As the 20th century ended, a peace process brought the troubles in Northern Ireland to resolution. Universal jurisdiction had brought the case of Pinochet before the courts in Britain. There would be no impunity for dictators who had tortured and killed. As the millennium dawned, it seemed we were entering a whole new era where human rights would at last be on every agenda. The right to life, the human yearning for freedom and liberty would be a rallying cry. The freedom to live free from torture, freedom of association and trade unions in your communities, in your colleges. Freedom to protest, freedom of expression, freedom to oppose government, freedom of thought and belief and religion. Freedom to love and be loved by whoever you chose. The right to liberty only withdrawn after due process in a fair trial. The words on our lips were self-determination, agency and dignity.
But the new century brought events that diminished that hope. We now live in a time of international terrorism, war and a resurgence of authoritarianism that has been a creeping reality especially in the last few years. Enforced disappearances, rendition and torture have all increased. We have also been witness to the creation of statelessness, extrajudicial killings, assassinations by drones, poisoning and beheadings. The use of chemical weapons, abductions, mass rape and gender based violence has come back on a shocking scale, along with the manifest misogyny and abuse of women and girls. We have seen the violent crushing of peaceful protest, racist policing, and the mass incarceration of Black communities in particular.