History and Concepts of Human Rights
Published: Tue, 02 Jan 2018
A. HISTORY + CONCEPTS OF HUMAN RIGHTS
1. What were the major conceptual and historical influences on the drafting of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
The major conceptual and historical influences on the drafting of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights had began at the beginning of the Second World War then the prominent scholars of that time started writing about the importance of Human Rights. The prominent British utopian writer H. G. Wells launched a campaign to bring Human Rights to the attention of the public at large. In yearly 1940s Wells, had written a lot of works concerning with the issue of Human Rights. Hence he entitled one of his books The Right of Man or What Are We Fighting For? He spoke or corresponded with any leading figures of the time, including Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Jan Masaryk, Gandhi and many others, who at the end of the war would draft the preamble of the United Nations Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Right. Many other individuals and NGOs added their contributions, such as the journalist Clarence Streit published his book Union Now: A Proposal, urging all democratic nations to unite on behalf of individual freedoms and what he called “the rights of man.” (Paul Gordon Lauren, 2003). Freeman (2002, p.32) points that the period from French Revolution to the Second World War was the dark age of the concept of human rights.. So, one can say that, at the end of the Second World War, the people had realized the importance of the concept of Human Rights.
2. What were the main contemporary events influencing the drafting of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
“The campaign reminds us that in a world still reeling from the horrors of the Second World War, the Declaration was the first global statement of what we now take for granted — the inherent dignity and equality of all human beings.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (2008)
From his words one can say that the main event which had great influence on drafting of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the Second World War. The horror of the Second World War made international community to act towards human rights and to prevent future wars.
3. How would you describe the competing conceptions of rights that existed during the period of the Cold War?
In 1976, the two conventions finally came into force with thirty-five states ratifying them. The two conventions were the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Why two covenants? The Cold War was still firmly in place, and the focus of the two political blocs (U.S. and the USSR) had very different emphases on what counted as human rights. The U.S. bloc focused on civil and political rights, while the Soviet bloc focused more on economic and social rights. The Commission wisely drafted two separate conventions to reflect this difference in focus (Centre on Law & Globalization n.d.).
4. With reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the concept of ‘dignity’, outline the human rights perspective on torture.
Article 5 of the UDHR states that “[n]o one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”, and the prohibition against torture and abuse is now codified in a number of international and regional treaties to which many countries are a party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention Against Torture. The prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is absolute and non-derogable. Unfortunately, violations of this most prized human right occur routinely in many prisons, although they are sanctioned by official policy (Human Rights Watch 2009).
5. Outline and characterize in not more than 75 words the relationship between religious freedom and gender equality.
To resolve conflicts between the two sets of rights, we need balancing approach based on facts. The factors that she highlights as important to consider when the rights clash include: the relationship between the equality right and the goal of gender equality, the importance of the religious practice to the right of religious freedom, the degree of infringement, the relation of other human rights to the conflict, the cumulative effects of religious limitations on women’s rights, and the proportionality of restrictions on religious laws (NYU of Law 2009).
6. Why does Donnelly (Donnelly 2003, pp.22-37 & 204-224) argue that individuals, rather than groups, are the proper subject of human rights?
Donnelly (2003 p.25) argues that if human rights are the rights that one has simply as a human being, then only human beings have human rights; if one is not a human being, by definition one cannot have human rights. Because only individual persons are human beings, it would seem that only individuals can have human rights.
7. Identify and discuss in no more than 75 words the impact of TWO events on the expansion of human rights in the last ten years.
From my point view one of the events is the end of Cold War Era and second is Terrorism. The end of Cold War had opened new borders for spreading the concept of Human Rights. The second event which had an impact on the expansion of human rights is Terrorism. Nowadays Terrorism is the most threat to anyone, and this “word” is everywhere and lots of people are suffering. So these two events had a great impact on the expansion of human rights.
B. INTERNATIONAL MACHINERY
8. Explain the difference between a declaration and a treaty.
A treaty is a legally binding convention, coming into force upon ratification by a certain number of States. A declaration is not legally binding but carries moral weight because it is adopted by the international community (UN 2009)
9. Which international treaty has the most ratifications, and how many? More countries have ratified the Convention than any other human rights treaty in history-192 countries had become State Parties to the Convention as of November 2005 (UNICEF 2009).
10. Which rights are non-derogable under the ICCPR? What does this mean?
According to the Article 4, section 2 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) no derogation from articles 6, 7, 8 (paragraphs I and 2), 11, 15, 16 and 18 may be made under this provision. Well this means that sates can not ‘take measures derogating from their obligations […]‘ (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966)
11. Identify a case under the ICCPR Optional Protocol where the Committee has found in favour of the petitioner. Supply the citation for the case and summarise the Committee’s view in not more than 75 words.
Article I of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976) states that a State Party to the Covenant that becomes a Party to the present Protocol recognizes the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications from individuals subject to its jurisdiction who claim to be victims of a violation by that State Party of any of the rights set forth in the Covenant. No communication shall be received by the Committee if it concerns a State Party to the Covenant which is not a Party to the present Protocol. Well, Optional Protocol allows individuals to complain to the Human Rights Committee about violations of the Covenant.
12. In 100 words state what in your view was the most significant issue raised by the UN Human Rights Committee in its recent review of Finland and why.
Finland’s State Secretary of Political Affairs, Dr. Teija Tiilikainen (2008), said that despite progress the country still struggles with cases of racism and intolerance. Looking through the Universal Periodic Review, I made a conclusion that Finland still facing problems like discrimination, racism and xenophobic attitudes. In my opinion the most significant issue raised by UN Human Rights Committee is racism and intolerance. The issues of racism and intolerance were raised by UN because, from the history we can see that all these destabilisations within the country like racism, intolerance were bringing the country to the humanitarian crisis.
13. How does the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child define a child?
Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) defines child as, […] every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.
14. What has to happen before the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People enters into force?
Before the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People came into force, the UN established an Ad Hoc Committee “to consider proposals for a comprehensive and integral international convention to promote and protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, based on the holistic approach in the work done in the fields of social development, human rights and non-discrimination and taking into account the recommendations of the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission for Social Development.” (ENABLE 2007).
15. What reservation has Argentina made to CEDAW? What is the impact of this reservation?
The Government of Argentina declares that it does not consider itself bound by article 29, paragraph 1, of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Bayefsky 2008).
16. Who is the current United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons and when was she appointed?
The current United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons is Ms. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo from Nigeria. She was appointed in June 2008 (United Nations Human Rights 2009).
C. REGIONAL MACHINERY
17. Who is entitled to submit individual complaints under the European, American and African regional human rights systems and to which particular regional bodies?
According to the Article 34 of the Convention for the protection of Human Rights (2003) the court may receive applications from any person […] claiming to be the victim of violation by […]. Article 19 of the same Convention states, to ensure the observance of the engagements undertaken by the High Contracting Parties in the Convention and the Protocols thereto, there shall be set up a European Court of Human Rights, hereinafter referred to as “the Court”. It shall function on a permanent basis (European Court of Human Rights 2009). So basically, other regional human rights systems are established almost in the same way of European.
18. How many States are currently members of the Council of Europe? Which State is the most recent member? Which States’ special guest status has been suspended due to its lack of respect for human rights and democratic principles? Cite your source(s).
Currently members of the Council of Europe are 47 countries. The most recent member is
Montenegro, which joined the Council of Europe on 11th May 2007 (Council of Europe 2009). In January 1997 the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly decided to suspend the special guest status for the Parliament of Belarus. As a result, the consideration of Belarus application for membership in the Council of Europe was suspended, and the bilateral Cooperation Programme was frozen (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus 2009).
19. What Conventions has the Council of Europe adopted which offer specific protection for minorities?
There are several Conventions adopted by Council of Europe for the protection of minorities, such as European Convention on the repatriation of minors, European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (Council of Europe 2009).
20. When did the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture come into force and how many States are currently parties to it? What monitoring and/or enforcement machinery did the Convention establish and what does it do?
European Convention for the Prevention of Torture came into force on 1st March 2002 and it is ratified by 47 states. The Convention operates in relation to persons who allege that they are victims of violations of Article3 and the main purpose of the Convention is to protect people from torture (Council of Europe 2009).
21. When did the Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons come into force? How does it define forced disappearance?
The Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons came into force on May 28 1996 (The Secretariat for Legal Affairs n.d.). Article second of Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons (1994) defines that forced disappearance is considered to be the act of depriving a person or persons of his or their freedom, in whatever way, perpetrated by agents of the state or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of the state, followed by an absence of information or a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the whereabouts of that person, thereby impeding his or her recourse to the applicable legal remedies and procedural guarantees (The Secretariat for Legal Affairs n.d.).
22. Under what authority can States denounce the American Convention on Human Rights? When did Trinidad & Tobago denounce the ACHR and why?
According to the Article 78 of the American Convention on Human Rights (1969), The States Parties may denounce this Convention at the expiration of a five-year period from the date of its entry into force and by means of notice given one year in advance. Notice of the denunciation shall be addressed to the Secretary General of the Organization, who shall inform the other States Parties. The Denunciation of Trinidad and Tobago was notified in May 26, 1998, and denunciation was because of death penalty (The Secretariat for Legal Affairs n.d.).
23. When was Algeria’s 3rd and 4th periodic reports (submitted in September 2006) examined by the African Commission? To whom does the report say capital punishment does not apply in Algeria?
Algeria’s 3rd and 4th periodic reports were examined by the African Commission on it 42nd Ordinary Session from 15th to 28th of November in 2007 (African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights 2009). Capital punishment is not applicable to minors aged 13 to 18.Article 50 of the Criminal Code provides that “should be decided that a minor aged between 13 to 18 must be given criminal sentence […]. (People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria. African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Third and fourth periodical reports, 2006, p.13)
24. What instrument established the African Court of Human and People’s Rights? What jurisdiction does the Court have? Is it operational?
The African Court of Human and People’s Rights was established by African Charter of Human and People’s Rights (African International Courts and Tribunals n. d.). The Court has the competence to take final and binding decisions on human rights violations perpetrated by AU Member States.
The competence of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights is based on its jurisdiction and the law that it will apply when exercising this jurisdiction (African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights n. d.).The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Establishing the ACHPR entered into force on January 25, 2004 upon its ratification by fifteen member states. The statute of the ACHPR has not yet been promulgated and a seat for the court has yet to be determined, therefore much of the data regarding its functioning is not yet available (African International Courts and Tribunals n. d.). But the main functions of the Court has been set up, As mentioned above The Court has the competence to take final and binding decisions on human rights violations perpetrated by AU Member States (African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights n. d.). All together one can say that it is operational but not all of its functions have been set up.
25. When was the Arab League established? List its current membership. Why was Egypt’s membership suspended in 1979? What happened as a result? When was Egypt readmitted?
Arab League was established in 1945. The current members are 22 countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen (Al-bab n. d.). The membership of Egypt was stopped, because in 1979 Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel. As a result the headquarters was moved from Cairo to Tunis. Egypt was readmitted to the league in 1989 and the league’s headquarters was moved back to Cairo (Pan Arab n. d.).
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