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) or more recent (in Rwanda and ex-Yugoslavia). One of the best examples of the importance of that concern is to be found in the development of the Belgian legal doctrine of universal competence for the Belgian courts. But the attempts to bring to trial actual leaders of different countries and the potential diplomatic clashes that would have resulted (in april 2003 a request was even brought against the U.S president Georges W. Bush) convinced the Belgian authorities to deprive that concept of substance by raising the level of requirements for such actions and overcomplicating the procedure.

The reason of the existing discrepancy between the position of the international opinion and the still going breaches of Human Rights mainly lays in the difficulties faced when it comes to enforce these human rights. As stated supra, perpetrators of Human Rights violations are often the countries that are bound by treaties to respect them or even that are at the origin of those regulations. Iraq, Rwanda and Yugoslavia had all ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishement of the Crime of Genocide, before being themselves the stages of such genocide. The USA and the United Kingdom themselves have often been pinpointed as perpetrators of gross breaches of Human Rights, in the penitentiary sector for example (the first one for the constant application of death penalty and the unfairness of the American judicial system, the second one for the detention conditions of Northern Irish prisoners).

Moreover, according to Oona Hathaway2 it is possible that countries with worse Human Rights practice are more inclined to ratify Human Rights treaties. "Ratification of a Human Rights treaty, after all, allows a government to send a message to the world that it is committed to the principles outlined in the treaty. This message may be honest and sincere. But as the examples of Iraq and Afghanistan suggest, if the treaty is poorly monitored and enforced, countries face little or no penalty for failure to match rethoric and action". This lack of enforcement comes in light with even more accuracy when it comes to policing the great powers in their misbehaviour: there is simply no possibility of forcing the USA, China, Russia, Great Britain or France into respecting their obligations.

Some explanations have been brought about the difficulties faced in the struggle for enforcing Human Rights amongst which:

- The reality of a consensus on Human Rights and the conflicts over them.

- The lack of strength of international law.

- The lack of transcription of the ratified treaties into national legislations and the current reliance on self-policing.

- The potential lack of coherence of the nations which gave birth to these principles.

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 governemental 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.
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I- Consensus and conflict over Human Rights

The notion of Human Rights has been presented either as an emanation of the modern western culture or as a concept as old as civilization itself. In her introduction3 Kirsten Sellars report that the idea of Human rights being such an old concept has been widely supported by those who have interest in the propagation of this notion. The common idea is to root Human Rights in the ancient Greece tradition, mistaking them for the concept of natural law. According to Harlan Cleveland4, "In the long history of civilization, they ...

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