My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

NEW YORK, Friday—At the end of yesterday morning's session of the Human Rights Commission, a woman came up to me and said that she had written me two letters—that her human rights were being interfered with, so she wanted to know what she could do.

I'm afraid that many, many people think that the Human Rights Commission is a tribunal where all people who have complaints can hope that their complaints will be heard. Over and over again in our discussions, it has been brought out that, if we do certain things, we will be raising false hopes among people throughout the world. These people will be disappointed, because they are looking anxiously for some answer to their dilemmas, and the name of our commission misleads them.

* * *

The Human Rights Commission is not a court which can deal with individual wrongs. The commission, set up by the Economic and Social Council, is trying to formulate an international bill of rights for acceptance by the member nations of the United Nations. Once this bill is formulated and accepted, it will be a help to people throughout the world because it will be a yardstick for judging appeals made by individuals or groups who desire consideration for their wrongs.

But it must be borne in mind that it would be improper for the Human Rights Commission now even to pass upon such communications received, since many of them would require investigating to ascertain whether the facts are as represented, and the commission has no machinery for investigation. And in many cases, such investigation would be contrary to one of the provisions of the U.N. Charter, which assures the member nations that there will be no interference in their domestic affairs unless there is a threat to world peace.

Eventually, many of these things will probably come up for consideration. In the meantime, the main objective of the present Commission on Human Rights is to write a bill of rights to be presented to the member nations. However, the communications received from individuals and from groups may serve a useful purpose. They may form a background against which the needs of people will appear more clearly, and in view of these needs, action of various kinds will undoubtedly be recommended in the coming months. Still, it would be unfair to let people continue to feel that any immediate help in their personal problems will be forthcoming through this commission.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL