Trump versus human rights declaration

July 8, 2018 GMT

“The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” So says Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in the wake of World War II, established common human rights standards for all peoples and nations. By voting in favor of it, the U.S. pledged “to promote respect for these rights and freedoms.”

While the declaration is not legally binding, it is a moral road map. Pope John Paul II called the Declaration “one of the highest expressions of the human conscience of our time.” The U.S. led the effort to draft the declaration, and it incorporates many principles from our Constitution. This document is America at its best.

I recently reread the declaration and was disturbed by just how many articles President Donald Trump is breaking through his “zero tolerance” policy, forced separation of families and indefinite detention of immigrants. Of the 30 articles, the Trump administration is — by my count — breaking or expressing a desire to break at least nine. For example, Trump appears to be violating Article 9: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile;” Article 14: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution;” Article 5: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;” and Article 12: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his … family. …”


Several articles make clear that these rights apply no matter what your country of origin is, including Article 6: “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law;” and Article 7: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”

Trump’s June 24 tweet calling for the suspension of due process in immigration cases (“When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came”) is contrary to Article 10: “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him,” and Articles 7, 8 and 11.

The fact, that this administration is violating so many articles should be concerning to all Americans. We are better than this. We have long been a country of ideals, a shining city upon a hill that guides the world toward freedom. We need to stand up for the human rights of the most vulnerable and object when our president threatens them. Our obligation is not to this or any other president — it is to our country and the beautiful ideals it has promoted throughout the world.

Shelley Walden is an expert in whistleblower protections and has helped whistleblowers from numerous intergovernmental organizations, including the United Nations. She worked for nearly a decade for the Government Accountability Project in Washington, D.C., and holds a bachelor’s in journalism and international studies from the University of North Carolina. She currently is a freelance nonprofit consultant residing in Albuquerque.