A more recent version of these Intro To Human Rights notes – written by Cambridge/Bpp/College Of Law students – is available here.
The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our GDL Constitutional and Administrative Law Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:
Con & Ad: Introduction to Human Rights Introduction - The Idea of Human Rights
modern idea: protecting human rights through the law.
- Philosophical explanation: humans have rights just by virtue of being human. vs. other bases for rights: citizenship, membership of racial or social group.
- Source of human rights uncertain. debate: religious teachings vs. humanist/philosophical traditions. but does not matter: no need for formalistic authority as justification - rights derive from humanity, not appeal to any historical process.
- Historical development as legal concept.
1. Natural Law and International Law: Enlightenment attempt to explain legal obligations. Natural Law: innate canon of legal values ('rights of man') - superior to any national legal rule (e.g. Hobbes, Locke, Paine, Rousseau). vs. idea of (regnal) authority: validity of laws from sanction of ruler.
? International Law: philosophical basis from Natural Law (no international king) + principle that superior to national law in obligation. mid-17C - 20C: evolution of international law ? most states accept superiority.
? international law of human rights as well as domestic liberties/rights. BUT: national law still dominates - inertia.
2. 18C Radicalism in National Legal Orders: Revolutions. USA (1776) + French (1789) revolutions ? declarations of rights.
France: revolutionary settlement did not last long. US Constitution: comprehensive statement of rights + judicial mechanism of protection. background: 1776 - Declaration of Independence (inc. individual human rights) ? 1787 - Constitution ? Bill of Rights: first 10 amendments to the US Constitution. enforcement: dev. of judicial principles for using HR by US courts ? wider influence.
3. 1945 and beyond. before 1945: some attempts beyond USA to protect rights, but not comprehensive. mid-19C abolition of slavery: trend towards humanising function of rights - but driven by international law (treaties) ? not much dev. of domestic rights. League of Nations: failure - no viable institution to promote universal rights. 1945: United Nations (UN) - founded to provide mechanism for resolution of int'l disputes. 1948: Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): only resolution of General Assembly (not 'law') - but: universal acceptance ? binding as customary int'l law?
plan for expansion: UDHR as base for binding human rights treaties - slow. 1948: Genocide Convention. 1966: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) + International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) - both: inc. reporting + complaint mechanisms. ideal: universal, judicial system of rights protection - so far, modest results. but success: inspiration for more effective regional mechanism.
- Regional arrangements. problem - cultural relativism: varying social, ethical + religious traditions of different regions ? truly international standards of human rights difficult, but regional systems easier. Europe: most effective regional system - but: still some problems of cultural relativism.
Background to the ECHR and the need for the HRA
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