What Are the Basic Elements of International Human Rights Law?

International Human Rights law in one sense offers great potential and hope because of the lofty ideals which it espouses and in another sense great disappointment because of the gap between what these idealistic statements proscribe in terms of an aspiration for all mankind and the reality under which most people live. If all of the rights which are said to exist under the international human rights law project did truly exist, a global utopia would have come into existence. However all around the world, there are ordinarily breaches of the rights set out in the basic documents that proscribe what rights mankind is supposed to enjoy simply as a consequence of the fact that we are human.

The body of rights which is largely held to exist stems from three major documents which are said to the be the ‘international bill of rights’. This is composed of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR). These three conventions are said to represent in respective order first generation universal human rights, second generation universal human rights and the third generation universal human rights. Critics of the International human rights law project level their objections on the basis that the idea of universal rights if a western concept which is imposed without any sensitivity to the cultural practices of cultures which have developed independently of a rights based legal system. Although this is true in some respects, there are also human rights advocates within these cultures who accept the universality of the idea of human rights and say that often this intellectual objection to the concept of human rights is an excuse used to gloss over the numerous human rights atrocities committed by governments around the world. In any event, the global recognition of human rights has now existed for over 60 years in a codified international form and it appears doubtful that it will cease at any point in the near future as a applicable political discourse.

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