The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at Sixty

Theodor Meron

in The Making of International Criminal Justice

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199608935
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729706 | DOI:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at Sixty

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has moved human rights from the domestic world of citizen and civil rights to the universe of international entitlement, providing them additional legitimacy and making them a basis of expectations for peoples everywhere. The rights the Universal Declaration promises are increasingly accepted as international customary law. The Universal Declaration, in conjunction with the Helsinki Accords, has also provided inspiration for and played a major role in the overthrow of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Through its recognition of people's rights the Universal Declaration was instrumental in the struggle against colonialism and in advancing self-determination. More recently, through international criminal courts and tribunals, some of its norms have even been transformed into binding rules of international criminal law. But while the normative and theoretical impacts of the Universal Declaration have been extraordinary, the gap between expectations on the one hand, and implementation and enforcement on the other, was, and continues to be, significant. There is thus no question that much remains to be done in advancing the cause of human freedom and dignity. In assessing the achievements and future potential of the Universal Declaration at sixty, it is appropriate to ponder first whether its fundamental values are still those that should frame the debate over human rights.

Keywords: human rights; international criminal law; international customary law; human freedom; dignity

Chapter.  1800 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration

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