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Human Rights as a Global Issue

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Human Rights
Wordcount: 1662 words Published: 2nd May 2017

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This essay will aim to explain and describe human rights, how it was recognised and how it is rapidly becoming a global issue in various countries. The essay will also go further to discuss Bentham’s theory relating to human rights and analyse the values of human rights with and without laws to protect them.

Firstly, according to MM Wallace and Martin-Ortega “human rights are regarded as those fundamental and inalienable rights essential for life as a human being.”[1] Human rights are known to be the fundamental rights that belong to all and as such everyone is entitled to have these rights. There have been different ideas on human rights over past centuries; however it received international support as a result of the holocaust and the Second World War. As a result of this, the United Nation adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 which sets out to protect human rights in various countries, to create awareness to individuals, to serve as a benchmark, to educate individuals on their rights, to serve as a political tool. There are different bodies under the United Nations that manage the affairs of human rights and these are the Human Rights committee, the Human rights commission which was replaced by the Human rights council. These bodies enforce and aim to maintain human rights laws in different countries to a certain extent.

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There are three different human right laws which are enforced and monitored in different ways; these are the international law, the regional law and the domestic law. According to the oxford dictionary international law “is a body of rules established by custom or treaty recognised by nations as binding in their relations with one another.”[2]The international law protects human rights globally and it consists of treaties and conventions such as International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the United Nations Convention on Rights of a Child and the United Nations Convention against Torture. Apart from international law, the regional law is also used to protect rights and it consists of home-group treaties such as the European Convention on Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the American Convention on Human rights. Other than this, there is also domestic law that also serve the same purpose as the international and regional laws. Many countries have their own domestic human rights legislation which sets out to protect the rights of the citizens. For example, the United Kingdom has the Human Rights Act 1998 which came into force on 2nd October 2000.

Looking at the points made above, it is clear to see that these laws support and implement human rights. Human rights are essential but without the law they have no real values. According to Bentham’s theory; he states that “natural rights are simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible right, rhetorical nonsense- nonsense upon stilts.”[3] Bentham was stating that natural rights are nonsense because he believes that rights are things that cannot be seen and if these so called rights cannot be seen then the existence of them is actually unknown. He also goes further to explain that human rights are given to individuals by the sovereign because it is the sovereign that makes the laws and therefore the laws should back up human rights, so in essence human rights have to exist with the law or without it, it is valueless. In addition to this, human rights need to have laws to guide them so as to avoid infringement upon individual’s rights by the government which may lead to conflict and dispute which could eventually escalate to war. Furthermore international law can protect rights through the use of international trade. In international trade there are sanctions that are given to some countries that violate the human rights laws and these are known as embargos, tariffs and quotas. An embargo is the complete prohibition against importing foreign goods into the country while the tariffs are taxes that are placed on imported goods in a country. The quotas are limits on the amount of a particular good that should be imported into a country. The embargo is the most commonly used sanction for states that go against the law and it has proven to be effective to a certain extent. The embargos are imposed by the UN or the EU; examples of countries that have been embargoed from the United States are North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Iran, Somalia, Sudan and Libya.

Although one can see that law is really needed to protect human rights but international law can be criticised. International law is ineffective and inefficient to a certain extent because there are still reports on the infringement on human rights in different countries. An example is North Korea where human rights are being abused; this shows that even with the existence of international law and the United Nations some countries can ignore the laws since it is non-legal bound and a good example of international law is the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Apart from this, international law is difficult to enforce as a result of the non-legal bound factor and therefore this will prove a difficult task for the United Nations. Another demerit of international law is that some sanctions that are imposed on some countries do not affect them. The embargo which is a form of sanction does not affect some powerful countries because without trade these countries can still survive and grow with their resources.

Human rights can also be valued without the implementation of the law; Bentham explains that human rights are just ideas but nevertheless they are there and they are recognised by the United Nations. The knowledge of these rights has real values in the sense that the citizens of a country can pressure the government into giving them their rights since they are aware of it. This act which can be viewed as rebellion against the government can either be carried out by interest groups or pressure groups. The student room article explained that “pressure groups are organised groups of people who come together, usually outside of the government, with a common cause with the intention of influencing government policy and public opinion.”[4] The statement above shows that pressure group are groups of individuals that come together to pursue a common interest in the society. Pressure group is essential in every democratic society because it represents and promotes the principle of freedom of speech and freedom of association inherent in democratic settings. Fagan states “the expression of opinions and views is widely considered a fundamental attribute of individual freedom.”[5] Pressure groups adopt different methods to promote their interests and these are lobbying, campaign, strike, protest and boycott. One of the major benefits of pressure groups is that it promotes democratic principles of freedom of speech therefore allowing individuals to express their opinions. Apart from this, another benefit is that it promotes democratic principles of criticism which indirectly checks the power of the government.

However pressure groups have been known to be very destructive, especially during the period of direct action such as a protest and this can eventually lead to retrogression in the society. Not only can this happen but it can also lead to civil war whereby a considerable number of citizens will be killed. In addition to this, human rights that have no law to support them have its disadvantages. One of which is the fact that the government can still infringe on the citizen’s human rights even if they attempt to rebel against the government. An example of a country where such act can be seen is Syria; in Syria a civil war has occurred because of the uprising against the regime of the president Bashar al- Assad in March 2011. The Syrian civil war is also a part of the Arab spring uprisings in the Middle East. The Arab spring can be said to be the media term for a revolutionary wave of violent and non-violent demonstrations such as protest, riots and civil war in the Arab world. The Arab spring which is still a global issue in the modern world has also been able to prove that without law to protect human rights it has no real values.

In conclusion, human rights have no real values without the law to protect it. Referring back to the points made, it can be seen that having the knowledge of these rights are not substantial because human rights abuse will still occur but if the law is implemented, human rights can still be protected to a certain limit showing that with law human rights have real values.


[1] Wallace MM R. & Martin- Ortega O, INTERNATIONAL LAW, 7TH EDITION, 2013, Sweet and Maxwell [pg 240]

[2] INTERNATIONAL LAW, www.oxforddictionaries.com [accessed 19th February, 2014]

[3] George H. Smith, Jeremy Bentham’s attack on Natural rights, June 26 2012, www.libertarianism.org [accessed 18th February, 2014]

[4] THE STUDENT ROOM, PRESSURE GROUP,www.thestudentroom.co.uk [accessed 19th February, 2014]

[5] Fagan A, THE ATLAS OF HUMAN RIGHTS, Myriad editions, 2010, Earthscan Ltd, [pg 40]


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