Human Rights

Human Rights Today

Cliff DuRand, Center for Global Justice

“civil resistance activities represent the last constitutional avenue open to the American people to preserve their democratic form of government with its historical commitment to the rule of law and human rights.”
– Francis A. Boyle, Nov. 20, 2007

My title is a little too ambitious.  Even a cursory survey of human rights today would take a book, not a mere 20 minute talk.  So what I want to do is share with you a few reflections on certain aspects of human rights.  So please don’t be too disappointed if I fail to touch on your favorite topic.  I will not talk about the rights of specific groups, such as workers, or women or immigrants or cultural minorities.  The whole notion of group rights is controversial, since rights have generally been conceived as belonging to individuals.  What I want to focus on are those rights that apply to all human beings, i.e. universal human rights.  And it is human rights that I am concerned with.  So that excludes animal rights, a notion that I find to be very suspect from a philosophical point of view.

So let me begin with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Tomorrow, December 10, is the 59th anniversary of its adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations.  This agreement by the nations of the world was a historical milestone in the establishment of rights based on common consent, just as the addition of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution a century and a half earlier was such a milestone in my own country.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights owes much to the proposals of the non-aligned nations and was drafted by the Canadian John Humphrey.  And it was the vigorous leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt that won the backing of the government of the United States –without which the proposal might not have gone very far.

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Violation of Women’s Human Rights in Nigeria

Rufai Jimoh


All the state constitutions in the world system contain a broad chapter of fundamental human rights displaying arrays of rights spanning the right to life, pecuniary rights, property rights and rights regarding beliefs. All these rights stem from American declaration of human freedom following the end of American Civil War of 1789. The Netherlands in 1796, Luxembourg 1815, Germany 1948, Norway 1814 and Sweden 1966 embodied fundamental human rights in their constitution. Following the end of the world wars and declaration of Wiston Church on freedom of state many new states joined the trends of globalization and immediately enacted the “norms of Juscoejean” which is christened as rules of civil state. This made fundamental rights something that is binding on all states to observe.

In Africa , Ghana was the first state in 1957 followed by Nigeria in 1960 while in the far East, India 1949, Pakistan followed in 1951, South Korea in 1958.

The end of the Second World War brought about unprecedented changes in global system such includes internationalization of political ideologies such as right and freedom of citizens, united nation declaration of human rights 1949 and Africa Charters of human rights 1961 and 1970.

All these while, human rights were not seen as health issue, conscious efforts was only made in 1995 at the National Council of International Health (NCIH) conference where professional in health, law and social science met at Columbia University, the land mark of this historical event was the recognition of fundamental human rights as health issue. Earlier, before this conference, in 1948, following the establishment of WHO a re-definition of health was propounded, in that definition it becomes clear that health is holistic which touches all aspect of human nature the implication of this is that in subtle way health is an aspect of human right, health is no longer only biological concern.

“Rights” are more or less a political and legal term, but globalization has made rights go beyond political and legal jurisdiction. We can look at it from economic angle and from health issue.

The core right is the right to life which has to do with survival. Since health has to do with harmony between mind and body to ward off death, then the extension of right to life as a health issue becomes imperative.

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Intolerable Killings: Ten years of abductions and murders in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua

Alyson Kozma
Amnesty International

“They have many lines of investigation, they have addresses, phone numbers, names and they haven’t been handed over. I took them a lot of information and it isn’t even in the case file. We don’t deserve this treatment or the pain we are suffering every day. All I’m asking is that they find my daughter and for justice to be done”.

Evangelina Arce could not have imagined that on 12 March 1998 her daughter Silvia would never again return to her home in Ciudad Juárez , Chihuahua state. She has been searching for her desperately for over five years without discovering anything at all about her whereabouts. Throughout that time, Evangelina has repeatedly said that the authorities have ignored her demands for her daughter’s abduction to be investigated and insists that no action has been taken on the case for five years.

In Ciudad Juárez, and more recently in the city of Chihuahua , the abduction of Silvia Arce and her mother’s appeal for her daughter to be found and for justice to be done are not isolated occurrences. The authorities currently recognize that the fate and whereabouts of around 70 women remains a mystery. For many Mexican non-governmental organizations, the number of women who are missing is more than 400. What is certain is that in the state of Chihuahua , a significant number of cases of young women and adolescents reported missing – in one case an 11 year old – are found dead days or even years later. According to information received by Amnesty International, in the last 10 years approximately 370 women have been murdered of which at least 137 were sexually assaulted prior to death. Furthermore, 75 bodies have still not been identified. Some of them may be those of women who have been reported missing but this has been impossible to confirm because there is insufficient evidence by which to identify them.

12 May 1993 – The body of an unidentified woman found … on the slopes of Cerro Bola (…) in the supine position and wearing denim trousers with the zipper open and the said garment pulled down around the knees (…) penetrating puncture wound to the left breast, abrasions on the left breast, blunt force injury with bruising at the level of the jaw and right cheek, abrasion on the chin, bleeding in the mouth and nose, a linear abrasion near the chin, light brown skin, 1.75 cm., brown hair, large coffee-coloured eyes, 24 years old, white brassière pulled up above the breasts. Cause of death asphyxia resulting from strangulation. (Preliminary Investigation 9883/93-0604, Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, February 1998)”

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Life imprisonment: One is a Tragedy

by Stephen Kurtz,
Pelican Bay Prison Project, U.S.A.

“One death is a tragedy; a million are a statistic,” Stalin is supposed to have said. Advocates for social justice face a tough dilemma if that is true. When we emphasize the isolated sufferer, we risk the loss of context. Yet if we we discard the personal, we lose whatever connects us through our hearts. I shall try to strike a balance.

Stalin’s bald remark restates a philosophical distinction between the abstract and the particular. What is the metaphysical status of each; what is its unique reality? At the same time, each element of the distinction represents a temperament. The sort of person who founds an organization that feeds thousands is temperamentally different from the sort of person who takes a hungry person into his house and fixes him in a meal.

I belong more nearly to the second – to that loose category of person whose actions must satisfy two needs: for crossing social boundaries and for establishing intimate connections. Though I seem always to begin with the individual, I tend to move toward a larger, though never very large, scale of organizational response. It is empathy with one person that fuels a broader reaction.

Let me move quickly to an example. Since I have always been a failure at pastimes of every sort: zen, bridge, real-estate speculation – I retired to San Miguel with a burdensome amount of time. And then an old concern resurfaced. I began to write a group of lifers around the United States. Why lifers? Prisoners with forseeable outdates, I reasoned, might need a level of care I couldn’t supply. And Death Row? No way was I going to get close to a person facing execution! But by writing to people with life sentences I hoped to be doing something satisfying and useful – without courting emotional disaster. Of course I was wrong. Life imprisonment is its own agony and, if you love a person with that sentence, you will learn in your soul just what his agony is.

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HUMAN TRAFFICKING: The Nigerian Woman an Endangered Species

Halima Oyagbola

For as long as there have been people there has been migration. People have always sought to move to better their lot. Many people have willingly sought new lives many have had little option when faced with violence, terror or economic doom to seek a new life.

For a large number of people somewhere else looks better. It is said that if you live in Somalia , Egypt looks pretty good. If you live in Egypt , Greece looks pretty good. If you live in Greece, Belgium looks pretty good. If you live in Belgium , Canada looks pretty good.

Of course, not everybody thinks this way, but for many, the grass is greener elsewhere, and a significant political challenge for most countries is to run an immigration programme that meets that country’s objective and allows that country sovereignty over an important set of decisions the ability to choose who may not enter and the right to maintain the integrity of the immigration programme.

The International Organisation for Migration estimates that there are in the order of 100 million migrants worldwide. Of these, about 20 million are “undocumented migrants”. It estimates that of these about 4 million are smuggled or trafficked, according to definition used by IOM, and this generate revenue of 5 – 7 billion.

Undocumented migration involves person entering a country that is not their country of origin, without proper authority. When migrants are assisted in this process by a third party or parties, it is generally referred to as smuggling or trafficking. There are various definitions of these terms. United Nations in the Global Programme Against Trafficking in Human Beings defined smuggling as the procurement of illegal entry of a person into a state of which the latter person is not a national with objective of making profit, while Trafficking is the recruitment, transportation or receipt of persons through deception or coercion for the purposes of prostitution, other sexual exploitation or forced labour (UN 1999, 3).

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Trafficking In Women and Children

Judge Nimfa Cuesta Vilches
Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 48, Manila

Just like the dark ages, women and children are once again treated as properties and chattels—and the “goods” must be kept moving. Women and children are victims of unspeakable abuse, gender discrimination, violence, torture and the worst form of labor called “trafficking.” By the way, many of them have died, and no one has been made accountable.

What is trafficking? Trafficking is procuring women and children (but it is more for their exploitation rather than their movement), to join activities ranging from what seems to be harmless ones—such as employment, training, cultural exchange, sports, marriage (with the trafficker posing as the bridegroom), and child adoption—to more serious cases of white slavery and abduction, within or across national borders, almost always leading to sexual exploitation. It is for this reason why trafficking is often linked to prostitution.

Child trafficking for purposes of using children in armed conflict; as couriers of drugs; for child labor; for recruitment into criminal gangs; and for sale of organs will be dealt with in Session 24 right after this plenary.

In trafficking, there is use of threat, force, fraud, and abuse of power in taking advantage of a person’s vulnerability. Women and children are tricked into agreeing with what the traffickers want, and once they are lured, their travel documents are taken away; they are placed in rooms that are locked in from the outside; forced to use drugs; raped 10 times or are imposed a daily quota of 10 to a record high of 80 customers on holidays; are not paid or given money; and the victims go hungry each day.

In Colombia and Ethiopia, the abduction of women and children for trafficking is common, while women and girls from orphanages, abused in their childhood and coming from dysfunctional families are high-risk ones in Romania. In Bulgaria, most victims of trafficking are between 15-21 years of age and are still schoolgirls or girls with only primary education. United Kingdom police confirm that the girls are getting progressively younger, mostly 13 years old in Korea.

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When Rights Clash with Cultures



Civilizations offer a range of rights: freedom or religion,freedom of press, fair trials, privacy, equality of treatment for individuals. food, transportation, shelter, clothing and health care. No society provides these rights.

Many cultures require or endorse practices that other cultures consider repugnant: creation of degrees of subservience based on birth; classification by gender, sexual orientation, religion, mutilation of the flesh; torture, while offering art, thought, and a context for expression. In some cultures, one value is the acceptance and recognition of cultural diversity.

There is an obvious clash of rights and cultural values in certain societies. Should we tolerate the practice of intolerance when considered religious, political, or cultural? What are the factors to be considered and weighed? Is there a means of reconciliation in a particular society or in general?

This article explores these questions in detail to offer an answer. After considering the nature of culture and rights, the exploration of practices focuses of four factors for resolution of the conflict between culture and rights: Irreversibility, Consent, Functionality, and Enforcement. Does the practice change individuals so that they can not choose to return to a previous condition? Is there real consent to the practice or is it coerced?

Does the practice affect the ability of individuals to function as they may want. Is it possible to enforce the practice, and, if so, what are the collateral consequences. Various examples are considered including circumcision of both sexes. Principles for appropriate resolution are then both presented and justified to resolve the examples then to give general guidance concerning how to resolve this clash when it occurs.

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