View in large size
Universal Declaration of Human Rights                              

Although other civilizations – notably those of India, China and the Islamic world – were at least equal to Europe at various stages in history, and in many respects in advance of it, they did not manage to propagate a universal ethics of rights. There were, nonetheless, notable examples of pre-Enlightenment non-European rulers enacting charters of tolerance. The "Great Moghul," Akbar the Great of India, granted religious minorities legal status in his realm and condemned traditional Indian practices such as the burning of widows (suttee) and slavery.[3] However, it is unclear how much such liberties can be described as "human rights" in the modern sense. Some historians argue that in non-Western cultures – and indeed in the West before the late Middle Ages – there was no concept of human rights, although important ethical concepts were nonetheless present. The concept of rights certainly existed in pre-modern cultures; ancient philosophers such as Aristotle wrote extensively on the rights (to dikaion in ancient Greek, roughly a "just claim") of citizens to property and participation in public affairs. However, neither the Greeks nor the Romans had any concept of universal human rights; slavery, for instance, was justified both in classical and medieval times as a natural condition. Medieval charters of liberty such as the English Magna Carta were not charters of human rights, let alone general charters of rights. They instead constituted a form of limited political and legal agreement to address specific political circumstances, in the case of Magna Carta later being mythologised in the course of early modern debates about rights.

 

Much of modern human rights law and the basis of most modern interpretations of human rights can be traced back to relatively recent European history. The Twelve Articles of the Black Forest (1525) are considered to be the first record of human rights in Europe. They were part of the peasants' demands raised towards the Swabian League in the Peasants' War in Germany. The British Bill of Rights (or “An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown”) of 1689 made illegal a range of oppressive governmental actions in the United Kingdom. Two major revolutions occurred during the 18th century, in the United States (1776) and in France (1789), leading to the adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen respectively, both of which established certain legal rights. Additionally, the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776 encoded a number of fundamental rights and freedoms into law.

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen approved by the National Assembly of France, August 26, 1789.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

—United States Declaration of Independence, 1776

These were followed by developments in philosophy of human rights by philosophers such as Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill and G. W. F. Hegel during the 18th and 19th centuries. The term human rights probably came into use sometime between Paine's The Rights of Man and William Lloyd Garrison's 1831 writings in The Liberator saying he was trying to enlist his readers in "the great cause of human rights"

 Many groups and movements have managed to achieve profound social changes over the course of the 20th century in the name of human rights. In Western Europe and North America, labour unions brought about laws granting workers the right to strike, establishing minimum work conditions and forbidding or regulating child labour. The women's rights movement succeeded in gaining for many women the right to vote. National liberation movements in many countries succeeded in driving out colonial powers. One of the most influential was Mahatma Gandhi's movement to free his native India from British rule. Movements by long-oppressed racial and religious minorities succeeded in many parts of the world, among them the civil rights movement, and more recent diverse identity politics movements, on behalf of women and minorities in the United States. The establishment of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the 1864 Lieber Code and the first of the Geneva Conventions in 1864 laid the foundations of International humanitarian law, to be further developed following the two World Wars.

 

The World Wars, and the huge losses of life and gross abuses of human rights that took place during them were a driving force behind the development of modern human rights instruments. The League of Nations was established in 1919 at the negotiations over the Treaty of Versailles following the end of World War I. The League's goals included disarmament, preventing war through collective security, settling disputes between countries through negotiation, diplomacy and improving global welfare. Enshrined in its Charter was a mandate to promote many of the rights which were later included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At the 1945 Yalta Conference, the Allied Powers agreed to create a new body to supplant the League's role. This body was to be the United Nations. The United Nations has played an important role in international human rights law since its creation. Following the World Wars the United Nations and its members developed much of the discourse and the bodies of law which now make up international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

International norms
Humanitarian Law

The Geneva Conventions came into being between 1864 and 1949 as a result of efforts by Henry Dunant, the founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The conventions safeguard the human rights of individuals involved in armed conflict, and build on the 1899 and 1907 Hague Conventions, the international community's first attempt to formalize the laws of war and war crimes in the nascent body of secular international law. The conventions were revised as a result of World War II and readopted by the international community in 1949.

 

The Geneva Conventions define what is today referred to as humanitarian law. The International Committee of the Red Cross is the controlling body of the Geneva conventions.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

"It is not a treaty...[In the future, it] may well become the international Magna Carta." Eleanor Roosevelt with the Spanish text of the Universal Declaration in 1949.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a non-binding declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, partly in response to the atrocities of World War II. Although the UDHR is a non-binding resolution, it is now considered to be a central component of international customary law which may be invoked under appropriate circumstances by national and other judiciaries.The UDHR urges member nations to promote a number of human, civil, economic and social rights, asserting these rights are part of the "foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." The declaration was the first international legal effort to limit the behaviour of states and press upon them duties to their citizens following the model of the rights-duty duality.  

"...recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world"
—Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

The UDHR was framed by members of the Human Rights Commission, with former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt as Chair, who began to discuss an International Bill of Rights in 1947. The members of the Commission did not immediately agree on the form of such a bill of rights, and whether, or how, it should be enforced. The Commission proceeded to frame the UDHR and accompanying treaties, but the UDHR quickly became the priority. Canadian law professor John Humprey and French lawyer René Cassin were responsible for much of the cross-national research and the structure of the document respectively, where the articles of the declaration were interpretative of the general principle of the preamble. The document was structured by Cassin to include the basic principles of dignity, liberty, equality and brotherhood in the first two articles, followed successively by rights pertaining to individuals; rights of individuals in relation to each other and to groups; spiritual, public and political rights; and economic, social and cultural rights. The final three articles place, according to Cassin, rights in the context of limits, duties and the social and political order in which they are to be realized. Humphrey and Cassin intended the rights in the UDHR to be legally enforceable through some means, as is reflected in the third clause of the preamble:

"Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law."
—Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

Some of the UDHR was researched and written by a committee of international experts on human rights, including representatives from all continents and all major religions, and drawing on consultation with leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi. The inclusion of both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights was predicated on the assumption that basic human rights are indivisible and that the different types of rights listed are inextricably linked. This principle was not then opposed by any member states (the declaration was adopted unanimously, with the abstention of the Eastern Bloc, Apartheid South Africa and Saudi Arabia), however this principle was later subject to significant challenges.

 

The Universal Declaration was bifurcated into two distinct and different covenants, a Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and another Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Over the objection of the more developed states [Capitalist], which questioned the relevance and propriety of such provisions in covenants on human rights, both begin with the right of people to self-determination and to sovereignty over their natural resources. Then the two covenants go different ways (see, Louis Henkin, The International Bill of Rights: The Universal Declaration and the Covenants, in International Enforcement of Human Rights 6-9, Bernhardt and Jolowicz, eds, (1987)

The drafters of the Covenants initially intended only one instrument. The original drafts included only political and civil rights, but economic and social rights were added early. Western States then fought for, and obtained, a division into two covenants. They insisted that economic and social right were essentially aspirations or plans, not rights, since their realization depended on availability of resources and on controversial economic theory and ideology. These, they said, were not appropriate subjects for binding obligations and should not be allowed to dilute the legal character of provisions honoring political-civil rights; states prepared to assume obligations to respect political-civil rights should not be mitments. There was wide agreement and clear recognition that the means required to enforce or induce compliance with socio-economic undertakings were different from the means required for civil-political rights. See Louis Henkin, Introduction, The International Bill of Rights 9-10 (1981).

 

Because of the divisions over which rights to include, and because some states declined to ratify any treaties including certain specific interpretations of human rights, and despite the Soviet bloc and a number of developing countries arguing strongly for the inclusion of all rights in a so-called Unity Resolution, the rights enshrined in the UDHR were split into two separate covenants, allowing states to adopt some rights and derogate others. Though this allowed the covenants to be created, one commentator has written that it denied the proposed principle that all rights are linked which was central to some interpretations of the UDHR.

Law
Human rights law is a system of laws, both domestic and international, designed to promote human rights. 
Treaties
In 1966, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) were adopted by the United Nations, between them making the rights contained in the UDHR binding on all states that have signed this treaty, creating human rights law.
Since then numerous other treaties (pieces of legislation) have been offered at the international level. They are generally known as human rights instruments. Some of the most significant are:
° Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) (adopted 1966, entry into force: 1969).
° Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (entry into force: 1981)
° United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) (adopted 1984, entry into force:1984)
° onvention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (adopted 1989, entry into force: 1989)
° International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) (adopted 1990, entry into force: 2003)
Enforcement of law

The enforcement of international human rights law is the responsibility of the Nation State, and its the primary responsibility of the State to make human rights a reality. There is currently no international court that upholds human rights law (the International Criminal Court deals with crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide), although the Council of Europe is responsible for both the European Convention on Human Rights, and the European Court of Human Rights that acts as a court of last appeal for human rights issues in member states.


In practice, many human rights are very difficult to legally enforce due to the absence of consensus on the application of certain rights, the lack of relevant national legislation or of bodies empowered to take legal action to enforce them. .  

Universal Jurisdiction
Universal jurisdiction is a controversial principle in international law whereby states claim criminal jurisdiction over persons whose alleged crimes were committed outside the boundaries of the prosecuting state, regardless of nationality, country of residence, or any other relation with the prosecuting country. The state backs its claim on the grounds that the crime committed is considered a crime against all, which any state is authorized to punish. The concept of universal jurisdiction is therefore closely linked to the idea that certain international norms are erga omnes, or owed to the entire world community, as well as the concept of jus cogens.
United Nations
Universal Jurisdiction
United Nations Human Rights Council logo.

The United Nations (UN) is the only multilateral governmental agency with universally accepted international [jurisdiction] for universal human rights legislation. Human rights are primarily governed by the United Nations Security Council and the United Nations Human Rights Council, and there are numerous committees within the UN with responsibilities for safeguarding different human rights treaties. The most senior body of the UN with regard to human rights is the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The United Nations has an international mandate to:

 

"...achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion."
—Article 1-3 of the United Nations Charter

The United Nations Human Rights Council, created at the 2005 World Summit to replace the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, has a mandate to investigate violations of human rights. The Human Rights Council is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly and reports directly to it. It ranks below the Security Council, which is the final authority for the interpretation of the United Nations Charter. Forty-seven of the one hundred ninety-one member states sit on the council, elected by simple majority in a secret ballot of the United Nations General Assembly. Members serve a maximum of six years and may have their membership suspended for gross human rights abuses. The Council is based in Geneva, and meets three times a year; with additional meetings to respond to urgent situations.

Independent experts (rapporteurs) are retained by the Council to investigate alleged human rights abuses and to provide the Council with reports.

 

The Human Rights Council may request that the Security Council take action when human rights violations occur. This action may be direct actions, may involve sanctions, and the Security Council may also refer cases to the International Criminal Court (ICC) even if the issue being referred is outside the normal jurisdiction of the ICC.

Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security and is the only body of the UN that can authorize the use of force (including in the context of peace-keeping operations), or override member nations sovereignty by issuing binding Security Council resolutions. Created by the UN Charter, it is classed as a Charter Body of the United Nations. The UN Charter gives the Security Council the power to:
° Investigate any situation threatening international peace;
° Recommend procedures for peaceful resolution of a dispute;
° Call upon other member nations to completely or partially interrupt economic relations as well as sea, air, postal, and radio communications, or to sever diplomatic relations; and
° Enforce its decisions militarily, if necessary.
The Security Council hears reports from all organs of the United Nations, and can take action over any issue which it feels threatens peace and security, including human rights issues. It has at times been criticized for failing to take action to prevent human rights abuses, including the Darfur crisis, the Srebrenica massacre and the Rwandan Genocide.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court recognizes the Security Council the power to refer cases to the Court, where the Court could not otherwise exercise jurisdiction.
Other UN Treaty Bodies
A modern interpretation of the original Declaration of Human Rights was made in the Vienna Declaration and Programmed of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993. The degree of unanimity over these conventions, in terms of how many and which countries have ratified them varies, as does the degree to which they are respected by various states. The UN has set up a number of treaty-based bodies to monitor and study human rights, under the leadership of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR). The bodies are committees of independent experts that monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties. They are created by the treaty that they monitor.

The Human Rights Committee promotes participation with the standards of the ICCPR. The eighteen members of the committee express opinions on member countries and make judgments on individual complaints against countries which have ratified the treaty. The judgments are not legally binding.


The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights monitors the ICESCR and makes general comments on ratifying countries performance. It does not have the power to receive complaints.


The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination monitors the CERD and conducts regular reviews of countries' performance. It can make judgments on complaints, but these are not legally binding. It issues warnings to attempt to prevent serious contraventions of the convention.


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women monitors the CEDAW. It receives states' reports on their performance and comments on them, and can make judgments on complaints against countries which have opted into the 1999 Optional Protocol.


The Committee against Torture monitors the CAT and receives states' reports on their performance every four years and comments on them. It may visit and inspect individual countries with their consent.


The Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors the CRC and makes comments on reports submitted by states every five years. It does not have the power to receive complaints.


The Committee on Migrant Workers was established in 2004 and monitors the ICRMW and makes comments on reports submitted by states every five years. It will have the power to receive complaints of specific violations only once ten member states allow it.


The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was established in 2008 to monitor the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

 

Each treaty body receives secretariat support from the Treaties and Commission Branch of Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva except CEDAW, which is supported by the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW). CEDAW meets at United Nations headquarters in New York; the other treaty bodies generally meet at the United Nations Office in Geneva. The Human Rights Committee usually holds its March session in New York City.

Regional human rights
Asia
United Nations Security Council

Membership and expansion of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue. Note that the Republic of China (Taiwan) is recognized or acknowledged by the member states as part of the People's Republic of China (PRC), but de facto does not have any representation.
Main articles: Human rights in Asia, Human rights in East Asia, Human rights in Central Asia, and Human Rights in the Middle East
There are no Asia-wide organizations or conventions to promote or protect human rights. Countries vary widely in their approach to human rights and their record of human rights protection.


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a geo-political and economic organization of 10 countries located in Southeast Asia, which was formed in 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. The organisation now also includes Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. Its aims include the acceleration of economic growth, social progress, cultural development among its members, and the promotion of regional peace.


The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an economic and political organization of eight countries in Southern Asia, representing almost 1.5 billion people. It was established in 1985 by India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan. In April 2007, at the Association's 14th summit, Afghanistan became its eighth member.


The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG) is a trade bloc involving the seven Arab states of the Persian Gulf, with many economic and social objectives. Created in 1981, the Council comprises the Persian Gulf states of Yemen Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


The Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) is a body created in 2002 to promote Asian cooperation at a continental level, helping to integrate the previously separate regional organizations of political or economical cooperation. The main objectives of the ACD are as follows:

 

To promote interdependence among Asian countries in all areas of cooperation by identifying Asia's common strengths and opportunities which will help reduce poverty and improve the quality of life for Asian people whilst developing a knowledge-based society within Asia and enhancing community and people empowerment;


To expand the trade and financial market within Asia and increase the bargaining power of Asian countries in lieu of competition and, in turn, enhance Asia's economic competitiveness in the global market;


To serve as the missing link in Asian cooperation by building upon Asia's potentials and strengths through supplementing and complementing existing cooperative frameworks so as to become a viable partner for other regions;
To ultimately transform the Asian continent into an Asian Community, capable of interacting with the rest of the world on a more equal footing and contributing more positively towards mutual peace and prosperity.

 

None of the above organisations have a specific mandate to promote or protect human rights, but each has some human rights related economic, social and cultural objectives.
A number of Asian countries are accused of serious human rights abuses by the international community and human rights organizations.
(All articles referred from Wikipedia for information purpose only)