Human Rights and the Middle East

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© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Human Rights and the Middle East: Selected full-text books and articles

Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics By Ann Elizabeth Mayer Westview Press, 1991 (3rd edition)
Judaism, Human Rights, and Human Values By Lenn E. Goodman Oxford University Press, 1998
Iraq: Sanctions and Beyond By Anthony H. Cordesman; Ahmed S. Hashim Westview Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "The 'Periphery': Political Alienation and Abuse of Human Rights"
Living without a Constitution: Civil Rights in Israel By Daphna Sharfman M. E. Sharpe, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Strengthening the Government at the Expense of Civil Rights: The First Years of Statehood" and Chap. 9 "Was the Failure to Enact a Basic Human Rights Law Inevitable?"
Human Rights and Third World Development By George W. Shepherd Jr.; Ved P. Nanda Greenwood Press, 1985
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "A Human Rights Settlement: The West Bank and Gaza"
Negotiating Culture and Human Rights By Lynda S. Bell; Andrew J. Nathan; Ilan Peleg Columbia University Press, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Israel and Other Cases"
A Western Question to the Middle East: 'Is There a Human Rights Discourse in Islam?' By Strawson, John Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Vol. 19, No. 1, Winter 1997
The External Relations of the Arab Human Rights Movement By Awad, Ibrahim Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Vol. 19, No. 1, Winter 1997
Theoretical Issues in the Arab Human Rights Movement By Al-Sayyid, Mustapha K Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Vol. 19, No. 1, Winter 1997
Sovereign Rights, Human Rights By The Middle East, No. 225, July-August 1993
Wars on Terrorism and Iraq: Human Rights, Unilateralism, and U.S. Foreign Policy By Thomas G. Weiss; Margaret E. Crahan; John Goering Routledge, 2004
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