Vatican official: 'No nation fully observes human rights'

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Sixty years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the landmark U.N. document still is not respected fully around the world, said a top Vatican official.

"Unfortunately nowhere in the world, even among (countries) that have embraced, promoted and highlighted this declaration," are all its articles observed, said Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

The cardinal spoke Nov. 13 at a Vatican press conference detailing events the Vatican will sponsor Dec. 10 to commemorate the anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly's adoption of the declaration in 1948.

He said the world's prisons display some of the worst violations of human rights and dignity.

"When I visit these penal institutes ... it's as if the declaration never even existed," he said.

Some prisons in northern or central Italy are so overcrowded that prisoners must spend the day lying in their bunk beds because six people are living in a cell built for two and there is no place to stand, he said.

Even if a person must be subjected to punishment for a crime, he or she is still a person whose basic rights and dignity must be respected, he said, "but the respect for the human being in our imprisoned brothers and sisters is far, far from being practiced by all governments."

Cardinal Martino said the declaration's anniversary will be celebrated with a special commemoration at the Vatican featuring Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state; Juan Somavia, head of the International Labor Organization; and Jacques Diouf, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

The same day the Vatican will host a concert by the Frankfurt Brandenburg State Orchestra conducted by Spanish composer Inma Shara. It will be the first time a woman conducts a concert at the Vatican, Cardinal Martino said.

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