“We are beckoned to see the world through a one-way mirror, as if we are threatened and innocent and the rest of humanity is threatening, or wretched, or expendable. Our memory is struggling to rescue the truth that human rights were not handed down as privileges from a parliament, or a boardroom, or an institution, but that peace is only possible with justice and with information that gives us the power to act justly.”
John Pilger

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

A New Book: Human Rights on Trial A Genealogy of the Critique of Human Rights

Human Rights on Trial A Genealogy of the Critique of Human Rights

Justine Lacroix, Université Libre de Bruxelles , Jean-Yves Pranchère, Université Libre de Bruxelles

Cambridge - May 2018

The first systematic analysis of the arguments made against human rights from the French Revolution to the present day. Through the writings of Edmund Burke, Jeremy Bentham, Auguste Comte, Louis de Bonald, Joseph de Maistre, Karl Marx, Carl Schmitt and Hannah Arendt, the authors explore the divergences and convergences between these 'classical' arguments against human rights and the contemporary critiques made both in Anglo-American and French political philosophy. Human Rights on Trial is unique in its marriage of history of ideas with normative theory, and its integration of British/North American and continental debates on human rights. It offers a powerful rebuttal of the dominant belief in a sharp division between human rights today and the rights of man proclaimed at the end of the eighteenth century. It also offers a strong framework for a democratic defence of human rights.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Full text: Chronology of Human Rights Violations of the United States in 2016



The report, titled “The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2016,” was released by the Information Office of the State Council, China’s cabinet, in response to “the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016” issued by the US State Department on March 3 local time.
Chronology of Human Rights Violations of the United States in 2016

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The age of human rights imperialism

By Andrew Mwenda

NEW VISION - 4th June 2015 -

The timing was surprising because there have hardly been incidents of human rights abuse in Rwanda for a while. Instead the hearing took place against the backdrop of widespread demonstrations in the US against police brutality meted out against African American males. Why would the US congress be bothered by human rights in Rwanda, a country 15,000 miles away, when many of its own citizens are being killed by a run-amok police while others are being sent to jail in droves? In the mid-late 1990s and early 2000s, the government of Rwanda used to be highhanded. It relied on the systematic use of force to consolidate power to a significant degree. This was a period when RPF’s political base was narrow and the government was also fighting a ferocious insurgency inside the country. Since the end of insurgency in 2001 and the rapid growth in the organisational reach of the RPF, the government has progressively moved away from force to economic performance and delivery of public goods and services to citizens to consolidate power. There are still cases of human rights abuse. But they are isolated and occasional, not systemic. Human rights groups have remained oblivious of this progress in large part because acknowledging it takes away their relevance.


Washington’s “human rights” imperialism exposed

Joseph Kishore


The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it is resuming arms shipments to the military dictatorship in Egypt, beginning with the transfer of 12 F-16 fighter jets, missiles and the components required to build 125 tanks. In a personal call to Egypt’s ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Obama also pledged to resume the annual transfer of $1.3 billion in military aid.  The White House made no effort to claim that Egypt had made “credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government”—the statutory condition for ending the suspension of military aid imposed in October 2013. Instead, it invoked an exemption passed by Congress late last year to override this requirement.  Resuming military aid to Egypt, the second largest recipient of such assistance from the US, after Israel, is “in the interest of US national security,” a White House statement declared. Obama told al-Sisi it was necessary for Egypt and the US to “refine our military assistance relationship so that it is better positioned to address the shared challenges to US and Egyptian interests…”


Cultural Relativism and Cultural Imperialism in Human Rights Law

Guyora Binder

State University of New York (SUNY), Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo Law School 
1999  Buffalo Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 5, pp. 211-221, 1999 

The "Universalism-Cultural Relativism" debate proceeds on the assumption that international human rights law requires the identification of fundamental principles of justice that transcend culture, society, and politics. Thus, the debate presumes that to assert the cultural relativity of justice is to deny the legitimacy of international human rights law. This comment challenges this presumed linkage between international human rights law and universally valid criteria of justice. Human rights standards are obviously culturally relative, and human rights law is obviously a Western institution. But so are the kind of states that human rights law sets out to restrain. The nation-state ideal is rarely fulfilled in the post-colonial world; the weak state sector is often just one cultural structure among many rather than the center from which a national culture radiates. The imperialism critique of human rights law hinges upon an ideal of national self-determination that may be unrealistic for much of the developing world. International governance of these societies is probably inevitable whether or not we acknowledge it. Rather than asking whether human rights standards are authentic to the national cultures of the developing world, we should ask whether and how human rights law marginally contributes to building societies capable of self-determination at some future point.


Western Human Rights in a Diverse World: Cultural Suppression or Relativism?

Clancy Wright


This content was written by a student and assessed as part of a university degree. E-IR publishes student essays & dissertations to allow our readers to broaden their understanding of what is possible when answering similar questions in their own studies.

The Western cultural construct of human rights provides inherent and inalienable rights to all, regardless of culture and tradition. Non-Western cultures do restrict the application of human rights, but only when these rights culturally and traditionally breach the rights of their members. These cultural traditions, such as Sharia law and female circumcision, challenge the cultural foundations of human rights by providing alternative means of understanding the individual and their role in the broader community. As such, cultural relativists who support each culture’s right to variation, even if it grossly abuses the rights of its members, are wrong to suggest human rights is a form of cultural imperialism. Human rights provide a means of enabling all of humanity with inalienable rights without regard to differences or cultural traditions, and as such international human rights law is almost universally supported by states.


Human rights and humanitarian imperialism in Syria

A view from an African American human rights defender

Ajamu Baraka

Pambazuka - Sep 27, 2012

Syria is just the latest in a long line of international crimes perpetrated by Western powers. But what makes the crimes in Syria, as those in Libya, even more offensive, is the cynical use of human rights to advance the diabolical interests of Western imperialism.  As the corporate media beat the drums of war with Syria, led this time by CNN and the New York Times with support from the rear coming from the confused white left/liberal likes of Democracy Now, a now familiar line is conjured up to rationalize intervention – humanitarian intervention as a basis to exercise the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P). David Gergen, the ‘soft neocon’ advisor to both republican and democratic presidents, made the claim on CNN recently that human rights groups would love to see the US intervene in Syria. A claim that is probably accurate for the US-based white, middle-class human rights mainstream. But this position certainly does not represent the positions of the growing, but largely ignored, ‘new human rights movement’ of grassroots organizations of people of color, informed by an African American radical human rights tradition, [1] who are reclaiming and redefining human rights as an anti-oppression, anti-imperialist ‘people-centered’ movement. But before I touch on this new movement let me briefly explore how this new version of the white man’s burden emerged to become the main device for mobilizing public opinion in the US to support war in the guise of humanitarianism.