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Obsolete human rights

Forfatter: Ferdinand von Schirach
Forlag: Luchterhand (Tyskland)

FREEDOM: Ferdinand von Schirach will inspire a modernization of the democratic system.

Humans' inner compass of value adapts in step with the times. Nowadays, this is happening faster than ever, as the world around us is in continuous turbo mode. Now, however, society's toolbox is lagging behind. All the world's algorithms can do sadly little with that. What they CAN do is, for example, develop machines that take control of us. This can be well-intentioned, as protection, but it can also end in unwantred exposure and vandalism of the private sphere.

Netzpolitik.org is a platform for digital freedom. Here, people are currently concerned with the police's processing of air passengers' personal data. According to Netzpolitik, the German criminal service can by regulation explore all guests on international flights, using "patterns". In this way, "currently unknown suspects" will be tracked down. These are people who have never before made a name for themselves, and not at all with anything illegal. It has been established that at least one police body in an EU country treats people as suspicious if "their luggage does not match the duration and geography of the travel stay". Anyone who is marked in this way can be spied on, detained, questioned and investigated. Where does this stop? When will these espionage systems be used on trains, buses, ferries, private transport? When will we be located by the authorities, wherever we are?

Legal boundaries

There is an urgent need to develop legal limits for trampling of many kinds. Author and lawyer Ferdinand von Schirach wants to do something about it. The initiative has led to the formation of the Stiftung Jeder Mensch (The Every Man Foundation). In the booklet of the same name, he formulates six fundamental rights he believes are deficiencies in the European Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights. He himself calls it utopias.

The six rights (with detailed comments from the foundation's lawyers, here only indicated) are:

  1. Every human being has the right to live in a healthy and protected environment. (The existing pact is too vague. The amendment describes a fundamental right to protection of the environment, including climate and species protection, thereby increasing the significance.)
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2.Everyone has the right to digital self-determination. Spying or manipulation of people shall be prohibited. (Existing data laws are outdated and do not correspond to today's digital reality.)

  1. Every human being has the right to be subject to algorithms that are transparent, controllable and affordable. (Humans must be allowed to make their own decisions in all areas of life, regardless of what algorithms refer to.)
  2. Every human being has the right to crave that the statements of official representatives are true. (Means are needed against state lies. Belief in the political system is a mainstay of democracy.)
  3. Every human being has the right to goods and services offered in accordance with universal human rights. (Human rights must be the current standard, set against a rampant globalized business community.)
  4. Anyone can, in the event of a systematic violation of this pact, lodge a complaint with European courts. (Without the support of the judiciary, there is little point in appealing. In the existing EU pact, the right of appeal is omitted for several practical reasons.)

Von Schirach places himself within a grand context. The critics could write him off as something he otherwise is – a fiction writer. He has therefore wisely allied himself with professionals. They have elaborated on point no. 6 in particular. It's not about individuals. In certain cases, for example where refugees or minorities are violated, people should unite and point to a systemic violation of human rights. Thus, vulnerable groups (including outside Europe's borders) are better protected, and the courts (European or national) avoid congestion. Costs should be waived.


The term utopian is understandable. By all accounts, however, it is not self-ironic. We recall that the historic landmark Declaration of Human Rights of July 4, was a utopia of its kind: “We take these truths for granted. That all human beings are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain indisputable rights; that includes life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. "

Even if EU countries systematically break the rules they have made, they cannot
be brought before a European Court of Justice.

Eleven years later, 11 delegates met in Philadelphia to draft the US Constitution. 55 of them owned slaves. Around 25 700 men, women and children lived in slavery in the newborn United States. According to the chroniclers, George Washington, who chaired the meeting, had an ivory denture and nine teeth that were pulled from his slaves.

In other words, the human rights of that time did not correspond to reality. At best, they represented the desire for a different reality. It is a foundation in the creation of the European Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights, which came into being in December 2009. It is based on the human rights convention, the social contract, the laws of the member states and their courts. However, von Schirach points out, even if EU countries systematically break the rules they have made, they cannot be brought before a European court.


The EU pact is therefore still a Work in progress. And this is work that in a legal context involves brand new challenges – through social media, globalization, algorithms and climate change. Therefore, Ferdinand von Schirach will inspire a modernization of the democratic system.

The foundation encourages everyone to participate. Von Schirach himself has been preparing through a long pandemic year, in which human rights have unexpectedly gained new relevance, not to mention the impact of four years of precarious politics in the United States. Already in the little book Nevertheless (Trotzdem), published in April 2020, he addresses the topic in a conversation with lawyer, filmmaker and author Alexander Kluge. Here they refer, among other things, to the French philosopher Charles Montesquieu and his influential work L’esprit de lois (Spirit of the law). Here, a free society is described, where only the law should be allowed to impose something on the citizen. Here are the thoughts about the three divisions of power. The church, fearing that in a free society it would lose its power, banned the book. To little use. 40 years later, The Declaration of Rights in America was signed, and shortly after the Declaration of Human Rights in France; this still while the guillioutin ruled. Typically for big ideas – they are ahead of their time.

We, the people give ourselves the extended human rights. If Ferdinand von Schirach gets what he wants. For the benefit of every human being.

Ranveig Eckhoff
Eckhoff is a regular reviewer for Ny Tid.

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