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What does it mean for Seattle to be a “Human Rights City”?

By the Seattle Human Rights Commission

On December 14th, 2012, Seattle filed Resolution 31420 that designated the City of Seattle as a “Human Rights City” – one of a small set of such cities worldwide.

This commitment meant the CIty would incorporate the universal human rights principles at the local level into its model for municipal government. These principles are specified in the United Nation Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR).

The UNDHR assumes that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and that they are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. It also states that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

In signing on to be a Human Rights City, Seattle agreed to and affirmed these assumptions. The City of Seattle also promised to do everything in its power to fully realize all the rights, laid out in the UNDHR, for ALL of its residents and to never do anything to destroy these rights for the community. It is important to point out that in signing on to be a Human Rights City, Seattle City elected officials and staff concurred with the assertion in the UNDHR that the basis of the authority of government resides in the citizenry and they are duty-bound to execute their will, in accordance with the UNDHR.

The specific rights and responsibilities that the City of Seattle agreed to uphold for Seattle residents include:

  1. the right to life, liberty and security of person,
  2. the right to be free of slavery or servitude of all kinds,
  3. the right to never be subject to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,
  4. the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law,
  5. the right to be given equal protection of the law without discrimination,
  6. the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law,
  7. the right to not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile,
  8. the right to full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of their rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against them,
  9. (If charged with a penal offence) the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a public trial at which they have had all the guarantees necessary for their defence.
  10. the right not to be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed.
  11. the right to not have a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time a penal offence was committed.
  12. the right to not be subjected to arbitrary interference with their privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon their honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
  13. the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
  14. the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
  15. the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
  16. the right to a nationality. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of their nationality nor denied the right to change their nationality.
  17. (If a person is of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion) the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
  18. the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
  19. the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
  20. the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
  21. the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  22. the right not to be compelled to belong to an association.
  23. the right to take part in the government of their country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
  24. the right of equal access to public service in his country.
  25. the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international cooperation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
  26. the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  27. the right to equal pay for equal work.
  28. (If you are working) the right to just and favourable remuneration to ensure, for themself and their family, an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  29. the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of their interests.
  30. the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
  31. the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of themself and of their family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond their control. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
  32. the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
  33. the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
  34. the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which they are the author.

What rating would you give the City of Seattle as a Human Rights City?