*CROSS-REFERENCE: civil society-transnational, ethics, genocide, governance-global, human rights-comparative, indigenous peoples' rights, international regimes, international law, intervention-humanitarian, normative theory, rights, rule of law, sovereignty 0
Human rights is the soul of politics. The essence of human rights is the idea that all persons possess equal moral worth, that social order exists to preserve the essential humanity of its members, and that therefore the exercise of all forms of political authority is properly bounded by its impact on fundamental human dignity. In contemporary international society, this norm has become the theoretical basis for the legitimacy of all states--albeit poorly realized in practice. The emergence of the principle and practice of human rights is an essential area of international law, a hallmark of global civil society, and a response to the multi-layered challenges of globalization, along with the persistence of state abuse. The politics of human rights also provides a fascinating test of the power of transnational citizen action and international cooperation to sporadically transform state sovereignty. This essay will trace the evolution of this emerging norm, chart some systematic patterns of violation, assess the range of international remedies, and discuss challenges to the concept and its application. Historical development and emerging consensus While most cultures have had some historic standard of humane treatment for their members, the notion of universal and natural rights rises with modernity and increasing interactions across borders. Early arguments by Spanish theologian Bartolome de las Casas to recognize the essential humanity of the Indians of the Americas culminate several centuries later in the trans-Atlantic movement against the African slave trade which secured its abolition. During the 19th century, growing costly collisions among rising European powers led to recognition of the horrors of war as a violation of universal standards, the establishment of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the drafting of a series of codes of conduct for the treatment of civilians and prisoners: the Geneva Conventions (four treaties developed between 1864-1949). Meanwhile, new types of democratic regimes based on citizenship and social contract inscribed the protection of life and liberty as a requisite of rule within the state, later exported. The British Magna Carta lays a foundation in limiting the sovereign's powers of coercion, France's Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen asserts rights that transcend social class and condition, while the American Constitution's Bill of Rights establishes a normative hierarchy in which fundamental rights supersede even democratic popular will.
The contemporary international human rights regime was established in reaction to the horrors of the Holocaust-- the first modern-era genocide committed by modern 0 means within Europe, and coupled with border-crossing war crimes and international aggression. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed on December 10, 1948, is widely considered to mark the birth of the modern norm of international human rights. Over the following decades, a global architecture was constructed, consisting of an expanding body of international law, global and regional monitoring and sanctioning institutions, an emerging practice of humanitarian intervention, humanitarian and governance foreign assistance, and a growing global network of human rights movements. Jack Donnelly has calculated that over 140 states now subscribe to the foundational documents that delimit human rights in theory: the Universal Declaration and two International Covenants. While human rights began as a legal defense of the lives and physical integrity of political dissidents and religious or ethnic minorities from the malfeasance of...