Can there be such a thing as ‘universal’ human rights? Discuss some of the main arguments.
Even though there is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many critics still argue that there is no such thing as universal human rights. Since “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides a moral foundation for legal, political, economic, social and cultural institutions as well as a standard against which such institutions are to be measured., …the domestic status of that standard remains legally and politically somewhat vague” (Corbett, n.d., p. 3). They argue that the defenders of universal human rights have overlooked the fact that there is cultural, political, legal, economic, and religious diversity in the world, which is quite impossible to harmonize. Therefore, so long as diversities in these areas do exist, universal human rights will not exist.
When and why, did the idea of human rights emerge?
Human rights originated from the natural law of philosophy of ancient Greece in about 500 BC. Greek philosophers thought and believed in the natural law of gods derived from the existence itself. During the Middle Ages St. Aquinas asserted that human rights laws must conform to the right reason and eternal principles of the law. John Locke in the 17th century defined human rights as the law of nature, which obliges everyone not to harm another in life, health, liberty, or possessions. In 1776, Thomas Jefferson declared the American Declaration of Independence says that “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (Human Rights, n.d., p. 5). The idea of Human Rights emerged due to the cumulative injustices that led to revolutions that advocated for human rights.
Must human rights always be universal, incontrovertible, and subjective?
Due to the economic inequality and diversity of humanity in terms of religious, legal, political, cultural, and social aspects, human rights should not always be universal, incontrovertible, and subjective. “The historical origins of human rights present a significant challenge to the contemporary human rights debate. Since the concept of human rights resulted from a very specific set of conditions that arose in early modern Europe, human rights would appear to have minimal resonance in Asian culture” (Corbett, n.d., p. 5). The political, economic, religious, and cultural diversity of the world makes universal human rights enforcement be always controversial and subjective.
Consider Zimbardo’s and/or Milgram’s experiment and discuss how various social psychological perspectives explain the making of torture.
Based on this experiment, the inherent personality traits of the prisoners reflect the abusive and torturous conditions of the prison. Zimbardo argues that “you can create in the prisoners’ feelings of boredom, a sense of fear to some degree; you can create a notion of arbitrariness that their life is controlled by us, by the system, you, me, and they’ll have no privacy ” (Stanford Prison Experiment, n.d., p. 5). All these actions lead the prison to develop psychological feelings of powerlessness, hence psychological torture.
Is torture universally wrong? Can it be proscribed?
Is the official definition of genocide satisfactory? If not, what may be a suitable alternative?
Torture is universally wrong as international and domestic laws both prohibit it for it dehumanizes the victim. Human torture cannot be proscribed as “the formal prohibition against torture is absolute – there are no exceptions to it…the public outrage that has followed the recent claims of torture seems to have entrenched this widely held sentiment” (Barbaric Torture Debate, n.d., p. 2). The best alternative is to use various legal ways of interrogation and correction.
Genocide definition by Convention on the Prevention and Punishment is quite satisfactory as they define that genocide is any crime committed to destroy, in whole or in part a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.
To what extent might we view genocide as a structural consequence of the drive towards modernity and rationality?
Genocide is a consequence of political, ethnic, religious, cultural social, and economic inequalities that divides people’s respective lines and cause genocide. Therefore, genocide is a structural adjustment of these factors towards modernity and rationality. “Genocide is so pervasive, making almost all members of a given society participate, yet genocide seeks to hold individuals accountable for crimes committed by the community” (Genocide, n.d., p. 157).
Is International Law law?
International law is a law similar to domestic laws because the domestic constitution regards international laws as part of the law through various treaties and conventions that the parliament ratifies (International Human Law Enforced, p. 1399).
Can it be enforced in the same way as laws that exist within individual countries?
The enforcement of international law is similar to domestic laws because the legal system recognizes them. International laws are “enforced through a transnational legal process of the institutional interaction, interpretation of legal norms, and attempts to internalize to those norms into domestic legal systems” (How is International Human Law Enforced, n.d., p. 1399). The domestic legal process integrates with the international legal process.
At International Law, can a legal rule against aggression, for example, itself prevail over political temptations?
The legal rule against aggression cannot prevail against the political powers of the world headed by the United Nations. According to Article 14 of the United Nations Charter (1945), “the General Assembly may recommend measures for the peaceful adjustment of any situation, regardless of origin, which it deems likely to impair the general welfare or friendly relations among nations…” (p. 6).
Discuss whether the apartheid can be used to describe any political system in which entire groups of people are excluded from the decision-making process and segregated either spatially or socially.
Racism in the United States during the slavery period was similar to the apartheid conditions since the black people in the United States did not enjoy equal rights as their counterpart whites. From the experiences of the blacks in the United States, “the human rights movement, with substantial support from America encouraged the South Africans to set up public law firms that began using the courts actively to establish rights for many millions of the black South Africans” (Apartheid Lecture, pp. 93-94).
What structural conditions existed in the United States and South Africa that allowed apartheid to emerge?
Racism and slavery in the United States were the structural conditions that allowed apartheid to thrive well in South Africa. The human rights from the United States encouraged Anti-racist barristers to advocates for the abolition of apartheid (Apartheid Lecture, n.d., p. 94).
What forms of violence against women seem to reflect their economic status?
Forms of violence that reflect economic status are battering, female genital mutilation, rape, forced early marriages, and unplanned pregnancies. Empowering women economically through education and financial aid would help them defend themselves against these abuses (Tahmina Rashid Lecture, n.d., pp. 2-6). Since the women cannot access education and legal fees, their poor economic status makes them very helpless, thus predisposed to the violence aforementioned.
Cross-culturally, what forms of violence against women seem to reflect their political status?
When a woman takes a certain political stand, men subject her to violence such as battering, divorce, rejection by the community, and even assault by hired goons. Furthermore, political enemies jeopardize women’s political ambitions and malign their reputations. “Women often suffered guilt by association, were, imprisoned, tortured even killed because their male associates or relatives were believed to be involved in political opposition groups” (Human Rights of Women and Children, n.d., p.1). Politically, a woman should not claim to enjoy equal status as men for they are unequal, and whoever claims is against the norms, and therefore an outcast of the society.
What is being done internationally to oppose violence against women?
Internationally, the United Nations Convention is formulating policies and laws that support and advocate for the rights of women. “The 1979 convention states that all women are entitled to adequate health facilities, including family planning and the freedom and responsibility to decide the number and age difference of children to have” (Human Rights of Women and Children, n.d., p. 1). The United Nations Convention together with other women activists around the world is working concertedly to ensure enforcement of women’s rights.
In what ways are children often targeted as victims of human rights abuses?
Children become victims of human rights abuses through various ways such as forced labor, child trafficking, sexual workers, denied education, forced early marriages, and children soldiers. The United Nations Convention of 1989 requires the state parties to recognize “the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous. Anything that interferes with the child’s education or harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development is also condemned in this convention” (Human Rights of Women and Children, n.d., p. 5).
Does globalization mean the end of the nation-state, and if so, what are the implications of this for the regulation of human rights?
Since globalization means an end to the nation-state, the regulation of human rights laws and enforcement would be subject to the international bodies like the United Nations and other related bodies like the international court of justice. “International law is enforced not just by nation-states, not just by government officials, not just by world-historical figures, but by people like us, by people with the courage and commitment to bring international human rights law home through a transnational legal process of interaction, interpretation, and internalization” (International Human Rights, n. d., p.1417). Therefore, provided with the efficient international legal process, the United Nation can regulate human rights all over the world.
Human rights mean little unless we live in a clean, healthy world free from poverty and war. Discuss.
Human rights have no concrete meaning if people still cannot afford to live in a clean and healthy world free from poverty and war. “The fights for equality, the struggle to participate, the longing for security from want, are the problems of various minorities. Whether they are the disabled, members of visible minorities, gays and lesbians, or the homeless, they need the help of the majority who may or may not be able to afford to give it to them” (Corbett, n.d., p. 3). Therefore, so long as there are economic and social inequalities in society together with violence and war, human rights will have no impact on society.
When Hannah Arendt said, “human rights are only meaningful if you are recognized as human” what did she mean? What might this mean for the plight of refugees?
Human rights are only meaningful if they are recognized and applied as stipulated in the law but the rhetoric mention does not help the victims of human rights abuse. “It would be naive to suggest that the mere presence of the words ‘human rights’ is sufficient to ensure the protection of such rights” (Corbett, n.d., p. 4). The enforcement of human rights requires proper and effective institutions of justice in society. If enforcement of human rights were effective in the letter, then the refugees would have their plight relieved and resettled in their respective countries immediately.
Why does international law only partially protect the rights of asylum seekers?
The international law protects the rights of the asylum seekers partially because their country is unsafe and the government is unable or has failed to protect them. According to Article 24 of the United Nation Charter, “to ensure prompt and effective action by the United Nations, its Members confer on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and agree that in carrying out its duties under this responsibility the Security Council acts on their behalf” (1945, p. 8)
What protections should be afforded to asylum seekers under international law? Why?
Under international law, asylum seekers need to enjoy human rights like other people even though they are in a foreign country. These protections include access to social rights such as education, accommodation, and employment. The asylum seekers should also have safe passage in the country in which they seek asylum and free illegal immigration (International Human Rights, n.d., p.1414).
Are the solutions to the world’s refugee problems merely legal? What about political/social/economic factors? What is the impact of these and how should these be addressed?
The solutions of the world’s refugees are not merely legal but they also entail political, social, and economic solutions. Political and economic inequalities in various countries are the major factors that increase incidences of refugees in various countries experiencing them. To address these factors, the United Nation functions as stipulated in Article 88 prescribes that, “the Trusteeship Council shall formulate a questionnaire on the political, economic, social, and educational advancement of the inhabitants of each trust territory, and the administering authority for each trust territory within the competence of the General Assembly” (United Nation Charter, 1945, p. 21). Therefore, the United Nations monitor the political, social, economic, and educational progress of its members to address the issues related to refugees.
Apartheid. Lecture Notes.
Barbaric Torture Debate. Lecture Notes.
Corbett, S. (n.d.) Making Human Rights Visible: The Language of Human Rights. The government of Canada. 1-9.
Genocide. Lecture Notes. Human Rights. History of Human Rights. Lecture Notes.
Human Rights of Women and Children. Lecture Notes.
International Human Rights. Lecture Notes.
Stanford Experiment. Lecture Notes.
Tahmina Rashid. Lecture Notes.
United Nations. (1945.). Charter of the United Nations. Lecture Notes.