Letter: A code called human rights

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The Independent Online
Sir: Andrew Marr (19 March) suggests there exists a code which abhors homophobia and rejects religious teachings on hell and sin but which "we don't yet have a word for". The name he is searching for is the code of human rights.

Born in the Enlightenment, it came of age after the horrors of the Second World War. Then, the international community set out to establish a set of secular ethics in the form of international instruments which bind all states that ratify them. Often misunderstood as no more than a vehicle for protecting individuals from abuse of power by governments, these instruments are an attempt to influence the moral climate of society as a whole (see, for example, the preamble to the UN's International Covenants on Civil and Political and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights). Perhaps it is the failure of successive governments to incorporate these standards into our law or to require them to be taught in schools that accounts for our ignorance of them.

Francesca Klug

Policy Consultant

Charter 88

London EC1