Rights after 9/11
IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 TERRORIST ATTACKS on the United States, some of those active in efforts to promote human rights feared that the era in which their cause held a prominent place on the world stage could be over. That era began about a quarter of a century earlier as an outgrowth of the Cold War, and it had a part in bringing the Cold War to an end. Dictatorships of the Right and the Left had fallen— with help from those denouncing their abuses of human rights—yet those who hoped that there would be a substantial decline in gross abuses worldwide had been disappointed.
The 1990s, the decade that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of communist regimes in the former Soviet bloc, the end to almost all the military dictatorships in Latin America as well as some in Asia, and that saw the establishment of a multiracial democracy in South Africa, was indelibly scarred by ethnically based genocidal conflicts in ex-Yugoslavia and Rwanda and by conflicts increasingly centered on the control of natural resources in various parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Yet the human rights movement continued as a major force in the 1990s. It promoted truth-telling and accountability in countries that had suffered from severe repression. It led the way in establishing international criminal tribunals to prosecute and punish the gravest crimes committed in the conflicts of that decade and secured the adoption of a treaty establishing a permanent International Criminal Court. It focused international public