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Who wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

December 11, 2011

Gita Sahgal in OpenDemocracy:

On the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we might consider whether the idea of human rights with their firm assertions, their belief in the ‘rule of law,’ and their globalised vision remain relevant in the world. The idea that there are absolute standards has come under attack from both the left and the right. The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre , author of ‘After Virtue’, said, Natural rights and self evident truths proclaimed in the American declaration of independence are tantamount to belief in witches and unicorns. While from the left,  in ‘Human Rights and Empire’, Costas Douzinas has called human rights the political philosophy of cosmopolitanism and argued that human rights now codify and ‘constitutionalise ‘ the normative sources of Empire.

Those fighting the attempts by the Bush administration to tear up human rights prohibitions on torture, would be surprised to see themselves as empire builders. The only weapons they had were the Constitutions of their countries and the human rights system, with its unequivocal rejection of torture. While recent developments in human rights may certainly be used to justify foreign military interventions on humanitarian grounds, a vast body of human rights law also limits the abusive power of the state and protects the freedom of the individual. But are these freedoms ones that are derived from ‘the West’ and therefore limited in their application? [More]

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