International Human Rights Day, held yesterday on the anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was marked yesterday by protests, rallies, and marches across the United States against plans for war against Iraq. A new coalition of groups and activists, United for Peace, organized the more than 120 events across the country. Among the more publicized events was a press conference in Los Angeles, where a dozen celebrities, including actor Martin Sheen, gathered to publicize an anti-war letter to President Bush signed by more than 100 entertainers.
In Washington, DC, more than 400 people rallied at noon, marching past the White House to urge Bush to seek a peaceful solution to the conflict with Iraq, according to the Washington Post. The National Organization for Women (NOW), one of the members of United for Peace, joined the Women’s Peace Vigil at the White House. Organized by United for Peace, CodePink, and Unreasonable Women for the Earth, the peace vigil and fast began November 17 and will continue until International Women’s Day on March 8.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, issued a statement celebrating Human Rights Day by calling for increased support for the International Criminal Court (ICC), established by the Rome Statute in July. The Bush administration has strongly opposed the ICC, going so far as to unsign the Rome Statute this year. Bush claims that the ICC could subject US personnel to politically motivated prosecutions abroad. The ICC has widespread support in the US from groups such as the Feminist Majority because it identifies gender crimes and the crime of apartheid as crimes against humanity. Article 7 of the Rome Statute, which created the court, presents clear language that defines rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity as gender crimes.