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Human Rights Day

Download the Human Rights Day Toolkit
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The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) invited you to mark Human Rights Day during worship services and through advocacy activities during either the weekend of December 6-8, December 13-15, or another time of choosing. 

This year, NRCAT’s Human Rights Day focused on Solitary Confinement in an Age of Mass Incarceration.  We invited your congregation to focus on the human rights crisis faced by over 80,000 people being held in long-term solitary confinement in the U.S.  Prisoners in solitary confinement are locked in a cement cell alone 23-24 hours a day, seven days a week, sometimes for months, years, even decades.  The United Nations Special Rapporteur Against Torture, Juan Mendez, has stated that to keep an adult in solitary confinement for more than 15 days constitutes torture, and has called for a prohibition on the use of solitary confinement for youth and those with mental illness.


To help you and your congregation observe Human Rights Day, NRCAT prepared a Human Rights Day Toolkit, including a bulletin insert with educational and advocacy material, and an interfaith prayer; a poster for promotion of Human Rights Day; and suggestions for integrating these concerns into sermons and prayers during worship on that weekend. While the toolkit was prepared for Human Rights Day it still has pieces that you and your congregation might find useful to discuss the issue of solitary confinement in the United States.  Download the toolkit.

If you have any questions, please contact Paz Artaza-Regan, NRCAT’s Director for Program and Outreach, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 202-547-1920.


What is Human Rights Day?
In 1945 when the United Nations was created, its charter affirmed the "dignity and worth of the human person."

On December 10, 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which affirmed this basic tenet of the UN charter. The nations of the world and several faith groups now celebrate December 10 as Human Rights Day.  There are 30 short articles in the UDHR. The first article states, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and human rights." The third article adds, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."

Article 5 states clearly, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." So the prohibition against torture derives from the agreement by the nations in the UN that the principle of honoring the dignity of human beings – a principle shared by all major religions – is an underlying principle for both nations and individuals. Thirty-six years later, on December 10, 1984, the UN General Assembly adopted the text of the Convention Against Torture, an international treaty ratified by the U.S. in 1994. The nations of the world and several faith groups celebrate December 10 as Human Rights Day. December 10, 2013 will be the 65th anniversary of the signing of the UDHR.

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