Why we cannot truly implement human rights unless we also recognize human responsibilities
When we debate questions in international law, politics, and justice, we often use the language of rights—and far less often the language of responsibilities. Human rights scholars and activists talk about state responsibility for rights, but they do not articulate clear norms about other actors’ obligations. In this book, Kathryn Sikkink argues that we cannot truly implement human rights unless we also recognize and practice the corresponding human responsibilities.
Focusing on five areas—climate change, voting, digital privacy, freedom of speech, and sexual assault—where on-the-ground (primarily university campus) initiatives have persuaded people to embrace a close relationship between rights and responsibilities, Sikkink argues for the importance of responsibilities to any comprehensive understanding of political ethics and human rights.
Latin American governments, social movements, and regional organisations have made a far bigger contribution to the idea and practice of international human rights than has previously been recognised. Most discussions of the global human rights regime stress its origins in the countries of the Global North. This article explores the role of Latin America states as early protagonists of the international protection of human rights, focusing in particular on the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, adopted 8 months before passage of the Universal Declaration. In light of this, Sikkink calls into question the idea that human rights originated only in the Global North.
Latin American governments, social movements, and regional organizations have made a far greater contribution to the idea and practice of international human rights than has previously been recognized. Most discussions of the global human rights regime stress its origins in the countries of the Global North. This article explores the role of Latin America states as early protagonists of the international protection of human rights, focusing in particular on the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Histories of human rights in the world emphasize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, passed by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, as the founding moment of international human rights. Few know that Latin American states passed a similar American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man a full eight months before passage of the UDHR. The American Declaration thus was the first broad enumeration of rights adopted by an intergovernmental organization. This article explores the American Declaration as an example of often overlooked Latin American human rights protagonism that has continued to this day, and that calls into question the idea that human rights originated in only the Global North.
Changes in quality and availability of information related to human rights violations raise questions about how best to use existing data to assess human rights change. Information effects are discernible both in primary sources of information and data coded by two prominent human rights datasets, the Political Terror Scale (PTS) and the Cingranelli-Richards Human Rights Data Set (CIRI). The authors discuss ways that human rights information has changed for the better, evaluate the scales and their primary text sources for countries in Latin America, and compare them with information drawn from regional truth commission data. Extra caution is advised when using summary data to make inferences about human rights change.
The justice cascade refers to a new global trend of holding political leaders criminally accountable for past human rights violations through domestic and international prosecutions. In just three decades, state leaders have gone from being immune to accountability for their human rights violations to becoming the subjects of highly publicized trials in many countries of the world. New research suggests that such trials continue to expand and often result in convictions, including some of high-level state officials. This article summarizes research on the origins of the justice cascade and its effects on human rights practices around the world. It presents evidence that such prosecutions are affecting the behavior of political leaders worldwide and have the potential to help diminish human rights violations in the future.
Since the 1980s, there has been a significant rise in domestic and international efforts to enforce individual criminal accountability for human rights violations through trials, but we still lack complete explanations for the emergence of this trend and the variation observed in the use of human rights prosecutions in the world. In this article, we examine the role that procedural law has had in allowing societal actors to influence in this rising trend for individual criminal accountability. We do this by focusing on participation rights granted to victims, such as private prosecution in criminal cases. Based on an exploration of an original database on human rights prosecutions in Latin America and fieldwork research in three countries, we argue that private prosecution is the key causal mechanism that allows societal actors to fight in domestic courts for individual criminal accountability for human rights violations.