A Dictionary of Human Rights

A Dictionary of Human Rights

A Dictionary of Human Rights

A Dictionary of Human Rights

Synopsis

This publication offers a comprehensive guide to documents and organizations which are concerned with the issues of human rights. It includes up-to-date definitions and short essays about each of the 300 entries.

Excerpt

Legal and political concern for human rights was a hallmark of the immediate post-Second World War period, both within many political systems and, even more so, at the international level. In part this was because bodies like the United Nations, along with constitution-makers in countries such as the Federal Republic of Germany, able to start afresh, took human rights very seriously. Their concern for rights was not purely an expression of the sentiment that decent treatment and maximum freedom for individuals is clearly a good in itself; their analysis of the causes of war suggested that disrespect for human rights had major international repercussions. Much the same attitudes resurfaced with the ending of the Cold War, particularly among those who believe that liberal democracies are inherently un-warlike. The roots of this theory are very old, going back at least to Kant, if not to Rousseau. Political and cultural changes in the liberal democracies over the last half century have all helped to focus awareness of discrimination, intolerance and all assaults on human dignity.

These general changes have coincided, over the last 10 to 20 years, with an increasing activism by courts in many countries. Political systems, and that of the United Kingdom is an example, in which the courts had a rather shameful record of subservience to the executive, are now increasingly proud of their public law. The change is international in the true sense, as it stems from an internationalization of legal culture, rather than a simple change that has occurred by happenstance and coincidentally in several countries. In large part this has come about from the growing importance of supranational legal entities such as the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. It has occurred also because international concern for the human rights records of many countries became a significant factor in international relations during the 1970s and 1980s. Finally, the development has been accelerated by the collapse of the USSR and the end of its hegemony over Eastern Europe.

In practice, observance of human rights always falls short of the ideal, and the successful attainment of rights itself promotes demands for further rights. No text book or survey on human rights or civil liberties published in any country is likely to be satisfied totally with the record of that country, and it is probably a subject where criticism is healthier than contentment. This reference book, a form of annotated dictionary, is for all those who are not legal experts and who want to get a quick grasp of basic issues in human . . .

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