HUMAN RIGHTS IN OUR WORLD

I wrote Human Rights in Our World (HRIOW) as an introductory college-level textbook. This was a work of personal interest, in which most of two years of my life (1997/8) was spent reading all of the major works, traveling the world and interviewing people. This project is the culmination of my 20+ years working (volunteer) with Amnesty International and other NGOs, as well as travel around the world for research. My trips took me to Mary Robinson’s office in the UN Human Rights Center (Geneva), the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights in The Gambia, and many other places.

Human Rights In Our World takes a fundamentally different approach from the current literature. Instead of looking at human rights abuses which have occurred and asking, why did this happen, this text develops the theme: How are human rights violations prevented and what are the conditions in which human rights are respected?

It was under contract with Sage Publications, the top-ranked academic publisher. My plan was to have a book heavy on facts and issues, but their reviewers wanted something softer and personal. Many human rights workers, like me, dislike this approach because we are seeking universal respect for human rights, not the Hollywood-style search for victims and villains.

Soon after the book was written and gained a publishing contract, I began a doctoral program which put the project on hold. It has now been many years, and given this time for reflection, my ideas on human rights have changed to the point where this book needs more that a revision. It would need a total rewrite.

In particular, I no longer believe in “rights”. This concept is based on legal doctrine. A right either exists or it does not. This is quite black or white. There are no partial rights, no gray area. Clearly, this is not an accurate reflection of reality. Instead of “human rights”, I have come to believe we should be referring to “human dignity”, which more accurately reflects what we are trying to achieve. The problem, which became apparent during my research, is it that the human rights movement is dominated by lawyers that seek to keep the movement as a professional franchise. I was even told by a prominent lawyer that I am unqualified to write a book on the subject because only lawyers are experts!

CONTENTS

PREFACE

  1. INTRODUCTION TO HUMAN RIGHTS
    What is a human right?
                Abortion
    What are the Rights?
    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Abbreviated)
    Challenges to Human Rights
    Cultural Relativism
    Asian and American Values Compared
    The Limits of Rights
                Nanuvut
    The Future of Rights
    A New World of Human Rights
    Conclusion
    PROFILES IN HUMAN RIGHTS: Thomas Paine

  2. HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
    How are Human Rights Violated?
    Arbitrary Arrest and Execution
                Focus on the Humanities: Andre Brink’s “A Dry White Season”
    Crime
                Crime Statistics
    The Death Penalty
                Death Sentence: 1881
    Economic Rights
    Freedom of Expression
    Genocide
    Planetary and Generational Rights
    Self-Determination
                Who deserves recognition?
    Slavery
    Torture
                Amnesty International’s 12-Point Program for the Prevention of Torture
                Forms of torture
                Survivors International
    Conclusion
    PROFILES IN HUMAN RIGHTS: Iqbal Masih

  3. PEOPLE AT RISK
    Indigenous Peoples
    Prisoners
    Refugees
               Human Rights Parks
    Minority Groups
    Sexual Minorities
    Children
               Causes of Death for Children Under 5 Years Old
    Conclusion
    PROFILES IN HUMAN RIGHTS: Raul Wallenburg

  4. WOMEN’S RIGHTS
    An Overview of Women’s Rights
    Civil and Political Rights of Women
               Focus on the Humanities: Harriet Beecher Stowe
    Violence Against Women
    Sex, Sexuality and Rights
               Female Genital Mutilation
    Women in the Business World
    Guerrilla Girls
    The 100 Most Influential Women of All Time
    Conclusion
    PROFILES IN HUMAN RIGHTS: Radhika Coomaraswamy

  5. HISTORY OF HUMAN RIGHTS
    The Lessons of History
    Ancient Beginnings
               The Nobel Peace Prize
    The Birth of the Idea of Human Rights
                Focus on the Humanities: Les Miserables
    World War I and the League of Nations
    World War II and the United Nations
                The UN System
    Human Rights Become Universal
                Timeline of Human Rights
    Conclusion
    PROFILES IN HUMAN RIGHTS: Frederick Douglass

  6. ORIGIN OF RIGHTS: PEOPLE AND SOCIETY
    Human rights in Our Daily Lives
               Mall Santa Won’t Promise Gun
    The Behavioral Sciences
    Violence and Aggression
               Violence in the Media
               The Dr. Martin Luther King Center’s Six Principles of Non-Violence
    Police and Solider Psychology
               The Offenders
               The Mindset of a Killer
    The Psychology of Torture
    Culture
               Caste Systems
    Social Darwinism
               Prisoner’s Dilemma
    Social Control: Conformity and Obedience
               Stanley Milgram’s Study on Obedience
    Ethnic Conflict
               UNESCO, Statement on Race and Racial Prejudice
    Education and Human Rights
               Language and Attitudes
    Public Health and Human Rights
    Conclusion
    PROFILES IN HUMAN RIGHTS: Mahatma Gandhi

  7. RELIGION AND HUMAN RIGHTS
    An Overview of Religion and Human Rights
    Religion as a Right
    Religious Activism for Human Rights
    Christianity
    Judaisim
    Islam
    Hinduism
    Confuscianism
    Conclusion
               The Major Religions
    PROFILES IN HUMAN RIGHTS: Mother Teresa

  8. POLITICAL APPROACHES TO HUMAN RIGHTS
    The Nature of Politics
    Major International Organizations
               The Americas
               Europe
               Middle East
               Africa
               The African Charter’s Duties Clause
               Asia
               British Commonwealth
    National political systems
                Focus on the Humanities: George Orwell’s World
    Foreign policy
    Sub-State Governments
    Humanitarian Relief
    Non-Governmental Organizations
               Amnesty International
    Conclusion
    PROFILES IN HUMAN RIGHTS: Ang Sang Suu Kyi

  9. HUMAN RIGHTS LAW
    An Introduction to law
                Prosecuting the Old Regime
    International Law
               The World War II Tribunals
    The Sharia
    The Geneva Conventions
                The Geneva Conventions and Protocols
    Regional systems
               European Court of Human Rights
               Inter-American Court of Human Rights
               African Court on Human and People’s Rights
               Caribbean Court of Justice
    National laws
               The King of Death Row
    Local Laws
                Street Law
    Law Enforcement
                Police Training
                The Los Angeles Police Department’s Code of Ethics
    Conclusion
    PROFILES IN HUMAN RIGHTS: Rigoberta Menchu Tum

  10. THE UNITED NATIONS SYSTEM
    Overview of the United Nations System
    UN Commission on Human Rights
    The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
    ICCPR’s Human Rights Committee
    Other UN Organs
    Reporting Systems
               Treat-Based Reporting Systems
    Assessing the UN’s Role
    Legal Provisions of the UN
               Some of the Main Treaties and Instruments
    PROFILES IN HUMAN RIGHTS: Eleanor Roosevelt

  11. WAR AND PEACE: HUMAN RIGHTS DURING ARMED CONFLICT
    The Nature of Armed Conflict
               Landmines
     Human Rights Issues During Conflict
               The Offenders
    Controls on the Conduct of War
    The Red Cross
               Seven Fundamental Principles of the International Committee of the Red Cross
    Peacekeeping
    Just War Doctrine
    Demilitarization
    Conclusion
    PROFILES IN HUMAN RIGHTS: Ken Sara-Wiwa

  12. BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
    The Business Environment
    Bhopal
    Economic Systems
    What is Expected of Businesses?
               Preference and Prejudice
    Human Rights and Poverty
    The Rights/Development Tradeoff
    The Global Economy
                The Internet and Human Rights
    Labor Issues
               Hourly Earnings in Manufacturing in Selected Countries
    The Arms Industry
                The World’s Top Defense Companies
    Technology
               New Ways to Clear Minefields
    Doing Business with Human Rights Abusers
                Culture Jamming
    PROFILES IN HUMAN RIGHTS: Desmond Tutu

  13. GRASS ROOTS ACTIVISM
    What is Grass Roots Activism?
    Career in Social Activism
    Finding your mission
    Getting Organized
    Lobbying
    Hazardous Work
    Organizing Public Events
    Boycotts
    Fundraising
    PROFILES IN HUMAN RIGHTS: Dr. Anan Ashrawi

APPENDIX- SELECTED HUMAN RIGHTS DOCUMENTS
           The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
           International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
           International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
           Nobel Peace Price Recipients

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

INDEX

Art and the humanities are a major interest in human rights, and this book will be the first to include a significant amount of illustrations and discussion on this area. I have confirmed approval for the following:

  • Cameron Macintosh, Producer of the play Les Miserables in London, for use of their world famous logo to illustrate the inset on Victor Hugo’s story of human dignity and freedom.
  • Claudia Munoz, staff artist for The Economist, for a cartoon used in an article on the International Criminal Court.
  • National Geographic Society, use of a passage on Nunavut, the newest Indian Nation in Canada
  • Dr. Martin Luther King’s Principles of Nonviolence.


The Nicaraguan Human Rights
Commission, Managua. 1997

The African Commission on People and Human Rights, The Banjul, The Gambia. This is next to the US Embassy, so my nation's overzealous and undertrained security guards yelled at me for taking this picture, which of course I ignored.