The Twilight of Human Rights Law (Inalienable Rights)

The Twilight of Human Rights Law (Inalienable Rights)

Language: English

Pages: 200

ISBN: 019931344X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The Twilight of Human Rights Law (Inalienable Rights)

Language: English

Pages: 200

ISBN: 019931344X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Countries solemnly intone their commitment to human rights, and they ratify endless international treaties and conventions designed to signal that commitment. At the same time, there has been no marked decrease in human rights violations, even as the language of human rights has become the dominant mode of international moral criticism. Well-known violators like Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan have sat on the U.N. Council on Human Rights. But it's not just the usual suspects that flagrantly disregard the treaties. Brazil pursues extrajudicial killings. South Africa employs violence against protestors. India tolerate child labor and slavery. The United States tortures.

In The Twilight of Human Rights Law--the newest addition to Oxford's highly acclaimed Inalienable Rights series edited by Geoffrey Stone--the eminent legal scholar Eric A. Posner argues that purposefully unenforceable human rights treaties are at the heart of the world's failure to address human rights violations. Because countries fundamentally disagree about what the public good requires and how governments should allocate limited resources in order to advance it, they have established a regime that gives them maximum flexibility--paradoxically characterized by a huge number of vague human rights that encompass nearly all human activity, along with weak enforcement machinery that churns out new rights but cannot enforce any of them. Posner looks to the foreign aid model instead, contending that we should judge compliance by comprehensive, concrete metrics like poverty reduction, instead of relying on ambiguous, weak, and easily manipulated checklists of specific rights.

With a powerful thesis, a concise overview of the major developments in international human rights law, and discussions of recent international human rights-related controversies, The Twilight of Human Rights Law is an indispensable contribution to this important area of international law from a leading scholar in the field.

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debates bear a noticeable resemblance to human rights controversies in the past. British imperial administrators in colonial India were disgusted and horrified by suttee (the practice of burning alive the wives of deceased husbands) and eventually banned it, but only after much hesitation because the ban contradicted the standing policy of tolerating local religious customs. The Indians themselves were ambivalent about suttee and some of them welcomed the ban while others opposed it. Much like

States, the European countries, and the Soviet Union sought to stabilize their relationship. To this end, they entered into an agreement under which the West recognized the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence over Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc countries agreed to respect human rights, including the rights embodied in the ICCPR and other human rights treaties [ 83 ] T h e T w iligh t of H u m a n R igh t s L aw they had signed. The Soviets resisted the human rights

on enforcement by states, which are the same entities subject to the rights regime and for that reason may not be trusted with a task that requires neutrality and fairness. Rather than press this point, however, I want to suggest why it is that even if the constitutional analogy is taken seriously, it provides weak support for the human rights system, and indeed does the opposite—points out flaws in the premises of the human rights system. The first problem with constitutional adjudication is

manuscript) (available at http://ssrn.com/ abstract=1988258). Griffin, James, On Human Rights (Oxford Univ. Press 2008). Hafner-Burton, Emilie M. & Kiyoteru Tsutsui, Human Rights in a Globalizing World: The Paradox of Empty Promises, 110 Am. J. Soc. 1373 (2005). Hafner-Burton, Emilie M. & Kiyoteru Tsutsui, Justice Lost! The Failure of International Human Rights Law to Matter Where Needed Most, 44 J. Peace Res. 407 (2007). Hafner-Burton, Emilie M., Making Human Rights a Reality (Princeton Univ.

governments from atrocities committed by armed groups. Britain, Russia, and France intervened repeatedly in the Balkans to protect Christians from being massacred by mobs or Ottoman troops. These actions often had a strategic role and were rarely perfectly humanitarian—the British were more concerned about Christians being massacred [ 13 ] T h e T w iligh t of H u m a n R igh t s L aw by Ottoman Turks than the other way around, or, for that matter, Christians being massacred by Christians.

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