Human Rights for the 21st Century: Sovereignty, Civil Society, Culture

Human Rights for the 21st Century: Sovereignty, Civil Society, Culture

Human Rights for the 21st Century: Sovereignty, Civil Society, Culture

Human Rights for the 21st Century: Sovereignty, Civil Society, Culture

Synopsis

A new moral, ethical, and legal framework is needed for international human rights law. Never in human history has there been such an elaborate international system for human rights, yet from massive disasters, such as the Darfur genocide, to everyday tragedies, such as female genital mutilation, human rights abuses continue at an alarming rate. As the world population increases and global trade brings new wealth as well as new problems, international law can and should respond better to those who live in fear of violence, neglect, or harm.

Modern critiques global human rights fall into three categories: sovereignty, culture, and civil society. These are not new problems, but have long been debated as part of the legal philosophical tradition. Taking lessons from tradition and recasting them in contemporary light, Helen Stacy proposes new approaches to fill the gaps in current approaches: relational sovereignty, reciprocal adjudication, and regional human rights. She forcefully argues that law and courts must play a vital role in forging a better human rights vision in the future.

Excerpt

When Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto was killed in a suicide attack on December 27, 2007, she had been seeking a third term as prime minister after eight years in exile. Her election promise was that her Pakistan People's Party would implement the international standards of judicial independence that the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, was persistently flouting. Even before Bhutto's assassination, public anger against President Musharraf had been running high, fueled by his crackdown on the judiciary after his reelection in October 2007. He had suspended the Constitution and dismissed dissenting members of the Supreme Court, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, just three days before the court was expected to overturn his reelection. The legal profession's indignation with Musharraf's flagrant violation of the independence of the judiciary erupted time and again into angry demonstrations, and when a second general election was held in February 2008, some six weeks after Bhutto's assassination, Musharraf's political allies were trounced. Pakistan's new leaders—Bhutto's party and that of another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif—vowed to restore the independence of the Supreme Court, called for the immediate restoration of the judges, and urged Musharraf to convene Parliament quickly so that the parties could begin the “gigantic task” of restoring the country's much-amended constitution. In the subsequent political turmoil, which included the resignation of President Sharif and the appointment of Asif Ali zardari, Bhutto's widower, as the new president, the sacked judges were still not restored to their posts.

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