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Human Rights:

A Brief Introduction
Stephen P. Marks
Harvard University

© Harvard University 2016

Marks 1 Human Rights

Human Rights: A Brief Introduction

Stephen P. Marks
Harvard University

I: Introduction .................................................................................................................................. 1  
II. Human rights in ethics, law and social activism ......................................................................... 1  
A. Human rights as ethical concerns ........................................................................................... 2  
B. Human rights as legal rights (positive law tradition) .............................................................. 3  
C. Human rights as social claims ................................................................................................ 4  
III: Historical milestones ................................................................................................................. 5  
IV: Tensions and controversies about human rights today ............................................................. 7  
A. Why do sovereign states accept human rights obligations? ................................................... 7  
B. How do we know which rights are recognized as human rights? ........................................... 8  
Table 1: List of human rights .............................................................................................. 9  
C. Are human rights the same for everyone? ............................................................................ 11  
D. How are human rights put into practice? .............................................................................. 13  
1. The norm-creating process ................................................................................................ 13  
Table 2: Norm-creating process ........................................................................................ 13  
2. The norm-enforcing process .............................................................................................. 14  
3. Continuing and new challenges to human rights realization ............................................ 16  
Table 3: Means and methods of human rights implementation ........................................ 17  
V: Conclusion ................................................................................................................................ 18  
Selected bibliography .................................................................................................................... 19  
Selected websites ........................................................................................................................... 19  
Universal Declaration of Human Rights ....................................................................................... 21  

discourse and some historical background of

I: Introduction the concept of human rights, this essay will
examine the tensions between human rights
Human rights constitute a set of norms
and state sovereignty, the challenges to the
governing the treatment of individuals and
universality of human rights, the
groups by states and non-state actors on the
enumeration of rights recognized by the
basis of ethical principles regarding what
international community, and the means
society considers fundamental to a decent
available to translate the high aspirations of
life. These norms are incorporated into
human rights into practice.
national and international legal systems,
which specify mechanisms and procedures
to hold the duty-bearers accountable and
II. Human rights in ethics, law and
provide redress for alleged victims of human social activism
rights violations.
There are numerous theoretical debates
After a brief discussion of the use of surrounding the origins, scope and
human rights in ethical, legal and advocacy significance of human rights in political
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Marks 2 Human Rights

science, moral philosophy, and can draw on concepts such as natural law,
jurisprudence. Roughly speaking, invoking social contract, justice as fairness,
the term “human rights” (which is often consequentialism and other theories of
referred to as “human rights discourse” or justice. In all these philosophical traditions,
“human rights talk”) is based on moral a right is conceived as an entitlement of
reasoning (ethical discourse), socially individuals, either by virtue of being human
sanctioned norms (legal/political discourse) or because they are members of a political
or social mobilization (advocacy discourse). community (citizens). In law, however, a
These three types of discourse are by no right is any legally protected interest,
means alternative or sequential but are all whatever the social consequence of the
used in different contexts, depending on enforcement of the right on the wellbeing of
who is invoking human rights discourse, to persons other than the right-holder (e.g., the
whom they are addressing their claims, and property right of a landlord to evict a tenant,
what they expect to gain by doing so. The the right of a business to earn profits). To
three types of discourse are inter-related in avoid confusion, it is helpful to use the term
the sense that public reasoning based on “human right” or its equivalent
ethical arguments and social mobilization (“fundamental right,” “basic freedom,”
based on advocacy agendas influence legal “constitutional right”) to refer to a higher-
norms, processes and institutions and thus order right, authoritatively defined and
all three modes of discourse contribute to carrying the expectation that it has a
human rights becoming part of social reality. peremptory character and thus prevails over
other (ordinary) rights and reflects the
A. Human rights as ethical concerns essential values of the society adopting it.
Human rights have in common an Ethical and religious precepts determine
ethical concern for just treatment, built on what one is willing to accept as properly a
empathy or altruism in human behavior and human right. Such precepts are typically
concepts of justice in philosophy. The invoked in the debates over current issues
philosopher and economist, Amartya Sen, such as abortion, same-sex marriage, the
considers that “Human rights can be seen as death penalty, migration, much as they were
primarily ethical demands… Like other around slavery and inequality based on
ethical claims that demand acceptance, there class, gender or ethnicity in the past.
is an implicit presumption in making Enlightenment philosophers derived the
pronouncements on human rights that the centrality of the individual from their
underlying ethical claims will survive open theories of the state of nature. Social
and informed scrutiny.”1 In moral contractarians, especially Jean-Jacques
reasoning, the expression “human rights” is Rousseau, predicated the authority of the
often not distinguished from the more state on its capacity to achieve the optimum
general concept of “rights,” although in law enjoyment of natural rights, that is, of rights
a “right” refers to any entitlement protected inherent in each individual irrespective of
by law, the moral validity or legitimacy of birth or status. He wrote in Essay on the
which may be separate from its legal status Origin on Inequality Among Men that “it is
as an entitlement. The moral basis of a right plainly contrary to the law of nature…that
the privileged few should gorge themselves
Amartya Sen, “Elements of a Theory of Human with superfluities, while the starving
Rights,” Philosophy & Public Affairs, vol. 32, No. 4 multitude are in want of the bare necessities
(2004), p. 320.

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Marks 3 Human Rights

of life.”2 Equally important was the concept an constitutive characteristic of human

of the universalized individual (“the rights rights”3, implying an inherent value of the
of Man”), reflected in the political thinking concept of human rights, independent of
of Immanuel Kant, John Locke, Thomas what is established in law. Legal positivists
Paine and the authors of the American would disagree and consider law to be
Declaration of Independence (1776) and the constitutive rather than declarative of human
French Declaration of the Rights of Man and rights.
the Citizen (1789). The Enlightenment
represents for the West both the affirmation B. Human rights as legal rights (positive
of the scientific method with the related law tradition)
faith of human progress and the formulation
of the human rights, which define the “Legal positivists” regard human rights
freedom and equality on which the as resulting from a formal norm-creating
legitimacy of modern governments have process, by which we mean an authoritative
henceforth been judged. Karl Marx and formulation of the rules by which a society
much of socialist thinking questioned the (national or international) is governed.
“bourgeois” character of a limited While “natural rights” derive from natural
interpretation of individual human rights and order or divine origin, and are inalienable,
stressed community interests and egalitarian immutable, and absolute, rights based on
values. “positive law” are recognized through a
political and legal process that results in a
The ethical basis of human rights has declaration, law, treaty, or other normative
been defined using concepts such as human instrument. These may vary over time and
flourishing, dignity, duties to family and be subject to derogations or limitations
society, natural rights, individual freedom, designed to optimize respect for human
and social justice against exploitation based rights rather than impose an absolute
on sex, class or caste. All of these moral standard. They become part of the social
arguments for human rights are part of order when an authoritative body proclaims
ethical discourse. The tension between them, and they attain a higher degree of
political liberalism and democratic universality based on the participation of
egalitarianism, between Locke and virtually every nation in the norm-creating
Rousseau, between liberty and equality, process, a process that is law-based but that
between civil and political rights and reflects compromise and historical shifts.
economic, social and cultural rights, have Think of the moral and legal acceptability of
been part of the philosophical and political slavery, torture, or sexual and racial
ambiguity of human rights since the discrimination over most of human history.
beginning of the modern era. The product of what has survived “open and
informed scrutiny” (Sen’s expression) is
Whether human rights discourse is thus often found not in journals and
essentially ethical and philosophical or seminars on ethics and normative theory but
rather essentially legal and political is a rather at the end of the political or legislative
matter of dispute. Sen writes, “Even though process leading to the adoption of laws and
human rights can, and often do, inspire treaties relating to human rights, such as the
legislation, this is a further fact, rather than relatively recent abolition of slavery, torture

2 3
D.G.H. Cole translation, p. 117. Sen, supra, note 1, p. 319

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Marks 4 Human Rights

and discrimination based on race or sex. in 1988) were among the more effective non-
governmental organizations (NGOs). Latin
The “International Bill of Human America, Africa and Asia saw the creation of
Rights” (consisting of the Universal an extraordinary array of human rights groups
Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR] of in the 1980s and 1990s, which have
1948, and two legally-binding treaties proliferated after the end of the Cold War.
opened for signature in 1966, namely, the
International Covenant on Civil and Political These NGOs emerged as social
Rights and the International Covenant on movements catalyzed by outrage at the
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), mistreatment of prisoners, the exploitation of
along with the other human rights treaties of workers, the exclusion of women, children,
the United Nations (UN) and of regional persons with disabilities, or as part of
organizations, constitute the primary sources struggles against slavery, the caste system,
and reference points for what properly colonialism, apartheid, or predatory
belongs in the category of human rights. globalization. Such movements for social
These legally recognized human rights are change often invoke human rights as the basis
discussed below in Part IV.B. of their advocacy. If the prevailing theories of
moral philosophy or the extant codes of
C. Human rights as social claims human rights do not address their concerns,
their action is directed at changing the theory
Before they are written into legal texts, and the legal formulations. NGOs not only
human rights often emerge from claims of contributed to the drafting of the UDHR but
people suffering injustice and thus are based also in bringing down Apartheid,4
on moral sentiment, culturally determined transforming the political and legal
by contextualized moral and religious belief configuration of East-Central Europe5 and
systems. Revolt against tyranny is an ancient restoring democracy in Latin America.6 New
tradition. A modern precursor of social norms emerged as a result of such social
mobilization for human rights at the national mobilization during the second half of the
level was the response to the unjust twentieth century regarding self-
condemnation of Captain Dreyfus in 1894 as determination of peoples, prevention and
a spy for the Germans, which led Emile Zola punishment of torture, protection of
to proclaim in his famous “J’Accuse…!”, an vulnerable groups and, more recently, equal
impassioned call to action that led to the treatment of sexual minorities and protection
creation of the Ligue française des droits de of migrants.
l’homme in 1897, and numerous similar
leagues, which became federated in 1922 into The appeal to human rights in this
the International Federation of Leagues for advocacy discourse is no less legitimate than
the Rights of Man (now the International the legal and philosophical modes of
Federation for Human Rights), which discourse and is often the inspiration for the
spawned its counterpart in the US in 1942, the latter. Quoting Sen again, “The invoking of
International League for the Rights of Man,
now functioning in New York as the 4
International League for Human Rights. William Korey, NGOs and the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights: A Curious Grapevine,
Amnesty International (founded in 1961), the pp. 7-8.
Moscow Human Rights Committee (founded 5
in 1970), and Helsinki Watch (founded in Id., pp. 95-116.
1978 and expanded into Human Rights Watch Id., pp. 229-247.

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Marks 5 Human Rights

human rights tends to come mostly from origins to ancient religious and
those who are concerned with changing the philosophical concepts of compassion,
world rather than interpreting it… The charity, justice, individual worth, and
colossal appeal of the idea of human rights respect for all life found in Hinduism,
[has provided comfort to those suffering] Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism,
intense oppression or great misery, without Christianity and Islam. Precursors of human
having to wait for the theoretical air to rights declarations are found in the ancient
clear.”7 codes of Hammurabi in Babylon (about
1772 BCE), the Charter of Cyrus the Great
Former British diplomat and law in Persia (about 535 BCE), edicts of Ashoka
professor Philip Allott expressed the in India (about 250 BCE), and rules and
transformative potential of human rights traditions of pre-colonial Africa and pre-
when he found that there was, “room for Columbian America.10
optimism on two grounds. (1) The idea of
human rights having been thought, it cannot Others trace modern human rights to the
be unthought. It will not be replaced, unless emergence of natural law theories in Ancient
by some idea which contains and surpasses Greece and Rome and Christian theology of
it. (2) There are tenacious individuals and the Middle Ages, culminating in the
non-statal societies whose activity on behalf rebellions in the 17th and 18th century
of the idea of human rights is not part of Europe, the philosophers of the
international relations but is part of a new Enlightenment and the Declarations that
process of international reality-forming.”8 launched the French and American
He adds, “The idea of human rights should revolutions, combined with the 19th century
intimidate governments or it is worth abolitionist, workers’ rights and women’s
nothing. If the idea of human rights suffrage movements.11
reassures governments, it is worse than
nothing.”9 In sum, the force of social A third trend is to trace human rights to
movements drawing inspiration from human their enthronement in the United Nations
rights not only enriches the concept of Charter of 1945, in reaction to the Holocaust
human rights but also contributes to altering and drawing on President Roosevelt’s Four
international society. Freedoms and the impact of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 on
III: Historical milestones subsequent national constitutions and
foreign policy and international treaties and
The historical context of human rights
can be seen from a wide range of 10
Micheline Ishay, The History of Human Rights:
perspectives. At the risk of From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era, With a
oversimplification, I will mention four New Preface, New York: Norton and Co., 2008. See
approaches to the history of human rights. also Micheline Ishay (ed.), The Human Rights
Reader: Major Political Essays, Speeches, and
The first approach traces the deeper Documents from Ancient Times to the Present,
Second Edition, New York: Routledge, 2007.
Another interesting compilation may be found in
Sen, supra, note 1, p. 317. Jeanne Hersch (ed.), Birthright of Man, UNESCO,
8 1969. The French edition was published in 1968. A
Philip Allott, Eunomia: New Order for a New
second edition was published in 1985.
World, Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 287.
9 Lynn Hunt, Inventing Human Rights: A History,
New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007.

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Marks 6 Human Rights

declarations.12 ambiguous “Man” throughout.14

A fourth view is the very recent Commenting on the French

revisionist history that considers human Revolution’s break with the past, Jürgen
rights as peripheral in the aftermath of Habermas wrote that this “revolutionary
World War II and only significant as a consciousness gave birth to a new mentality,
utopian ideal and movement beginning in which was shaped by a new time
the 1970s as an alternative to the prevailing consciousness, a new concept of political
ideological climate.13 practice, and a new notion of
legitimization.” Although it took more
Much scholarship, especially in Europe than a century after the French Revolution
and North America, dates modern human for this new mentality to include women and
rights theory and practice from the people subjected to slavery, the awareness
Enlightenment and the transformative that the “rights of man” should extend to all
influence of the French and American human beings was forcefully argued in the
Revolutions of the 18th century and same period by Mary Wollstonecreaft’s A
liberation of subjugated people from slavery Vindication of the Rights of Woman 16 and by
and colonial domination in the 19th and 20th the Society for the Abolition of the Slave
centuries. Lynn Hunt, in an essay on “The Trade, founded in 1783. The valuation of
Revolutionary Origins of Human Rights,” every individual through natural rights was a
affirms that: break with the earlier determination of rights
and duties on the basis of hierarchy and
Most debates about rights originated in
status. Concepts of human progress and
the eighteenth century, and nowhere
were discussions of them more
human rights advanced in the 19th century,
explicit, more divisive, or more when capitalism and the industrial
influential than in revolutionary revolution transformed the global economy
France in the 1790s. The answers and generated immense wealth at the
given then to most fundamental expense of colonized peoples and oppressed
questions about rights remained workers. Human rights advanced but mainly
relevant throughout the nineteenth and for propertied males in Western societies.
twentieth centuries. The framers of Since the 19th century, the human rights of
the UN declaration of 1948 closely former colonialized peoples, women,
followed the model established by the
French Declaration of the Rights of
Man and Citizen of 1789, while Lynn Hunt, ed., The French Revolution and Human
substituting “human” for the more Rights. A Brief Documentary History, Boston, New
York: Bedord Boods of St. Martin’s Press, 1996, p. 3.
See also Stephen P. Marks, “From the ‘Single
12 Confused Page’ to the ‘Decalogue for Six Billion
Paul Gordon Lauren, The Evolution of
Persons’: The Roots of the Universal Declaration of
International Human Rights: Visions Seen,
Human Rights in the French Revolution,” Human
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998;
Rights Quarterly, vol. 20, No. 3, August 1998, pp.
Hersch Lauterpacht, International Law and Human
Rights, with an introduction by Isidore Silver. New
York: Garland, 1950 (reprint 1973). Jürgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms. A
13 Contribution to a Discourse Theory of Law and
Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in
Democracy, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1996,
History, Cambridge MA: Belknap Press of Harvard
p. 467.
University Press, 2012; Aryeh Neier, The
International Human Rights Movement: A History, Mary Wollstonecreaft, A Vindication of the Rights of
Princeton, NY,: Princeton University Press 2012. Woman, (1792)

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excluded minorities, and workers has hoc tribunals on Rwanda and former
advanced but the gap remains between the Yugoslavia and finally in the International
theory of human rights belonging to all, Criminal Court.
regardless of race, sex, language, religion,
political or other opinion, national or social IV: Tensions and controversies
origin, caste, property, birth or other status, about human rights today
and the reality of inequality and
discrimination. To understand how human rights are
part of the global agenda, we need to ask (A)
The Second World War was the why states even accept the idea of human
defining event for the internationalization of rights obligations when they are supposed to
human rights. In 1940, H.G. Wells wrote be sovereign and therefore do what they
The Rights of Man or What are We Fighting want within their territory. Then we will
For?; Roosevelt announced the “four explore (B) what is the current list of human
freedoms” (freedoms of speech and worship rights generally accepted, before asking (C)
and freedoms from want and fear) in his whether they correspond to the basic values
1941 State of the Union address; the UN of all societies or are imposed from the
Charter established in 1945 an obligation of outside for ideological reasons. Finally, we
all members to respect and observe human will examine (D) how they are transformed
rights and created a permanent commission from word to deed, from aspiration to
to promote their realization; the trial of Nazi practice.
doctors defined principles of bioethics that
were codified in the Nuremberg Code in A. Why do sovereign states accept human
1946; and the Nuremberg Trials, in 1945– rights obligations?
46, of 24 of the most important captured
leaders of Nazi Germany, established The principle of state sovereignty
individual criminal responsibility for mass means that neither another state nor an
human rights violations. Each of these international organization can intervene in a
events connected with World War II has had state’s action to adopt, interpret and enforce
major repercussions for human rights today. its laws within its jurisdiction. Does this
In the War’s immediate aftermath, bedrock principle of non-intervention in domestic
human rights texts were adopted: the affairs of states mean that they are free to
Genocide Convention and the Universal violate human rights? Along with the
Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the principle of non-intervention, upon joining
Geneva Conventions in 1949 on the the United Nations, states have pledged
protection of victims of armed conflict, themselves “to take joint and separate action
followed in 1966 by the International in co-operation with the Organization for the
Covenants on Human Rights and scores of achievement of the purposes set forth in
UN and regional human rights texts on Article 55,”17 which include the promotion
issues such as torture, the rights of the child, of “universal respect for, and observance of,
minorities, discrimination against women, human rights and fundamental freedoms for
and disability rights, along with the creation all without distinction as to race, sex,
of investigative and accountability language, or religion.”18
procedures at the intergovernmental level.
Individual criminal responsibility for mass
violations of human rights re-emerged— Article 56 of the UN Charter.
after the hiatus of the Cold War—in the ad 18
Article 55 of the UN Charter. Article 1(3) of the
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Marks 8 Human Rights

State sovereignty is therefore balanced These realist, liberal internationalist,

with legitimate concern of the international functionalist, and constructivist theories run
community about human rights in all along a continuum from state-centric
countries. How that balance is interpreted approaches at one end (where national
varies according to theories of international interests prevail over any appeal to universal
relations. For those of the realist school (a human rights), to cosmopolitanism at the
theory that focuses on governments as other end (where identity with and support
autonomous and sovereign actors in for equal rights for all people should hold
international affairs, pursuing their national state sovereignty in check). In practice,
interests through the projection of economic, states have accepted obligations to respect
military and political power, without and promote human rights under the UN
constraints of any superior authority or Charter and various human rights treaties,
global government), only weak countries are whatever their motivations, and, as a result,
under any constraint to allow international a regime has emerged in which human rights
scrutiny of their human rights performance. have progressively become part of the
For the liberal internationalist, global accepted standards of state behavior,
institutions and values, like human rights, functioning effectively in some areas and
matter more, although the international less so in others.
system is still based on state sovereignty.
Theories of functionalism attach importance In order to understand this
to gradual political federation, beginning phenomenon, it is useful to examine the
with economic and social cooperation, current set of recognized human rights
especially through regional organizations. standards.
As these networks of interdependence grow,
sovereign authority shifts to international B. How do we know which rights are
institutions. Under the constructivist theory recognized as human rights?
of international relations, ideas, such as
human rights, define international structure, While it is legitimate to draw on
which in turn defines the interests and philosophical arguments or activist agendas
identities of states. Thus, social norms like to claim any global social issue as a human
human rights, rather than national security, right, it is also useful to identify which
can shape and progressively change foreign rights are officially recognized as such. The
policy. In sum, as Richard Falk and others most reliable source of the core content of
argue, absolute sovereignty has given way to international human rights is found in the
the conception of “responsible sovereignty,” International Bill of Human Rights, which
according to which sovereignty is enumerates approximately fifty normative
conditional upon the state’s demonstrable propositions on which additional human
adherence to minimum human rights rights documents have built. Scores of
standards and capacity to protect its regional and UN treaties have expanded the
citizens.19 scope of recognized human rights, including
in specialized areas such as protection of
victims of armed conflict, workers, refugees
and displaced persons, and persons with
Charter also includes “international co-operation…in
promoting and encouraging respect for human rights”
among the purposes of the UN. Routledge, 2001, p. 69.
Richard A. Falk, Human Rights Horizons: The
Pursuit of Justice in a Globalizing World, New York:
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Marks 9 Human Rights

disabilities. and found a family; rights of children; the

right to practice a religion; and—as an
The International Bill of Human Rights exception to free speech—the prohibition of
enumerates five group rights, twenty-four war propaganda and hate speech constituting
civil and political rights (CPR), and fourteen incitement). The final sub-set of these rights
economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR). is the four relating to political participation
It also sets out seven principles that explain (namely, the right to hold public office; to
how the rights should be applied and vote in free elections; to be elected to office;
interpreted. and to equal access to public service).
The group rights listed in the The economic, social and cultural
International Bill of Human Rights include rights reaffirmed in the International Bill of
two rights of peoples (self-determination Human Rights include four workers’ rights
and permanent sovereignty over natural (the right to gain a living by work freely
resources) and three rights of ethnic, chosen and accepted; the right to just and
religious and linguistic minorities (namely, favorable conditions of work; the right to
the rights to enjoy one’s own culture, to form and join trade unions; and the right to
practice one’s own religion, and to use one’s strike). Four others concern social protection
language). (social security; assistance to the family,
mothers and children; adequate standard of
The civil and political rights include living, including food, clothing and housing;
five relating to physical integrity (rights to and the highest attainable level of physical
life; freedom from torture; freedom from and mental health). The remaining rights are
slavery; freedom from arbitrary arrest or the six concerning education and culture (the
detention; and the right to humane treatment right to education directed towards the full
under detention). Five other rights relate to development of the human personality; free
the individual’s autonomy of thought and and compulsory primary education;
action (namely, freedom of movement and availability of other levels of education;
residence; prohibition of expulsion of aliens; participation in cultural life; protection of
freedom of thought, conscience and moral and material rights of creators and
religious belief; freedom of expression; and transmitters of culture, and the right to enjoy
the right to privacy). Another four rights the benefits of scientific progress).
concern the administration of justice (non-
imprisonment for debt; fair trial—for which These rights are summarized in Table 1
16 additional rights are enumerated—; the below:
right to personhood under the law; and the
right to equality before the law). Six other
civil & political rights relate to participation
in civil society (freedom of assembly;
freedom of association; the right to marry
3. Right to enjoy one’s culture
Table 1: List of human rights 4. Right to practice one’s religion
5. Right to speak one’s language
Group Rights
1. Right to self-determination
2. Permanent sovereignty over natural

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Civil and Political Rights (CPR)

1. Right to life
2. Freedom from torture
Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
3. Freedom from slavery
4. Freedom from arbitrary arrest/detention
5. Right to humane treatment in detention 1. Right to gain a living by work freely
6. Freedom of movement and residence chosen and accepted
7. Prohibition of expulsion of aliens 2. Right to just and favorable work
8. Freedom of thought, conscience, and conditions
religious belief 3. Right to form and join trade unions
9. Freedom of expression 4. Right to strike
10. Right to privacy 5. Social security
11. Non-imprisonment for debt 6. Assistance to the family, mothers, and
12. Fair trial (sub-divided into 16 children
enumerated rights) 7. Adequate standard of living (including
13. Right to personhood under the law food, clothing, and housing)
14. Equality before the law 8. Right to the highest attainable standard
15. Freedom of assembly of physical and mental health
16. Freedom of association 9. Right to education towards the full
17. Right to marry and found a family development of human personality
18. Rights of children 10. Free and compulsory primary education
19. Right to practice a religion 11. Availability of other levels of education
20. Prohibition of war propaganda and hate 12. Participation in cultural life
speech constituting incitement 13. Protection of moral and material rights
21. Right to hold office of creators and transmitters of culture
22. Right to vote in free elections 14. Right to enjoy the benefits of scientific
23. Right to be elected to office progress
24. Equal access to public service

Finally, the seven principles of In addition to the traditional grouping of

application and interpretation include the human rights in the two major categories of
principles of (1) progressive realization of human rights (CPR and ESCR), a third
ESCR (states must take meaningful category of “solidarity rights” or “third
measures towards full realization of these generation rights” is sometimes invoked,
rights); (2) immediate implementation of including the rights to development, to a
CPR (states have duties to respect and clean environment, and to humanitarian
ensure respect for these rights); (3) non- assistance). The reasons for separating CPR
discrimination applied to all rights; (4) an from ESCR have been questioned.20 For
effective remedy for violation of CPR; and example, it is often claimed that CPR are
(5) equality of rights between men and absolute and immutable, whereas ESCR are
women. The International Bill also specifies relative and responsive to changing
that (6) human rights may be subject to conditions. However, all rights are
limitations and derogations and that (7) the 20
See Stephen P, Marks, “The Past and Future of the
rights in the Covenants may not be used as a Separation of Human Rights into Categories,”
pretext for lowering an existing standard if Maryland Journal of International Law, vol. 24
there is a higher one under national law. (2009), pp. 208-241.

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proclaimed on the expectation that they will regards as inter-related and equally
be of lasting value but in fact all have important—are not watertight and reasons
emerged when social pressures have been for considering them inherently different
strong enough to challenge power relations may be challenged. In practice, the context
and expand the list. Consider, for example, dictates the most effective use of resources,
that torture was an accepted means of institutions, and approaches more than the
obtaining a confession, that slavery was nature of the theoretical category of rights.
widely practiced and accepted for centuries,
and that women were treated as chattel in
many societies and only received political
rights in the last century. Thus, these CPR C. Are human rights the same for
have not been permanent features of society. everyone?
It is also argued that CPR are to be
implemented by states immediately, may be The claim that human rights are
enforced through judicial remedies, and are universal holds that they are the same for
relatively cost-free since they merely require everyone because they are inherent in
the state to leave people alone (so-called human beings by virtue of all people being
“negative rights”), whereas ESCR should be human, and that human rights therefore
implemented progressively, in accordance derive from nature (hence the term “natural
with available resources, since they require rights”). The UDHR refers to “the inherent
state expenditure (so-called “positive dignity and … equal and inalienable rights
rights”) and are not suitable for lawsuits of all members of the human family [as] the
(“non-justiciable”). In many circumstances foundation of freedom, justice and peace in
this is true; however, many ESCR have been the world.” The American Declaration of
made “justiciable” (that is, people can sue Independence proclaims that “all men are
the state if they consider that the right has created equal, that they are endowed by their
not been respected), and many CPR are not Creator with certain unalienable Rights” and
achieved merely passively but require a the French Declaration of 1789 refers to the
considerable investment of time and “natural, unalienable, and sacred rights of
resources (for example, to train law man.”
enforcement officials or establish an
Another basis for saying that human
independent judiciary).
rights are universal is to rely on their formal
Another reason they are often adoption by virtually all countries that have
considered different in nature concerns endorsed the UDHR or have ratified human
denunciation of violations, which is often rights treaties. Cultural relativists claim that
considered appropriate for CPR but should human rights are based on values that are
be avoided for ESCR in favor of a more determined culturally and vary from one
cooperative approach to urge governments society to another, rather than being
to do all they should to realize these rights. universal.21 There are several variants of this
However, many situations arise where an position. One is the so-called “Asian values”
accusatory approach for dealing with CPR is argument, according to which human rights
counter-productive and where it is
appropriate to refer to violations of ESCR. See Terence Turner and Carole Nagengast (eds.),
Journal of Anthropological Research, vol. 53, No. 3
So these two categories—which the UN (special issue on human rights) (Autumn 1997).

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Marks 12 Human Rights

is a Western idea, which is at odds with the example, on which views are divided25 and
way in which leaders in Asian societies has been of considerable interest since the
provide for the needs of their people without “Arab Spring” of 2011, in which both
making the individual supreme, prioritizing Islamic and human rights values motivated
instead the value of societal harmony and peoples across the Middle East and North
the good of the collective.22 A related view Africa to overthrow deeply entrenched
holds that the concept of human rights is a dictatorships, with very mixed results, and
tool of Western imperialism used to disguise the emergence of extremist terrorist
political, economic and military ambitions organizations claiming to act according to
of Western nations against those in the their interpretation of Islam.26
developing world.23 A third is the “clash of
civilizations” argument that only the liberal The World Conference on Human
West, among the roughly seven civilizations Rights (Vienna, June 1993) addressed the
in the world, is capable of realizing human general question of balancing universal and
rights since the other civilizations lack cultural claims with this compromise
sufficient sense of the individual and the language:
rule of law.24 This issue of compatibility of
human rights with diverse belief systems All human rights are universal,
indivisible and interdependent and
and religions has special geopolitical
interrelated. The international
repercussions in relation to Islam, for community must treat human rights
globally in a fair and equal manner, on
the same footing, and with the same
See, for example, Bilahari Kim Hee P.S. Kausikan, emphasis. While the significance of
“An East Asian Approach to Human Rights,” The national and regional particularities and
Buffalo Journal of International Law. Vol. 2, pp.
263-283 (1995); Sharon K. Hom, “Re-Positioning
Human Rights Discourse on "Asian" Perspectives,” See, for example, Abdullahi An-Naim (2004)
The Buffalo Journal of International Law, vol. 3, pp. "‘The Best of Times’ and ‘The Worst of Times’:
209-233 (1996); Kim Dae Jung, “Is culture destiny? Human Agency and Human Rights in Islamic
The myth of Asia’s anti-democratic values,” Foreign Societies," Muslim World Journal of Human Rights,
Affairs, vol. 73, pp. 189-194 (November/December vol. 1: issue 1, Article 5. Available at:
1994); Arvind Sharma, Are Human Rights Western?; Bat
A Contribution to the Dialogue of Civilizations, New Ye’or, “Jihad and Human Rights Today. An active
York: Oxford University Press, 2006, Conclusion, ideology incompatible with universal standards of
pp. 254-269; Makau Mutua, "Savages, Victims and freedom and equality,” National Review Online, July
Saviours: The Metaphor of Human Rights." Harvard 1, 2002. Available at
International Law Journal 42, pp. 201-245 (Winter
2001). yeor070102.asp]; Mohamed Berween, “International
23 Bills of Human Rights; An Islamic Critique,”
See, for example, Jean Bricmont, Humanitarian
International Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 7:4
Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War,
October 2004, pp. 129 –142;
Monthly Review Press, 2007, pp. 35-90; Makau
Mutua, Human Rights: A Political and Cultural 26
Critique Philadelphia, PA: University of In its resolution 30/10 of 1 October 2015, the
Pennsylvania Press (Pennsylvania Studies in Human Human Rights Council reaffirmed “that terrorism,
Rights), 2002, Chapter 2: “Human Rights as an including the actions of the so-called Islamic State in
Ideology,” pp. 39-70. Iraq and the Levant (Daesh), cannot and should not
be associated with any religion, nationality or
See Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations civilization.” (para. 4)
and the Remaking of World Order, New York: Simon
& Schuster, 1996.

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Marks 13 Human Rights

various historical, cultural and religious eventually adopted by that body. Once the
backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is issue is on the agenda, a political body may
the duty of States, regardless of their then commission a study, eventually leading
political, economic and cultural systems, to drafting a declaration, and then a
to promote and protect all human rights
convention, which has to be ratified and
and fundamental freedoms.27
enter into force and is possibly followed by
This statement nevertheless captures an the adoption of an optional protocol
important feature of human rights today, providing for complaints procedures.
namely, that they are universal but must be
All the major human rights issues, such
realized in the context of the prevailing
as torture, women’s rights, racial
values of each society. To understand fully
discrimination, disappearances, rights of
the challenge such contextualization
children and of persons with disabilities,
represents we need to examine the means
went through these phases, lasting from ten
and methods through which universally
to thirty years or more. This is how the body
accepted human rights are put into practice.
of human rights norms has expanded
D. How are human rights put into considerably from the International Bill of
practice? Human Rights to the current array of several
hundred global and regional treaties.
Human rights are traditionally studied Following a related process, war crimes,
in a global context through (1) the norm- genocide and crimes against humanity, have
creating processes, which result in global been addressed by other treaties calling for
human rights standards and (2) the norm- criminal prosecutions of perpetrators.
enforcement processes, which seek to
translate laudable goals into tangible The process can be summarized in
practices. In addition, there are (3) Table 2:
continuing and new challenges to the
Table 2: Norm-creating process
effectiveness of this normative regime.
Lobbying for a resolution by NGOs and a
1. The norm-creating process limited number of government delegations
Adoption of a resolution calling for a study
The norm-creating process refers to Completion of a study
authoritative decision-making that results in Adoption of a resolution calling for a declaration
the formal acknowledgement of specific
Drafting and adoption of a declaration
rights and obligations in a given society and
Adoption of a resolution calling for a convention
clarifies what is expected to realize the
rights in practice. The typical norm-creating Drafting and adoption of a convention
process in international human rights Ratification and entry into force of the convention
regarding a social issue begins with Setting up of treaty-monitoring body which
expression of concern by a delegate at a issues interpretations of obligations
meeting of a political body and lobbying for Resolution calling for an optional protocol (OP)
co-sponsors to a resolution, which is allowing for complaints
Drafting and adoption of an OP
United Nations, World Conference on Human Ratification and entry into force of the OP
Rights. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Treaty body passing judgment on complaints
Action. June 1993, para. 5.

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Marks 14 Human Rights

2. The norm-enforcing process of Southeast Asian Nations) adopt and

monitor other international human rights
Defining human rights is not enough; texts. The third preventive or promotional
measures must be taken to ensure that they means of implementation is national
are respected, promoted and fulfilled. In the institution building, which includes
domestic legal system, law is binding and improvements in the judiciary and law
the courts and the police use force to compel enforcement institutions and the creation of
compliance. In the international human specialized bodies such as national
rights regime, law is not treated in quite the commissions for human rights and offices of
same way. The term “enforcement,” for an ombudsman.
example, refers to coerced compliance,
which is rare, while most efforts focus on The protection of human rights involves
“implementation”, that is, as wide range of a complex web of national and international
supervision, monitoring and general efforts mechanisms to monitor, judge, urge,
to make duty-holders accountable. denounce, and coerce states, as well as to
Implementation is further subdivided into provide relief to victims. Monitoring
promotion (i.e., preventive measures that compliance with international standards is
seek to ensure respect for human rights in carried out through the reporting and
the future) and protection (i.e., responses to complaints procedures of the UN treaty
violations that have occurred in the past or bodies and regional human rights
are ongoing). The means and methods of commissions and courts. States are required
implementation may be summarized in three to submit reports and the monitoring body—
forms of promotion and five forms of often guided by information provided by
protection. NGOs—which examines progress and
problems with a view to guiding the
Promotion of human rights is achieved reporting country to do better. The Human
through developing awareness, standard- Rights Council also carries out a Universal
setting and interpretation, and creation of Periodic Review (UPR) of all countries,
national institutions. Awareness of human regardless of treaty ratification. Several
rights is a precondition to acting on them optional procedures allow individuals and
and is advanced though dissemination of groups (and sometimes other states) to
knowledge (e.g., publications, information petition these bodies for a determination of
campaigns) and human rights education at violations. The quasi-judicial bodies (such
all levels. Second is standard-setting, the as the Human Rights Committee or the
drafting of human rights texts, in which the African Commission on Human and
UN Commission on Human Rights, Peoples’ Rights) utilize various forms of
established in 1946, played a central role fact-finding and investigation and issue their
until it was replaced in 2006 by the Human views so that governments can take action to
Rights Council. Numerous other bodies in live up to their human rights obligations.
the UN system, such as the Commission on
the Status of Women, and UN Specialized “Special procedures” refer to UN
Agencies (such as the International Labour working groups, independent experts and
Organization and UNESCO), as well as the special rapporteurs or representatives
regional organizations (Council of Europe, mandated to study countries or issues,
Organization of American States, African including taking on cases of alleged
Union, League of Arab States, Association violations, going on mission to countries and
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Marks 15 Human Rights

institutions, and to report back on their Council, the UN General Assembly, the
findings and request redress from Committee of Ministers of the Council of
governments. The “thematic” rapporteurs Europe, the Assembly of the Organization of
are specifically mandated to study issues American States, all have adopted politically
such as forced disappearances, summary significant resolutions denouncing
executions, torture, toxic waste, and the governments for violations of human rights
rights to health, adequate food and housing. and demanding that they redress the
As of 2015 there were some 41 “thematic situation and often that they provide
mandates”. In addition, there were 14 compensation to the victims. Parliamentary
“country mandates” covering Belarus, Commissions and National Human Rights
Cambodia, Central African Republic, Côte Commissions, as well as local and
d’Ivoire, Democratic People’s Republic of international NGOs, also follow-up their
Korea, Eritrea, Haiti, Islamic Republic of investigations with firmly worded and
Iran, Mali, Myanmar, Palestinian Territories, politically significant demands for change.
Somalia, Sudan and Syrian Arab Republic. This form of sanction may appear toothless
since it is not backed up with coercive force;
The second means of protection is nevertheless, in practice many governments
adjudication of cases by fully empowered take quite seriously the pronouncements of
courts, the main international ones being the such bodies and go to considerable lengths
International Court of Justice (which can to avoid such political “naming and
only decide cases between states that agree shaming,” including by improving their
to submit their dispute to the Court), the human rights performance.
International Criminal Court (which can try
individuals for genocide, crimes against The seventh means of responding to
humanity, war crimes and the crime of human rights violations is through
aggression), as well as the regional courts, humanitarian relief or assistance. Provision
namely, the European Court of Human of food, blankets, tents, medical services,
Rights (open to persons within the 47 sanitary assistance, and other forms of aid
member states of the Council of Europe); save lives and improve health of persons
the Inter-American Court of Human Rights forcibly displaced, often as a result of large-
(open to the 25 states parties—23 active scale human rights violations. Refugees and
parties—to the American Convention on internally displaced persons come under the
Human Rights); and the African Court of protection of the UN High Commissioner
Justice and Human Rights (open to the for Refugees (UNHCR), which deploys
African Commission on Human and massive amounts of aid, along with the
Peoples’ Rights, individuals and accredited International Committee of the Red Cross,
NGOs from those of the 54 African Union the International Organization for Migration
members that have ratified the protocol (IOM), the United Nations Children’s Fund
establishing the Court, numbering 30 in (UNICEF), the World Food Programme
2016). (WFP), the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), the UN Office for the
Political supervision refers to the acts Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
of influential bodies made up of (OCHA) and other agencies, as well as
representatives of states, including major NGOs like Oxfam, Care, and the
resolutions judging the policies and International Rescue Committee.
practices of states. The UN Human Rights
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Marks 16 Human Rights

Finally, the use of coercion is available Syria,30 but only in Darfur31 and Libya32 was
only to the UN Security Council, which can it used to authorize enforcement action. The
use its powers under Chapter VII of the UN way R2P was applied in Libya explains in
Charter to impose sanctions, cut off part the reluctance to use it for enforcement
communications, create ad hoc criminal action in the civil war in Syria.33
tribunals, and authorize the use of force by
member states or deploy UN troops to put an These eight means and methods of
end to a threat to international peace and implementation are summarized in Table 3
security, which it has on occasion below.
interpreted to include human rights
violations. Human rights considerations 3. Continuing and new challenges to human
were part of the use of Chapter VII in rights realization
Cambodia, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq and
other locations.28 This forceful means of The adoption of norms and the
protecting human rights is complex and can implementation of accountability procedures
have harmful health consequences, as has are not enough to eliminate the deeper
been the case with sanctions imposed on causes of human rights deprivation. The
Haiti and Iraq in the 1990s. If used properly, most salient challenges to the effectiveness
Chapter VII action can be the basis for of human rights at the global level relate to
implementing the “Responsibility to the reliance on the state to take
Protect”, a doctrine adopted at a 2005 UN responsibility for correcting its ways;
Summit that reaffirms the international structural issues of the global economy
community’s role to prevent and stop favoring the maximization of profits in ways
genocides, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and over which human rights machinery has
crimes against humanity when a national little or no control or impact; and cultural
government fails to do so.29 The conditions based on patriarchy, class, caste
responsibility to protect (R2P) was explicitly and ethnicity, which only change slowly
referred to in Security Council Resolutions over time as power relations and mentalities
concerning the Great Lakes region, Sudan, change. In all these arenas, human rights are
Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, Yemen, Mali, South highly political: to the extent that they are
Sudan, Central African Republic, and
 For references to Responsibility to Protect (RtoP or
28 R2P) in Security Council Resolutions, see
See Bertrand G. Ramcharan, The Security Council
and the Protection of Human Rights, Martinus mponent/content/article/136-latest-news/5221--
Nijhoff, 2002; Bardo Fassbender, Securing Human references-to-the-responsibility-to-protect-in-
Rights: Achievements and Challenges of the UN security-council-resolutions (accessed 25 Apr 2014).  
Security Council, Published to Oxford Scholarship
Online: January 2012, publication date: 2011, 31
  Security Council Resolution 1706 of 31 August
available at:
rof:oso/9780199641499.001.0001/acprof- 32
  Security Council Resolution 1970 of 26 February
2011, and Security Council Resolution 1973 of 17
March 2011.  
The doctrine was affirmed by the UN General
Assembly in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005  See Spencer Zifcak, “The Responsibility to Protect
World Summit Outcome Document and reaffirmed in after Libya and Syria,” Melbourne Journal of
its resolution A/RES/63/308 of September 2009. International Law, vol. 13, (2012), pp. 2-35.  

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Marks 17 Human Rights

truly relevant to people’s lives they that have profoundly changed societies in
challenge the state, the political economy the past. That is how practices such as
and cultural traditions. At the same time, slavery, apartheid, colonialism, and
they offer a normative framework for exclusions of all sorts have been largely
individuals and collectivities to organize for eliminated. Similarly, environmental
change, so that state legitimacy is measured degradation, poverty, terrorism, non-
by human rights performance, the political representative government, discrimination
economy is freed from gross economic based on sexual orientation and an
disparities and social inequities, and cultural expanding array of other challenges in the
identity is preserved and cherished in ways 21st century will continue to test the value of
that are consistent with prevailing values of human rights as a normative and
individual autonomy and freedom. Appeals institutional guide to policy and practice.
to human rights in bringing about such
change is usually supported, at least
rhetorically, by the community of nations
and, in progressively more meaningful and
effective ways, by networks of solidarity
Table 3: Means and methods of human rights implementation

Means  of  implementation   Examples  


1.  Developing  awareness   Circulation   of   publications,   media   coverage,   human  

rights  education.  

2.  Standard-­‐setting  and  inter-­‐ Adoption   of   declarations   and   conventions   by   UN  

pretation   Human   Rights   Council,   regional   bodies;   general  
comments   by   treaty   bodies,   interpretation   by  

3.  Institution  building   Judiciary  and  law  enforcement,  national  commissions  

and  ombudsman  offices.  


4.   Monitoring   compliance   with   Reporting   procedures,   complaints   procedures,   fact-­‐

international  standards   finding   and   investigation,   special   procedures,  
universal  periodic  review  (UPR).  

5.  Adjudication   Quasi-­‐judicial   procedures   by   treaty   bodies,   judgments  

by  international  and  regional  tribunals.  

6.  Political  supervision   Resolutions   judging   state   policy   and   practice   by  

international   bodies;   “naming   and   shaming”   by  

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Marks 18 Human Rights

Human   Rights   Council,   UN   General   Assembly;  

demarches,   public   and   private   statements   by   states  
and  senior  officials.  

7.  Humanitarian  action   Assistance   to   refugees   and   internally   displaced  

persons   in   humanitarian   emergencies;   repatriation  
and  resettlement.  

8.    Coercive  action   UN   Security   Council   sanctions,   creation   of   criminal  

tribunals,   and   use   of   force   under   the   doctrine   of  
“Responsibility  to  Protect”  people  from  genocide,  war  
crimes,  ethnic  cleansing  and  crimes  against  humanity.  

examined the processes by which human

V: Conclusion rights norms are recognized and put into
practice and referred to several challenges
We started by asking whether human
facing the 21st century.
rights have to be considered only in legal
terms and saw that there are at least three In the coming decades, we can expect
modes of discourse concerning human gaps to be filled in the institutional
rights: legal, philosophical and advocacy. machinery of Africa and Asia, and in
All three overlap, although historically making ESCR genuinely equal in
people have risen up against injustices for importance to CPR, as well as in the
millennia and made respect for dignity clarification of human rights standards in
integral to ethical and religious thinking, such areas as sexual orientation and
whereas the enumeration of codes of advances in science and technology, while
universal human rights has a much shorter refining the means and methods of human
history, dating primarily from the 18th rights promotion and protection. The
century and especially from the inaugural essential value of human rights thinking and
moment of the UDHR in making human action, however, is unlikely to change: it has
rights an explicit feature of the post World served and will continue to serve as a gauge
War II international legal order. We have of the legitimacy of government, a guide to
examined what “universal” means in a world setting the priorities for human progress, and
of conflicting ideologies, religions, beliefs a basis for consensus over what values can
and values and reviewed the content of the be shared across diverse ideologies and
normative propositions accepted as cultures.
belonging to this category of “universal
human rights,” while sounding a cautionary
note about taking their separation into two
major categories too literally. Finally, we

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Human Rights, with an introduction by
Isidore Silver. New York: Garland, 1950
(reprint 1973).
Selected bibliography
Daniel Moeckli, Sangeeta Shah & Sandesh
Philip Alston and Ryan Goodman, Sivakumaran International Human Rights
International Human Rights, Oxford: Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2nd
Oxford University Press, 2012. ed. 2014.
Upendra Baxi, The Future of Human Rights, Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human
2nd ed., New Delhi ; New York : Oxford Rights in History, Cambridge MA: Belknap
University Press, 2006. Press of Harvard University Press, 2012.
Sabine C. Carey, The Politics of Human Aryeh Neier, The International Human
Rights: The Quest for Dignity, Cambridge, Rights Movement: A History, Princeton, NY:
UK: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010. Princeton University Press 2012.,
Andrew Clapham, Human Rights: A Very James W. Nickel, Making Sense of Human
Short Introduction (Very Short Rights, Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2007.
Introductions), New York: Oxford Univ.
Margot E. Salomon, Global Responsibility
Press, 2007.
for Human Rights, Oxford, UK: Oxford
Jack Donnelly, International Human Rights, Univ. Press, 2007.
4th edition, Westview Press, 2013.
Amartya Sen, “Elements of a Theory of
Richard A. Falk, Human Rights Horizons: Human Rights,” Philosophy & Public
The Pursuit of Justice in a Globalizing Affairs, vol. 32, No. 4 (2004), pp. 315-356.
World, New York: Routledge, 2001. Kathryn Sikkink, The Justice Cascade: How
James Griffin, On Human Rights, Oxford, Human Rights Prosecutions Are Changing
UK: Oxford Univ. Press, 2009. World Politics (The Norton Series in World
Politics), 2011.
Lynn Avery Hunt and Lynn Hunt, Inventing
Human Rights: A History, New York: W.W. Beth A. Simmons, Mobilizing for Human
Norton & Co., 2008. Rights: International Law in Domestic
Politics, New York: Cambridge Univ. Press,
Micheline Ishay (ed.), The Human Rights
Reader: Major Political Essays, Speeches,
and Documents from Ancient Times to the
Present, Second Edition, New York: Selected websites
Routledge, 2007 A. Official UN sites:
Micheline Ishay, The History of Human 1. Office of the High Commissioner for
Rights: From Ancient Times to the Human Rights (UN):
Globalization Era, New York: Norton and
Co., 2008. 2. World Health Organization:
Paul Gordon Lauren, The Evolution of
International Human Rights: Visions Seen, 3. World Bank:
3rd ed. Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 2011. AL/EXTSITETOOLS/0,,contentMDK:207496
Hersch Lauterpacht, International Law and 93~pagePK:98400~piPK:98424~theSitePK:95
Marks 20 Human Rights

4. UNDP: 6. Human Rights Internet (HRI):
7. UPR Info:
C. Non-Governmental Organizations
5. UNESCO: 1. Amnesty International:
approach 2. The Center for Economic and Social Rights
B. Sources of human rights information: (CESR):
1. University of Minnesota human rights 3. Human Rights First:
library (includes links to UN, other
organizations, training and education, and 4. Human Rights Watch:
centers for rehabilitation of torture survivors): 5. International Commission of Jurists:
2. International Service for Human Rights: 6. International Federation for Human Rights
3. Business and Human Rights: 7. Peoples Movement for Human Rights
4. Equipo Nizkor:
5. New Tactics in Human Rights:

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Marks 21 Human Rights

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On   December   10,   1948   the   General   Assembly   of   the   United   Nations   adopted   and   proclaimed   in  
Paris,   France,   the   Universal   Declaration   of   Human   Rights.   It   defines   the   aspirations   of   the  
international  community  to  be  guided  by  its  30  articles  in  national  and  international  policy.  This  is  
the  full  text  of  the  Declaration:  

 PREAMBLE   rights   and   freedoms   is   of   the   greatest  

importance   for   the   full   realization   of   this  
Whereas   recognition   of   the   inherent   dignity   pledge,  
and   of   the   equal   and   inalienable   rights   of   all  
members   of   the   human   family   is   the   Now,   Therefore   THE   GENERAL   ASSEMBLY  
foundation   of   freedom,   justice   and   peace   in   proclaims   THIS   UNIVERSAL   DECLARATION  
the  world,   OF  HUMAN  RIGHTS  as  a  common  standard  of  
achievement  for  all  peoples  and  all  nations,  to  
Whereas   disregard   and   contempt   for   human   the   end   that   every   individual   and   every   organ  
rights   have   resulted   in   barbarous   acts   which   of  society,  keeping  this  Declaration  constantly  
have   outraged   the   conscience   of   mankind,   in   mind,   shall   strive   by   teaching   and  
and   the   advent   of   a   world   in   which   human   education  to  promote  respect  for  these  rights  
beings   shall   enjoy   freedom   of   speech   and   and   freedoms   and   by   progressive   measures,  
belief   and   freedom   from   fear   and   want   has   national   and   international,   to   secure   their  
been   proclaimed   as   the   highest   aspiration   of   universal   and   effective   recognition   and  
the  common  people,   observance,   both   among   the   peoples   of  
Member   States   themselves   and   among   the  
Whereas   it   is   essential,   if   man   is   not   to   be   peoples  of  territories  under  their  jurisdiction.  
compelled   to   have   recourse,   as   a   last   resort,  
to   rebellion   against   tyranny   and   oppression,   Article  1.  
that  human  rights  should  be  protected  by  the  
rule  of  law,   All   human   beings   are   born   free   and   equal   in  
dignity   and   rights.   They   are   endowed   with  
Whereas   it   is   essential   to   promote   the   reason   and   conscience   and   should   act  
development   of   friendly   relations   between   towards   one   another   in   a   spirit   of  
nations,   brotherhood.  

Whereas   the   peoples   of   the   United   Nations   Article  2.  

have   in   the   Charter   reaffirmed   their   faith   in  
fundamental  human  rights,  in  the  dignity  and   Everyone   is   entitled   to   all   the   rights   and  
worth   of   the   human   person   and   in   the   equal   freedoms   set   forth   in   this   Declaration,  
rights   of   men   and   women   and   have   without   distinction   of   any   kind,   such   as   race,  
determined   to   promote   social   progress   and   colour,   sex,   language,   religion,   political   or  
better  standards  of  life  in  larger  freedom,   other   opinion,   national   or   social   origin,  
property,   birth   or   other   status.   Furthermore,  
Whereas   Member   States   have   pledged   no   distinction   shall   be   made   on   the   basis   of  
themselves   to   achieve,   in   co-­‐operation   with   the   political,   jurisdictional   or   international  
the   United   Nations,   the   promotion   of   status   of   the   country   or   territory   to   which   a  
universal   respect   for   and   observance   of   person   belongs,   whether   it   be   independent,  
human  rights  and  fundamental  freedoms,   trust,   non-­‐self-­‐governing   or   under   any   other  
limitation  of  sovereignty.  
Whereas   a   common   understanding   of   these  

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Marks 22 Human Rights

Article  3.   Article  11.  

Everyone   has   the   right   to   life,   liberty   and   (1)   Everyone   charged   with   a   penal   offence  
security  of  person.   has   the   right   to   be   presumed   innocent   until  
proved  guilty  according  to  law  in  a  public  trial  
Article  4.   at   which   he   has   had   all   the   guarantees  
necessary  for  his  defence.  
No   one   shall   be   held   in   slavery   or   servitude;  
slavery   and   the   slave   trade   shall   be   (2)   No   one   shall   be   held   guilty   of   any   penal  
prohibited  in  all  their  forms.   offence   on   account   of   any   act   or   omission  
which   did   not   constitute   a   penal   offence,  
Article  5.   under   national   or   international   law,   at   the  
time   when   it   was   committed.   Nor   shall   a  
No   one   shall   be   subjected   to   torture   or   to  
heavier  penalty  be  imposed  than  the  one  that  
cruel,   inhuman   or   degrading   treatment   or  
was   applicable   at   the   time   the   penal   offence  
was  committed.  
Article  6.  
Article  12.  
Everyone   has   the   right   to   recognition  
No   one   shall   be   subjected   to   arbitrary  
everywhere  as  a  person  before  the  law.  
interference  with  his   privacy,   family,   home  or  
Article  7.   correspondence,   nor   to   attacks   upon   his  
honour   and   reputation.   Everyone   has   the  
All   are   equal   before   the   law   and   are   entitled   right   to   the   protection   of   the   law   against   such  
without   any   discrimination   to   equal   interference  or  attacks.  
protection  of  the  law.  All  are  entitled  to  equal  
protection   against   any   discrimination   in   Article  13.  
violation   of   this   Declaration   and   against   any  
(1)   Everyone   has   the   right   to   freedom   of  
incitement  to  such  discrimination.  
movement   and   residence   within   the   borders  
Article  8.   of  each  state.  

Everyone  has  the  right  to  an  effective  remedy   (2)   Everyone   has   the   right   to   leave   any  
by   the   competent   national   tribunals   for   acts   country,   including   his   own,   and   to   return   to  
violating   the   fundamental   rights   granted   him   his  country.  
by  the  constitution  or  by  law.  
Article  14.  
Article  9.  
(1)   Everyone   has   the   right   to   seek   and   to  
enjoy   in   other   countries   asylum   from  
No  one  shall  be  subjected  to  arbitrary  arrest,  
detention  or  exile.   persecution.  

Article  10.   (2)  This  right  may  not  be  invoked  in  the  case  
of   prosecutions   genuinely   arising   from   non-­‐
Everyone   is   entitled   in   full   equality   to   a   fair   political   crimes   or   from   acts   contrary   to   the  
and   public   hearing   by   an   independent   and   purposes   and   principles   of   the   United  
impartial  tribunal,  in  the  determination  of  his   Nations.  
rights   and   obligations   and   of   any   criminal  
charge  against  him.   Article  15.  

© Harvard University 2016

Marks 23 Human Rights

(1)  Everyone  has  the  right  to  a  nationality.   Article  20.  

(2)  No  one  shall  be  arbitrarily  deprived  of  his   (1)   Everyone   has   the   right   to   freedom   of  
nationality  nor  denied  the  right  to  change  his   peaceful  assembly  and  association.  
(2)  No  one  may  be  compelled  to  belong  to  an  
Article  16.   association.  

(1)   Men   and   women   of   full   age,   without   any   Article  21.  
limitation  due  to  race,  nationality  or  religion,  
have   the   right   to   marry   and   to   found   a   family.   (1)  Everyone  has  the  right  to  take  part  in  the  
They   are   entitled   to   equal   rights   as   to   government   of   his   country,   directly   or  
marriage,   during   marriage   and   at   its   through  freely  chosen  representatives.  
(2)   Everyone   has   the   right   of   equal   access   to  
(2)   Marriage   shall   be   entered   into   only   with   public  service  in  his  country.  
the   free   and   full   consent   of   the   intending  
spouses.   (3)   The   will   of   the   people   shall   be   the   basis   of  
the   authority   of   government;   this   will   shall   be  
(3)   The   family   is   the   natural   and   fundamental   expressed   in   periodic   and   genuine   elections  
group   unit   of   society   and   is   entitled   to   which   shall   be   by   universal   and   equal  
protection  by  society  and  the  State.   suffrage  and  shall  be  held  by  secret  vote  or  by  
equivalent  free  voting  procedures.  
Article  17.  
Article  22.  
(1)   Everyone   has   the   right   to   own   property  
alone  as  well  as  in  association  with  others.   Everyone,   as   a   member   of   society,   has   the  
right   to   social   security   and   is   entitled   to  
(2)  No  one  shall  be  arbitrarily  deprived  of  his   realization,   through   national   effort   and  
property.   international   co-­‐operation   and   in   accordance  
with   the   organization   and   resources   of   each  
Article  18.   State,   of   the   economic,   social   and   cultural  
rights   indispensable   for   his   dignity   and   the  
Everyone   has   the   right   to   freedom   of   thought,   free  development  of  his  personality.  
conscience   and   religion;   this   right   includes  
freedom   to   change   his   religion   or   belief,   and   Article  23.  
freedom,   either   alone   or   in   community   with  
others   and   in   public   or   private,   to   manifest   (1)   Everyone   has   the   right   to   work,   to   free  
his   religion   or   belief   in   teaching,   practice,   choice  of  employment,  to  just  and  favourable  
worship  and  observance.   conditions   of   work   and   to   protection   against  
Article  19.  
(2)  Everyone,  without  any  discrimination,  has  
Everyone  has  the  right  to  freedom  of  opinion   the  right  to  equal  pay  for  equal  work.  
and  expression;  this  right  includes  freedom  to  
hold   opinions   without   interference   and   to   (3)  Everyone  who  works  has  the  right  to  just  
seek,   receive   and   impart   information   and   and   favourable   remuneration   ensuring   for  
ideas   through   any   media   and   regardless   of   himself  and  his  family  an  existence  worthy  of  
frontiers.   human   dignity,   and   supplemented,   if  
necessary,   by   other   means   of   social  

© Harvard University 2016

Marks 24 Human Rights

protection.   kind   of   education   that   shall   be   given   to   their  

(4)   Everyone   has   the   right   to   form   and   to   join  
trade   unions   for   the   protection   of   his   Article  27.  
(1)   Everyone   has   the   right   freely   to  
Article  24.   participate   in   the   cultural   life   of   the  
community,   to   enjoy   the   arts   and   to   share   in  
Everyone   has   the   right   to   rest   and   leisure,   scientific  advancement  and  its  benefits.  
including   reasonable   limitation   of   working  
hours  and  periodic  holidays  with  pay.   (2)  Everyone  has  the  right  to  the  protection  of  
the   moral   and   material   interests   resulting  
Article  25.   from   any   scientific,   literary   or   artistic  
production  of  which  he  is  the  author.  
(1)   Everyone   has   the   right   to   a   standard   of  
living   adequate   for   the   health   and   well-­‐being   Article  28.  
of   himself   and   of   his   family,   including   food,  
clothing,   housing   and   medical   care   and   Everyone   is   entitled   to   a   social   and  
necessary   social   services,   and   the   right   to   international   order   in   which   the   rights   and  
security   in   the   event   of   unemployment,   freedoms   set   forth   in   this   Declaration   can   be  
sickness,   disability,   widowhood,   old   age   or   fully  realized.  
other   lack   of   livelihood   in   circumstances  
beyond  his  control.   Article  29.  

(2)  Motherhood  and  childhood  are  entitled  to   (1)  Everyone  has  duties  to  the  community  in  
special   care   and   assistance.   All   children,   which  alone  the  free  and  full  development  of  
whether  born  in  or  out  of  wedlock,  shall  enjoy   his  personality  is  possible.  
the  same  social  protection.  
(2)  In  the  exercise  of  his  rights  and  freedoms,  
Article  26.   everyone   shall   be   subject   only   to   such  
limitations   as   are   determined   by   law   solely  
(1)   Everyone   has   the   right   to   education.   for   the   purpose   of   securing   due   recognition  
Education   shall   be   free,   at   least   in   the   and   respect   for   the   rights   and   freedoms   of  
elementary   and   fundamental   stages.   others   and   of   meeting   the   just   requirements  
Elementary   education   shall   be   compulsory.   of   morality,   public   order   and   the   general  
Technical  and  professional  education  shall  be   welfare  in  a  democratic  society.  
made   generally   available   and   higher  
education  shall  be  equally  accessible  to  all  on   (3)   These   rights   and   freedoms   may   in   no   case  
the  basis  of  merit.   be   exercised   contrary   to   the   purposes   and  
principles  of  the  United  Nations.  
(2)   Education   shall   be   directed   to   the   full  
development   of   the   human   personality   and   to   Article  30.  
the   strengthening   of   respect   for   human   rights  
and   fundamental   freedoms.   It   shall   promote   Nothing   in   this   Declaration   may   be  
understanding,   tolerance   and   friendship   interpreted   as   implying   for   any   State,   group  
among   all   nations,   racial   or   religious   groups,   or   person   any   right   to   engage   in   any   activity  
and   shall   further   the   activities   of   the   United   or   to   perform   any   act   aimed   at   the  
Nations  for  the  maintenance  of  peace.   destruction  of  any  of  the  rights  and  freedoms  
set  forth  herein.  
(3)   Parents   have   a   prior   right   to   choose   the  

© Harvard University 2016