Professor Rick Halperin
February 12, 2014
ORIGINS AND EVOLUTION OF THE NEVER-ENDING HUMAN RIGHTS DILEMMA
I consider myself lucky… to have been raised under the sun. With three boys and three girls to raise, my mother made all our clothes with her bare hands (and her sewing machine) — We had a many struggles, like most families— we were not always financially stable; we were never really wealthy with money, but I have always felt like my life has been rich. As far as my life has been concerned, I’ve witnessed— first handedly, mostly good sides of the human right’s divide. Not long ago, human rights were only granted to a lucky few in most of the societies around the world. In fact, throughout most of our history, the belief that each and every individual has equal inalienable rights was a belief held only by the minority view. The first human rights theory was developed by British philosopher John Locke (1632-1704), who came up with a comprehensive theory (of human rights) which stated that citizens had “natural” rights that should be protected by the government, in order for the government to be owed its’ citizen’s allegiance. Initially, Locke’s theory was put in place primarily (and solely) for one target audience; the European property-owning male. Even though this attempt towards equality was in no way void of all prejudices, it was still an important breakthrough for the work that was soon to follow. Finally, after adopting the U.S. Constitution in 1789, and adding the Bill of Rights two years later in 1791, the world experienced the first
trial run of creating a government designed to be judged by the extent to which it respected and protected the rights of its citizens.
Sadly, it took the murder of millions of people by Nazi Germany to realize that officials — highly ranked governmental officials— were explicitly held to blame for the actions that directly introduced the idea of crimes against humanity. (The nuremberg War Crime Trials of 1945.) For the first time in our history, government officials were legally held accountable to the international community for offenses against individual (and most importantly, innocent) citizens. Shortly after came the UDHR. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was endorsed by Eleanor Roosevelt, chairwoman to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights at the time. The UDHR declared that e the way that states treat their own citizens is a matter of international concern and would therefore be subject to international standards. e The growth of totalitarian regimes, like the one lead by Adolf Hitler and the loss of 50 million lives in World War II, and the lessons learned from that vast human tragedy focused the attention of nations on the need for human rights. It was finally realized that adherence to human rights was fundamental to securing world peace! The UDHR was the Nations first attempt to develop a comprehensive statement of human rights, and was specifically intended to prevent the horrors of history from happening again. By the end of 1948, the General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights— a historic milestone in the evolution of our common understanding, and affirmation, of values we deem inviolable: THAT ALL HUMAN BEINGS ARE BORN FREE & WITH EQUAL & INALIENABLE RIGHTS & FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS!!!
By mid 1970s, human rights began its influential reign over reign policy decision-
making. In 1975, thirty-five countries signed the Helsinki Accords, which was a treaty that distinguished ten specific principles: respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms such as freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, were among the new ruling standards. Flash forward past Y2K (Year 2000) and onward to President Obama’s election to Presidency, where he begun attempts at taking a more active role within the United Nations in promoting human rights worldwide. Currently, the U.S. agenda on human rights (for...