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 Published by the Church of Scientology International

Human Rights and Freedoms
 
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From the Editor’s Desk


Human Rights and Freedoms

Three Decades of Reform

 
Aron C. Mason Editor in Chief
Aron C. Mason
Editor in Chief

Gail Armstrong Executive Editor
Gail Armstrong
Executive Editor

 T

hroughout the centuries, men have sought to define and protect their fundamental human rights—those birthrights all men innately hold as their own. Men have also sought ways to ensure that if their governments did not actively protect those rights, they at least did not actively trample upon them.

      So it was that in 1215 a company of English knights forced King John to guarantee certain rights in a document known as the Magna Carta, laying a foundation for parliamentary government. And in 1776, 62 men signed another revolutionary document, the Declaration of Independence. Many of those same men were to be instrumental in the creation of the United States Constitution, the world’s oldest written constitution, and its Bill of Rights adopted in 1791.

      A century and a half later, in 1948, basic principles of human rights and human liberty were set down and guaranteed to peoples of all nations by the United Nations General Assembly under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

      Each an eloquent and articulate document, the words on paper, of course, cannot guarantee anything. But the spirit with which they were written, and a dedication to the public interest, can.

      Thus through the civil rights tumults, political treacheries, government abuses, and human rights violations of the past few decades, we have emerged on the verge of the millennium with human and civil rights more secure than before.

      That important changes have taken place is a fact. That freedom of the press has played an integral role in those changes is likewise a fact.

      It is, however, where the methods of journalism and the cause of public service combine that a catalyst sets in motion events and reforms far beyond the information needs of readers. It is in this spirit that Freedom takes deeply to heart that journalism is a public service.

      Since the publication of its first issue by the Church of Scientology in the United Kingdom in 1968, Freedom – now published in 15 countries in nine languages—has been just such a catalyst for reform. Freedom has also provided an outlet for voices that might otherwise never be heard.

      At the nadir of apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s, Freedom discovered and exposed the warehousing of thousands of black patients in privately owned compounds, mollified by liberal doses of psychiatric drugs and electro-shock treatment, and used as slave labor for white-owned business. Freedom and the Church of Scientology were vilified by the powers then in place, and the publication was banned in South Africa. Church members persisted in speaking the truth and international bodies, including the Red Cross and the World Health Organization, confirmed the findings Freedom published first. Reforms in the treatment of black mental patients in South Africa followed a positive albeit slow course over the ensuing two decades, most significant among them the recent establishment of a code of rights and an ongoing probe by the government’s Truth Commission into psychiatric atrocities on blacks.

      In the late 1970s and 1980s, Freedom investigated and exposed a wide range of tests conducted with chemical and biological warfare agents on unwitting sections of the population. Among those tests were experiments with the hallucinogen “BZ"—100 times more potent than LSD—on American servicemen, resulting in harmful after-effects. Starting with only a memory fragment of one serviceman, Freedom researchers found others who recalled similar experiences, and with the help of the Freedom of Information Act, pieced together many fragments into an astonishing whole. Freedom’s investigation and campaign to uncover all such drug testing led to a program announced by the Army to locate, notify and follow up on the thousands of servicemen who were unwitting participants in drug testing. The Army announced in 1989 it had destroyed its stockpiles of the drug BZ—enough to incapacitate the world’s population several times over—and engaged in procedures to destroy stores of chemical substances by the year 2004.

      On the front for social justice, Freedom kept the case of Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt, the Black Panther leader who was imprisoned for a crime he swore he did not commit, before the public eye for 15 years. Freedom’s investigation documented how Pratt was a target of the notorious counter-intelligence program of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, and never received a fair trial. After 27 years behind bars, Pratt emerged victorious from prison in 1997.

      And it was in Freedom that Jim Garrison, immortalized in the film “JFK,” broke his media silence of many years in 1986 after being hounded nearly to his death for exposing possible US intelligence agency involvement in President Kennedy’s assassination.

      When one reviews history, it is often easier to assign virtues of integrity, honesty and courage in retrospect to those who shaped that history than it is to support them in their battles for reform while they are still fighting them. Thus, the truth is often lost in “controversy” or simply swept away in the current of the mass media.

      It was in tribute to those who excel in championing human rights that in 1988 Freedom instituted human rights leadership profiles as a regular feature of the magazine and bestowed the first Freedom Human Rights Leadership Awards. Through these, the positive contributions of individuals in government, law, social betterment, media and other segments of society who have advanced or protected human rights are appropriately recognized.

      A decade later, it is a year of multiple anniversaries in the field of human rights: the 10th of Freedom’s Human Rights Leadership Awards, the 30th of Freedom itself, and the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—forged in the hope of fostering a world in which basic rights and freedoms of every individual are recognized as inherent.

      In this special anniversary issue, we revisit some of the significant stories of these past three decades and pay tribute to the men and women of indomitable spirit who have worked to create a better world.

      Through this review of events and those who have shaped them, we also hope to inspire vows to do one’s part to ensure that history either will—or will not—repeat itself. Either vow is a dedication to public service, and one in which complacency has no part.

      We welcome your views

      —The Editors

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