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The International Human Rights Movement

The International Human Rights Movement: A History

Aryeh Neier
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    The International Human Rights Movement
    Book Description:

    During the past several decades, the international human rights movement has had a crucial hand in the struggle against totalitarian regimes, cruelties in wars, and crimes against humanity. Today, it grapples with the war against terror and subsequent abuses of government power. InThe International Human Rights Movement, Aryeh Neier--a leading figure and a founder of the contemporary movement--offers a comprehensive and authoritative account of this global force, from its beginnings in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to its essential place in world affairs today. Neier combines analysis with personal experience, and gives a unique insider's perspective on the movement's goals, the disputes about its mission, and its rise to international importance.

    Discussing the movement's origins, Neier looks at the dissenters who fought for religious freedoms in seventeenth-century England and the abolitionists who opposed slavery before the Civil War era. He pays special attention to the period from the 1970s onward, and he describes the growth of the human rights movement after the Helsinki Accords, the roles played by American presidential administrations, and the astonishing Arab revolutions of 2011. Neier argues that the contemporary human rights movement was, to a large extent, an outgrowth of the Cold War, and he demonstrates how it became the driving influence in international law, institutions, and rights. Throughout, Neier highlights key figures, controversies, and organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and he considers the challenges to come.

    Illuminating and insightful,The International Human Rights Movementis a remarkable account of a significant world movement, told by a key figure in its evolution.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4187-5
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Aryeh Neier
  4. 1 The Movement AS OF SEPTEMBER 29, 2011
    (pp. 1-25)

    On the morning of July 15, 2009, Natalya Estemirova, a 50-year-old researcher for the Russian human rights organization Memorial and former history teacher who had systematically reported on torture, disappearances, and murders in her native Chechnya for nearly two decades, was abducted as she left her home in Grozny and forced into a car. Her bullet-riddled body was found later by the side of a road. she had become a victim of just the kind of crime that she had so often documented.

    For a brief period, the murder of Estemirova was an important news item worldwide. Few outside Russia...

  5. 2 Putting Natural Law Principles into Practice AS OF SEPTEMBER 29, 2011
    (pp. 26-56)

    It is possible to cite ancient roots for the principles of human rights. Hammurabi’s Code, the Bible, Plato, and Aristotle must be considered among the sources for our concept of justice. Roman thinkers such as Cicero and Seneca helped to develop our commitment to freedom of expression. The roots of thinking about rights can also be traced to non-Western sources, such as Mencius and Asoka. In the Christian era, Augustine, Boethius, and Aquinas are among those whose writings about justice were influential and, by the thirteenth century, we may add to this list the English barons at Runnymede who forced...

  6. 3 What Are Rights? AS OF SEPTEMBER 30, 2011
    (pp. 57-92)

    Among those engaged in the promotion of human rights, there is general agreement that rights are an aspect of humanity. They are not dependent on such characteristics as race, nationality, or gender, nor do they depend on a person’s presence within the territory of a particular political entity. Rights, most proponents agree, are ethical norms with a legal content that requires that they should be honored and enforced by public institutions. Some rights, it is generally conceded, may be temporarily abridged by the state because of exigent circumstances; others may never be violated, no matter the context or the purported...

  7. 4 International Human Rights Law AS OF OCTOBER 3, 2011
    (pp. 93-116)

    There are two sources of international law: custom and treaties. Customary international law is the term used to describe rules that are so widely accepted and so deeply held that they help to define what it means to belong to a civilized society. The question of whether customary international law is binding on the United States came before the U.S. Supreme Court as long ago as 1900 in a case calledPaquete Habana.¹ It involved two fishing boats flying the Spanish flag that were seized by armed vessels of the United States during the Spanish-American war as they were fishing...

  8. 5 International Humanitarian Law AS OF OCTOBER 3, 2011
    (pp. 117-137)

    Since ancient times, some who take part in armed combat have recognized that placing certain limits on the way in which they conduct hostilities can be advantageous. It can be a sign of civilized behavior, enhancing their own prestige; it may be a way to encourage their opponents to behave in a similar manner; and it may contribute to the reestablishment of peaceful relations in which the rule of law prevails. Whether or not these limits confer advantages, they do most often have the efect of asserting a commitment to humane principles.

    A story Herodotus tells indicates that the value...

  9. 6 Defying Communism AS OF OCTOBER 3, 2011
    (pp. 138-160)

    The rise of the international human rights movement as a significant force in world affairs cannot be separated from the Cold War context in which it took place. The Cold War magnified the importance of citizen efforts to promote rights and, though many of those involved in the movement during the Cold War era took significant risks and suffered severe consequences, it was the the circumstances of the East-West conflict that attracted many of them to the cause in the first place. Rights activists on both sides of the Iron Curtain became aware that calling attention to abuses of rights...

  10. 7 Rights on the Other Side of the Cold War Divide AS OF OCTOBER 5, 2011
    (pp. 161-185)

    Many Americans took part in struggles for rights during the period from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s. In the last half of the 1950s, and the first half of the 1960s, efforts to promote racial equality in the South took center stage, starting with the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, which came at a time when southern cities and states were resisting compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision inBrown v. Board of Education. During those same years, there were also battles on college campuses and elsewhere over restrictions on speech and association left over from the early...

  11. 8 Amnesty International AS OF OCTOBER 3, 2011
    (pp. 186-203)

    Amnesty International, the best known and by far the largest human rights organization in the world—in membership, in global income, and in the number of its national sections—was established in London in 1961. Its creation was a major milestone in the emergence of an enduring human rights movement. From the start it was intended to be a global organization. That is, those who would participate in its efforts would come from all over the world, and those on whose behalf it campaigned would be persons everywhere who suffered abuses of human rights.

    Amnesty was established at a time...

  12. 9 Human Rights Watch AS OF OCTOBER 3, 2011
    (pp. 204-232)

    Though Human Rights Watch has become one of the two most important institutions for the protection of human rights worldwide, its beginnings in the late 1970s did not seem to foreshadow its subsequent development. The organization is an outgrowth of the efforts of a handful of people to address one particular human rights problem of the era. They did not plan in advance its expansion to address a full range of issues worldwide. Nor did they begin with the intent to adopt themodus operandithat soon came to define the organization’s character. Those developments were, to a large extent,...

  13. 10 The Worldwide Movement AS OF OCTOBER 3, 2011
    (pp. 233-257)

    Though Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are the largest, best known, and most influential human rights groups operating worldwide, literally thousands of other organizations are also active in the field. Many of them make distinctive contributions by focusing on abuses of rights in a particular country or locality; by addressing violations of rights suffered by discrete segments of the population such as gays and lesbians, indigenous peoples, women, members of racial, religious or ethnic minorities, or persons suffering from mental or physical disabilities; by dealing with a particular form of abuse, such as torture or the denial of freedom...

  14. 11 Accountability AS OF OCTOBER 3, 2011
    (pp. 258-284)

    For about a quarter of a century, a major goal of the international human rights movement has been to secure accountability for especially grave abuses. This focus has led to the so-called “truth commissions” in many countries, principally in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, but also in several countries of Asia and in Morocco; prosecutions of literally scores of former heads of state or government before national courts in various parts of the world; increased use of the principle of universal jurisdiction in prosecutions, mainly in Europe, against those accused of gross abuses committed in other countries; and, what is...

  15. 12 Rights after 9/11 AS OF OCTOBER 3, 2011
    (pp. 285-317)

    In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, some of those active in eforts to promote human rights feared that the era in which their cause held a prominent place on the world stage could be over. That era began about a quarter of a century earlier as an outgrowth of the Cold War, and it had a part in bringing the Cold War to an end. Dictatorships of the Right and the Left had fallen—with help from those denouncing their abuses of human rights—yet those who hoped that there would be...

  16. 13 Going Forward AS OF OCTOBER 3, 2011
    (pp. 318-334)

    It is too soon at this writing to know how the Arab revolutions of 2011 will turn out. Will one or more of the Arab states become liberal democracies? Will they become military dictatorships? Is it possible that Islamists will take power? Or will the new regimes that emerge largely replicate those that were overthrown, combining corrupt oligarchical rule with special privileges for the military and the security forces so as to ensure their backing?

    Though it does not seem possible to predict the outcome of these revolutions, the fact that they have taken place is, in significant part, a...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 335-358)
  18. Index
    (pp. 359-380)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 381-381)