INTL254 Introduction to International Human Rights
Professor Nadya Nedelsky
reaction essays prepared by students
Some questions to consider when discussing these topics;
1) In the case of sweatshops, for example, the question of working conditions is raised: what body, government or individual is responsible for the creation, implementation and enforcement of human rights standards. Additionally, should these standards be international or specific to the locale in which they apply?
2) How is it possible to consider cultural practices or customs while ensuring that rights are maintained (for example, the case of students in England accumulating student debt)? Is it possible to avoid cultural relativism in the creation of international treaties or regulations?
After a close examination of the introductory section of the text, we established several basic themes that guide the reader’s understanding of case studies. To begin, each case or supposed violation must remain in its own context free of sweeping judgments or assumptions. The use of various news clippings provided an immediate snapshot of a wide range of possible violations, provoking the reader to question their own definition of a violation. For instance, an article concerning the role of globalization in the drastic increase in economic disparities suggests that our own ideas of human rights may be narrower than we realize. This case raises questions of accountability: who inflicts violations that are on a global scale? How can we control such enormous repercussions? Should we control them? Who establishes regulations or the definition of a human rights violation? Responsibility for large-scale crimes can be incredibly difficult to decipher: how does one measure the intensity of a violation, or the level of participation the perpetrator was involved in the crime. Are those acting under orders responsible for actions sanctioned by their superiors?
The victims of these crimes clearly demand recognition and retribution for their pain and suffering, yet how can we be sure that “justice” (the definition here is also problematic) is attained. The administration of punishment may also vary culturally, how do we prevent violations from triggering more crimes? For instance, the article concerning the widespread use of “faceless courts” in Colombia for terrorists and drug-traffickers: the system may guarantee punishment for those who committed crimes, but are they being denied their basic rights as well? Is the suspension of full rights acceptable if it leads to greater good?
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