Article 3:
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Drafting History

Article 3 provides that everyone has "the right to life, liberty and security of person." At an earlier stage of the deliberations, the right to liberty had been qualified with the phrase "except in cases prescribed by law and after due process." Dr. F R Bienenfeld, speaking for the World Jewish Congress, pointed out that the clause did not "specify the nature of the law," which he felt was a dangerous omission, "for under the Nazi regime thousands of people have been deprived of their liberty under laws, which were perfectly valid." Primarily as a result of this plea the qualifying state reference was dropped.

The horrific acts of the Nazi State contrast sharply also with the other two rights in Article 3--the rights to life and personal security. More than a decade earlier, Hitler had said in Mein Kampf that "if the power to fight for one's own health is no longer present, the right to live in this world of struggle ends." He did not want any "half-measures" in this respect and therefore opposed letting "incurable sick people steadily contaminate the remaining healthy ones." The earlier Nazi practice of "euthanasia" and the later implementation of "the final solution" illustrated what can happen when a society pursues the organic vision of the state to its demonic end.

The members of the Human Rights Commission knew about the horrors perpetrated by the Nazi State in and outside of the concentration camps. The Secretariat had prepared a special report on the war crimes trials, which detailed many of the Nazi crimes and the criminal charges to which they led. Pertinent to Article 3's right to "life, liberty and security of person" is the report's reference to "the policy, which was in existence in Germany by the summer of 1940, under which all aged, insane and incurable people, 'useless eaters,' were transferred to special institutions where they were killed." About 250,000 people were killed in this way in nursing homes, asylums and hospitals.

It stands to reason that it was not just the Nazi atrocities that prompted the reiteration of the rights to life and liberty. Life was cheap to others too. In the Third Session of the Commission and in the Third Committee, Pavlov, the USSR delegate, attacked British colonial policies and made reference to the lynching of African Americans in the United States. Christopher Mayhew, a UK delegate, responded with a long statement about the Russian concentration camps set up by Stalin, about which the Russian government was remaining totally silent.


See Morsink at 39 ff.

Peter Danchin, Columbia University