Are Human Rights Documents Effective in Establishing Freedoms?

Freedom is the tie that binds all human beings together. There are differing opinions of freedom, various way of implementing freedom, and diversity in how people obtain freedom; but the human instinct has an overwhelming desire for personal freedom. Human rights documents have outlined basic freedoms that all humans should enjoy; however, these official proclamations are not as effective as they could be. Human rights documents are not effective in establishing freedoms because they have legislative errors by committees and organizations, implementation problems on how countries enforce the legislation, and maintenance predicaments in how America is continuing the fight against modern day slavery.

Human rights documents have several legislative errors by the committees and organizations that wrote them. The United Nations has done the most to incorporate anti-slavery laws across the globe. Their most prominent document is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document outlines the rights that every human being in every country is entitled to. As for the content of this document, it thoroughly conveys the command that all nations must treat their citizens as people and not as property. The problem with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, however, is the blind faith the United Nations has placed in this document. According to Joe Hoover in his article “Rereading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Plurality and Contestation, Not Consensus,” he states, “They only focus on those elements emphasizing the need for, and achievement of, consensus, leaving the contest over the meaning of dignity underexamined.” Because the UDHR merely gives a list of commands and does not accurately describe the moral reasoning behind human rights, nations do not have a clear understanding of freedom. According to William Edmundson in his book An Introduction to Rights, he says, “But in the realm of moral rights, there are some correlative duties protecting some interests so central to our common notions of decency that their protections cannot be waived.” There should be no question in the UDHR as to the definition and foundation of human rights so that countries have a clear and reasonable basis for their human rights legislation; however, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has not given a proper basis for human rights and, as a result, nations cannot effectively enforce these laws.

Another problem with the legislation error concerning human rights documents is the committee who writes them – the United Nations Human Rights Committee. This committee has been responsible for overseeing the human rights advancements in other countries; however, this committee has a major flaw. Their main problem is that they are ineffective in conducting discussions and solutions to dilemmas of human rights. According to Barbara Crossette in her article “The UN Human Rights Council Faces Challenges,” she states, “…numerous governments in the developing world have avoided ensuring greater human rights and civil liberties by deflecting the discussion toward social and economic rights.” Countries are able to get away with violations of human rights by simply changing the subject, and the committee allows for this behavior. Later in the article, she states, “Watching the council’s progress has been a deeply disappointing experience.” The council has not been effective in its discussions by not holding fast to its original foundations of upholding human freedoms. By the legislative errors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Council, human rights documents are ineffective at establishing freedoms.

Human rights documents also have many implementation problems on how countries enforce these universal laws. The three main segments on how a country will enforce a law is through first, the police; second, the prosecutors; and third, the courts. These three segments are so corrupt in other countries that they simply do not enforce anti-slavery laws and criminals are free to enslave others.

The first segment is the police. According to Gary Haugen in his book The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, he states, “The police, as experienced by poor people in the developing world, have almost no specialized crime-fighting training and can make more money hurting people than helping people.” The police in other countries accept bribes on a daily basis. Because the corrupt police can be bought to look away from violators of anti-slavery laws, these laws are not being enforced effectively in other countries.

The police prohibit human rights laws from being effective, but the prosecutors do as well. According to Gary Haugen, “The brokenness of prosecution services in the developing world not only leaves innocent people who’ve had the misfortune of being wrongfully charged with a crime to languish in jail, but it also allows the violent abusers of the poor to run free.” The prosecutors, like the police, in other countries are corrupt. They can be bought to protect the evil-doers and even punish the innocent. If a police officer were to rightly report a case of a human rights violation, the prosecutor is yet another barrier to get through to enforce human rights laws.  

Both the police and prosecutors are not effective in other countries, but perhaps the biggest hurdle to get through is the court system. According to Gary Haugen, “The impoverished condition of the courts in the developing world and their high levels of dysfunction create massive delays and accumulate massive backlogs.” There is a shortage of judges in other countries and the court system moves extremely slow. If a police officer were to rightfully report a violator of human rights, and if the prosecutor were to take the case and bring it before the court, the most likely outcome is that the case would get lost within the court system and the criminal would yet again walk free. Because of the corruption of the police, prosecutors, and the court system in other countries, human rights documents are not being enforced and are, therefore, not effective in establishing freedoms.

Human rights documents have both legislative and implementation problems, but the United States has maintenance problems in overseeing human rights documents. The United States is a leading world power, but we have recently taken a step back from discussions of human rights. According to the article “The UN Human Rights Council Faces Challenges,” it states, “The United States lost all rights and opportunities to shape the new body [UN Human Rights Council] from inside.” The United States has not had a council seat for the last several years. There is much controversy as to whether the US should even be a member of the United Nations; however, since the US is a current a member, it should take advantage of its position of power and be a leader in advancing human rights. According to Andrew Valls in his book Ethics in International Affairs, he says, “But there is no reason why duties of humanity should be any less imperative than duties of justice.” The United States has intervened countless times to aid other countries for the sake of justice of war, but it does not effectively intervene in cases of violations of human rights. The US is not taking active steps towards the enforcement and maintenance of international human rights, and as a result, these documents are not effective in establishing freedoms.

Human rights documents are not effective in establishing freedoms because they have legislative errors by committees and organizations, implementation problems on how countries enforce the legislation, and maintenance predicaments in how America is continuing the fight against modern day slavery. The United States, being a superior world leader, should take every opportunity to advance international human rights. Today, countries all over the globe do not enforce human rights laws even though they have legislation prohibiting these crimes. The United States prides itself on its freedom. It should then do everything in its power to protect the freedoms given by God to all humans across the globe.

 

Sources Cited

Crossette, Barbara. “The UN Human Rights Council Faces
          Challenges.” The United Nations (2011).Opposing
          Viewpoints in Context, accessed October 27, 2017.

Edmundson, William A. An Introduction to Rights. Cambridge,
          United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Haugen, Gary. The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty
          Requires the End of Violence. New York City, New York:
          Oxford University Press, 2014.

Hoover, Joe. “Rereading the Universal Declaration of Human
          Rights: Plurality and Contestation, Not Consensus.”
          Journal Of Human Rights 12, no. 2. (2013). Academic
          Search Elite, EBSCOhost, accessed October 27, 2017.

Valls, Andrew. Ethics in International Affairs. Lanham,
          Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Inc., 2000.

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