The European Union’s Human Rights Document

Opinion: The British Empire: A legacy of violence?

Today, I am sitting in the company room of the Human Rights Commission of the European Union, in Brussels. It is an hour after midnight. I am meeting the commission’s secretary-general today, who is going to tell me what the members think about the draft report my organisation has brought to light. This document, published at the very end of 2018, is one of the most important human rights documents ever produced.

The commission has already sent it to all 28 member states. This document, which we had the privilege of preparing, is very much a reflection of what human rights have meant to the people of the continent for a century and a half, since the first modern rights treaties were ratified.

It is a reflection of what human rights have meant in the European Union, since 1945, when the European Coal and Steel Community was born. It is also a reflection of a century of the modern wars of Europe, from World War One, when Europe was torn apart by the bloodshed of the First World War and the second world war. It is a reflection of a continent that was born as an empire to conquer the world, but which was also built as an empire to conquer itself.

And, of course, it is a reflection of the brutality with which Europeans conquered the indigenous peoples of the Americas, the colonised peoples of the old world and the people of the new world, the descendants of the first Europeans, the Asians who had been brought to Europe to work on the ships. There were many thousands of innocent people who were murdered.

But, at the end of this story, is it something new? Is it something new that we have to fight and to resist again and again? Or is this our inheritance? Is it something we have to fight and to resist because it is the truth of our history? Is it something we have to fight and to resist because it is the truth of our humanity?

In the commission’s report, we are going to try to explain to our citizens what we

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