South African Bill of Rights

• No one may be discriminated against on grounds of race, gender, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, culture or language.
• Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.
• Everyone has the right to life.
• Everyone has the right to freedom and security of person, including the right not to be detained without trial and not to be tortured.
• No one may be subjected to slavery, servitude or forced labour.
• Everyone has the right to privacy.
• Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.
• Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom of the media.
• Everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and present petitions.
• Everyone has the right to freedom of association.
• Everyone is free to make political choices, which includes the right to form a political party and the right to free, fair and regular elections.
• No citizen may be deprived of citizenship.
• Everyone has the right to freedom of movement.
• Everyone has the right to fair labour practices, including the right to form and belong to trade unions and the right to strike.
• Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being.
• No one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of general application.
• Everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing.
• Everyone has the right to have access to health care services, sufficient food and water.
• Every child has the right to care, basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services.
• Everyone has the right to a basic education.
• Everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice.
• Everyone has the right of access to any information held by the state and by another person where the information is required for the exercise of any rights.
• Everyone who is arrested has the right to remain silent, to be brought before a court within 48 hours and to be released if the interests of justice permit.


The South African Bill of Rights sets the high mark we should all aim for in reforming relations between the people and the state, fighting back against the derogations of civil liberties forced through in consequence of the manufactured and hyped hysteria of the war on terror. Violence, no matter in what form or from what source, should never be the justification for relaxing our vigilence in preserving our rights or our principles.

In this context, one uncomfortable fact I learned in the Apartheid Museum was that it was the British that innovated concentration camps. In the actions to clear South Africa of Boers from 1900 to 1902 they rounded up whole Boer families and kept them in concentration camps. I had thought it was a joint German-Turkish innovation for the Armenian genocide, but it appears the British led in the ethnic cleansing stakes early in the last century.

Go read the South African Bill of Rights - especially if you are a lawyer.

Hat tip to NYCviaRachel on Flickr for the great photo of the Bill of Rights summary at the Apartheid Museum. My picture wasn't clear enough.

9 comments:

Independent Accountant said...

Adolph Hitler adopted the term "concentration camps" as a slap in the face of the British.

Jesse said...

The US Bill of Rights is a bit leaner and probably just as sound taken in context.

The problem is always in the enforcement, and to guard against the erosive forces of statism.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a page out of the socialist's playbook:

• Everyone has the right to fair labour practices, including the right to form and belong to trade unions and the right to strike.
• Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being.
• Everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing.
• Everyone has the right to have access to health care services, sufficient food and water.
• Every child has the right to care, basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services.

Peter J. Bolton said...

I have considered for some time as to why men when elected to power, eventually find it necessary to impose and to dictate their will onto others.

The answers I find are:

1. There is a sexual stimulus to having power over another and a greater sexual thrill in sniffing those that trust you. Do not think of "sexual" as biological emotion... you must think of this process in terms of physics.

2. The above is brought about by the agent of power corruption which action extrapolates and magnifies the weakness of men; it is the sexual stimulus out-of-control. The term "bubbles fits the physics precisely.

3. The sanity in men of office, normally find quickly that they are not up to the job; they are incompetent and inept, hence the sexual power stimulus that the power corrupting agent magnifies, becomes paranoically pre-dominant; so much so, it also guarantees the end of the usefulness of the human entity involved. Normally men of politics are weak men; deterministic, vain, and self-adoring and their fundamentals are weak and are therefore most likely to become corrupted.

4. Such men find it then necessary to survive; to protect themselves at all costs. Paranoia and beyond. These men find it necessary to preside over anything even certain failure as they only see their finally objectives as self-survival.

The rest is merely distortion and vile corruptive process. Lots of variation on this theme..


However, in simple terms, the only right we need to follow is "respect" as a two-way street. Its normal in physics.

PeterJB

Anonymous said...

LB: And I think, as South Africa demonstrates, a Bill of Rights is little without the political culture to back it.

I am interested to see that in your previous post you see Josie as somehow hope inspiring. The consensus in the rest of Africa is that SA is a ticking time-bomb - the bomb-makers of which are its venal, mendacious politicians - who ensure that the BoR applies only if you are rich or related to a politico.

On the subject of the concentration camps, it was Kitchener's "scorched earth" policy: Burn the fields. Burn the homesteads. And cut off Boer commandos supply chains. 26,000 died - mainly of disease.

You might also be interested to know that the British invented apartheid. The tribal reserves and quotas were in before 1900. The Afrikaners merely formalised it.

PJB: There is also likely to be a selection bias. How many libertarians go into politics?

Anonymous said...

There's no such thing as rights..only power.

Thai said...

Jesse said "...and probably just as sound taken in context"

Yes... perhaps even sounder? If resources were limited, some rights might 'conflict' with others (perhaps what anon 14:40 was infering?)

It seems much harder to prioritize rights when the list becomes longer and more specific (not to mention how it can also destroy faith in the system itself whenever this must happen).

And anon 02:33, wasn't that always the most 'magical' part of what happened? "Yes" a powder keg could/can go off (as it did in Zimbabwe), yet so far it has not. Someone had a little faith in their fellow men and it worked out. I honestly get goosebumps of admiration whenever I think about what has happened there.

Anonymous said...

It's often claimed that concentration camps were invented by the British during the South African War, but the credit actually belongs to the Spanish general Valeriano Weyler who devised the reconcentrados as a method of fighting the rebels in Cuba in the 1890s.

shtove said...

Dear God, don't let the lawyers near it.