International Human Rights

International Human Rights

International Human Rights

International Human Rights


"Human rights" as we know them did not exist (as a cultural and political force) before 1945. Author Jack Donnelly traces the rise of human rights issues coming out of World War II and shows their transformation in the intervening years, including the post-Cold War agendas that have emerged since 1989. Includes figures, tables, documents, suggested readings, photos, and more.


This is a book about the international relations of human rights since the end of World War ii, that is, the ways in which states and other international actors have addressed human rights. Although wide-ranging, the topic is narrower than some readers might expect.

Life, liberty, security, subsistence, and other things to which we have human rights may be denied by an extensive array of individuals and organizations. "Human rights," however, are usually taken to have a special reference to the ways in which states treat their own citizens. For example, domestically, we distinguish muggings and private assaults, which are not typically considered human rights violations, from police brutality and torture, which are. Internationally, we distinguish terrorism, war, and war crimes from human rights issues, even though they both lead to denials of life and security. Although the boundaries are not always entirely clear -- for example, disappearances became an important form of human rights abuse in the 1970s (see Chapter 3) when perpetrators attempted to obscure the nature of their actions by operating at the boundary between private violence (murder) and state terrorism -- the distinction is part of our ordinary language and focuses our attention on an important set of political problems.

No single book can cover all aspects of the politics of human rights. My concern will be international human rights policies, a vital and increasingly well-established area of policy and inquiry. This does not imply that international action is the principal determinant of whether human rights are respected or violated. in fact, much of the book demonstrates the limits of international action.

Nonetheless, one of this book's distinctive features, as opposed to most other discussions of international human rights, is its substantial attention to the domestic politics of human rights. Chapter 3 provides a relatively detailed look at human rights violations in the Southern Cone of South America. in addition, briefer domestic case studies of South Africa, Central America, China, and the former Yugoslavia appear in Chapters 4-7.

Another distinctive feature of this book, along with the other volumes in the Dilemmas in World Politics series, is a relatively extensive empha-

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