History of Human Rights

Examples of Human Rights
in Historical Documents
• Babylonian Code of
• British Magna Carta
• French Declaration of the Rights
of Man
• U.S. Bill of Rights
Events Preceding UDHR
• WWI: Trench warfare, poison gas, and new weapons intensify war and
increasingly affect civilian populations.
• The League of Nations is created in response to an emerging
international sense of morality.
• Following the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal”
(1933) guarantees social and economic benefits for workers. His “Four
Freedoms” (1941) identify freedom of speech and religion, and
freedom from want and fear as essential for all people.
• WWII: Nazis exterminate millions of people (incl. Jews, gypsies,
communists, people with disabilities, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and
homosexuals). The Japanese military brutalizes residents of occupied
countries. The United States drops the first atomic bomb on Japan.
• Nazi and Japanese war criminals are prosecuted in the first-ever war
trials: the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals.
• The United Nations is established in 1945.
1946: Commission of Human Rights formed
1947: Drafting of declaration begins
1948: Lengthy and often divisive deliberations
UN General Assembly adopts UDHR
The General Assembly Vote
48 in favor (incl. Brazil, China, Cuba,
Ethiopia, France, India, Iran, USA).
8 abstained (Belarus, Czechoslovakia,
Poland, Ukraine, USSR, Yugoslavia,
Saudi Arabia, South Africa)
2 absent (Honduras, Yemen)
UN Member States Abstentions and
Points of Contention
Belarus, Czechoslovakia,
Poland, Ukraine, Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics
(USSR), Yugoslavia
Opposed interference with
sovereignty of nations
Saudi Arabia
Some articles contradict Q’ran
(Koran): freedom to change
religion and certain gender and
marriage rights
South Africa Right to racial equality interfered
with apartheid
• Delegate to UN
General Assembly
• Chairperson of
Human Rights
UDHR Articles: Examples
Article 5:
Freedom from Torture
Article 25:
Right to Health Care
International Bill of Rights
Universal Declaration of
Human Rights
Covenant of
Civil and
Political Rights
Covenant of
Economic, Social,
and Cultural Rights
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and
Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
e.g., Canada, China,
France, Germany, India,
Japan, Mexico, UK
e.g., Botswana,
Cuba, Mozambique,
Myanmar, Oman,
Pakistan, Qatar,
Saudi Arabia
not signed
signed but not ratified
7 countries: Belize,
Kazakhstan, Lao, Liberia,
Sao Tome and Principe,
South Africa, and USA
UDHR Preamble
“Every indivual . . . shall strive by teaching
and educate to promote respect for these
rights, and fredoms . . . “

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