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Human Rights and Asia

human rights

human rights, universal rights held to belong to individuals by virtue of their being human, encompassing civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights and freedoms, and based on the notion of personal human dignity and worth. Conceptually derived from the theory of natural law and originating in Greco-Roman doctrines, the idea of human rights appears in some early Christian writers' works and is reflected in the Magna Carta (1215). The concept winds as a philosophical thread through 17th- and 18th-century European and American thought, including the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789). The United Nation's Commission on Human Rights, with Eleanor Roosevelt as chair, created the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which reasserted the concept of human rights after the horrors of World War II. Human rights have since become a universally espoused yet widely disregarded concept.

Organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch promote human rights and denounce human-rights abuses. In addition, such abuses around the world are monitored and documented by independent investigators ( "special rapporteurs" ) appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, which, in turn, rebukes cited nations for their human-rights failures. (The council replaced the UN Human Rights Commission, which had been accused of protecting human-rights violators, in mid-2006; similar accusations have been leveled at the new council.) In Europe, the supranational European Court of Human Rights, established under the Council of Europe, is intended to protect individual human rights from government abuse.

The charging in 1998 by a Spanish court of former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet with human-rights violations and the 1999 British ruling that he could be extradited to Spain, as well as the indictment and arrest (2000) in Senegal of former Chadian president Hissène Habré for human-rights violations during his presidency (although charges were later dropped, he was subsequently rearrested on a Belgian warrant), were regarded as small steps forward in the international protection of human rights.

See also civil rights; feminism; gay-rights movement; war crimes.

See M. A. Glendon, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2001); A. Fagan, The Atlas of Human Rights (2010); S. Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (2010); A. Neier, The International Human Rights Movement (2012).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

East Meets West: Human Rights and Democracy in East Asia
Daniel A. Bell.
Princeton University Press, 2000
Human Rights and Asian Values: Contesting National Identities and Cultural Representations in Asia
Ole Bruun; Michael Jacobsen.
Curzon, 2000
The Politics of Human Rights in Southeast Asia
Philip J. Eldridge.
Routledge, 2002
Rights beyond Borders: The Global Community and the Struggle over Human Rights in China
Rosemary Foot.
Oxford University Press, 2000
Does a Half-Full Glass Justify a Leap of Faith? Incremental Change and Human Rights in China
Paltiel, Jeremy.
International Journal, Vol. 61, No. 2, Spring 2006
Is Human Rights the Achilles' Heel of Chinese Soft Power? A New Perspective on Its Appeal
Ding, Sheng.
Asian Perspective, Vol. 36, No. 4, October-December 2012
Human Rights in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan
Ian Neary.
Routledge, 2002
Controversies over North Korean Human Rights in South Korean Society
Suh, Bo-hyuk.
Asian Perspective, Vol. 31, No. 2, April 1, 2007
Failing to Protect: Food Shortages and Prison Camps in North Korea*
Liang-Fenton, Debra.
Asian Perspective, Vol. 31, No. 2, April 1, 2007
Indonesian Discourse on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief: Muslim Perspectives
Arifin, Syamsul.
Brigham Young University Law Review, Vol. 2012, No. 3, May 1, 2012
The Vietnamese Tradition of Human Rights
Van Tai Ta.
Institute of East Asian Studies, 1989
Debating Human Rights: Critical Essays from the United States and Asia
Peter Van Ness.
Routledge, 1999
Towards a Human Rights Regime in Southeast Asia: Charting the Course of State Commitment
Mohamad, Maznah.
Contemporary Southeast Asia, Vol. 24, No. 2, August 2002
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