Topic 2: Human Rights

Nature and Evolution of Human Rights

Definition of Human Rights

  • Fundamental rights that all human are entitled to
  • Universal Human rights are the belief that all human deserve equal treatment regardless of our status and are often supported by the law through certain treaties. These rights include but are not limited to: freedom of speech, right to life,liberty and security, freedom of religion and the right to a fair trial. Those who infringe on other people’s  human rights  and cause an infraction can be brought to justice and be given a fair trial.
    • Inalienability- they cannot be taken away
      • Jail- restricts your right to freedom
  • Guantanamo Bay
    • Indivisibility- they cannot be divided into group, they help each other improve
    • Equality- apply to everyone: gender, sex, race, nationality
    • Equal treatment- under the government, everyone is provided same opportunities and  punishments there is no difference
    • Universal- everyone, every culture, every government

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

  • Created in 1948 by the UN to implement human rights after WWII because fear grew about something similar happening again
  • Commission on Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt (United States) was unanimously elected Chairman, with P.C. Chang (China) elected as Vice-Chairman, Charles Malik (Lebanon) was chosen to be Rapporteur and more members included: Australia, Chile, France, USSR, UK and Canada,
  • Cornerstone legal document for human rights
  • Voted within in General assembly: 48 in favor, 8 absence and none against
  • Effective: agreed upon rights within the UN and broken up into different binding and enforceable treaties such as International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights  
  • Ineffective: not legally enforceable, can be considered a western document/concept and it was not signed by everyone

Developments in human rights over time and space

  • The Cyrus Cylinder (539 B.C)
    • Cyrus the Great when Conquering babylon, he freed slaved and allowed free religion regardless of status (established equality)
  • Magna Carta (1215 A.D)
    • Turning to point of establishing freedom as everyone was made equal under King John
  • The Constitution of the United States of America (1787) and Bill of Rights (1791 A.D)
    • The first ten amendments to the Constitution— limiting the powers of the federal government and protecting the rights of all citizens, residents and visitors in American territory.
  • Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789)
    • French declaration for natural rights of the citizens after monarchy was abolished and the republic was put into place
  • The First Geneva Convention (1864)
    • Protect the treatment of civilians, wounded soldiers and prisoners of war
    • Led to establishment of Red Cross

Internationalizing Human Rights

  • UDHR
  • European Convention on Human Rights
  • American Convention on Human Rights-OAS
    • Pact of San Jose- adopted by many western hemisphere countries
  • European Convention on Human Rights- COE
    • Intl treaty to protect fundamental freedoms and rights
    • Anyone who has felt their rights have been violated can take the case to court
  • Universal Jurisdiction  (UJ)
    • A state or organization can try anyone who they believe have committed a crime
    • Determined by treaty’s: who and when has UJ
      • Intl Criminal Court has UJ
  • Intl Human Rights Law
    • Made up out of treaties
    • Designed to promote and protect human rights on social, regional and national level


Codification, protection and monitoring of human rights

Human rights laws and treaties

  • Role of custom-  making it regular/common to use the UDHR and other Human Rights treaties at different level of government
  • Human Right in Constitution
    • South Africa- outlines rights such as: right to dignity and equality but also states where rights can be limited
    • Brazil- outlines rights amazingly however when put into practice, it is ineffective
  • International examples of Human Rights Constitutions
    • Rome Statute (1998) -treaty which established the ICC
      • Statue establish courts jurisdiction, function and structure
      • 4 core intl crime: genocide, war crime, crime against humanity and aggression crimes
  • World War II- Hitler
      • Only when states are ‘unable’ and ‘unwilling’ to do
    • Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (1990)
      • Protect migrant workers and families
      • It makes significant the connection between HR and migrant workers
      • Enforced in 2003 when reach 20 signatories with El Salvador and Guatemala signed it
    • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)
      • Parties work on granting Economic, Social and Cultural rights
  • Right to housing
  • Right to culture
  • Right to health
      • Apart of Intl Bill of HR
      • Very similar to UDHR (ENFORCEMENT)
    • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)
      • Parties work on granting Civil and Political Rights
  • Right to life
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom of speech
      • Apart of Intl Bill of HR
      • Very similar to UDHR (ENFORCEMENT)

Protection and enforcement of human rights at different levels

  • International level: ICC, International Court of Justice
    • How effective
      • Defendants are entitled to public and fair proceedings
      • Victims and witness are protected
      • Court has 2-way communication with communities affected
  • Regional level: Inter American Commission on Human Rights, African Union
    • *example of trials*
  • State level: Cambodian Tribunal (supreme court)
    • Although a National/state level court it is a agreement with the UN and Government of Cambodia
    • Tries members of the Khmer Rouge violation of intl. Law (genocide) with mostly Cambodian personnel and international aid (local and foreign judges)
  • Local Court
    • theft in local community eg. Bermuda bank robbery

Monitoring human rights agreements

  • NGOS- Apart of civil society-public political space, can act trans/nationally and rely heavily
    • Amnesty International (1961, London)
      • Lobbying-Letter writing campaign: name & shame
      • Membership of 300,000/16.6 mil  in Netherland, approx: 1.8%- similar membership to second largest trade union (CNV)
  • Results in powerful voice for human rights in dutch foreign policy
    • Human Rights Watch  (1978)
      • Provides accurate reports on HR abuses which is used on television
      • Defends people worldwide and investigates abuses, guided by intl human rights and humanitarian law
    • Minority Rights Group
      • Make sure disadvantaged people’s voice are heard
      • Protecting and promoting the human rights of discriminated minorities in Egypt- 10-15% of religious minorities suffer from long-term marginalization
  • Providing legal support for up to 10 victims because of discriminatory law related to their minority
  • Setting up network to monitor discrimination around Egypt  
  • Support 8 egyptian activist to advocate and raise intl awareness at united nation
  • NGO- how effective?
    • Ineffective
      • Cannot Idealize
      • Good intention but largely ineffective
      • Issues of financial stability
      • Lack Power unlike a state, must act through state
      • Power of public opinion is hard
    • Effective
      • Nothin to distract them, ‘one goal’
      • Many have excellent reputation for achievements
      • Key mechanism for making a human rights a norm and spreading
  • Ombudsman- public advocate to hired by individual or government represent interest of public by investigating maladministration or rights violations
  • Monitoring election-observation of election by one or more parties to record fraud
    • Ineffective
      • Organization of American States
      • European Commission

Practice of human rights

Claims on human rights

  • Gender equality- patriarchy and women being equal to men
  • Labour rights-working union’s, safe conditions, child labor laws
  • Same sex marriage
    • Article 16 of UDHR vs religion
    • 22 recognize: Argentina,Canada, Denmark, Ireland,New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden,] the United States, and Uruguay.
  • Indigenous peoples
    • No clear definition
      • In Africa, everyone is seen as ‘indigenous’ so a definition could exclude particular groups
    • Native americans, hunter-gatherers in amazon
    • 370 million around the world
    • Collectivism vs individual
      • Accepts  individual that indigenous have rights;same as human
      • Does not accept the indigenous peoples
    • Problems
      • not apart of the govt, who are incharge of these things
      • Environment- govt. and companies wanting to exploit the vast resources without any compensations
      • 26 their rights have been the UN, no other groups of people had to wait so long
    • Solutions-idealistic
      • Cultural survivor- letter writing campaigns for the peoples
      • UN need to develop a Declaration on rights of indigenous people
    • What do they want?
      • Recognized-own culture, language, pray on ancestral land w/o it being dug up
      • Respect- ‘self determination’, govern their own lives, be interdependent but be able to participate in that country’s politics and econmy as it affects them
      • Equality-treated the same, full human beings, without torture, genocide etc and access to their education and freedom and participate in a country as policies must be compatible to have equality
      • Right to their land- to have access to what they had ‘before’, transparent process to the solution if land must be taken away,
      • Alone- not be involved with states war, normally indigenous land becomes ‘battle zone, need to be recognized they are sovereign

Violations on human rights

  • Debatable: Concept of Jail
  • Child Soldiers
    • Definition
      • Child (under 18) associated with armed forces, been recruited w/wo force
    • British army, how can they promote?
      • regular soldier you need to be at least 16 years old, although you can start the application process earlier, with your parents’ permission. If you’re under 18, you’ll also need parental consent to join.
    • ISIS
      • Recruitment as young as 8;load, shoot, suicide bombers
      • Long term: Depends on children to continue legacy
      • “I must listen and obey, even if I must die”
      • Horrible consequences for not joining; Eg. Omar lost his hand
  • Guantanamo Bay-detention center for suspected terrorist
    • Denied rights under geneva convention
    • Amnesty; symbol for injustice and abuse  
      • No trial and torture
    • 120 on hunger strike, 44/120 are forced fed
    • Cell is a box, interrogation is 24 hr
      • Mohamedou Ould Slahi Is, No evidence/charges against him, 14 years
      • 84 cleared, some were cleared for release for 5 years
      • E.g Shaker Amear
      • Camp 5 is worst,intentionally bad, cruel
    • Arguments for
      • Relocation to other places USA, less cruel
      • Against Human rights
      • Geneva convention
      • Existence of guantanamo is mere reason of recruitment for enemy
    • Argument against
      • Yemen: Transfers were put on indefinite hold because of instability in Yemen,  fear that some might join Al Qaeda forces, inability to put adequate security measures in place.
      • Getting better, most in communal
      • May just recreate in the USA, and be worse  
      • Need better solution, some of these men are dangerous
      • Focus on finding answer to war not this

Debates surrounding human rights: differing interpretations of justice, liberty and equality

Individual versus. collective rights;

  • Identity defined through individual characteristics or group membership
    • Are group rights necessary, or groups served better interest through enforcement of individual rights  
    • 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide specifically bans violence targeting a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group for destruction.Reflects the growing notion that “membership of a minority community entails distinct human rights”
  • Classic liberal approach, which remains dominant today, emphasizes individual rights over collective rights i.e individual characteristics

Universal rights versus. cultural relativism

  • Culture give us identity; habits, ethics, religion, relationship, law (not fixed-changes overtime and collides)
  • Women’s Rights-Saudi Arabia
    • Justified: Sharia law, protect their citizens prescribed in quran; more women enroll in higher education; Shura council made sure women occupy at least 20% of seats
    • Unjustified:AI state they discriminate, not protected against sexual violence and in 2013 a law criminalizing domestic violence was no t enforced to to lack of authority, plus women’s rights activist have been charged as ‘terrorist’
  • FGM-Egypt
    • Illegal since 2008, egypt still has the highest rate, 90% of women under 50 have experienced
    • Justified: not linked to any culture or religion,not an excuse, used to control women’s sexuality ensure chastity  
    • Unjustified: 2007 announced as forbidden but Human Rights watch accused them in 2014 because lack of investigation and prosecutions; In january 2015 a doctor was convicted of manslaughter to a13  yr old
  • Universal-UDHR
    • Don’t treat all countries the same
    • Human Rights abuses in countries with too much/little power
  • Relative- other ways of seeing
    • Govt. to express identity
    • Local culture rather than global ideology
    • BUT allows countries to choose which hr they want to uphold

Politicization of human rights

  • Responsibility to protect  
  • Un focuses too much on israel at the expense of other human rights
  • 2013, AU  announced that the UN was biased, focusing on Africa; 2015 only successful convictions were africans
  • Lack consistency
  • Sanction- restrict trade- nothing to do issue  
    • Responsibility of Sanctions
      • Nation suffers- political pressure
      • Favoring sanction (too optimistic about nations suffering and them placing pressure)
      • 1990s, Iraq was under series of economic sanction; result, 700000-1000000 died
      • contradiction , countries hurt
    • Works on with a group multilateral, easy
    • Win Policy -Cuba and USA (broad) vs West and Russia (narrow)  
      • Cuba: change regime, avoid conflict
      • Russia: stop in ukraine aggressive and deter influence


IA: Presentations (HL)

For HL students, a specific real-life example must be analyzed through Glopol theories. One must choose a topic from the mentioned below, and a 10-minute presentation must be given for each case study. This is filmed and assessed internally, but will be subjected to IB moderation.

Check this page for complete tips and how-to’s: HL Glopol Presentation Notes

Unit 2: Human Rights

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Have you ever heard of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Founded in 1948 after the Second World War, it aimed to serve as the basis of the governance of the human rights everyone on this planet- yes, including your annoying frenemy- regardless of any factor such as age, race, gender, religious affiliation and much more.

Here’s the link to the complete Unit 2: Human Rights which would delve even more into topics such as indigenous rights and violations of human rights across various countries.

ps once again, many thanks to Ben!