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HUMAN RIGHTS: ASSESSED ESSAY Introduction 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 Axis 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". This paradox existing between the growing importance of Human Rights and their constant breaches is made even more surprising by the fact that Human Rights became "in the century's finale a pervasive global cause, culminating in the most unusual of modern wars, the NATO intervention in Kosovo"1 and the American expeditions in the Middle East (Afghanistan and Iraq). As never before, the foreign political stage is seemingly dominated by claims for basic political, individual and even social and economical rights (with the growth of an anti-globalization movement). So strong is that tendency, that Human Rights offenses are now hunted down whether they are past (for example the attempt to bring Augusto Pinochet to justice)
'almost all nation observe almost all principles of international law and almost all of their obligations almost all of the times'"11. This assertion can definitely be regarded as false when it comes to Human Rights. Examples can be found involving "almost" all the countries "almost" all of the times. It took America nearly forty years to ratify, with qualifying conditions the 1948 Genocide Convention. France has never transcripted in its national law the UN Charter for the Rights of Children (which has never been ratified by the USA). Last but not least, most of the genocides that have been perpetrated since the end of World War II, have taken place in countries party to the already quoted 1948 Genocide Convention (Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Iraq, etc...). In fact, it seems impossible to imagine a way of enforcing Human Rights when one reckons that it is already impossible to enforce the principles of international law. Indeed, the respect of international agreements is completely left to the will of the nations parties to these agreements. The respect (or non-respect) of a signed treaty is a matter of sovereignty and no sanction can be envisaged but a military intervention violating this concept of sovereignty. This is also Carlos Santiago Nino's stance: according to this author the most serious limitation of the strategy of enforcing Human Rights is "that the still current conception of sovereignty of states impose severe restrictions on the obligations that governments accept by their commitment and on the forms of intervention available to external organs for investigating and punishing Human Rights violations"12. The conception of a potential international normative system has to clash with the ideal of self determination because there is no 'global civil society'. Or in Chris Brown's words "properly understood, 'civil society' requires an effective state, while 'global civil society' is characteristically seen as a substitute for such a political order. Furthermore, it may be doubted that the mind-set required to make a civil society work actually exists in the world today"13.
- 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.23 1 Karl Meyer, enforcing human rights, in www.worldpolicy.com. 2 Oona Hathaway, Global Legal Information & Human Rights in the 21st Century, in www.worldpolicy.com 3 Kirsten Sellars, The rise and rise of Human Rights, Sutton publishing, 2002. 4 Director of the institute of public affairs, University of Minnesota quoted in The rise and rise of Human Rights 5 F.E Dowrick, introduction in Human Rights problems, perspectives and texts, Saxon House, 1979, p.6. 6 Peter Jones, Human Rights and diverse cultures: continuity or discontinuity? In www.worldpolicy.com 7 UN Chronicle, January 1978, p 68 quoted by F.E Dowrick in Human Rights problems, perspectives and texts, Saxon House, 1979. 8 F.E Dowrick, introduction in Human Rights problems, perspectives and texts, Saxon House, 1979, p.22. 9 Karl Meyer, enforcing human rights, in www.worldpolicy.com 10 Tom Campbell, Realizing Human Rights in Human Rights: from rhetoric to reality, Blackwell, 1986, p.1. 11 Oona Hathaway, Global Legal Information & Human Rights in the 21st Century, in www.worldpolicy.com. 12 Carlos Santiago Nino, The Ethics of Human Rights, Clarendon Press, 1991, p.3. 13 Chris Brown, Cosmopolitanism, World citizenship and Global Civil Society, in www.worldpolicy.com 14 Karl Meyer, enforcing human rights, in www.worldpolicy.com 15 Oona Hathaway, Global Legal Information & Human Rights in the 21st Century, in www.worldpolicy.com 16 Karl Meyer, enforcing human rights, in www.worldpolicy.com. 17 Michael Ignatieff quoted in www.worldpolicy.com. 18 see Noam Chomsky, Rogue States, Pluto press, 2000, chapter 2. 19 L.J McFarlane, The theory and practice of Human Rights, Maurice Temple Smith, 1985, p. 12-13. 20 Both quoted by Noam Chomsky in Rogue States, Pluto press, 2000, chapter 9, p. 112-113. 21 Steven Donziger, The real war on crime: The report of the National Criminal Justice Commission, HarperCollins, 1996. 22 Tom Campbell, Realizing Human Rights in Human Rights: from rhetoric to reality, Blackwell, 1986, p.11. 23 in www.udhr.org 0256595 1
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