“Human rights are “universal” rights in the sense that they are held “universally” by all human beings” (Donnelly 2007, p.4). Human rights are also said to be universal in view of the fact that most cultures and societies have upheld the concept of human rights throughout their history. Therefore, the concept of human rights is acknowledged worldwide. For instance, most teachings in the Koran encourage protections of human rights. In addition, traditional African societies strongly advocate for human rights. Moreover, protection of human rights is an important doctrine in the traditions of Asians. However, some countries maintain that this concept is incompatible with some of their cultures. Therefore, there are divergent views on the universality of human rights. In fact, some countries uphold this concept due to international pressure. This report discuses the universality of human rights.
Legal Enforcement of Universal Human Rights
The universality of human rights was legally enforced after United Nations’ General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration was adopted after United Nations’ members were convinced that the concept of human rights is universal in nature. However, enforcement of international human rights norms was left to independent states. In addition, the international community was given the right to intervene in situations involving massive human rights violations. The relationship between an individual and the state is also an important aspect of the concept of human rights. Accordingly to halt (2012), sovereign states are instruments whose main function is to serve the interests of their citizens. For that reason, the international legal system dwells more on an individual than the state.
Disagreements on the Universality of Human Rights
Universal protection of human rights has very few opponents worldwide. Nonetheless, some countries argue that the concept of human rights is incompatible with some of their values. These countries maintain that cultural diversity should be left to determine whether certain occurrences are a violation of human rights or not. On the other hand, proponents of the concept of human rights argue that violations of human rights must be checked. In addition, atrocities such as ethnic cleansing and rape should receive the strongest condemnation. To guard against impunity, perpetrators of such atrocities must also be punished.
Examples of Situations Where Universality of Human Rights Was Applied
Sovereignty is derived from people and, therefore, their rights, interest and security must be prioritized. State sovereignty has a legal value only when it respects human rights. Consequently, the principle of Right to Protect (R2P) has replaced that of sovereignty as the first principle of international law. For that reason, in situations involving massive human rights violations, other states have the right to intervene in the domestic affairs of an independent state. An example of a case where R2P was prioritized over the principle of sovereignty was when India intervened in Bangladesh. This was after millions of Bengalis were forced to flee to India due to a conflict in their country.
Most cultures and societies have upheld the concept of human rights throughout their history. Therefore, this concept is acknowledged worldwide. However, the world is yet to come into a consensus on this issue. For instance, some countries claim that the concept of human rights is not compatible with their cultural values. Nonetheless, international laws prioritize the rights of an individual over those of a state. For that reason, all countries must endorse the concept of human rights.