Human Rights and Africa

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© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Human Rights and Africa: Selected full-text books and articles

Refugee Rights: Ethics, Advocacy, and Africa By David Hollenbach Georgetown University Press, 2008
The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights: The System in Practice, 1986-2000 By Malcolm D. Evans; Rachel Murray Cambridge University Press, 2002
Human Rights and Societies in Transition: Causes, Consequences, Responses By Shale Horowitz; Albrecht Schnabel United Nations University Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 14 "Human Rights and Transition Societies in Western Africa"
Human Rights and Regional Cooperation in Africa: SADC and the Crisis in Zimbabwe By Pallotti, Arrigo Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol. 35, No. 1, June 2013
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
South Africa and Abusive Regimes at the UN Human Rights Council By Jordaan, Eduard Global Governance, Vol. 20, No. 2, April-June 2014
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Locating Neocolonialism, "Tradition," and Human Rights in Uganda's "Gay Death Penalty" By Cheney, Kristen African Studies Review, Vol. 24, No. 2, September 2012
A South African Perspective on the Clash between Culture and Human Rights, with Particular Reference to Gender-Related Cultural Practices and Traditions By Mubangizi, John Cantius Journal of International Women's Studies, Vol. 13, No. 3, July-August 2012
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The 'Fundamentalist' Agenda for Human Rights: The Sudan and Algeria By Abdelmoula, Adam M Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Vol. 18, No. 1, Winter 1996
Human Rights under African Constitutions: Realizing the Promise for Ourselves By Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naʿim University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003
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