HOW FAR IS THE IDEA OF UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS AN ILLUSION?
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HOW FAR IS THE IDEA OF UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS AN ILLUSION? The modern notion of human rights was born in the direct aftermath of World War II. It is indeed with the discovery of the atrocities committed by the Nazi forces that a strong "Never Again" political stream arose in the international community, culminating with the adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights. Since that day, human rights have been established as a major and legitimate focus of international attention. In the half century since, hundreds of universal, regional or national agreements governing human rights issues have arisen. Yet, in the meantime, major breaches of human rights have been witnessed from South America (Chile, Argentina) to Far East Asia (North Korea, China) on what appears to be a worldwide scale. Even more frightening is the constatation that these breaches are often committed in or by states that are parties to one or more treaties on Human Rights. Such a situation could have been understood in the light of the statu quo existing during the Cold War, when the ideological division of the world was the first concern. But as stated by Farer & Gaer: In the wake of the Cold War the UN has finally become an agent for democratisation and minority protection.
Some solutions to the problem have already been found particularly with the growing influence of some effective regional agreements (the European Convention on Human Rights for example), the growing influence of the non governmental organizations (Amnesty International, Doctors without Borders) and the already quoted trials of war criminals from Kosovo and Rwanda. Nevertheless, these examples are exceptions in a world where Human Rights are hardly enforced. US ambassador Morris Abram once described the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the idea of Human Rights as little more than an empty vessel into which vague hopes and inchoate expectations can be poured, a dangerous incitement, and even preposterous. With as much disregard but much more objectivism, the soviet delegate Andrei Vyshinsky used to say the Universal declaration was a letter to Santa Claus. Neither Nature, experience, nor probability informs these lists of entitlements, which are subjects to no constraint except those of the mind and appetite of their authors. Indeed, reports routinely pinpoint the promoters of Human Rights as perpetrators of consequent violations of those rights. Yet, there is no Human Rights enforcement system apart from the great powers, decisively the USA. Being judges and parties, these powers do little to comply with the international standards of Human rights in their behaviour.
To conclude with, one must reckon that la raison dtat (the political imperatives) is too often interfering with the possibility of enforcing Human Rights. This fact is to be regretted for those rights which have priority over other rights may have an extensive core which is inviolable even in state of emergency. Nevertheless, a practical example of Human Rights enforcement is to be found in the European experience. On this model, observers are often recommending the three following way of enforcing Human Rights: Customary international law based on protection established through the UN Charter, universal treaty regimes collectively called the International Bill of Rights in some part reliant on enforcement by UN organs, increasing of the influence of regional treaties as the ECHR. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 25/05/2007  Karl Meyer, enforcing human rights, in www.worldpolicy.com.  Oona Hathaway, Global Legal Information & Human Rights in the 21st Century, in www.worldpolicy.com  Both quoted by Noam Chomsky in Rogue States, Pluto press, 2000, chapter 9, p. 112-113.  Steven Donziger, The real war on crime: The report of the National Criminal Justice Commission, HarperCollins, 1996.  Tom Campbell, Realizing Human Rights in Human Rights: from rhetoric to reality, Blackwell, 1986, p.11.  www.udhr.org
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