International Human Rights, Decolonisation and Globalisation: Becoming Human

By Shelly Wright | Go to book overview

9

Ghosts in the machine

O fellow citizen,
What have they done to us?

(Oodgeroo Noonuccal)


The enforcement of rights

As the new century begins the debate over the relative importance of civil and political rights versus socio-economic rights continues. Social, economic and cultural rights have lost their ideological basis in socialism as a viable political alternative. Instead the focus has shifted to the individual and the primacy of free market economics. But there has also been a change in the approach to civil and political rights. Since 1993 the focus seems to have shifted from state responsibility for human rights abuses to responsibility for international crimes committed by individuals. Again, the horror of a particular event seems to have galvanised world opinion - the slaughter and forced removal of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica (see Honig and Both 1996). This attention on an individual criminal model appears to have gained significant support even among those countries like the United States unwilling to allow their own citizens to be subject to international criminal sanctions for breaches of humanitarian law (Human Rights Watch 2001:485; Steiner and Alston 2000:1192-1198). The types of human rights violations covered by international criminal law include war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression. Crimes against humanity can include egregious abuses of such civil and political rights as the right to life, freedom from torture, freedom from slavery, and the right to security of the person (1993 ICTY; 1994 ICTR; Rome Statute 1998). Although international crimes may be committed against 'peoples', as in genocide, the focus is on acts committed by individuals against individual victims. Witnesses must be found to testify before tribunals set up to adjudicate these matters (Charlesworth and Chinkin 2000:324-329). The Rwandan and Yugoslavian Tribunals have found that systematic brutality can be criminal (Akeyesu 1998; Tadic 1997) but the role of witnesses is crucial. The International Criminal Court when it comes into force will further extend the range of criminal law as a means of enforcing certain types of human rights abuse. Whether involving international crimes or international human rights more generally, attention is still fixed

-187-

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International Human Rights, Decolonisation and Globalisation: Becoming Human
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements x
  • 1 - A Civil Religion 1
  • 2 - White Man's Rights 13
  • 3 - Witches, Slaves and Savages 36
  • 4 - Subjects, Soldiers and Citizens 62
  • 5 - Peoples of the Book 87
  • 6 - Speaking Truth to Power 112
  • 7 - Emerging Images 134
  • 8 - The Death of the Hero 160
  • 9 - Ghosts in the Machine 187
  • 10 - Becoming Human 213
  • Bibliography 227
  • Index 260
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