The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era

Article excerpt

The History of Human Rights: from Ancient Times to the Globalization Era, by Micheline R. Ishay. University of California Press (2004).

The United States has been entirely recalcitrant in implementing the international legal framework that has emerged to support human rights. As federal judge William Young observed in a May 2004 decision on prisoner rights, "When the United States ratifies human rights agreements, it often does so subject to extensive reservations, understandings, and declarations to the effect, inter alia, that the treaty is not understood to require a change in United States law or practice, that the United States does not submit to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice...."

The March 2004 hearings of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary concerning the role of foreign judgments in the interpretaption of American law were a carnival for legal isolationists who reject the citation and use of foreign judicial opinions in human rights cases. This xenophobia receives support within the Supreme Court, as where Justice Scalia protested in his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas (which struck clown a Texas statute prohibiting same-sex sodomy) that "this Court should not impose foreign moods, fads, or fashions on Americans. "

Micheline Ishay's History of Human Rights integrates such "foreignness" into a comprehensive history of human rights, from ancient civilizations to contemporary globalization debates. …