Second World War brought a turning point to the attention paid
to Human Rights.
with massacres perpetrated by supposedly "civilized"
nations, the need was felt to write an International Statute
of Human Rights, and above all organise a means to fight against
the influx of war. The creation of the United Nations (UN) answered
United Nations Charter was signed throughout the San Francisco
Conference in June 1945. It brought out four principles altogether
new at the time:
Equality Among States.
all aggressive warfare and the obligation for States to seek
peaceful means to work out their differences.
duty of the States go unite their efforts to up the standard
of living for all peoples.
will to propagate respect for Human Rights and fundamental freedom
the San Francisco Conference, the idea of writing a Universal
Declaration of Human Rights was accepted. The UN Human Rights
Commission initiated primarily by the widow of President Roosevelt
and René Cassin went to work preparing it, in the Autumn of
will be drafted by René Cassin and submitted to the full Assembly
at the United Nations December 10th, 1948 (at the Palais de
Chaillot in Paris). It was adopted by 48 votes for versus 8
abstentions: USSR, Belarus, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia,
Poland (in other words the Eastern Block), Saudi Arabia and
South Africa (1948: year zero of Apartheid).
Declaration is not a Convention. It has ONLY a moral force.
It is only still an "ideal to attain collectively by all
peoples and all nations."
in fact its influence has been considerable: any State that
joins the UN must agree with this text.
is interesting to repeat here what René Cassin wrote in "Le
Monde" newspaper December 14, 1948:
Soviet delegation was always of the opinion that the application
of the principles of the Declaration should be left up to each
State to do with "as they saw fit". They always showed
great wariness not only towards the "International Court
of Human Rights" proposed by Australia, but also toward
any conciliatory organisation in charge of examining petitions
dealing with Human Rights addressed to the United Nations. Evoking
monstrous abuses given rise by the absolute sovereignty vindicated
by Hitler since 1933, in favour of the Third Reich as opposed
to its immigrant population has not been enough, thus far, to
dislodge obvious repugnance for the international community
overseeing, even amicably, primarily but not essentially "domestic"
affairs. No doubt nothing short of an immense and impartial
effort must be done to dissipate such wariness. Between international
anarchy and world government, there are different degrees."
today, it is this reticence on the part of certain countries
in the face if international non-management that makes this
fight for the respect of Human Rights so difficult.
So that the principlas evoked
in the UDHR be applied, the UN elaborated a great number of
pacts and conventions:
2 great pacts of 1966:
the Pact relating to Civil and Political Rights
the Pact relating to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Convention relating to the Refugee Status (1951)
Convention against Torture and Cruel Treatment or Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment (1989)
Convention relating to Childrens Rights (1989) [*Signed
by all countries except USA]
Second Optional Protocol pertaining to the International Pact
relating to Civil Rights and Political Rights aiming at abolishing
the Death Penalty (1989)
respect for pacts and treaties is obligatory for the States
that ratified them. These States must then, if need be, adapt
their legislation to render it compatible with these international
texts. Where no internal legislation exists, a pact or convention
does not create rights susceptible to being invoked by an individual
versus the State, even if this State adheres to this particular
pact or convention. It must be known: States can ratify with
UN has now an arsenal of texts of quality at its disposal on
whom defenders of Human Rights can lean. But international justice
should have courts that can ensure the fulfilment of the engagements
the respective governments took, and that punishes transgressions.
exists in Europe where the European Court of Human Rights actually
condemns States that do not act according to the texts they
have signed, and is being developed for American and African