Human Rights Essay

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What lessons can be learned from history about how to deal with human rights violations? Your answer should make reference to at least 3 historical case studies. To fully understand what the question is asking we must first define what is meant by ‘Human Rights’ and what constitutes a violation of these rights. Once this essay has defined what a human rights violation is it shall then go on to describe periods in history where there has been a clear breach of a peoples human rights and describe what society has learned from these events. Peter Baehr, An author and professor of Human Rights from the Netherlands defines human rights as “internationally agreed values, standards or rules regulating the conduct of states towards their own citizens and towards non-citizens…Human rights tell states what they may not do, but also what they are supposed to do.”(Baehr, 1999. P1). Human rights as we know them came about at the end of World War two as a consequence of the reign of the National Socialists in Germany who killed more than six million Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and political opponents. It was the greatest scale of fundamental human rights violations in modern times. The acts committed in this period of time helped permanently etch into the minds of the world the true meaning of what ‘genocide’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ meant. (Freeman, M. 2002). The UN then created a universal document to state what human rights where; some of the most important are as follows; “The right to life, liberty and security of person (article 3), The prohibition of slavery (article 4), The prohibition of torture (article 5), The prohibition of arbitrary arrest, detention or exile (article 9), The right to a fair trial (article 10), The right to freedom of movement (article 13), The right to property (article 17), The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (article 18), The right to freedom of opinion and expression (article 19), The right to freedom of assembly and association (article 20) and The right to participate in the government of one’s country (article 21)” (United Nations,2008). The declaration also mentions other human rights that are to do with social and economic rights. Following on from the formation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we can look at instances when these human rights have been seriously violated. After the Second World War, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and its allies were involved in a succession of criminal trials. One of the most famous trials linked to human rights was the Nuremberg trial that involved the sentencing of the military officers of the Third Reich. The doctor’s trial which was part of the Nuremberg trial is probably the most disturbing chapter of Nazi ideology. How could medical healers have turned into murderers? The trial took place in Nuremberg Germany. The majority of defendants were found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity because they had carried out a number of unimaginable acts including horrendous experiments on prisoners clearly without the subjects consent. The experiments started as racial hygiene experiments and later developed into different forms of experiments based on human progression by changing the human being into a superior race. The racial hygiene experiments would combat the disproportionate breeding of ‘inferiors’, the celibacy of the upper classes, and the threat posed by feminists to the reproductive performance of the family. This was the fore runner for the following era of the now famous Nazi eugenics experiments. By 1942 more than 38,000 doctors, 50% of doctors in Germany had joined the Nazi party. On July 14,1933, the Nazi party passed the ‘Sterilisation Law’ which allowed forcible sterilisation of anyone suffering from ‘genetically determined’ illnesses. These illnesses included feeblemindedness, Schizophrenia, manic depression, epilepsy, blindness, deafness and severe alcoholism. This resulted in 350,000...
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