What does “human” mean?
The term “human” in this context has an inclusionary and an exclusionary dimension. It is inclusive because it applies to all human beings (as opposed to rights which are granted, for instance, only to white men). In this regard, human rights are progressive and equalitarian. However, the term “human” is also exclusionary in that it does not cover other sentient beings (including sentient beings like pigs whose intelligence is comparable to that of a two-to-three year old human child).
What exactly are “rights”?
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rights/#3) uses the following definition: “Rights are entitlements (not) to perform certain actions, or (not) to be in certain states; or entitlements that others (not) perform certain actions or (not) be in certain states.”
What were some of the precursors to today`s human rights? And where can I read more about the historical developments of human rights?
Early documents which asserted individual rights were the Magna Carta (1215), the English Bill of Rights (1689), the French Declaration on the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789), and the US Constitution and Bill of Rights (1791). However, these documents weren`t inclusionary (http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/edumat/hreduseries/hereandnow/Part-1/short-history.htm)
To read more about the historical development of human rights go to http://www.humanrights.com/what-are-human-rights/brief-history/cyrus-cylinder.html.
How can human rights be categorized?
A common distinction is between positive and negative rights. A negative right (generally the more common form of rights) is the entitlement to be free of something, for instance to be free of torture or arbitrary detention. A positive right is the entitlement to something, for instance the right to an education. More about this distinction can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_and_positive_rights.
What are the three generations of human rights?
A division of human rights into three categories:
- First generation: Civil and Political Rights
- Second generation: Economic Social and Cultural Rights
- Third generation: Collective Rights
A good, crisp summary with examples of these rights can be found here: http://www.stockton.edu/~falkd/3gen.htm
Where can I read more about human rights theory?
A highly recommended resource is “A Theory of Constitutional Rights” by Robert Alexy. It is, however, not the easiest of reads.
What is the "International Bill of Rights”? What other international human rights documents exist? And where can I read more about this?
The term is generally used for three legal documents:
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESC)
Examples of other human rights documents include the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).
To read more about the international “Bill of Rights” see http://www.humanrights.com/what-are-human-rights/international-human-rights-law-continued.html and http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FactSheet2Rev.1en.pdf.
To access the ICCPR got to http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx
To access the ICESC go: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CESCR.aspx
Why do you include a section on human rights on CuttingEdgeLaw?
The significance of human rights can hardly be overstated. If you doubt this, picture yourself in world devoid of the concept of human rights… devoid of protection by law enforcement and independent courts, without a basic sense of security. Unfortunately, for many people worldwide, this is still their living reality.
Integrative law is fundamentally about mutual respect and honoring everybody. Thus, the idea of human dignity (as enshrined in human rights ideology) lies at the very heart of this movement. As integrative law pioneer J. Kim Wright puts it: "Everything we`re doing here is about human rights law."
Why is it important for integrative lawyers to become aware of these issues?
There are many examples of lawyers who have not acted in alignment with basic human morality and the highest calling of the legal profession (to be healers, peace-makers and problem-solvers). For a historic example of lawyers becoming involved in a morally and legally appalling cause we can turn to Nazi Germany. According to David Matas: “In the Third Reich, the complicity of the legal profession in Nazi persecution permeated the bench, the prosecution and even the defence bar. […]If the legal profession had insisted from day one of the Third Reich on obedience to justice, fairness, due process and the rule of law, the Nazi project could have been stopped before it developed a full head of steam. Only because the legal profession and the legal system tolerated and cooperated in the lesser wrongs did the greater wrongs become possible.” (http://www.un.org/en/holocaus
A more recent example of lawyerly misconduct - less drastic but still shocking - are the so-called “torture memos” by Bush administration lawyers. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Contrast this, for instance, with the shining example of Nelson Mandela: “I regard it as a duty which I owed, not just to my people, but also to my profession, to the practice of law, and to the justice for all mankind, to cry out against this discrimination which is essentially unjust and opposed to the whole basis of the attitude towards justice which is part of the tradition of legal training in this country. I believed that in taking up a stand against this injustice I was upholding the dignity of what should be an honorable profession.” Or with the courage of Shirin Ebadi (winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003): “Lawyers have a dangerous job in Iran.”
The aforementioned examples show that there is an ongoing need to raise awareness about the importance of human rights in the legal profession, to openly discuss questions of ethics and morality and to empower lawyers to be advocates for human rights.
What can integrative law bring to the understanding of these concepts?
Integrative law is a holistic way to approach law. In acknowledging the interconnectedness and interdependence of us all, it highlights the relational component that might be under expressed in classic human rights doctrine with its focus on the individual. It also teaches us that the inside and the outside are inter-related and that a better world cannot be accomplished without inner changes – changes in how we treat each other, how we treat ourselves, how we treat other sentient beings and how we treat the environment. Legal and political changes arecrucial when it comes to creating a better world but as a species, we also need to change our inner landscape.
Human Rights Organizations
Human Rights and Climate Change
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/HRAndClimateChange/Pages/HRClimateChangeIndex.aspx (High Commissioner for Human Rights)
https://www.humanrights.gov.au/papers-human-rights-and-climate-change-background-paper (Australian perspective)