International Human Rights. 2012. Examiners report


Question 1

Speaking in support of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt said [If adopted] it would have great moral force, and would say to the peoples of the world “this is what we hope human rights may mean to all people in the years to come.” Do human rights have anything more than ‘moral force’? Discuss.


The UDHR was passed in 1948 and at the time it was agreed that this was merely an aspirational document. The principle expounded in the UDHR have subsequently been passed into domestic and international law. There are several more human rights instruments passed by the United Nations. Most of them have been ratified by most countries although some ratifying countries have reservations. There are several regional human rights instruments as well. For instance, there is the Islamic Declaration of Human Rights; the Inter American Convention on Human Rights, the Asian Convention on Human Rights etc…

When Mrs Roosevelt spoke national sovereignty was held to take priority over human rights. Countries were unwilling to trammel their sovereignty in order to guarantee freedom to people. Countries also dispute what human rights are. Many countries have outlawed the death penalty as being incompatible with human rights. That is what the European Convention on Human Rights says about that. The US Supreme Court abolished the death penalty as being a cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional. In the 1970s the US Supreme Court ruled that capital punishment was acceptable. Human rights are highly contentious. Sometimes rights collides. One may attempt to uphold human rights by bringing an alleged abuser to trial. His fair trial rights may lead to his acquittal even when this causes more human rights abuses.

Human rights have courts that uphold them. This is so in national courts. Domestic courts vary enormously in how good they are at protecting human rights. There are also regional courts such as the African Court of Human and People’s Rights as well as the European Court of Human Rights.

Some countries such as Belgium claim universal jurisdiction on breaches of human rights. In reality they very seldom try people for alleged offences committed outside their national territory. There was an attempt to arraign Tony Blair before a court in Belgium for starting a war of aggression but this was thrown out.

There are numerous other human rights instruments since 1948 such as the International Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 and the International Convention on the Abolition of all forms of Racism etc… There are UN bodies overseeing all areas of human rights except genocide.

The UN has a human rights commission and a human rights committee – they are separate. There is a review of the  state of human rights in every country by the UN every 4 years. Moreover, different UN committees examine different aspects of human rights such as the rights of women and the rights of disabled people. The UN has special rapporteurs to look into the human rights situation in countries that are particularly affected by abuses. The state condemned is offered the opportunity to reply. This procedure tends to shame countries into improving the situation at least a little. The reporting system is not actual enforcement but causes governments to clean up their act. Most countries are committed to human rights in their constitutions now.

Human rights is at least part of soft law. Some human rights are now considered to constitute customary international law. No one now denies that genocide is a crime against humanity. There is an International Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. There is no UN committee to look at genocide. People have been found guilty of genocide and imprisoned under the convention. This started only shortly before the 1949 convention at the Nuremberg Trials. That was a one off at the time. The International Criminal Court now exists permanently to deal with such allegations. It is now firmly established that genocide is sufficient reason for the UN Security Council to authorise military action.

First generation rights are well protected in the most developed countries. These are about free speech, free elections and the right to travel. Second generations rights relate to education, healthcare, a living wage and so on. These are decently protected in most wealthy countries except the USA. Third generation rights are vaguer. These include the right to development and to a clean environment. These are far from universally accepted. they are so vaguely worded as to be catch alls. They are not enforceable. Third generation rights have mere moral force. The attempt to take action on climate change is an example of these. There are no legal remedies for countries failing to advance human rights in this respect.

Human rights are sometimes protected and ameliorated through non judicial means. Diplomacy is used to induce countries to behave better. Diplomatic pressure leads countries to release diplomatic pressure. Human rights involves forming coalitions. No country has a flawless human rights record but the conduct of governments varies from superb in the case of Denmark to utterly lamentable in the case of North Korea. Because one needs allies governments sometimes downplay and deny abuses in friendly states. It it richly ironic that Saudi Arabia has twice served as the chairman of the UN Human Rights Committee. This is despite Freedom House rating Saudi Arabia as among the worst of the worst on human rights.

The UDHR stresses human dignity and equality. Does this apply to homosexual relationships or not? This is a deeply controversial area. Many Western countries say that it does. Most non Western countries say that it does not.

Human rights are not something with merely moral force. The International Criminal Court upholds them and has sent people to prison for breach of human rights. Other one off tribunals did the same such as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

In conclusion, human rights are real and effective. There are many breaches but there is no doubt that at least some human rights are laws. They are upheld in a practical offence. Human rights violations are still ongoing and are sometimes grave. However, the situaiton has improved markedly since Eleanor Roosevelt spoke



LA3029 International protection of human rights 2 General remarks To answer this question well, one must deal directly with the claim that human rights have nothing other than moral force.

One must begin by clarifying the statement; and by stressing the inherently disputed nature of human rights. As the subject guide stresses, there were debates about the status of rights even when the Declaration was drafted. Some rights clearly only have moral force, to the extent that they are statements of desirable goals of political community. These rights do not have legal (or any other form) of remedies attached. A good example would be Article 1 of the Universal Declaration. However, there are other arguments which suggest that certain human rights go well beyond desirable moral statements. There are a variety of arguments that need to be reviewed (see Section 2.4.2 of the subject guide for the detail).

In summary, human rights need to be linked to arguments about international customary law, and the extent to which even ‘vague’ rights are given legal form in the constitutions of nation states. An intelligent answer would also point out that the UN system for protection of rights often falls short of legal enforcement, preferring reporting mechanisms.

One might argue that these mechanisms encourage nations to keep their human rights commitments even if they do not make for legal remedies. In summary, then, one has to argue that Eleanor Roosevelt’s statement certainly powerfully expresses the moral force of rights; however, it would not be accurate to argue that rights only have moral force. This question pulls together information contained in a number of places in the subject guide. Perhaps the most relevant material is at Sections 2.4, 2.4.1, 2.4.2. 2.4.3 and 2.4.4. Also relevant are the first three sections of Chapter 3, the first two parts of Chapter 4 and some ideas from Chapter 5.

Student extract

‘‘Eleanor Roosevelt’s statement presents an interesting view about human rights. She is looking forward to what rights might mean in the future. The key point, however, is her concern with the moral force of rights. It is necessary to be clear about what this means. Indeed, the question requires some consideration of the way that human rights work. Are they moral in nature, or are they legal? If rights are legal, does this mean that rights have more than moral force? The force of rights presumably means that people or states obey them because they can somehow be held to account for breaches of human rights. The suggestion is that legal, or other non legal mechanism, give rights their force.’’

Comment on extract

This is the opening paragraph from the essay. Note how it engages with the question in a clear way; the candidate is careful to show that they are answering the question asked; interrogating the meaning of the words that Eleanor Roosevelt used, and the precise question that is being asked about them. The candidate is particularly concerned to define the terms that are central to the question. This is good practice. The only critical point that could be made is that this candidate has not told the reader whether they agree or disagree with the question asked. A discussion requires an opening statement; a thesis which the essay then goes on to develop and defend. So, the paragraph could perhaps be improved by altering the opening line: ‘Eleanor Roosevelt’s statement presents an interesting view about human rights.

”This essay will argue that human rights have more than moral force. Human rights can also have the force of law, or be supported by the enforcement/oversight mechanisms of the UN.’’

Examiners’ report 2012 3 If this amendment is made to the paragraph the writer’s thoughts are clear to the reader. The following sentences then inform the reader of the key ideas that the writer will develop.


Question 2 “Civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights are not fundamentally different from one another. All rights are indivisible and interdependent.” Discuss.


Civil and political rights are known as first generation human rights. They are found as far back as the American Declaration of Independence. Economic, social and cultural rights are second generation rights.

The UDHR contains both civil rights and social rights. Capitalist countries tended to favour the former over the latter. In socialist countries it was the opposite way around.

The two sets of rights cannot be entirely separated. A civil right is the right to life. A social right it the right to welfare and a living wage. If one starves to death one’s right to life is breached.

SOme right wingers argue that social rights undermine civil rights. They claim that publicly funded healthcare and state pensions would corrode civil rights which is bunkum. In many countries both exist.

Communists argued that civil rights would undo social rights. Reactionary parties would undue free education, free healthcare, guaranteed housing and cheap public transport. They thought freedom of expression would lead to the dissemination of racial hatred and division. In fact denying civil rights allowed tyrants to cover up their crimes and oppression. The lack of fair trials and habeas corpus allowed communists to enslave people. People were not allowed their human right to leave the country.

A civil right is freedom of association. This includes the right to form a trades union and to protest. Trades unions can withdraw their labour to demand better pay and conditions of service. This means enhanced social rights.

A proper understanding of human rights includes both. Almost all countries have free elementary schooling. The UDHR calls for the steady abolition of fees in higher education.

The UN has unveiled several human rights instruments. AMong these are the International Convention on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights. Almost every country in the world has ratified this though some have reservations. This document calls for decent public healthcare, a decent wage for all, social security and schooling free of charge. As a US Supreme Court justice said a necessitous man is not a free man. People are imprisoned by poverty. Although some dislike social rights as tending towards socialism many capitalist countries have social rights.

Amartya Sen is among those who emphasise that social rights are vital. Penury prevents people exercising their civil rights. People work such long hours they cannot engage in politics. They are illiterate and so unable to find out about their civil rights.

Lawyers and judges from former communist countries have brought the rest of the world a deeper appreciation of social rights.

In conclusion, the two sets of rights are entirely compatible. A proper understanding of human rights entails both.


General remarks

There are two possible ways of answering this question. One would assert that the statement is accurate, and the other would disagree. This radical difference of opinion reflects again the contentious nature of human rights. The statement certainly reflects a present consensus of thinking about civil/political and social/economic rights. They are indivisible, and have to be understood as a whole.

One interesting way of engaging with this theme is to examine the way in which Sen’s thinking has influenced understandings of rights. Of course, some years ago, the consensus was perhaps different. Civil and political rights were seen as somehow superior, or prior to social and economic rights. The division of opinion reflects cold war ideological struggles, with ‘eastern bloc’ jurists asserting the priority of social and economic rights, and western jurists asserting the importance of the classical civil liberties. Ultimately, the two positions reflect political disagreements; disagreements that, at least to some extent, continue in contemporary debates over rights. As long as one approaches these issues methodically, and produces a coherent argument pro or anti, then one should be able to sustain a good answer to the question. The main reference point for this chapter is Supplementary chapter 2: New ways of thinking about social and economic rights, in the subject guide.


Question 3 “Poverty…social exclusion and economic disparities are closely associated with racism.” (The Durban Declaration) Discuss with reference to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.


There is some truth to this statement. The Durban Conference on Racism occurred in 2001. This conference passed motions condemning European colonialism which the conference claimed caused the impoverishment of Latin America, Africa and Asia. The conference asked European countries and North American to pay reparations for colonialism and slavery.

There repercussions of slavery have contributed to the underdevelopment of Africa. Africa lost much human capital. The unpaid labour of slaves in the American Continent added to the wealth of whites there and some of the wealth was taken to Europe.

The International Convention on the ELimination of Racial Discrimination was a UN human rights instrument passed in 1966. It called for decolonisation. This was soon accomplished. This instrument outlawed unfair racial discrimination. However, it specifically permitted positive discrimination to correct previous discrimination. Article 1 of the ICRED states that the battle against racism is about overcoming racial exclusion and restriction. It is such impediments to equality that have left certain races and nations in relative poverty.

It is true that Europe and North America are the richest regions of the world. This is partly due to colonialism which contained an element of racism. Racism has always existed and probably always shall. It is not as frank as it was. Until 1994 South Africa still had openly racist laws. Colonialism has existed as long as civilisation has existed. Mightier countries have dominated more feeble ones and sometimes conquered them. This was so in Ancient Egypt which was the first country to have writing and therefore recorded history. Colonialism has worked in all directions. Slavery used to exist in every country. Only in the 19th century did imperialists abolish slavery.

Slavery still exists though it is practised illegally all over the world. It is not just the Wets that has gained this unjust enrichment.

In the USA certain laws are enforced more against the penurious than the affluent. African-Americans tend to be poorer and are more likely to be incarcerated for possession of controlled substances. They cannot afford smart lawyers on the whole. The police tend to be more suspicious of them.

African countries have faced up to the role played by their ancestors in the slave trade. African countries issued a joint apology for slavery but have not paid compensation.

There is much poverty in Africa and certain parts of Latin America and Asia. In Africa this was the case even prior to colonialism. Apart from Abyssinia no sub Saharan African land had literacy or the wheel until whites came. The Arab African countries got their alphabet from Saudi Arabia.

Racist policies have contributed to black poverty in the USA. Formal racial discrimination existed in the USA until the 1960s. Informal racism still occurs. To a lesser extent this is true in other parts of the world. In South Africa legal racism was abolished not long ago. The whites amassed wealth and educational advantages that were forbidden to the black majority. In the 20 or so years since equality the black majority has not been able to overcome these obstacles.

This claim that poverty is due to racialism is partly specious. It is a means of scapegoating whites. Kleptocrats and incompetent governments seek to divert attention from their profligacy, plunder and misrule.

Race quotas are a good idea. They can address racial imbalances in society as has been used in the USA. This is acting as encouraged by the ICERD.

Certain racial groups do very well which weaken the claim that whites discriminate against other races on a large scale. British Indians are a rich community. Jews suffered genocide in Europe in the 20th century yet in many Western countries they are a very wealthy and successful community. The ICERD does not take sufficient account of industrious cultures and practices.

Racialism strikes at the heart of human rights. Racially biased laws go against the nostra of human dignity and equality. These are the main pillars of the UDHR.

Some ethno religious minorities dominate many countries and this is not necessarily due to discrimination. It is possible that some groups are genetically cleverer than others or have cultures more conducive to success. Both discrimination and heredity can be factors in explaining disparity. Hans Eysenck’s research disproved the notion that IQ is distributed equally among all racial groups. No one dispute that sprinting ability, height ir indeed the amount of melanin are equal among all races. This is not do doubt that all humans are equal in dignity or rights. Yet the notion that because everyone should be trated equally then all races must on average have the same brain power is specious.

In conclusion, there is racialism. It is natural but vile. In Latin American countries those of Spanish and other European descent tend to be richer. This is partly because they were conquerors but also because their language was the official one. Those of indigenous stock and African stock are often disadvantaged. Historical factors partially explain inequality yet so does DNA. The title statement is half true.



General remarks

This statement is accurate. Poverty, exclusion and economic disparities are associated with racism, and the Declaration takes this into account; one might even say that the struggle against racism is also the struggle against social exclusion that is a product of racist discrimination.

If one examines the definition of discrimination in Article 1 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, then it is possible to appreciate that ‘exclusion’ or limited access into public life is at the root of racism. One could analyse all the rights in the Convention as affirming that race cannot be a barrier to equal opportunities in work, cultural, political and social life. To elaborate these arguments, one could make reference to the discussion of racism in America and South Africa. Racism has led to the creation of excluded communities of people who are socially and economically marginalised.

To return to an earlier point, the civil rights struggle in America, and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa were also movements that sought to show the social effects of racism: poverty and the failure of equality are clearly linked. An intelligent answer might also refer to some of the ideas outlined in the Recent developments 2012. Although one cannot argue that there is a right ‘not to be poor’, poverty (following the thinking of the UNDP) is inconsistent with human LA3029 International protection of human rights 4 dignity. If racism is also inconsistent with human dignity, then one can also assert a close link between the phenomena of poverty and racism at this level. The relevant information for a consideration of the issues raised by this question is contained in Chapter 8 of the subject guide; reference could also be made to Recent developments 2012


. Question 4 “Human rights catalogues tend to reflect the public harms that men fear most: harms that come out of a fear that government will act in certain unrestrained ways. The same prestige has not been given to social and economic rights that affect the private sphere; a sphere associated more with women than men.” Discuss with reference to The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.


The title statement is correct. The UDHR stresses civil rights such as the right to life, the right to vote, the right to own property etc… These are public sphere rights. Social rights are also mentioned in the UDHR. These civil right are about harms that are to be prevented such as death and unjust imprisonment.

Social rights are about the right to education, the right to a decent wage, the right to healthcare, the right to sufficient leisure and so on. These are more concerned with the private sphere – family and home.

However, civil rights affect women too. Women do not wish to be killed or unjustly detained. In practise women are less often sent to prison or killed. However, women suffer domestic violence much more than men. Human rights apply to men and women equally. That is the point of article 1 of UDHR. Gender distinctions can be over emphasised and that is sexist. However, there are certain areas of life that are more important for females than males.

Very few women were in public life when the UDHR was drawn up though Eleanor Roosevelt was one of its drafters. Since the UDHR human rights instruments have taken more account of social rights.

The CEDAW was promulgated in 1979. This emphasises that social rights are vital. Women were excluded from higher education until the 19th century. No nation granted women the right to vote in parliamentary elections until 1892. Women only started to be political leaders in the late 20th century. Only then did governments start to consider female viewpoints anything like as much as they did male viewpoints. This is reflected in the fac that constitutions and law use masculine pronouns. This is the case with English Law and the Irish Constitution and many similar documents.

Civil rights and social rights cannot be entirely disentangled. The right to life is social as well as civil. Someone can did of malnutrition as well as being killed by the government. The right to free expression allows one to draw attention to grievances such as the lack of a minimum wage.

As women had far less wealth than men they had less access to good healthcare and education. This also disadvanatges them in the social field. Most cultures left childcare mainly or exclusively to women. These allowed females less opportunity to engage in politics even when they had the legal right to do so. The right to contraception is a key right in enabling women to fulfill their potential in public life and the professional sphere. This right is still contested by the Catholic CHurch and some Islamic countries.

Women’s health is negatively impacted by too many pregnancies. Plainly this does not hold true for men. Some men are indifferent to the suffering of women even their wives that arises from having to many children. In patriarchical cultures a man may even want lots of children as a mark of virility. Some women want many children to signal their maternal virtue.

CEDAW lists healthcare as a key concern of women. Men would usually not wish their wives or girlfriends to die needlessly so this matters to men too but not quite as much. One cannot rely on male benignity.  The right to healthcare is a social right and it is connected to third generation rights – the right to development and a clean environment.

In conclusion, the CEDAW does much to advance the status of women. It is partially effective in calling for adequate social rights.



General remarks

To answer this question well, one needs to draw on material contained in Chapter 3 and Chapter 6 of the subject guide. It is an invitation to think about claims made in the statement about the nature of human rights, as much as it is a question on CEDAW. For a start, it is something of a generalisation, and seems to suggest some kind of essential difference between women and men and the kind of harms that they fear. This may or may not be the case: but, one could assert that, say, men and women both fear violence (even though the experience of violence may be different for men and women, i.e. more women than men experience domestic violence).

It is also unclear how social and economic rights suit women, whilst civil and political rights suit men. To be crude: surely a man as well as a woman has a legitimate concern in the right to work; a man as well as a woman has a legitimate concern in the right to vote. As we cannot engage in debates over such matters (we lack the data), we could begin by asserting that women’s rights have to address the material realities in which women face abuse of their rights; this claim might lie behind the more difficult and questionable assumptions that underlie the statement above. Thus, one might argue that a right to health care has to, as CEDAW states, take into account child bearing and the health risks associated with it. To stress a point, if there is a right to health care that covers such concerns, surely both men and women are interested in it: a man presumably does not want his wife/partner to die in child birth or to suffer illness.

The point, then, is that a legitimate regard for women’s rights does not have to be based on a crude distinction between what men and women desire, nor on a rather too basic distinction between social/economic and civil/political rights (as we know, rights are indivisible; this point could also be developed in this answer). CEDAW could thus be used as a basis of thinking about human rights more generally, as the rights of men and women, rather than just simply the rights of men. The material relevant to this question is contained in Chapter 3 and Chapter 6 of the subject guide.

Student extract

‘’CEDAW was an important development in the international protection of human rights for women. It is a catalogue of women’s rights, which will help women’s rights to be protected. CEDAW covers a number of important areas that relate to the harms that women suffer in their lives. It is important that women are made equal to men, and CEDAW is important because it takes this into account.”

Examiners’ report 2012 5 Comment on extract This is the first paragraph of the answer. It is not a good start. The candidate has not engaged with the question; rather, they have written out a (rather repetitive) general statement about the importance of CEDAW. What might a better introduction look like? Consider the following paragraph: ‘

”Whilst CEDAW provides human rights that cover the kinds of harms that women perhaps fear most, it is not clear that a sharp distinction between social/economic rights and right that limit governments (civil and political rights) is a useful way of thinking about the Convention. It is also unclear why women, rather than men should not also desire rights to protect them in the private sphere.’’


This paragraph engages directly, and in a critical way, with the question asked. It attempts to show that the writer disagrees with the statement, yet is using their disagreement to build an argument about how one should understand CEDAW. Note, also, that the writer’s position is informed by an argument that rights are indivisible. In other words, the writer has read Supplementary chapter 2: New ways of thinking about social and economic rights, in the subject guide, and has thought about CEDAW through this lens. In other words, they are linking together ideas from different parts of the course, rather than simply focusing on CEDAW. This is good technique, and clearly shows a more sophisticated approach to the question than that of the first extract.


Question 5 “AIDS is a human rights issue.” Discuss with reference to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.


Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is a diseases that has killed millions of people around the world. This disease starts as HIV and transmogrifies into AIDS after a few years. The latter condition killer sufferers within a few years.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was promulgated in 1989. It asserts various entitlements for children including the right to healthcare. Children are to be especial responsibility of the state since they cannot fend for themselves. Parents have rights in relation to children. However, should the rights of the child clash with those of the parents then the former shall prevail. There are millions of children orphaned because their parents have succumbed to this condition. Children are born with HIV.

Those with HIV can have their lifespan extended by decades by being treated with anti retrovirals. These medicines are very expensive. Excessive profiteering by large pharmaceutical companies means that these drugs are out of the reach of those who needs them most. This disease is most widespread in poverty stricken countries such as Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana.

This diseases is certainly a human rights issue and it impacts on children particularly. According to CRC children should have antiretrovirals for themselves. Keeping their parents alive is also vital. The mortality afflicts people in their teens and 20s. Some communities are mainly children and their grandparents because the parents have died.

The protocols to CRC forbid child trafficking, child prostitution and child pornography. These forms or exploitation also cause children to be infected with this disease.

Those who want to keep anti retrovrials costly are those who make huge profits. They sight intellectual property rights as a reason. Furthermore, they say that were profits to be reduced then future medical breakthroughs would be impaired. These arguments are largely specious. Tens of millions of people suffer grievously due to the avarice of a few. Intellectual property and false claims about future pharmaceutical innovation are feeble and have no standing in the CRC. The Millennium Development Goals also emphasise that children deserve these medicines.

Nations are impoverished because people in their 20s are ill with this disease and die of it. That deprives a country of people who would be very economically active. Children have a social right to these medicine. They need laws to prevent them from being exposed to the disease.

In conclusion, children above all are entitled to affordable anti retrovirals. This is according to the CRC.




General remarks This question has to focus on rights over health care in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 24) but also raises some broader issues about the sexual abuse of children, violence against children and the impact on children of the death of their parents/carers from AIDS. The main information relevant to an answer is contained in Section 7.5 of the subject guide. An intelligent answer would also relate discussion of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to the Millennium Development Goals, and the issue of disease and poverty. It would begin by asserting that AIDS is indeed a human rights issue; in particular because mortality rates and the social costs of the disease are disproportionately born by young people. The analysis of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, then, could be based on an assertion that human rights can structure policy responses to disease, and that it is necessary to make links between AIDS, the right of children to health care, freedom from abuse and the rights of children to a social and legal order that protects and nurtures them.


Question 6 “Regional Rights catalogues introduce incoherence into the idea of universal human rights by attempting to create specific ‘local’ versions of human rights.” Discuss with reference to one of the following: (a) the Inter American System; or (b) the African system; or (c) the European system



The European Convention on Human Rights (1948) is a regional human rights system. It came out the same year as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is strikingly akin to the UDHR. The ECHR does not therefore significantly confuse the world human rights system.

Why have a regional system at all? Europe has just experienced the Second World War and was adamant that it should not suffer it at all. European countries were thought to have a broadly similar standard on certain human rights – to value freedom of religion and free expression more than people in the Middle East for example. The UDHR does not specifically call for free elections but hints at it. On the other hand the ECHR does overtly demand fair elections.

There was no world court to enforce the UDHR. The International Criminal Court was only created by the Statute of Rome in 2000. The ECHR had the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to uphold it. At first its rulings were merely advisory. Since 2000 European Union countries (28 of the 47 countries signed up to the ECHR) must abide by the judgments of the court. EU countries have all domesticated the convention and national courts adjudicate on it. The European Court of Justice (which is an EU organ) also follows the jurisprudence of the E court of HR. Public bodies in the EU must act in accordance with the ECHR.  The EU has made the ECHR much more actually effective. Previously is was an expression of ideals. States could flout its provisions arrantly.

Some countries signed up to the ECHR have a poor human rights record. These include dictatorships such as Azerbaijan. Russia has a generally poor human rights situation.

Having a regional system makes the system manageable. The world is too large a zone for a single human rights court. In fact the ICC only deals with huge scale cases and where the country concerned is unwilling or incapable of handling the issue.

The trouble with a regional system is there is some variation. The European system is highly sympathetic to LGB rights which is anathema in some Middle Eastern countries. The problem with variation is that it undermines the notion that human rights are for all humans – that they are universal. Perhaps it is wise to recognise that there is spirited debate about what human rights really are rights. This is a contentious issue.

In conclusion, the regional human rights system need not contradict the universal human rights system. The European system is ahead of the others in being more extensive and generally having a much better human rights outlook than some other regions. The others may catch up in time.


; LA3029 International protection of human rights 6 General remarks The correct approach to this question would be to disagree with the statement. It would be hard to argue that either of the regional systems mentioned somehow introduces incoherence into the idea of human rights.

The regional systems concerned may be attempts to reframe human rights norms in specific circumstances, but, in so doing, they do not depart from the over-arching nature of human rights norms. For example, the African Charter introduces an idea of African human rights. This attempt to nuance human rights with ideas drawn from African culture and politics extends rather than limits the reach of key principles like freedom of speech or freedom of assembly. It would also be possible to argue that the ‘local’ nature of regional systems has led to a useful elaboration of both human rights norms and institutions; the role of the European Court of Human Rights, for example, is unique in regional systems and can offer important lessons on how to make human rights legally binding. Likewise, the response of the inter-American court to state terrorism and ‘disappearances’ offers an important elaboration of the relationship between politics and human rights. Thus, the most sensible way of approaching the question is to see regional systems as a coherent elaboration of human rights norms, rather than asserting that they somehow make human rights incoherent.

This question builds on material in Chapters 13 to 15 of the subject guide. NB: the suggested approach to the question outlined above gives examples from all three regional systems; note that the question actually asks for discussion of ‘the inter-American system or the African system or the European System.’


Question 7 “Military intervention to protect human rights is no more than western hypocrisy.” Discuss.


There is some merit in the title statement. However, it is an exaggeration and ignores the genuine human rights imperatives that have partly motivated Western interventions.

A military intervention is when the armed forces of one country enter another country for human rights reasons without the permission of the government of the country being intervened in. There are numerous examples of these in recent years. In 1992 the United Nations authorised the use of force in Somalia to bring humanitarian aid to people in a land riven by a multi sided clan war. In 1999 NATO countries bombed Yugoslavia because the Yugoslav security forces carried out several large scale massacres of Kosovars. This was without UN approval. In 2003 about 40 mostly Western countries entered Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist dictatorship. This was partly due to the atroctious human rights situation there but also owing to the belief that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction in breach of its promises to the UN to destroy its WMD in a manner that could be proven to UN weapons inspectors. The 2001 intervention in Afghanistan does not count strictly speaking since the soldiers entering the country under a UN mandate did so at the request of the Afghan Government. That government was the Northern Alliance and only controlled 10% of the territory but it held the UN seat for Afghanistan and was nonetheless the official government.

There is some truth to the claim that these Occidental interventions have had an element of self interest. Iraq is an oil rich country and many people say that the military intervention there was to control the oil supply. This ignores the fact that oil prices went up not down after the intervention. It would have been far cheaper to lift sanctions on Iraq and buy oil rather than bear the costs of a war. Nonetheless Iraq was strategically important. Western countries have not intervened in lands with even worse human rights records such as Sudan and North Korea. This is partly because these countries have diplomatic backing from China which would veto an UN Security Council Resolution against its client states. The claim that Western countries intervene only for mineral resources is specious. There were many oil rich countries that were easier to invade than Iraq. Moreover, Somalia and Kosovo had no oil and there were interventions there to save Muslims.

Moreover, Occidental countries have a cordial relationship with some countries with terrible human rights records. These include Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The co operation of these dictatorships was needed for the sake of using air bases. The same was true of Pakistan in relation to Afghanistan. Some of the allies of ISAF found that their Afghan allies had some very unsavoury pasts. Among then was Rashid Dostum who had massacred several thousand people. The International Security Assistance Force simply had to ignore the abuses committed by its confederates. Likewise in Iraq the coalition found that their allies included Shia militias who carried out sectarian murders. The conduct of the coalition in Iraq was not impeccable. US troops shot dead 14 unarmed civilians. Iraqi suspects were abused most notoriously in Abu Ghraib prison.

The legality of the invasion of Iraq is hotly disputed. Some say that it was lawful relying in UN resolutions from 1991. The New Statesman dubbed it ”crime against humanity”. Hundreds of thousands of people died in this war but many of them killed by America’s enemies. Had Saddam remained in power he presumably would have continued carried on killing at the same rate as well as starving people and denying them medicine. It is dubious as to whether war can improve human rights. People are killed in war and killing a soldier is little better than killing a civilian. We are all human. Civilians deaths cannot be avoided in war particularly now that air power is used so much.

When Occidental governments accuse others of human rights violations these governments can easily say tu quoque. Western countries have to get things right at home first before they start interfering abroad. For instance, the US uses the death penalty but many of the countries it criticises such as Russia do not. The US locks up more people than anyone else in proportion to its population. The police in the United States shoot dead hundreds of people per year most of the black. The water boarding of detainees by the US has made American protestations about human rights abroad ring hollow. The United Kingdom has connived at extraordinary rendition. In the early 1970s the UK abused some suspected terrorists in Northern Ireland and in 1972 its soldiers shot dead 14 civilians.

The US gives blanket diplomatic support to Israel despite its 48 year long illegal occupation of Palestine. The United States arms and funds Israel despite knowing that the Israeli Defence Forces have carried out numerous large scale massacres of Palestinian civilians.

The US jealously guards its own sovereignty yet shows no respect for that of other countries. She has assisted rebels in Syria without any UN authorisation. She constantly comments on the internal affairs of other countries yet reacts badly to scrutiny  of her domestic situation.

There is anti Western solidarity in Africa-Asia and Latin America. When many Occidental countries censured Sri Lanka for widespread abuses by its army in the fight against the Tamil Tigers many Asian and African countries supported Sri Lanka. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other human rights organisations documented many abuses by the Sri Lankan military.

Mugabe rigs elections in Zimbabwe  and has reduced many people to starvation. His goons have killed thousands of oppostion supporters. Yet he enjoys the almost unstinting backing of other African governments including democratic ones out of a sense of continental unity. He was also a hero of the anti-white supremacist fight. Many non Westerners are suspicious of the rhetoric of human rights. They see it as neo imperialist The trouble is a tyrant is allowed to get away with any amount of murders so long as he will call himself an anti imperialist.. This is the case with Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong On, Mao Zedong, Omar Al Bashir and so on.

Action is never taken against mighty countries such as China or Russia. North Korea’s nuclear arms ensure that her tyrant can continue to rule his dystopia

Muslims tend to be sceptical of US claims of advancing human rights. This is partly because the US sometimes assists dictators in the Muslim world and also assists human rights abuses against the Palestine. However, in Kosovo the United States was saving Muslims.

No country will ever be perfect but some have a superb record such as Norway. Others have an atrocious record. It is idle to pretend there is no moral difference between an outstanding record and  woeful one. Western countries tend to be much higher up the scale of respect for human rights than their enemies.

People try to build a consensus on human rights. All named are signed up to the UDHR. Many are signed up to other conventions. Enforcement is feeble and patchy. States can breach their promises on a huge scale and very little is down about it. As enforcement is so weak occasionally armed action needs to be taken. The failure to act in Rwanda cost the lives of 1 000 000 people in 100 days.

There is no way that any Western country in recent decades has had a human rights record as lamentable as that of Iraq, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, Libya, China or even Russia. These are the countries that the West tends to clash with. It would be absurd to give tyrants a free pass to abuse their citizens just for the sake of consistency. Because the US is imperfect does not mean that it should not seek to help improve the human rights situation abroad.

In conclusion, there is a certain logic to the claim of Western hypocrisy. This is partly explicable by realpolitik. It is the case that Western countries particularly the United States should improve their domestic human rights situation. This should not be an excuse for ignoring gross abuse of human rights abroad.


General remarks Question 7 requires the candidate to make a judgement of this statement. It would of course be possible to argue that military intervention to protect human rights is ‘western hypocrisy.’ To develop this point, one would have to show that the various justifications for military intervention which use human rights grounds (itself a problematic and developing area of law) hide a different agenda: an agenda whose reality is perhaps more to do with power or economic/political/cultural control than the protection of human rights. This might link to the argument that human rights are neither protected nor forwarded by military intervention. The international protection of human rights requires consensus and co-operation between nations. One could argue, on the other hand, that although there is currently no settled law on the military protection on human rights, such a law might develop in the future. Furthermore, the development of such a law would be for the general good, rather than the protection of western concerns or interests (the word ‘western’ also remains vague and in need of definition). If one was developing this line of argument, it would thus be necessary to show that there would be a general benefit from the military protection of human rights; and that it would not simply be used as a mask for certain nations to justify interventions into the domestic or international affairs of ‘weaker’ nations. Chapter 12 of the subject guide is the most relevant resource for developing an answer to this question. Student extract

‘‘Human rights are western hypocrisy. The invasion of Afghanistan, Somalia, the gulf wars and the occupation of Iraq- all justified as wars for Examiners’ report 2012 7 human rights, are simply uses of military power. Thousands and thousands of innocent men and women and children are now dead for human rights. Is this a good thing? It is hypocrisy of the worst order. Human rights are no more than a mask for the power of the west; it is also suspicious that all these military actions are against Muslim states; rights, are, then, in the end justifications of violence against Muslims.’’

Comment on extract

The first opening sentence is good. Short and punchy, it tells us what the writer thinks. The list that composes the next sentence, however, runs together issues that should be kept apart. The invasion of Afghanistan was not justified as a ‘war for human rights’. This argument was used to justify the second gulf war (retrospectively). The writer needs to disaggregate these concerns. Furthermore, it is not clear what ‘Somalia’ means. If the writer is referring to American intervention in 1992–93 it is necessary to make a distinction between human rights justifying military intervention, and arguments about humanitarian relief which were relevant in relation to Somalia. The third, fourth and fifth sentences are perhaps too emotive, and add little to the argument; although the statement ‘Human rights are no more than a mask for the power of the west’ does return clearly to the concerns of the question. The concluding clause is also powerful, but would need to be thought about and rewritten to become a hard hitting argument

. Intervention in the wars attendant on the breakup of Yugoslavia were arguably in the interests of Albanian Muslims. Any reconstruction of the argument would have to take this into account. It is good to approach a subject with passion, but one’s passion must also be subjected to control. Passion without focused analysis is useless in an examination.


Question 8 “The right to development must be seen as pointing towards a key contemporary issue: the human rights obligations of the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF.” Discuss.


The right to development is a new human right which has been asserted in the last 20 years. This right by no means meets with universal acceptance. This is the case with many areas of rights such as LGBT rights but the right to development is particularly contentious. It is not accepted by governments of More Economically Developed Countries (MEDCs) in particular. Because it is novel it is ill-defined and open ended. This is partly what makes it seem threatening to vested interests.

Amartya Sen is a Noel Laureate who is one of those who first propounded the notion of a right to development. This is a third generation human right. It seemed to gain traction with Millennium Development Goals and the jubilee campaign to forgive odious debts. Furthermore, the Make Poverty History Campaign in 2005 showed a widespread desire to do more to help the LEDCs.

The World Bank, World Trade Organisation and International Monetary Fund are all international financial organisations. The first two are UN organs. They were intended to assist reconstruction after the Second World War an alleviate penury. They were supposed to be aloof from politics. However, they have since had human rights duties inserted into their charters. They seek to help the poorest nations and the most impecunious citizens of those lands. They provide soft loans for sustainable development. In the 1960s they often did foolish and unethical things -advancing loans to AFrican countries at a high rate of interest for overly ambitious industrialisation projects. These mostly ended ignominously.

Some lambast the World Trade Organisation and the World Bank for perpetuating capitalism. Money from them was often creamed off by corrupt officials and politicians. Some left wingers see these organisations as almost as exploitative as the commerical banks. Some people condemn the WTO, World Bank and IMF as neo colonial.

These bodies insist on good government standards. This is partly for ethical reasons but also because transparency and accountability mean a country is more likely to honour its debts. This insistence on certain domestic standards is resented by some as interference. To qualify for further loans these bodies have to demand austerity measures. These hurt ordinary people. Countries such as Zimbabwe and ARgentia have been impacted by such policies.

The first generation human rights (right to life, right to legal personality, freedom of expression) are honoured at least in theory in almost every country. More and more nations are doing well at second generation rights such as the right to schooling, the right to healthcare, the right to a decent wage and so on. The third generation rights mean sustainable economic growth and a clean environment.

There are still tariff barriers erected by the most developed regions of the world. NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the European Union (EU) make it very hard for LEDC producers to compete on a level playing field. EU farmers have their prices kept artificially high by the COmmon Agricultural Policy. Food is then dumped in LEDC markets and sold at below cost price. This ruins many farmers in the developing world.

The General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs does not do enough to assist LEDCs. The right to development must embrace genuine free trade. Despite rhetoric about free trade many Western governments favour protectionism.

Some people dispute that there is a right to development. They see it as socialism given a moralistic guise. The right to development is an unrealistic catch all. Trying to give legal force to this is wrong, so they claim. Right wingers and governments of affluent countries tend to see it as an area better left to politics and economics.

In conclusion, in order for the right to development to be effective the said organisations must do a much better job. The right to development must be spelt out. A new international convention is needed in which countries commit themselves to concrete policies to bring about the right to development as a reality. This will need enforcement mechanisms.


General remarks It would be hard to disagree with this statement. The difficulty is in linking the right to development to the obligations of the three bodies mentioned above. Fortunately, the Recent developments 2012 considers this issue head on; although it does build on discussion in Chapter 4 (in particular Section 4.3). There is insufficient space to discuss this theme in detail in this examiner’s report; however, the key point is that whilst the bodies mentioned do not structure their respective activities with reference to the right to development, there is at least some general recognition of rights in the work of the IMF and the World Bank. Recent developments 2012 cites the following statement:

‘‘The Bank’s arguments are focused on two main principles: “equality of opportunity and the avoidance of absolute deprivation, both of which have human rights dimensions.” The Bank also appreciates that “substantial violations of political and civil rights are related to lower economic growth.”’

This statement clearly links rights to economic development; and so covers an important part of the argument, but there are other concerns. The human rights obligations of the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF are not straightforward, and raise many technical concerns about these bodies as subjects of human rights. These issues should be touched upon. The other critical concern, and relevant to any discussion of key contemporary issues, is the argument that human rights are used to legitimise certain ideas of economic development that are in fact destructive of economies, and produce social costs that are particularly harmful to economies in the developing world

. LA3029 International protection of human rights 8

Student extract

‘‘The world is full of poverty and the World Bank and other institutions are clearly to blame. If the World Bank and other institutions were restrained by human rights, then development will take place and things will be made better for all. This is development. Human rights are rights to development. This is a key contemporary issue. A just world will only take place when the World Bank and other institutions are held accountable for their abuses of human rights and development thus takes place that makes a just world for all.’ ‘

Comment on extract As with the answer to Question 7, this candidate clearly approaches this question with a passion to see justice done. The problem is that the statement does not ask about justice and development. It asks only about human rights and development. In other words, the candidate has introduced another term into their answer. This will make the question more difficult to answer because they will have to show how these terms are linked. It would have been better to stick much more closely to the terms of the question (i.e. not to talk about justice at all). Note also how the paragraph is very repetitious, and suggests that the writer is simply throwing ideas at us, rather than carefully thinking through their response to the question. How could it be improved?

‘‘It is clearly the case that the right to development points towards an important ‘contemporary issue.’ ‘

To what extent can the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF be held to honour human rights obligations? The fundamental concern is linking the right to development to the financial and trade concerns of the bodies in question. This essay will argue that whilst the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF do not structure their activities specifically around the right to development, there is at least some recognition of human rights in the work that they do.’ This paragraph gives the reader a clear sense that the writer has responded to the question asked; even to the point where the writer has repeated back (or more accurately put into their own words) the terms of the question itself. This is good technique and shows that the writer is paying attention to the actual question asked.

Note also how we have a clear sense of the writer’s central thesis: ‘this essay will argue that whilst the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF do not structure their activities specifically around the right to development, there is at least some recognition of human rights in the work that they do.’ It is clear what the writer thinks about the question. Their argument will then develop this central thesis in detail.


About Calers

Born Belfast 1971. I read history at Edinburgh. I did a Master's at UCL. I have semi-libertarian right wing opinions. I am married with a daughter and a son. I am allergic to cats. I am the falling hope of the not so stern and somewhat bending Tories. I am a legal beagle rather than and eagle. Big up the Commonwealth of Nations.

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