Essay on Human Rights
Choosing ONE of the following questions, write an essay, of not more than 5,000 words or 7000 words as necessary (including discursive footnotes), and submit the essay, as per the instructions.
Is the international human rights framework (including the norms, the institutions and the stake holders) a ‘radical project’ as characterized by some notable scholars? Does such a characterization bolster or undermine the realization of human rights internationally and/or domestically?
Respond analytically to these questions by providing relevant and cogent reasons, illustrating your discussion with pertinent examples and substantiating your assertions as necessary by referring to the relevant materials.
“But it does raise a question … whether human rights is a way of ‘doing social justice’ or merely a way of ‘masking social injustice’ in a rhetoric of pleasing aspiration. Why has the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, with its broad range of rights – its commitment to human dignity, to social justice and to a better life for all – not brought about a greater equivalence between aspiration and practice, between what we as a community of nations of peoples say what we want and what our laws and patterns of behaviour bring about”. Conor Gearty, Doing Human Rights: Social Justice in a Post- Socialist Age” (Speech delivered 25 November 2008), p. 3.
Do you agree with Gearty’s characterisation of the broad gap between aspiration and practice?
Respond analytically to this question by providing relevant and cogent reasons, illustrating your discussion with pertinent examples and substantiating your assertions as necessary by referring to the relevant materials.
History of Human Rights:
The concept that an individual has an array of rights merely on the bases of being a human started in the renaissance period that is the Early Modern era. Before this era, Habeas Corpus (an ancient law in which the judge needs evidence to prove whether the accused is guilty or not)1 had been cherished in the Magna Carta (an agreement between the commoners and King John and the agreement stated that the King would rule Britain and the citizens keeping in mind the medieval laws)1 in 1215 A.D. The concept of human rights became an integral part of the 18th century due to the civil wars in the 17th century in England that was the main reason for the uprising of liberalism and a staunch belief in human rights by the people. The notion of human rights has its roots in French and American revolt that introduced a period of democratic uprising during the 19th century that provided the right to vote2. The two deadly wars in the 20th century was the reason for the introduction of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There were several social movements for human rights after the war that were giving basic rights to women and African Americans. The Soviet Union developed a union in the 1970s to provide basic human rights to its members as well as the rights of the workers of the Western society2. The movement rapidly solidified as intrapersonal involvement and political bombast in several countries to set as a priority around the world. The 21st century involved many examples of intrapersonal, economic and humanitarian growth in developing countries. The concept, human rights is of a modern era but its roots are enriched in the past. The sequential past of Human Rights can be seen from three different stages conferring to the acknowledgment and development. The stages are as follows:
- The Ancient Age
- The Medieval Age
- The Modern Age
The Ancient Age
This age was from before A.D. that is 500 years before it to the fourth century. During that era, slavery was a common practice and a slave was looked down upon. They weren’t considered human but as they were someone’s possession and weren’t even provided with the basic desires like food, shelter, and clothing. The slaves did not have the basic rights and freedom to live accordingly to their will. Many historians found the oldest civilizations namely Summerian Code of Ur Nammu, the codex of Lipit Ishtae and the Akkadian Laws of Eshnunna. During this, the concept of equality surfaced in Greece and became popular among the masses3.
According to the history, Persian Rule introduced extraordinary philosophies of human rights in the sixth century BC under the rule of Cyrus3. After the battle of Babylon, the king of Persia declared ‘Cyrus cylinder’ that was revealed in 18792 and was one of the first text for human rights. Cyrus also freed many Jews that were captured in the battle majority of their prisoners were women and children3 which tells us that equality also prevailed in the earlier times.
The Feudal Age
Magna Carta was the most significant stage of this age to encourage human rights. It was a legitimate agreement approved by the King in 1215 A.D. and was once again adopted by King Edward the third. This agreement made it mandatory for the ruler to relinquish some rights, respect some laws and admit that the willpower of the Ruler could be compelled by the legal code. In the agreement, there are sixty-three articles involving a preface, among these articles the most important are Article thirty-nine that states that an innocent shall not get detained or restrained or banned or banished or get hurt in any way. The body won’t go against him or lead others to go against him, except if he is proven guilty according to the legal code and forty reported that the body will provide the right of justice to everyone and won’t refuse their basic right4.
The agreement, Magna Carta was one of the earliest versions of the human rights framework that promised citizens with liberalism. This had a positive impact on numerous other texts and legal codes like the US Constitution and Bill of Rights that is seen as one of the most significant agreements in history. Majority of the essential ideologies of the British Constitution could be based on Magna Carta. Many scholars interpreted as ‘declarative’ and a ‘main component for British liberalism’5.
The Recent Age:
The human rights framework was established in England, after the agreement of Magna Carta a significant initiative was taken by the government by implementing the Petition of Rights. This agreement is a main British legitimate text that addresses particular authorities to the issue that the ruler is forbidden from trespassing. This agreement was approved on June 7, 1628, the document entails limitation on non-parliamentary tax system, obligatory posting of soldiers, condemning the innocent with a crime and limiting the military legal of code6. The disagreement between the Parliament and the ruler at that time, King Charles the first over the ending of the war.
The Parliament rejected to approve subsidies to fund the war that led to the King borrowing enforced loans without the consent of the Parliament and illogically punishing the citizens who did not pay. Furthermore, the war led to enforcing the soldiers inside the houses with the common public and martial law was also declared across the country. The Petition of Rights have 4 articles6:
- No one is allowed to pay tax without the government’s consent.
- No one can be punished and jailed without authentic resource shown to the Royal expertise.
- The soldiers won’t be posted in houses of the common citizens without the approval of their owners.
- The ruler cannot declare martial law
Another document that was approved by the government was the Bill of Rights on December 16, 1689. It was a reaffirmation in legislative form of the Declaration of Human Rights provided by the Parliament to Mary and William in 16897. This declaration invited them to rule England side by side as one. This bill addresses the restrictions on the rule of the monarch and lays out the rights of the Parliament and guidelines for liberty in the Parliament. It also added the compulsory requirement to regulate elections in the Parliament and the freedom to question the Ruler without the fear of reprisal8.
This Bill re-introduces the freedom for Protestants to have weapons for their defence and convicted James the second of Britain for disarming many Protestants while the papists were carrying weapons and were employed conflicting the legal system. These notions about the rights replicated the diplomats like John Locke and they rapidly became famous in the country. This bill re-establishes the legislative requirement of the Ruler to pursue approval from the citizens as signified in the Parliament.
This agreement addressed basic human rights for the Britishers. These basic human rights are still implemented currently, and not only in Britain but also in other nations. The Bill of Rights addressed8:
- The Crown won’t intervene in the legal system
- The royals who are the source of justice, they cannot individually form courts or pass judgments or any matter.
- The Ruler cannot implement a tax system, the new taxation system was made compulsory by the Parliament.
- The public courts are allowed not the religious courts.
- Every individual has a right to appeal to the Crown without fearing the reprisal
- the Parliament can only allow if an army can be preserved throughout peace.
Sources of Human Rights:
Religion: the terminology human rights was written clearly in the divine text but if a Christian has a belief in the first testament which states that Adam was the first person to step on this planet and was created in the image of the Almighty8. This is an example that in religions the human beings are considered of a great value. In Islam human beings are known as ‘Ashraf ul Makhlooqaat’ that means individuals are superior than other living things.
Natural Law: The Autonomous Individual:
When Feudal system was on a decline the theory of natural law was on the rise, this theory was introduced by Groitus in which he stated that the nature of human beings is the intrapersonal desire to have a peaceful life and in agreement with other individuals. As the natural law theory came it led to the introduction of natural rights theory whose founder was John Locke. Locke stated every individual is free to exercise their rights, make their decisions and all have an equal right to freedom of speech8.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
The Universal Declaration of Rights is an agreement established in 1948, post-war due to the disastrous outcomes of the nuclear catastrophe. This declaration motivates its member countries to encourage public, economic, intrapersonal and basic human rights addressing that the rights area segment of the ‘bases of liberty, righteousness and concord around the world’9.
This agreement was formed by it’s the participants of the Human Rights Commission along with Eleanor Roosevelt as its Chairperson, she was the one to address Bill of Rights in 19479.
However, she struggled to make the member understand the need for the bill and the procedure for its implementation. Furthermore, this declaration was formed as well as other truces however, the declaration was preferred. The articles of the agreement were explanatory of the overall principle of the preface, the cross-country research and the composition of the agreement were conducted by a professor, John Humphrey and a lawyer, Rene Cassin.
The formation of the agreement was done by Cassin to incorporate the essential principles of freedom of speech, poise, equality, and unity in Article 1 and 2. The agreement also includes rights of every citizen, their rights in association with others and with different groups, civil, political and religious rights as well as intrapersonal, cultural and financial rights. The last three articles include rights concerning the restrictions, responsibilities and the intrapersonal and dogmatic order that are to be recognized. The authors of the Declaration wanted these rights to be implemented through the legal system through a procedure as it is written in the third section of the preface10.
Few of the parts of the agreement was studied and recorded by a group of renowned professional on human rights from around the world, the group included experts from different ethnicities, different religion and other continents like the founder of India, Mahatma Gandhi11.
The rights included every kind of right like public, political, intrapersonal, cultural and economic as it was assumed that the basic rights inseparable and the diverse kinds of the rights mentioned above are intricately connected11
The framework also includes other rights like the civil and political rights in which there are twenty-four rights in total. These rights are related to every public right given to the citizens of the country. The most important right upon which the framework of human rights came into being is the ‘right to life’. The first five rights are about the right or liberty from any inhumane treatment. These rights also include freedom to vote, to have children, liberty of speech and the freedom to marry. Apart from civil, there are some political rights given to the people as well like people have a right to get elected, right to have a fair prosecution, right to have a free will in the country and the right of fairness/equality under the legal system.
The framework also includes Economic, Cultural and Social Rights in which the citizens have different kinds of freedom like economically they have right to get the employment of their interest, they have right to sustainable purchasing power, right to at least have primary education. The social rights include the right to have social safety, rights to assist in the family matters, right to have higher education and freedom to protest. The cultural rights include the people have freedom the practice their culture, right to abide by the rules of their religion, right to safeguard the moral values and right to be the spreaders of culture12.
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