â€˜Safeguarding Human Rights lies less in new laws, than in new interpretationsâ€™. Discuss with reference to the United States and the United Kingdom Introduction Both sides of the proposition posed in the title question are fraught with difficulty. Human history, particularly as it unfolded in the twentieth century, confirmed that national and supranational treaties and legislation, no matter how compellingly drafted or extensively ratified, was a thin safeguard against human rights abuses.
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Versailles, the Yalta Conference, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention against Torture represent a sampling of this truth. The mere enactment of a human rights provision does not carry an implicit assurance of compliance or respect for its terms. Similarly, the legal traditions advanced by case law and other jurisprudence are an inadequate moral compass era to era in the human experience. Human rights are a dynamic and highly contextual aspect of our global existence. Written laws can quickly assume the status of tombstone data, immutable, inert and ineffective in the face of rapidly changing societal attitudes and diversity. The precise definition of what constitutes a fundamental right of any kind is never static. The body of law in any society is susceptible to manipulation by subsequent generations. In the course of this paper, an argument shall be advanced that seeks to synthesise both aspects of the title, with a primary weight given top the promulgation of better and more powerfully written laws as the ultimate tool to encourage cogent and authoritative interpretations to best counter the dynamics of human rights issues. The analysis commences with a series of working definitions. Depending upon the tenor of a particular time, human rights protections may be expressed in terms as expansive as an ocean, or as thin as a puddle. An effective definition of human rights is crucial given its status as the touchstone modern societal concept in both the United States and the UK. The relevant definitions are especially examined from the perspective of two constructs â€“ rights versus obligations, and claims versus rights versus entitlement. The definitional foundation analyses specific examples available in both the American and the UK human rights experience. The common roots of the constitutional protection of human rights in each country and the divergence in approaches between both nations are considered; the American Constitution and the UK incorporation by reference of European Community human rights standards are considered in this respect. It is contended that the United States and the UK have recently returned to a common root in the consideration of the limits to be placed upon human rights availability in times of national emergency, a contention examined with particular reference to the events and the repercussions of the 9/11 and 7/7 terrorist attacks.
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