This book argues for greater openness in the ways we approach human rights and international rights promotion, and in so doing brings some new understanding to old debates. Starting with the realities of abuse rather than the liberal architecture of rights, it casts human rights as a language for probing the political dimensions of suffering. Seen in this context, the predominant Western models of right generate a substantial but also problematic and not always emancipatory array of practices. These models are far from answering the questions about the nature of political community that are raised by the systemic infliction of suffering. Rather than a simple message from ‘us’ to ‘them’, then, rights promotion is a long and difficult conversation about the relationship between political organisations and suffering. Three case studies are explored: the Tiananmen Square massacre, East Timor's violent modern history and the circumstances of indigenous Australians. The purpose of these discussions is not to elaborate on a new theory of rights, but to work towards rights practices that are more responsive to the spectrum of injury that we inflict and endure.
Dancing human rights
We have seen that ever since Isadora Duncan entered the stage of political dance, various instances of sic-sensuous have been performed on
the stage of the argument by bodies contracting into themselves and
releasing to other bodies, moving and being moved. Those bodies
affirm their equality to other bodies –whether the dancing bodies they
intervene against, or bodies inhabiting other worlds that deem them
unequal. From Martha Graham’s audiences who are uninvited spectators to the gumboot dancers in South Africa and the flash mob
THE IDEA OF humanrights covers a complex and fragmentary terrain. As R. J. Vincent comments near the beginning of his work on humanrights in international relations, ‘humanrights’ is a readily used term that has become a ‘staple of world politics’, the meaning of which is by no means self-evident (1986: 7). After glossing the term as the ‘idea that humans have rights’ (1986: 7) – a deceptively simple approach – Vincent notes that this is a profoundly contested territory, philosophically as well as politically. This is not surprising, as
not need a camera to etch realistic depictions of
brutality in The Disasters of War . Completed between 1810 and 1820,
they were published in 1863, a year after Henry Dunant’s impassioned plea for the
humanitarian reform of war-making in A Memory of Solferino .
Goya’s images of suffering and atrocity, as Sharon Sliwinski aptly puts it, were
‘informal training for the spectator of humanrights’ (2011:12).
Even if the visual culture of humanitarianism precedes the birth of photography, it is
An Interview with Celso Amorim, Former Brazilian Foreign Minister
As we began discussing international affairs and strategy, Amorim’s speech assumed a
calm, professorial cadence. ‘Global disorder’ undermines international cooperation,
he suggested soberly. And there is a need to rescue humanrights discourse, despite the hypocrisy
and selectivity of its liberal proponents.
Amorim leant forward when I brought up Brazil’s recent withdrawal from the world stage.
As foreign minister throughout the two presidential terms of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva,
from 2003 to 2011, he guided
it). This is the same foundational commitment that animates humanrights work. The humanist core
to both of these forms of social practice is a similar kind of belief in the ultimate priority of
moral claims made by human beings as human beings rather than as possessors of
any markers of identity or citizenship.
What differences exist between humanitarianism and humanrights are largely sociological
– the contextual specifics of the evolution of two different forms of social activism. I
have argued elsewhere, for example, that
Beginning in 1990, the small Central African country of Rwanda was shaken by a pro-democracy movement and a rebel invasion, led by exiled members of the minority Tutsi ethnic group. The government responded to the dual pressures of protest and war by offering political reforms while simultaneously seeking to regain popularity with the members of the majority Hutu group by stirring up anti-Tutsi ethnic sentiments. Both a number of new domestic humanrights groups and international humanrights organisations documented the regime’s repression of
In the aftermath of conflict and gross human rights violations, victims have a right to
know what happened to their loved ones. Such a right is compromised if mass graves are not
adequately protected to preserve evidence, facilitate identification and repatriation of
the dead and enable a full and effective investigation to be conducted. Despite guidelines
for investigations of the missing, and legal obligations under international law, it is
not expressly clear how these mass graves are best legally protected and by whom. This
article asks why, to date, there are no unified mass-grave protection guidelines that
could serve as a model for states, authorities or international bodies when faced with
gross human rights violations or armed conflicts resulting in mass graves. The paper
suggests a practical agenda for working towards a more comprehensive set of legal
guidelines to protect mass graves.
This article examines the ways in which missing persons have been dealt with, mainly in
the former Yugoslavia, to show how the huge advances made in the search for, recovery and
identification of those who disappeared is positively impacting on the ability of families
to find their loved ones. The article surveys the advances made in dealing with the
missing on a range of fronts, including the technical and forensic capacities. It examines
some of the other developments that have occurred around the world with regard to the
search for, recovery and identification of people and makes recommendations on how to make
improvements to ensure that the rights of families around the world, as well as a range of
other human rights, including truth and justice, are enhanced.
The book explores the relationship between violence against women on one hand,
and the rights to health and reproductive health on the other. It argues that
violation of the right to health is a consequence of violence, and that (state)
health policies might be a cause of – or create the conditions for – violence
against women. It significantly contributes to feminist and international human
rights legal scholarship by conceptualising a new ground-breaking idea, violence
against women’s health (VAWH), using the Hippocratic paradigm as the backbone of
the analysis. The two dimensions of violence at the core of the book – the
horizontal, ‘interpersonal’ dimension and the vertical ‘state policies’
dimension – are investigated through around 70 decisions of domestic, regional
and international judicial or quasi-judicial bodies (the anamnesis). The concept
of VAWH, drawn from the anamnesis, enriches the traditional concept of violence
against women with a human rights-based approach to autonomy and a reflection on
the pervasiveness of patterns of discrimination (diagnosis). VAWH as theorised
in the book allows the reconceptualisation of states’ obligations in an
innovative way, by identifying for both dimensions obligations of result, due
diligence obligations, and obligations to progressively take steps (treatment).
The book eventually asks whether it is not international law itself that is the
ultimate cause of VAWH (prognosis).