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lundi 26 novembre 2012

Human Rights (All there is to know)


Human rights refers to the universal rights of people regardless of jurisdiction or other factors, such as ethnicity, age, nationality, sexual orientation or religion.
The idea of human rights descended from the philosophical idea of natural rights; some recognize virtually no difference between the two and regard both as labels for the same thing while others choose to keep the terms separate to eliminate association with some features traditionally associated with natural rights.
As is evident in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights, at least in the post-war period, are conceptualized as based on inherent human dignity, retaining their universal character. The existence, validity and the content of human rights continue to be the subject to debate in philosophy and political science and many other forms. Legally, human rights are defined in international law and covenants, and further, in the domestic laws of many states. However, for many people the doctrine of human rights goes beyond law and forms a fundamental moral basis for regulating the contemporary geo-political order. For them, they are democratic ideals.
Property Rights and Human Rights – Theory of Value and Property
“Theory of value and property” John Locke uses the word property in both broad and narrow senses. In a broad sense, it covers a wide range of human interests and aspirations; more narrowly, it refers to material goods. He argues that property is a natural right and it is derived from labour.”
Locke believed that ownership of property is created by the application of labour. In addition, property precedes government and government cannot “dispose of the estates of the subjects arbitrarily.” Karl Marx later critiqued Locke’s theory of property in his social theory.
To deny valid property rights according to Locke is to deny human rights. The British philosopher had significant impacts upon the development of the Government of the UK and was central to the fundamental founding philosophy of the United States of America.
History of human rights legislation
“It is not a treaty…[In the future, it] may well become the international Magna Carta.” Eleanor Roosevelt with the Spanish text of the Universal Declaration in 1949 Appalled by the barbarism of the Second World War, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. While not legally binding, it urged member nations to promote a number of human, civil, economic and social rights, asserting these rights are part of the “foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”. The declaration was the first international legal effort to limit the behavior of states and press upon them duties to their citizens following the model of the rights-duty duality.
Many states wanted to go beyond the declaration of rights and create legal covenants which would put greater pressure on states to follow human rights norms. Because some states disagreed over whether this international covenant should contain economic and social rights (which usually require a greater effort to fulfill on the part of individual states), two treaties were prepared.
In 1976, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was considered and never ratified. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights came into force in 1976. It commits 155 state parties to work toward the granting of economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR) to individuals. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (abbreviated UDHR) is a non-binding declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (A/RES/217, 1948-12-10 at Palais de Chaillot, Paris).
Since then several other pieces of legislation have been introduced at the international level: With the exception of the non-deformable human rights (the four most important are the right to life, the right to be free from slavery, the right to be free from torture and the right to be free from retroactive application of penal laws), the UN recognises that human rights can be limited or even pushed aside during times of national emergency – although “the emergency must be actual, affect the whole population and the threat must be to the very existence of the nation. The declaration of emergency must also be a last resort and a temporary measure”. Conduct in war is governed by International Humanitarian Law.
International bodies
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights created an agency, the Human Rights Committee to promote compliance with its norms. The 18 members of the committee express opinions as to whether a particular practice is a human rights violation, although its reports are not legally binding.
A modern interpretation of the original Declaration of Human Rights was made in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993. The degree of unanimity over these conventions, in terms of how many and which countries have ratified them varies, as does the degree to which they are respected by various states. The UN has set up a number of bodies to monitor and study human rights, under the leadership of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR).
Regional legislation
There are also many regional agreements and organisations governing human rights including the European Court of Human Rights, which is the only international court with jurisdiction to deal with cases brought by individuals (rather than states); the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam; Inter-American Court of Human Rights; and Iran’s Defenders of Human Rights Center.
History of human rights
Ur-Nammu, the king of Ur created what was arguably the first legal codex in ca. 2050 BC. Several other sets of laws were created in Mesopotamia including the Code of Hammurabi, (ca. 1780 BC) which is one of the best preserved examples of this type of document. It shows rules and punishments if those rules are broken on a variety of matters including women’s rights, children’s rights and slave rights.
Elsewhere, societies have located the beginnings of human rights in religious documents. The Vedas, the Bible, the Qur’an and the Analects of Confucius are some of the oldest written sources which address questions of people’s duties, rights, and responsibilities.
Ancient China
In the case of China, it is though clear that there were no human rights in the society at the time of Confucius (551-479 BC) because there was no natural right or Naturrecht: rights were only bestowed according to the position and role of man in society (cf. ritual, relationships and filial piety in Confucianism). This means that there were no individual rights man enjoyed by birth, nor were they unalienable (for more interested readers: cf. the writings of Hans-Georg Möller, Brock University, Canada, cf. references).
Persian Empire
The Cyrus cylinder of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Persian Empire The Achaemenid Persian Empire of ancient Iran established unprecedented principles of human rights in the 6th century BC under Cyrus the Great. After his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, the king issued the Cyrus cylinder, discovered in 1879 and recognized by many today as the first human rights document. The cylinder declared that citizens of the empire would be allowed to practice their religious beliefs freely. It also abolished slavery, so all the palaces of the kings of Persia were built by paid workers in an era where slaves typically did such work.[6] These two reforms were reflected in the biblical books of Chronicles and Ezra, which state that Cyrus released the followers of Judaism from slavery and allowed them to migrate back to their land. The cylinder now lies in the British Museum, and a replica is kept at the United Nations headquarters.
In the Persian Empire, citizens of all religions and ethnic groups were also given the same rights, while women had the same rights as men. The Cyrus cylinder also documents the protection of the rights to liberty and security, freedom of movement, the right of property, and economic and social rights.
Maurya Empire
The Maurya Empire of ancient India established unprecedented principles of civil rights in the 3rd century BC under Ashoka the Great. After his brutal conquest of Kalinga in circa 265 BC, he felt remorse for what he had done, and as a result, adopted Buddhism. From then, Ashoka, who had been described as “the cruel Ashoka” eventually came to be known as “the pious Ashoka”. During his reign, he pursued an official policy of nonviolence (ahimsa) and the protection of human rights, as his chief concern was the happiness of his subjects.[8] The unnecessary slaughter or mutilation of animals was immediately abolished, such as sport hunting and branding. Ashoka also showed mercy to those imprisoned, allowing them outside one day each year, and offered common citizens free education at universities. He treated his subjects as equals regardless of their religion, politics or caste, and constructed free hospitals for both humans and animals. Ashoka defined the main principles of nonviolence, tolerance of all sects and opinions, obedience to parents, respect for teachers and priests, being liberal towards friends, humane treatment of servants, and generosity towards all. These reforms are described in the Edicts of Ashoka.
In the Maurya Empire, citizens of all religions and ethnic groups also had rights to freedom, tolerance, and equality. The need for tolerance on an egalitarian basis can be found in the Edicts of Ashoka, which emphasize the importance of tolerance in public policy by the government. The slaughter or capture of prisoners of war was also condemned by Ashoka. Slavery was also non-existent in ancient India.
Middle Ages
In 1215 King John of England issued the Magna Carta, a document forced upon him by the Pope and English barons, which required him to renounce certain rights, respect certain legal procedures and accept that the will of the king could be bound by law. It forbade arbitrary imprisonment and the collection of taxes without the approval of the people. Although the document did not itself limit the power of the king in the Middle Ages, its later reinterpretation in the Elizabethean and Stuart periods established it as a powerful document on which constitutional law was founded in Britain and elsewhere.
Early Modern Era
The conquest of the Americas in the 16th century by the Spanish resulted in vigorous debate about human rights in Spain. The debate from 1550-51 between Las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda at Valladolid was probably the first on the topic of human rights in European history.
Several 17th and 18th century European philosophers, most notably John Locke, developed the concept of natural rights, the notion that people possess certain rights by virtue of being human. Though Locke believed natural rights were derived from divinity since humans were creations of God, his ideas were important in the development of the modern notion of rights. Lockean natural rights did not rely on citizenship nor any law of the state, nor were they necessarily limited to one particular ethnic, cultural or religious group.
U.S. Declaration of Independence ratified by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776
Two major revolutions occurred that century in the United States (1776) and in France (1789). The United States Declaration of Independence includes concepts of natural rights and famously states “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen approved by the National Assembly of France, August 26, 1789
Similarly, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen defines a set of individual and collective rights of the people. These are held to be universal – not only to French citizens but to all men without exception.
Modern Era
Philosophers such as Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill and Hegel expanded on the theme of universality during the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1831 William Lloyd Garrison wrote in a newspaper called The Liberator that he was trying to enlist his readers in “the great cause of human rights” so the term human rights probably came into use sometime between Paine’s The Rights of Man and Garrison’s publication. In 1849 a contemporary, Henry David Thoreau, wrote about human rights in his treatise On the Duty of Civil Disobedience [6] which was later influential on human rights and civil rights thinkers. United States Supreme Court Justice David Davis, in his 1867 opinion for Ex Parte Milligan, wrote “By the protection of the law, human rights are secured; withdraw that protection and they are at the mercy of wicked rulers or the clamor of an excited people.”
Many groups and movements have managed to achieve profound social changes over the course of the 20th century in the name of human rights. In Western Europe and North America, labour unions brought about laws granting workers the right to strike, establishing minimum work conditions and forbidding or regulating child labour. The women’s rights movement succeeded in gaining for many women the right to vote. National liberation movements in many countries succeeded in driving out colonial powers. One of the most influential was Mahatma Gandhi’s movement to free his native India from British rule. Movements by long-oppressed racial and religious minorities succeeded in many parts of the world, among them the civil rights movement, and more recent diverse identity politics movements, on behalf of women and minorities in the United States.
Philosophy of human rights
Types
Human rights are sometimes divided into negative and positive rights. “Negative” human rights, which follow mainly from the Anglo-American legal tradition, are rights that a government and/or private entities may not take action to remove. For example, right to life and security of person; freedom from slavery; equality before the law and due process under the rule of law; freedom of movement; freedoms of speech, religion, assembly; the right to bear arms. These have been codified in documents including the Scottish Claim of Right, the English Bill of Rights the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United States Bill of Rights and Fourteenth Amendment.
“Positive” human rights mainly follow from the Rousseauian Continental European legal tradition and denote entitlements that the state is obliged to protect and provide. Examples of such rights include: the rights to education, to health care, to a livelihood. Positive rights have been codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Articles 22-28) and in many 20th-century constitutions.
Another categorization, offered by Karel Vasak, is that there are three generations of human rights: first-generation civil and political rights (right to life and political participation), second-generation economic, social and cultural rights (right to subsistence) and third-generation solidarity rights (right to peace, right to clean environment). Out of these generations, the third generation is the most debated and lacks both legal and political recognition. Some theorists discredit these divisions by claiming that rights are interconnected. Arguably, for example, basic education is necessary for the right to political participation.
Some human rights are said to be “inalienable rights.” This is not a term that has a precise meaning today, but is a term from English property law, used metaphorically, and is usually a reference to the United States Declaration of Independence, emphasizing the importance of a claimed right.
Justification of human rights
Several theoretical approaches have been advanced to explain how human rights become part of social expectations. The biological theory considers the comparative reproductive advantage of human social behavior based on empathy and altruism in the context of natural selection. Other theories hold that human rights codify moral behavior, which is a human, social product developed by a process of biological and social evolution (associated with Hume) or as a sociological pattern of rule setting (as in the sociological theory of law and the work of Weber). This approach includes the notion that individuals in a society accept rules from legitimate authority in exchange for security and economic advantage (as in Rawls).
On the other hand, natural law theories base human rights on the “natural” moral order that derives from religious precepts such as common understandings of justice and the belief that moral behavior is a set of objectively valid prescriptions. Some have used religious texts such as the Bible and Qur’an to support human rights arguments. However, there are also more secular forms of natural law theory that understand human rights as derivative of the notion of universal human dignity.
Yet others have attempted to construct an “interests theory” defence of human rights. For example the philosopher John Finnis argues that human rights are justifiable on the grounds of their instrumental value in creating the necessary conditions for human well-being. Some interest-theorists also justify the duty to respect the rights of other individuals on grounds of self-interest (rather than altruism or benevolence). Reciprocal recognition and respect of rights ensures that one’s own will be protected.
Ultimately, the term “human rights” is often itself an appeal to a transcendent principle, not based on existing legal concepts. The term “humanism” refers to the developing doctrine of such universally applicable values. The term “human rights” has replaced the term “natural rights” in popularity, because the rights are less and less frequently seen as requiring natural law for their existence.
Criticism of human rights
One of the arguments made against the concept of human rights is that it suffers from cultural imperialism. In particular, the concept of human rights is fundamentally rooted in a politically liberal outlook which, although generally accepted in Western Europe, Japan, India and North America, is not necessarily taken as standard elsewhere. An appeal is often made to the fact that influential human rights thinkers, such as John Locke and John Stuart Mill, have all been Western and indeed that some were involved in the running of Empires themselves. The cultural imperialism argument achieves even greater potency when it is made on the basis of religion. Some histories of human rights emphasise the Christian influence on the agenda and then question whether this is in keeping with the tenets of other world religions. For example, in 1981, the Iranian representative to the United Nations, Said Rajaie-Khorassani, articulated the position of his country regarding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by saying that the UDHR was “a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition”, which could not be implemented by Muslims without trespassing the Islamic law.
Yet, some feel that the cultural imperialism argument is not entirely factual. While Western political philosophers like Locke, Hobbes and Mill made important contributions to the development of modern notions of human rights, the concept of human rights itself has origins in many world cultures and religions. Additionally, this argument leads to absolute relativism if taken too far. If all viewpoints and moral frameworks are equally valid then one cannot condemn any behaviour, however outrageous or horrific. In practice, human rights offer a basis to criticise such behavior or conduct, including imperialism. As such, human rights can be a transformative tool for self-determination.
One way out of the cultural imperialism and relativism debate is to argue that the body of human rights exists in a hierarchy or can undergo derogation. The relationship between different rights is complex since it can be argued that some are mutually reinforcing or supportive. For example, political rights, such as the right to hold office, cannot be fully exercised without other social and cultural pre-requisites, such as a decent education. Whether the latter should therefore be included as a first-generation right is a debated point.
However, it can be argued that the idea of human rights is not entirely universal, and to impose them universally may have harmful consequences. Western developed states often stress the need for a negative rights construct while the developing world seeks a more positive rights construct. In regards to progress in human rights, “institutions are more written in the “hearts of the people” (which cannot be changed overnight) than in the pages of law books. Changing the de jure institutions does not by any means imply a transformative change in the de facto institutions and norms that govern long term behavor” (Ellerman 102-103). Without internal motivation, external leverage can hamper local human rights progress.
Another important philosophical criticism of human rights is their presumed basis in morality. If moral beliefs are fundamentally expressions of individuals’ personally held preferences then the objective morality upon which human rights are founded is rejected. Richard Rorty has argued that human rights are not based upon the exercise of reason but a sentimental vision of humanity (even though he does support human rights in law on the basis of interests theory). Alasdair MacIntyre has written that a belief in rights is on a par with “belief in witches and unicorns”[17]. But without care this criticism can become an apology for all behaviour as it aligns closely with moral relativism. It offends some by claiming that moral beliefs are personally held preferences and that there are no objective criterion to deduce valid moral beliefs from.
A final set of debating points revolves around the question of who has the duty to uphold human rights. Human rights have historically arisen from the need to protect citizens from abuse by the state and this might suggest that all mankind has a duty to intervene and protect people wherever they are. Divisive national loyalties, which emphasise differences between people rather than their similarities, can thus be seen as a destructive influence on the human rights movement because they deny people’s innately similar human qualities. But others argue that state sovereignty is paramount, not least because it is often the state that has signed up to human rights treaties in the first place. Commentators’ positions in the argument for and against intervention and the use of force by states are influenced by whether they believe human rights are largely a legal or moral duty and whether they are of more cosmopolitan or nationalist persuasion.
Violations of human rights
Human rights Violation is abuse of people in a way that it abuses any fundamental human rights. It is a term used when a government violates national or international law related to the protection of human rights.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, fundamental human rights are violated when, among other things:
Monitoring
Human rights violations and abuses include those documented by non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International, , World Organisation Against Torture, Freedom House, International Freedom of Expression Exchange and Anti-Slavery International.
Only a very few countries do not commit significant human rights violations, according to Amnesty International. In their 2004 human rights report (covering 2003) the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Costa Rica are the only (mappable) countries that did not violate at least some human rights significantly.
Some people believe human rights abuses are more common in dictatorships or theocracies than in democracies because freedom of speech and freedom of the press tend to uncover state orchestrated abuse and expose it. Nonetheless human rights abuses do occur in democracies. For example, the Macpherson report found that the British police had been institutionally racist in the handling of the death of Stephen Lawrence. Also Amnesty International has called the running of Guantanamo Bay detainment camp by the United States “a human rights scandal” in a series of reports.
In over 90 countries National human rights institutions (NHRIs)[20] have been set up to protect, promote or monitor human rights in a given country. There are now over 90 such bodies. Not all of them are compliant with the United Nations standards as set out in the 1993 Paris Principles, but the amount and effect of these institutions is increasing.

Human Rights in Japan


Japan in general protects its citizens’ human rights. The Japanese people have the right and the ability to change their government. The Diet is chosen with universal suffrage, and elections are scheduled at frequent intervals. Some critics of Japanese politics have pointed out that the same political party— the Liberal Democratic Party—has ruled the country since 1947, suggesting that Japan’s democracy is not as mature as it should be. These criticisms are valid, but they ignore the fact that the Liberal Democrats are divided into different wings and factions and that shifts in electoral results have altered the relative power of these factions and led to changes in the leaders of government. In recent years, other political parties have gained in strength, and the Liberal Democrats have been obliged to participate in coalition governments for the first time.
The Japanese judiciary is independent and largely free of corruption. Japanese trials are fair and open, and the military and police forces are firmly under civilian control. Despite Japan’s high human rights standards, there remain some problem areas. The police have been guilty of occasional abuse against prisoners and detainees. Police sometimes use physical violence or intimidation to obtain confessions from prisoners. Approximately 90 percent of all criminal cases include a confession on the part of the accused. There remains a strong suspicion that some of these confessions are coerced. There have also been some reports of police harassment of foreign immigrants and residents.
Japan’s prisons meet international standards but can be very rough. Insufficient heating in some prisons has led to cases of frostbite among prisoners. Some inmates complain that not enough food is provided. Japan’s prisons are run according to a very rigid set of rules and regulations, which some human rights observers believe contribute to the degradation of prisoners. Prison wardens use solitary confinement liberally, and some inmates have been kept in solitary confinement for many years. Japan allows its citizens freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to assemble. Japanese workers have the right to form unions. Japanese have the right to move freely about, both inside and outside the country. Academic freedom is also protected. Some academics complain that although they are allowed to speak freely, a national reluctance to acknowledge past human rights failures has led to a kind of self-censorship in Japanese textbook publishing. Japanese history textbooks usually touch only lightly on the crimes committed by Japanese soldiers during World War II.
Partly because of this self-censorship in Japanese publishing, some critics believe that Japan has not sufficiently acknowledged the human rights abuses committed by its armed forces during World War II. Japanese troops behaved with great brutality toward Koreans, Chinese, and Filipinos, among others. China and South Korea, in particular, have asked the Japanese government to apologize for Japan’s wartime atrocities. While Japanese leaders have made some statements that admit to wrongdoing, their words of apology have been muted and have not satisfied those who suffered under Japanese rule.  Japan’s reluctance to apologize stems partly from internal political considerations. A significant part of the Japanese population feels that it would be dishonorable to apologize for Japan’s actions; these people also tend to downplay the severity of Japan’s wartime criminality, and most Japanese students grow up very ignorant of these parts of their country’s past.
Theoretically, Japan protects the right to worship freely. While in general this right is protected in practice, there have been some exceptions. The Japanese cult known as Aum Shinrikyo, some of whose members were responsible for a series of poison gas attacks in Japanese subways, has suffered from government surveillance and restriction. Members of the Unification Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses have also complained of government harassment and intolerance. Women suffer some limits on their human rights. Domestic abuse is suspected to be widespread, but social pressure prevents many women from reporting instances of abuse. Sexual harassment remains a common problem in the Japanese business world. Compared to European or American corporations, Japanese women are more likely to suffer sexual harassment or demands for sexual favors by supervisors.
Women are still not regarded as business equals and do not have the same opportunities to advance up the corporate ladder. An ongoing complaint by many women is that sexual groping or molestation occurs in Japan’s crowded commuter trains. Japan strongly protects the rights of children.
The disabled suffer some discrimination in Japanese society, but the government has been making efforts to reduce this problem. Discrimination against minorities remains a human rights problem in Japan. The Ainu are descendents of Japan’s first inhabitants, and are an ethnic minority, who live in northern Japan. They have long suffered from discrimination at the hands of the Japanese majority. The 1997 passage of The Law to Promote Ainu Culture eliminated the legal discrimination that had existed against the Ainu, but social discrimination remains a problem.
Also suffering from discrimination are the Burakumin, a caste of outcasts who traditionally performed “unclean” tasks in Japan’s past. Although discrimination against Burakumin is not supported by law, long time prejudices by the population keep the Burakumin from enjoying full human rights in Japan. Many Burakumin hide their background in an attempt to avoid this discrimination. Discrimination, legal and societal, against foreigners also continues. Culturally, with their homogenous society, some Japanese tend to be suspicious of foreigners. Foreign workers, the largest percentage of whom are ethnically Korean, face employment and societal discrimination. The government places difficult hurdles in the way of ethnic Koreans, even long time residents, who wish to become Japanese citizens.
Japan cooperates with international and local human rights organizations and is very open to accepting human rights observers. Japan is also very active in promoting human rights around the world, and often is one of the main financial backers of international human rights missions.

Human Rights in South Korea


The South Korean constitution protects human rights and generally the government respects and abides by its provisions. There are, however, a number of problem areas. Since the end of military rule, oppression of individual liberty has decreased. Although there is no sign that capital punishment is likely to be abolished, death sentences are decreasing in number. There are no reports of terror or kidnappings being committed by the secret police. It has been several years since a demonstrator was killed by the police.
South Korea has ratified the international Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1995. Nevertheless, there are reports of police keeping criminal suspects awake for long periods of time, using physical or verbal abuse, and practicing intimidation. Students arrested during demonstrations and workers arrested during strikes are subject to harsh and insulting treatment by the police. From 1993 to 1998, there were 1,353 cases of citizens suing officials for violence, confinement, and torture. Public prosecutors chose to indict police officers in only a small percentage of these cases.
Prison conditions remain less than ideal. Prison rules concerning visits, exercise, and discipline are harsh. Free speech and free assembly are allowed but restricted. Every demonstration requires permission from the police chief. South Koreans have a right to privacy. Currently, it is only possible to tap phones with a warrant issued by a judge. Security agencies legally tap 6,000 to 7,000 phones a year, but some human rights groups are of the opinion that there are far more illegitimate tappings. Koreans are issued an identification card when they reach the age of seventeen. Along with personal information, citizens must file their fingerprints, which the police store in digital form. The government supports rights for the disabled in theory, but in practice the disabled face discrimination and limitations on their ability to lead a decent life. Facilities specifically for the convenience and accessibility of the disabled are rare: only 37 percent of public buildings are equipped with such facilities.
The Korean constitution and labor laws protect workers’ rights. South Korea became a member of International Labor Organization in 1991. There have been no reports of compulsory or child labor. A minimum wage system is in place, and the work week is limited to forty-four hours. Female workers have to tolerate bad labor conditions and discrimination in the work place. Discrimination toward women in all areas of life is common. Because of traditions giving women second-class status, women have little chance of reaching the upper ranks in business or political life.

Human Rights in France


In general, France provides reasonable protection of its citizens’ human rights. There are, however, areas where human rights are abused. Despite extensive constitutional and statutory safeguards, the French police are frequently guilty of human rights abuses. As recently as 1998, for instance, there were reports of the excessive use of force by police officers against immigrants, which, in some cases, resulted in death. There were also reports of abuses by prison guards against prisoners. In July 1997, the United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed disappointment and concern regarding the excessive use of force by the police. In addition, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture criticized the mistreatment and poor conditions of detainees in police stations. Persons of North African and African origins filed most of the complaints of alleged police abuse. In January 1998, a draft law was introduced to create the Superior Council on Ethics and Security to oversee the implementation of codes by the local police and federal police. The inadequacy of cells in police stations is well documented. In many cases the cells lack adequate light, sleeping space, blankets, and meals. Regular prison conditions usually exceed minimum international standards, although cases of brutality—particularly against African prisoners—are common.
The judiciary is able to provide citizens with fair and efficient trials. Nevertheless, the judicial system has often been criticized for not being able to process cases quickly. Some suspects spend many years in prison before their trials. According to a recent report by the International Observer of Prisons, about 40 percent of the inmates are awaiting trial. The government grants asylum to those who make formal request for such status. However, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has expressed its concern about the long delays in clearing such procedures in airport waiting areas. Observers do not usually have access to those areas. Women are still underrepresented in politics. However, in order to increase women’s participation in politics, a few parties have established specific quotas in electoral lists. Rape represents a serious problem. There were 6,540 reported cases of rape or sexual assault on women in 1995, and more than 15,700 cases of wife beating in 1993. The government provides shelters, assistance, and hotlines for battered women. In addition, sixty such private associations operate in the country. There have also been cases of foreign women forced into prostitution after being promised attractive jobs. And, in recent years, police discovered a Paris-based network that was forcing African women into prostitution. Women are still paid 22.5 percent less than men for equal employment. Recent statistics also show that 80 percent of persons earning less than $650 per month are female. Despite very strict laws against child abuse, there were 20,000 cases in 1995, 5,500 of which involved sexual abuse. The government provides counseling, financial aid, foster homes, and orphanages to abused children. Special branches of the police are assigned to deal with child abuse. There are also many private organizations helping minors seeking justice in cases of mistreatment by parents.
In 1991, a new law was issued requiring new buildings and public transportation to be accessible to people with disabilities. Despite this law, however, most buildings and public means of transportation are not yet accessible to disabled people. There are some cases of attacks against ethnic minorities. The reported cases usually involve skinheads and those affiliated with right-wing political groups. The number of attacks against minorities has been on the decrease in recent years. On the other hand, many companies continue to deny employment to North Africans. A new law passed in 1997 grants citizenship to all children born in France.
French law grants freedom of association to all workers. Although they represent less than 10 percent of all workers, unions have considerable political and economic influence, and play a legal role in the administration of social institutions. The freedom to strike is granted to all workers, but can be denied whenever it threatens public safety. Most strikes usually affect state-owned companies. The law prohibits children under the age of sixteen from being employed. In addition, minors under the age of eighteen are forbidden from working at difficult jobs or from working between 10:00 P.M. and 5:00 A.M.

Right to Life


In the context of the contemporary discussion of human rights, the right to life refers to the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life. In this context, one should note that most discussions of the right to life are not primarily concerned with the anti-abortion movement, which has adopted the “right to life movement” as a self-designation. The issue of capital punishment is also involved with the right to life, but is only one of many associated issues. Other issues discussed under the category of the right to life are deaths that occur during routine police actions and during actions taken by authorities to suppress riots, as well as the duty of the state to prevent acts of murder by private citizens and others. The right to life is obviously a precondition for enjoying the exercise of other human rights. Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.” Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights deals with the right to life in greater detail:
1. Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.
2. In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court.
3. When deprivation of life constitutes the crime of genocide, it is understood that nothing in this article shall authorize any State Party to the present Covenant to derogate in any way from any obligation assumed under the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
4. Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence. Amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentence of death may be granted in all cases.
5. Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.
6. Nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the present Covenant.
Finally, Article 1 of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopts the position that eliminating capital punishment will enhance human dignity and develop human rights:
1. No one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Optional Protocol shall be executed.
2. Each state shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.
This position reflects the changing sensitivity to capital punishment, which has emerged as a major issue in recent decades. At first glance, it may appear paradoxical that many anti-abortion activists support the death penalty while opponents of capital punishment often adhere to a prochoice position. These superficially contradictory views can, however, be supported by, in the former case, making a sharp contrast between the innocence of the unborn and the guilt of candidates for capital punishment; and, in the latter case, by drawing a sharp distinction between the personhood of individuals on death row and the non-personhood of the unborn. The debate over the personhood of the fetus is reflected in the contrast between Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 4 of the American Convention on Human Rights (adopted in San José, Costa Rica, on November 11, 1969). The American Convention asserts that the right to life begins “from the moment of conception.” Efforts to include similar wording into the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights were defeated, although, by stipulating that pregnant women should not be executed, Article 6(5) cited above seems to impute personhood to the human fetus. Minus this sort of stipulation, the implication is that an unborn fetus is a non-person without rights, which can therefore be aborted without violating the right to life principle.

Global Rights


founded in 1978, Global Rights works with local partners in various countries around the world to address issues of , promote , and foster legal and policy reform. It also supports an information gathering role, documenting and publicizing incidents of human rights violations. The Washington-based group believes that human rights can only be advanced from the ground up and views its primary purpose as that of a facilitator, offering partners “support, protection, guidance and training to strengthen the impact and visibility of their work.” It specializes in several areas: racial discrimination, women’s human rights, human trafficking, human rights legal training, and international criminal law.
In 2003 Global Rights worked successfully for the acquittal of Amina Lawal, a young mother in Nigeria whose case had stirred worldwide outrage after she was sentenced to death for adultery by a Sharia (Islamic law) court. In Afghanistan the group organized and trained Afghan women to participate in the first Loya Jirga, a groundbreaking political convention that chose the president. One of the women in the program actually ran for president, a remarkable event in a country that, under TALIBAN rule, had brutally suppressed women. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Global Rights assisted a group of Congolese human rights advocates in their efforts to establish a Human Rights Observatory and helped incorporate provisoins for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the Congolese peace agreement. The advocacy group has worked in the United States as well, helping domestic and migrant workers to fight discrimination, lobbying for affirmative action, and supporting rights of detainees taken into custody after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

War Crimes in Angola


Angola, a former Portuguese colony on the southwestern coast of Africa, is slowly recovering from decades of civil war that left over half a million dead and displaced at least 3.5 million people. The UN-brokered effort to disarm the combatants and return the refugees to their homes, while making some progress, has nonetheless been marred by a number of human rights violations. Although Angola stands to reap billions of dollars from its considerable oil reserves, international watchdogs are concerned that the revenues will not be adequately accounted for or distributed equitably.
The origins of Angola’s current problems can be traced back to the struggle for independence against Portugal waged by three guerrilla factions: the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola, or FNLA), the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola, or MPLA), and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola, or UNITA). Once the country was granted its independence in 1975, civil war broke out as the rival groups competed for power. The MPLA formed one government based in the capital of Luanda under Agostinho Neto, and the other two groups established a second government in Huambo under the command of Joseph Savimbi. The two regimes sought allies outside its borders, with the Soviets aiding Neto and the United States supporting Savimbi. In effect, Angola became the setting for a proxy hot war in the context of a global cold war. South Africa, then under white rule, also intervened in the war on the side of UNITA. During the 1970s Cuban troops were dispatched by Fidel Castro to bolster MPLA forces. Even though Washington continued its support of Savimbi, it also sought a diplomatic solution, and in 1992, when a cease-fire was reached and elections agreed upon, the U.S. officials thought they had found one. But after the MPLA candidate, Jose dos Santos, won the presidency (Neto had died in 1979), Savimbi experienced a change of heart and resumed fighting.
Efforts to restore peace over the next eight years repeatedly failed until Savimbi was slain in 2000. Within weeks of his death, UNITA at last agreed to lay down its arms, which finally allowed the painful process of reconciliation to begin. Since UNITA could put tens of thousands of troops in the field, the task was not going to be easy. However, human rights organizations monitoring the process have raised concerns about the way in which the government is going about demobilizing combatants and returning REFUGEES to their homes. According to HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, authorities have used violence or intimidation to evict refugees from settlements or drive them out of the capital, which had become home to over 100,000 people fleeing war in the interior. The human rights organization also reported incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence in connection with the relocation of refugees. Millions of internally displaced people and excombatants either remain in exile or are still in refugee camps. Moreover, the government also appears to be giving priority to the resettlement of ex-combatants at the expense of women and children, failing, for instance, to provide them with identity documents that would help them obtain humanitarian assistance. In some cases, though, children and ex-combatants are one and the same. UNITA was known for abducting children and pressing them into service on the front lines; there may be as many as 11,000 such child soldiers who were involved in fighting in the last years of the war. The INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS has instituted a program to reunite these children with their families, but most of such child soldiers were boys. There is ample evidence that a far larger number of girls were abducted—some estimates put the figure at close to 30,000—many of whom were then forced to serve as cooks, domestics, and porters or as “wives” of UNITA fighters, in effect, sex slaves. Human rights organizations are especially concerned about the reception that these girls will get once they return to their home villages.