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Chapter 11

POLI 244 - WP Text Ch. 11 Human Rights


Department
Political Science
Course Code
POLI 244
Professor
Stephen Saideman
Chapter
11

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Human Rights
Why are they controversial?
Are some more important than others?
Why do states violate human rights?
Why do states sign human rights agreements?
Does International Human Rights Law make a difference?
When do states tack action on Human Rights?
Will Protection of Human Rights Improve in the Future?
Why do states undertake the costly action of protecting human rights
outside their borders?
Despite widespread support for them, why has the movement not been
more successful?
Points for addressing these puzzles:
Core of the Analysis
international human rights as an institution is created by and reflects
political norms of Western, liberal democracies; therefore, the norms remain
controversial, are not equally shared, and have yet to be internalized in
many societies
individuals/states take costly acts to punish states that violate human
rights; however, the interest to do so is weak, and states are rarely keen to
pay high costs to protect individuals outside their borders
What Are International Human Rights?
Human rights: rights all humans possess by virtue of being human, and as such
are universal
UDHR: adopted by General Assembly in 1948, defines “common standard of
achievement for all peoples”, forming foundation of modern human rights law
(although it is non-binding on states)
First two articles deal with universal human dignity. Articles 3-19 are civil liberties
founded in Western philosophical and legal tradition. Articles 20-26 focus on
social, political and economic equality, also rooted in Western traditions post-
Industrial Revolution, and are associated with socialist thought. 27 and 28 deal
with rights of communal/national solidarity, championed by states emerging from
colonialism.
Resulted in two separate legal treaties, one focused on political rights favoured by
Western states (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), and one on
economic, social and cultural rights of equality and fraternity favoured by

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communist/developing states (International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights.)
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
right to:
life
liberty
presumption of innocence
free marriage
form a family
equality of duties of marriage/family between both partners
equal standing before the law
commutation of sentencing
legal recourse when rights are violated
privacy
freedom of:
movement
thought
conscience
religion
opinion and expression
assembly and association
forbids:
torture
inhumane/degrading punishment
slavery
discrimination
involuntary servitude
arbitrary arrest
death penalty for under 18s
propaganda advocating war/hate
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
right of:
sufficient wages for a minimum standard of living
equal pay for equal work
equal opportunity for advancement
right to form unions/strike
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paid/compensated maternity leave
free primary education and accessibility of schools
intellectual property protection
forbids:
exploitation of children
requires:
all countries cooperate to end world hunger
Together, the UDHR and the twin covenants are often referred to as the
International Bill of Rights.
Why Are Human Rights Controversial?
states often have different interests in human rights
states interested in supporting rights they already do domestically, and in
fighting new rights deemed as costly to implement
also interested in protecting sovereignty
may also want to promote rights that their enemies will deny or find costly
to implement
first-generation “bourgeois liberal” rights in Western democracies vs
second-generation “left-liberal” rights in USSR and developing world
crisis of rights result in their origins from a Western, liberal philosophical
tradition
however, not all societies share these universal rights (“Asian values”, etc.)
rights appear to be an institution that evolves over time -> how can they be
innate then?
Are also weakly internalized as norms
Are Some Rights More Important Than Others?
nonderogable rights: rights that cannot be suspended for any reason,
including in public emergencies
freedom from torture
from cruel/degrading punishment
recognition as a person before the law
freedom of thought, conscience and religion
however, these “special status” rights do not seem to be automatically
more enforced than others (ex. US use of torture)
yet, they've also seemed to gain special support in human rights TANs
(Amnesty International, etc.)
Prisoners of conscience (POCs): individuals imprisoned solely because of
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