HUMAN rights | Politics & Practice
Pg.279296 [ch.16] GENOCIDE & HUMAN RIGHTS
•Cold War: the period of superpower rivalry between the USA and the USSR from the late 1940s to 1991.
The idea of ‘cold’ war indicates that the two never fought directly, despite a massive arms race and
numerous ‘hot’ proxy wars around the glove. The Cold War reflected traditional great power rivalry, as
well as and ideological clash between communism (USSR and allies) and liberal democracy (USA and
allies). Human rights were one of the key ideological dividing lines in the conflict.
•Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide: the 1948 international treaty
that codifies the crime of genocide and obligates state parties to punish and prevent genocide. The treaty
came into force in 1951 and is widely accepted around the world today.
•Crimes against humanity: a deliberate widespread or systematic attack on civilians, including murder,
forced deportation, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, rape, or persecution. On the spectrum of
humanitarian offences, it is more extreme than war crimes but les extreme than genocide, which requires
the intent to destroy a group in whole or in part.
•Gacaca courts: literally translated as ‘justice on the grass’, the gacaca courts were established after the
1994 Rwandan genocide using a traditional model. Local courts were established to try perpetrators of the
Rwandan genocide for crimes that were divided into four categories, based on the seriousness of the
offence; judges were elected by the local community to adjudicate these trials.
•Genocide: genocide, as defined by the 1948 UN Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the
Crime of Genocide, is a crime under international law comprising acts ‘committees with intent to destroy
in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such.’
•International Criminal Court: (ICC) permanent court created by the Rome Treaty (1998) and established
in 2002 with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals who have allegedly perpetrated crimes listed in the
1998 Statute of the International Criminal Court. Cases can be referred to the Office of the Prosecutor by
the state itself (e.g. Uganda) or by the Security Council (e.g. Sudan).
•Nuremberg Tribunal: (International Military Tribunal [IMT] at Nuremberg) a series of trials held in
Nuremberg, Germany by the Allies following he end of WWII. These trials prosecuted captured German
leaders for crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. (Similar trials were held in
Tokyo before the IMT for the Far East.) In the most famous trial, 19 highranking German defendants
were found guilty in 1946. The court was the first international criminal tribunal of its kind, and is today
seen as a precedent for the United Nations ad hoc criminal tribunals and the International Criminal Court.
•Qualitative: qualitative studies are empirical studies that rely on the analysis and interpretation of data in
ways that do not involve statistical techniques. These studies often utilize an indepth case analysis of a
particular country, region, or reference group; evidence might include interviews, assessments of
historical data, etc.
•Quantitative: quantitative studies are empirical research studies that rely on statistical techniques for the
analysis and interpretation of data (typically, regression analysis – a technique for determining the nature
and strength of the relationship between a dependent variable and one or more independent variables). In
the human rights field, quantitative methods examine a number of countries together over a period of time
in the search for generalizations that can be made from these countries’ collective experiences – for
instance, to explain state repression or treaty ratification. • Transitional Justice: a process of helping societies deal with the difficult questions of justice that arise as
a society moves from war to peace, or from a repressive or authoritarian regime to democracy. It focuses
particularly on social, political, and economic institutions and on addressing past wrongs and on roles for
former combatants. It may be carried out by means of retributive, restorative, or reparative justice or
some combination of these.
• Universal Declaration of Human Rights: (UDHR) landmark declaration adopted and proclaimed by the
General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1948, it marks the dawn of the modern age of
human rights. Its 30 articles outline a wide range of civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights,
rights subsequently codified in international law through the ICCPR and the ICESCR. The UDHR
establishes ‘a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every
individual and every organ of society’ shall strive to ensure ‘their universal and effective recognition and
Pg.297315 [ch.17] TORTURE
• Alien Torts Claims Act: (ATCA) an act of the US Congress passed in 1789 that provides jurisdiction in
federal courts over lawsuits by aliens for torts committed either in violation of international law or of
treaties to which the United States is a party. It has been used successfully by torture victims and their
families to bring civil suits against torturers residing in the United States.
• Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment:
(CAT) the principal international treaty outlawing torture and governing the responsibilities with regard to
the torture of states parties. It entered into force in 1987 and has been ratified by more than 140 countries.
• Consequentialism: the consequentialist approach to ethics is the notion that we ought to judge the moral
worth of an act by its consequences (sometimes expressed simply as ‘the ends justify the means’).
Utilitarianism is one form of consequentialism.
• Customary International Law: state practice binding on states due to a period of uniform practice based
on a sense of legal obligation.
• Deontological: (approach to ethics) the notion that acts are considered intrinsically good or bad without
reference to their consequences.
• Doctrine of necessity: this refers to the notion that one harmful act may be justifiable to prevent a second,
far more harmful act.
• Enlightenment: the European Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, is usually said to have
started between 1660 and 1685, and to have ended with the French Revolution. The Enlightenment
philosophers believed in the progress through human reason and were critical of superstition and religion,
along with monarchical and aristocratic forms of political authority.
• European Court of Human Rights: the primary enforcement mechanism of the Convention for the
Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention on Human Rights),
which came into force in 1953. It is widely recognized as being the most evolved supranational
mechanism for human rights enforcement. The Court took on its present form through changes
implemented with Protocol No. 11 to the Convention, which came into force in 1998.
• Geneva Conventions and Protocols: the Geneva Conventions are four treaties, the first of which was
adopted at an international conference in 1864, that set international legal standards regarding
humanitarian matters, especially concerning the treatment of noncombatants and prisoners of war during wartime. The Geneva Conventions are the foundation of modern humanitarian law and have since been
• Hague Conventions: the Hague Conventions are two international treaties negotiated in 1899 and 1907
governing the conduct of war itself, the weapons that may and may not be employed under international
law, and the definition of war crimes.
• Humanitarian law: refers both to laws, such as the Geneva Conventions and Protocols, governing the
conduct of war (in Latin, jus in bello) and laws concerning the circumstances under which war is justified
(in Latin, jus in bellum). Sometimes called the ‘laws of war’.
• Natural law: a moral law or code that is supposedly objective because it is built into the cosmos. Natural
law has preChristian antecedents, but it was the Christian version that provided the theoretical backdrop
to the emergence of the rights of man and modern human rights.
• Nonstate actors: refers to all actors at the international level who are not states, e.g. terror groups,
multinational corporations, nongovernmental organizations, private security contractors, etc.
• Sovereign immunity: the legal principle that a head of government is immune from prosecution for acts
committed in his official role as sovereign (as opposed to acts committed in pursuit of his own private
interests). It is generally understood that, while a head of state could be a prosecuted for such things as
personal corruption or murder of a spouse, he/she could not be prosecuted for the consequences of state
• Torture warrant: refers to a proposed legal order that could be issued by a judge sanctioning the torture of
one or more specified individuals.
• Treaty: binding agreement concluded between states.
• Truth commissions: a mechanism established to uncover the truth about past events, often part of a
programme of transitional justice.
• Universal jurisdiction: the legal doctrine that certain crimes are so grave that any/all states may prosecute
individuals allegedly perpetrating these crimes, irrespective of the existence of any connection to the state
seeking to prosecute. Crimes claimed to fall within this jurisdiction include genocide, slavery, and war
• Utilitarianism: a political philosophy/ideology of the Enlightenment, pioneered by Jeremy Bentham. It is a
consequentialist theory holding (in simplified form) that an act is morally justified if and only if it leads to
the greatest good for the greatest number.
Pg.334353 [ch.19] HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION
• Ethnic cleansing: the forced displacement of civilians based on their ethnicity, typically employing threats,
fire, rape, or killing. Ethnic cleansing can sometimes constitute genocide.
• Humanitarian intervention: originally defined as the provision of vital materials (food, water, shelter, and
medical care) to atrisk civilians in conflict areas. It now also includes an international action – economic,
diplomatic, or military – motivated primarily by the humanitarian desire to protect civilian targets of
violence. • Impartiality: state of not favouring any side or position. In discussions of humanitarian assistance,
impartiality means providing aid solely on the basis of need, without consideration of the political or
military allegiance of the recipient or the effect on a conflict’s balance of power. Compare with neutrality.
• International Committee of the Red Cross: (ICRC) prototypical humanitarian organization, founded in
1863 at the international conference that also gave rise to the original version of the Geneva Conventions
and Protocols The ICRC eschews political criticism of states in order to maintain access to provide
• Naming and shaming: closely related strategies used by human rights activists. Groups document and
disseminate evidence of human rights violations with the aim of shaming or embarrassing governments
• Neutrality: a status of ensuring that one’s intervention does not affect the balance of things. In discussions
of humanitarian intervention, neutral assistance is assistance that does not alter the balance of power
between warring parties. Compare with impartiality.
• Nofly zone: intervention to patrol the skies and shoot down any unauthorized military aircraft, often in
support of humanitarian intervention, as in parts of Iraq from 19912003 and Bosnia from 19931995.
• Nongovernmental organizations: (NGOs) legally constituted, private, notforprofit organizations that, in
the field of human rights standards, monitor human rights violations, and provide service delivery
primarily in developing countries. Many are active in global civil society.
• Responsibility to Protect: a principle endorsed by the UN in 2005 that recognizes all states’ responsibility
to protect their own citizens. When a state is unable or unwilling to provide this protection the
responsibility is transferred to the international community, licensing humanitarian intervention.
• Sovereignty: legal or constitutional independence of a territorial state, entailing the right to govern and
control the identified territory and legal and political jurisdiction within that territory without external
interference. The concept is conventionally dated to the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which established a
norm of noninterference that was codified in the 1945 UN Charter and is – or was until quite recently –
sacrosanct in international law. Sovereignty today is increasingly understood as the shared exercise of
public power and authority between national, regional, and global authorities.
• War crimes: a violation of the laws or customs of war, including targeting civilians for murder, ill
treatment, or forced deportation. See Geneva Conventions and Protocols.
Pg.260278 [ch.15] INDIGENOUS PEOPLES HUMAN RIGHTS
• Abrogation: (of rights) the failure to honour rights.
• Accession or accretion: the acquisition of territory that has emerged from the action of the forces of
• Cession: the acquisition of the territory of another state through a treaty.
• Conquest: the acquisition of territory by the victor in a war.
• Eugenics: an ideology based on a hierarchy of races of people that informed nineteenth and twentieth
century ‘scientific’ racism. • Genocide Convention: see Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide.
• International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: (ICCPR) one of the ‘twin covenants’ that forms
the backbone of the International Bill of Rights. The ICCPR tabulates in a legally binding form the first
half of the rights and freedoms enshrined in the UDHR.
• International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: (ICESCR) one of the ‘twin
covenants’ that forms the backbone of the International Bill of Rights. The ICESCR tabulates in a legally
binding form the second half of the rights and freedoms enshrined in the UDHR.
• International Labour Organization: (ILO) international organization established in 1919; now a
specialized agency of the United Nations, with primary responsibility for addressing issues of workers
rights and social justice. The ILO adopts many treaties and recommendations on labour related matters.
• League of Nations: an international organization created after WWI by the Treaty of Versailles. Its goal
was to prevent war from happening again. It had some success in the 1920s, but was ultimately unable to
withstand the aggression of the Axis powers in the 1930s. After WWII it was replaced by the United
• Occupation: the acquisition of territory that is not under the power of another sovereign state.
• Prescription: the acquisition of territory based on its effective possession over a period of time.
• Rule of law: the principle in which state authorities, including the courts, apply legal standards fairly
across cases, rather than arbitrarily or in response to political calculations. State accountability is an
essential aspect of any ruleoflaw system. Human rights protection, in turn, requires strong rule of law.
• Selfdetermination: the right choice of one’s own acts, free from external compulsion; in connection with
human rights, the freedom of the people in a given territory to freely determine their own political
arrangements. In the context of Indigenous peoples, it refers to the right to govern according to the wishes
of the group, which is seen as a remedial political right to distinct dispossessed ‘peoples’ and ‘nations’, in
contrast to the individual citizenship rights, or limited rights to land occupation, conferred on them by
colonial nation states.
• Stolen generations: Aboriginal or partAboriginal children in Australia whom authorities forcibly removed
from their families and culture. This policy of forcible removal continued into the 1960s. An official
inquiry described the practice as genocidal. One of the first acts of the Rudd Labour Government in
Australia was to make a public apology to the stolen generations and their families on 13 February 2008.
• Terra Nullius: Latin for ‘land of no one’. Colonizing states (especially the British in Australia) conflated
the interpretation ‘land of no occupying sovereign’ with the interpretation ‘land without inhabitants with
legal personality recognized by civilized nations’ to arrive at the meaning ‘uninhabited land’.
• UN High Commissioner for Refugees: (UNHCR) established on 14 December 1950, is a UN agency
mandated to protect and assist refugees at the request of a government or the UN itself. It assists in
finding solutions to the plight of refugees, primarily in their return to their home countries or in their
resettlement to other countries. The UNHCR is headquartered in Geneva and has offices in over 100
countries worldwide. • Vienna Declaration: a human rights declaration issued by the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights
in 1993; it reaffirmed the universality of human rights and their indivisibility and interdependence.
• World Bank: one of the Bretton Woods institutions established in 1944 to p