Government Structures in the U.S.A. and the Sovereign States of the Former U.S.S.R: Power Allocation among Central, Regional, and Local Governments

By James E. Hickey Jr.; Alexej Ugrinsky | Go to book overview

PART VIII
INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE HUMAN RIGHTS

Part VIII addresses governmental structures that have an impact on a diverse range of human rights issues.

The notion that all sovereign governments have a legal obligation to respect the human rights of individuals and groups of individuals has emerged only after World War II with the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights 1 and the subsequent international treaties forming the international bill of human rights. 2 The dominant impediment to enforcement of those human rights is state sovereignty, which in its most unbridled form bars any inquiry by the international community about what takes place inside a state's territory. Despite that impediment, international human rights law undeniably is influencing the local and federal laws of states in regard to the rights of citizens. In addition, international human rights instruments such as the Helsinki Accords 3 adopted in 1975 by the former U.S.S.R., among others, provided at least a quasi-legal basis for the assertions of the right of self-determination that led to the breakup of the former U.S.S.R. and the movement toward democratically elected governments in Eastern Europe.

William Rich addresses human rights from the perspective of morality and federalism in the United States. He suggests compellingly that the allocation of power between the states and the federal government ought to be guided by fairness toward individuals and minority groups, by government responsibility to assure the basic necessities of life for the least advantaged citizens, and by protecting the moral standards of local communities. In this sense, Mr. Rich is certainly correct that federalism is not a "neutral" principle employed anti- septically to separate state and local power from federal or national government power.

Boris A. Tsepov's paper examines the development of human rights in the former U.S.S.R. and the Russian Federation. It observes that, during the time of Mikhail Gorbachev prior to the breakup of the U.S.S.R., the initial primary movement toward meaningful human rights progress was in foreign relations rather than in domestic reform. Of course, the acceptance internationally by the U.S.S.R. of international human rights obligations also led to changes in the domestic content and application of individual and collective human rights law to conform with the international obligations. Inside Russia this is reflected in

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