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International Studies
Brian Orend

INTST 101 Introduction to International Studies Brian Orend Unit 5 Human Rights This unit has two parts the first is this theoretical part on human rights concepts the second is the applied case study lecture by Rhoda HowardHassmann on human rights in contemporary AfricaBasic Vocabulary and Core Concepts The human rights community like any other community has a certain way of speaking Such speech can at first seem peculiar or even forbidding to those not familiar with it As with learning any language though it is both possible and pleasant to learn the human rights language provided one has a welcoming introduction to it and one is willing to put in the effort required The language of human rights is an important one to know at this point in our shared history It is an especially influential language in moral legal and political debate and like other languages is possessed of its own brand of logic and inner beauty It is moreover a language designed to be spoken universallyby each and every one of usand so we all have reason to inquire into its structure and significance It is therefore essential at the earliest moment to grasp the basic vocabulary and the core concepts employed in the human rights languageHuman One cannot say human rights of course without saying both human and rights The assumption will be made for now that there is no need to define exhaustively what a human being is we are I suggest rather well acquainted with such creatures The importance of drawing attention to the human component of human rights is to introduce a core concept that of a rightholder A rightholder very simply is the person who has the right in question Part of the distinctiveness of the 1INTST 101 Introduction to International Studies Brian Orend human rights idea is the belief that all human beings have or hold human rights While this seems to follow rather obviously when one looks at the language it is actually a bold and substantive moral claim and one which when first introduced went against the grain of history For the longest time a person was considered a rightholder only if possessed of certain select characteristics like being an ablebodied landowning adult male The contemporary human rights idea by contrast suggests that every human beingman or woman rich or poor adult or child healthy or sick educated or notholds human rights We are all members of the human community and so hold any and all of those rights overlook this fundamental feature often referred to as thrights ideaOverlooking universality is of course the very breadandbutter of human rights violators such as repressive governments Officials in such governments often claim many things for themselvesrewards and resources access and influencewhich they deny to their fellow citizens They thus fail to grasp or respect fully the twin commitments to universality and to a form of equality inherent in the human rights idea Particularly vicious human rights violators like the Nazis often claim that those whose human rights they violate are not even human and so are not entitled to claim human rights The first step on the road to mass human rights violations is invariably to denigrate the very humanity of the persons targeted The sad psychology seems always the same denying the humanity of the hated persons dislodges both conscience and sensitivity which normally prevent innocent people from being brutalized Crude propaganda is sometimes used to cement such bizarre beliefs about the inhumanity of those targeted for 2
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