Donnely, Jack. International Human Rights

By Alam, Mohammed Badrul | Journal of Third World Studies, Fall 2013 | Go to article overview

Donnely, Jack. International Human Rights


Alam, Mohammed Badrul, Journal of Third World Studies


Donnely, Jack. International Human Rights. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2013. 274 pp.

International Human Rights studies the role played by states and other international actors in promoting human rights and values education in an increasingly complex, interconnected world. Jack Donnelly, through a detailed examination, has made a compelling work by providing traditional and contemporary challenges to the notion of human rights.

To begin with, the author has traced the origin of earliest form of human rights to the Peace of Westphalia (1648) that brought the Thirty Year's War to an end and one in which limited religious rights to the Christian minorities were duly recognized. The 1815 Treaty of Vienna that brought an end to Napoleonic and Revolutionary wars, included rights of the minorities even though it was limited in nature. If the nineteenth-century was marked by sustained campaigns against slave trade and slavery in various parts of the world, the end of World War I addressed the concerns of International Labor Organization and League of Nations.

One of the key challenges pertaining to human rights has been the states' stubborn assertion of sovereign rights. States as leading actors in international politics have claimed absolute control in their internal and external affairs and implicit in it is the concept of nonintervention. States stress supreme importance as to their domestic jurisdiction in all spheres including what rights are basic or fundamental and who possesses their rights and in what forms or context. Any effort, initiated either internally or externally to dilute state's sovereignty is viewed suspiciously and are often dealt with sternly by the use of force and through other related mechanisms.

Movement, for human rights received a huge boost with the adoption of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on December 10, 1948. With forty-eight countries in favor, none against and eight abstentions, UDHR provided a definitive blueprint for the first time. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration stated, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. "(p.6) Article 2-27 outlined a comprehensive set of rights such as equality of rights without discrimination, liberty and security of person, protection against torture and cruel and inhuman punishment, recognition of a person before the law, equal protection of the law, access to legal remedies for rights violations, protection against arbitrary arrest or detention, protection of privacy, family and home, freedom of movement and residence, seek asylum from persecution, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of opinion, expression, and the press, freedom of assembly, association and political participation, etc. In addition to these institutional measures that are considered authoritatively by community of nations, some new features such as right of self-determination of peoples were added to UDHR through International Human Rights Covenants in 1966. The Universal Declarations are the covenants collectively referred to as the International Bill of Human Rights and are recognized by the international community for insuring a life of dignity and worth to each individual. …

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