Human Rights Syllabi: Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley

Amnesty International USA Resource Notebook: Syllabi for the College Classroom


Georgia State University

The Politics of International Human Rights

POLS 4427/8427, Spring 2001
Mondays, 7:15-9:45PM, Room 417-G

Professor Henry (Chip) Carey
Tel: 404-651-4845
Office Hours: Monday Noon-1PM, Tuesday: 4-5PM, Thursday 4-5PM or by appointment

This is an introductory survey course on international human rights law, institutions and politics. Global, regional and national mechanisms and forces for promoting and protecting human rights are covered, including procedural and substantive aspects.

You are only required to read the first 75 pages listed of reading each week. Any readings listed beyond 75 pages is optional, if you have or can make time. Assignments are listed by week. The precise assignment for each class will be indicated in class, depending on precisely what we have had time to cover in class.

For your papers, as well as for future reference and inspiration, I have provided a thorough listing of sources for each week's topic. You will write your papers on one of the weekly topics. You will make a 5-10 minute class presentation of your paper on the day that this reading is discussed in class. You will need to choose that topic by the third week of class. Please submit an outline to me before beginning to write your paper. The paper is due the last class of the semester.

Requirements for Grade:

30%: Mid-Term Exam covering first-half of the course

35%: one 5-page paper on a topic related to one week's reading. You will also be "on call" to answer questions about the reading for the week that you selected.

35%: Final Examination covering mostly the second half, but also the basic ideas and concepts from the first half of the course

Excellent class participation can raise your grade.

NB: University rules state: "A student, doing passing work, was permitted to withdraw from the course without penalty. Withdrawals without penalty will not be permitted after the midpoint of the total grading period, which includes final examinations, except in cases where hardship status has been determined by the Office of the Dean of Students and the student is doing passing work, as determined by the student's instructor." The last day to withdraw without a grade of W is March 2, 2001. The Mid-Term will occur on Monday, February 26, 2001; so, you will have your mid-term grade before March 2, 2001.

Three Items for Purchase:

For those with no background in the United Nations, you should consult and/or purchase any of the many introductory texts, e.g.: Forsythe, David P. and Thomas Weiss, The United Nations and Changing World Politics, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994, 0-8133-9962-9, Mingst, Karen A. and Margaret P. Karns, The United Nations in the Post-Cold War Era, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995, Roberts, Adam and Benedict Kingsbury, eds., United Nations, Divided World, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993; Taylor, Paul and A.J.R. Groom, International Institutions at Work, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988.

Reading Assignments:(These assignments are subject to reasonable changes, with notification to the students in class)

We will rely on readings from the computer extensively in this course. This will save you money, but will require some extra effort on your part. The main internet sites from which you will do required readings are:

You will also receive monthly copies of UN Law Reports which we will read for every class.

You should also be using the web-ct compliment to this class to find human rights links and additional suggested readings from the internet.

Other Websites

You should get comfortable with the web to obtain human rights reports from various sources, and to try to assess their comprehensiveness and accuracy. Normally, you have to find your document by searching through "links." For example, to obtain the draft optional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which would give women a right to petition under the convention, you would click:

Web Site URLs for Key Human Rights Information Sources:


Week I: January 8, 2001

Introduction to Course


As soon as possible, please try to familiarize yourself with the following, which are found on, then click on treaties

For empirical data, you will want to consult human rights NGO reports. For a general overview, see the State Dept.'s Annual Report on Human Rights in the world issued every February. The best NGO reports are from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch's World Report: Events of 1997. See:

Look for the code following the UN document, such as for "Comparative Summary of Existing Communications and Inquiry Procedures and Practices under International human rights instruments and under the Charter of the United Nations." E/CN.4/1997/4, Jan. 21, 1997. (CN.4 stands for human rights, CN.6 is for women). Fortunately, this particular document is available too on the UN home page.

To subscribe to the general Human Rights Watch e-mail list to receive press releases and public letters concerning all regions of the world, send an email message to with "subscribe hrw-news" in the body of the message.

Week II: January 22, 2001

Introduction to Human Rights Law, Politics and Practice

An overview of the basic human rights covenants, as well as the Conventions on the Child, Torture and Genocide, and the Conventions on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.


Consult for Papers: Jack Donnelly and Rhoda E. Howard, "Assessing National Human Rights Performance: A Theoretical Framework," Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 10, May 1988, pp. 214-48; Louis Henkin, ed., The International Bill of Rights, New York: Columbia University Press, 1981, Doug McAdams and Dieter Rucht, "The Cross National Diffusion of Movement Ideas," in Russel J. Dalton, ed., Citizens, Protest and Democracy, special issue of The Annals 528 (July 1993), pp. 56-74. You might also want to peruse a Holocaust memoir to sense the world's conscience when human rights were developed, as well as the mentality of some of the founders of the human rights movement. Alexander Donat's The Holocaust Kingdom, New York: US Holocaust Museum, 1978, ($15.95) is a good one because it depicts all the different phases of the nightmare.

Week III: January 29, 2001

Universal or Relativistic?, Accountablity or Amnesty?

Are human rights universal? Should exceptions be made for cultural differences, such as in East Asia? What about states of emergency? What rights are not derogable? Is there such a thing as a mostly universal approach? What cross cultural consensus exists, if any? We review which of the legally binding, international human rights are actually respected in practice and suggest some hypotheses why. We also consider what actions states have undertaken during democratic transitions to account for past violations, including the Truth Commissions in Haiti and El Salvador and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.


Consult for Papers: R. J. Vincent, "The Idea of Rights in International Ethics," in Terry Nardin and David R. Mapel, eds., Traditions of International Ethics; David Forsythe, The Internationalization of Human Rights; Jack Donnelly, Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice; Louis Henkin, The Age of Rights, New York: Columbia University Press

Week IV: February 5, 2001

Multilateral Politics of Human Rights

What impact have multilateral implementation procedures had on the human rights practices of states? Special attention on the UN system, especially the Human Rights Commission, the Subcommission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities, General Assembly and the Human Rights Committee and other Treaty-created bodies.


Consult for Papers: UN Yearbook and the UN Chronicle, both published by the UN, as well as the Inter Dependent, the bi-monthly newspaper of the UN Association of the USA.

Week V: February 12, 2001

Regional Human Rights Processes

How have regional human rights organizations influenced the practices of their member states? What are the relative strengths and weaknesses of regional as opposed to global approaches? What explains the dramatic differences between regions? How do multilateral and regional instruments co-exist? Special attention will be paid to Europe and Latin America


Consult for Papers: Forsythe, David, Human Rights in the New Europe, Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, Buergenthal, Thomas, "The Advisory Practice of the Inter-American Human Rights Court," 79 American Journal of International Law, 1985, pp. 1-27, Gros Espiell, Hector, "Contentious Proceedings before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights," 1 Emory Journal of International Dispute Resolution, 1987, pp. 175-218

Week VI: February 19, 2001

Domestic Remedies, NGOs, and Human Rights Monitoring


Consult for Papers: Sikkink, Kathryn, "Human Rights, Principled issue-networks, and Sovereignty in Latin America," International Organization, Vol. 47, Summer 1993, pp. 411-41 and Sikkink, "The Emergence, Evolution and Effectiveness of the Latin American Human Rights Network," in Elizabeth Jelin and Eric Hershberg, eds., Constructing Democracy: Human Rights, Citizenship, and Society in Latin America,, Boulder; Westview Press, 1996, ch.4; Cancado Trindade, Antonio, "Exhaustion of Local Remedies in International Law and the Role of National Courts," 17 Archiv des Volkerrechts, 1977-1978, pp. 333-370; Hurst Hannum, ed., Guide to International Human Rights Practice, 2d ed.; HRW reports on WWW; Constitutions of South Africa, which is based upon the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Haiti and Romania's, which give supremacy to the Covenants and other ratified human rights treaties (unlike the ambiguous position of the US Constitution, which gives supremacy to treaties, but not to UN actions).

Mid-Term Examination: February 26, 2001

Week VII: March 12, 2001

Human Rights and US Foreign Policy

What are the relative strengths and weaknesses of bilateral, as opposed to multilateral implementation procedures? What place should human rights objectives have in national foreign policies? How can international human rights be reconciled with the principle of non-intervention? What explains that the US has been both a leading promoter and violator of human rights? What explains the different human rights policies in East Asia, Africa and the "like-minded states" like Canada, the Netherlands and Norway?


Consult for Papers: Fouad Ajami, "Human Rights and World Order Politics," in Falk, Kim and Mendlovitz, eds., Toward a Just World Order; Robert Matthews and Cranford Pratt, Human Rights in Canadian Foreign Policy, Shoultz, Lars, Human Rights and united States Policy Toward Latin America, esp. Introduction and Conclusion

Week VIII: March 19, 2001

Minorities, Disappearances and Religious Discrimination

What are the sources of religious intolerance? How have Latin America and the UN approached the problem of displaced or disappeared persons? What is the right to self-determination and what is it not? What are the permissible limits or restrictions upon the exercise of rights and what are impermissible derogations?


Consult for Papers: Lapidoth, Ruth, Autonomy: Flexible Solutions to Ethnic Conflicts, Washington: US Institute of Peace, 1997; Nationalities Papers, special issue on the Roma of Eastern Europe, Fall 1991.Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, UN Human Rights Fact Sheet, no. 11 (rev.1); Forced Evictions and Human Rights, UN Human Rights Fact Sheet no. 25.

Week IX: March 26, 2001

Second Generation Rights: Gender, Environmental, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Indigenous Rights

Has the demise of the "new world order" affected the Covenant on Economic, Social and Political Rights?" What effects have the globalization of capital had on this "Second-Generation" of human rights? What efforts have been undertaken to promote a right to development? How has the right to a healthy environment been formulated and implemented? What effects have the Earth summit and the Kyoto conferences on ozone depletion regulation had? What are the rights of the indigenous populations, both in law and in fact? What was the effect of the April 8-10, 1997 conference in Phuket, Thailand on the "Protection of Folklore"?


Consult for Papers: Human Rights Watch, Sexual Abuse of Women in US State Prisons, 1997. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Human Rights Fact Sheet no. 16 (rev. 1); Alston, Philip, "The United Nations' Specialized Agencies and Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights," 9 Human Rights Quarterly, 1987, pp. 156-229, Turk, Danilo, "The Realization of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Final Report," UN doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/1992/16, of 3 July 1992, pp. 1-70., Van Hoof, G. J. H., "The Legal Nature of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: A Rebuttal of Some Traditional Views," in Alston, Philip and K. Tomasevski, eds., The Rights to Food, Dordrecht: SIM/Nijhoff, 1984, pp. 97-110.

See 1996 Resolution of the Human Rights Sub-Commission on "Protection of the Heritage of Indigenous People" (E/CN.4/Sub.2/RES/1996/37) found at: C.f., the 1997 Working Group on Indigenous Populations (E/CN.4/Sub.2/AC.4/1997/). For futher information, contact the Internatonal Indian Treaty Council at: 415-512-1501,

Week X: April 2, 2001

Humanitarian Law, Genocide and War Crimes Tribunals

What is the emerging understanding of the sociology of genocide? Is humanitarian law also human rights law? What are the rights and modus operandi of the International Committee of the Red Cross?Ê What is the current debate on neutrality in the distribution of humanitarian assistance? How has Latin America responded to "internal disturbances and tensions"? How effective have been the International Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda? What are the prospects for the International Criminal Court?


Consult for Papers: Bell-Fialkoff, Andrew, Ethnic Cleansing, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996; Law Reports of Trials of War Criminals, Selected and Prepared by the United Nationals War Crimes Commission, His Majesty's Stationary Series. See for example, Vol. II on the Belsen Trial or the Einsatzgrappen trial at Nuremburg, where only five were executed and most received ten year sentences, but were released in 1953, serving only seven years for murdering 100,000 or more. For the Cambodian War Crimes research, contact Yale Genocide Program for Yale, c/o; Gardner, Gay, "Why Doesn't the US Arrest War Criminals?" The Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 6, 1998, p.19

Week XI: April 9, 2001

Case Studies

Does the US have double standards on China and Iran? What procedures have the UN adopted for these cases? Why is there so little attention to communal killing in East and South Asia in most international human rights fora?


Consult for Papers: Nathan, Andrew, "China: Getting Human Rights Right," The Washington Quarterly, Spring 1997, Vol. 20, no.2, pp.135-152; Svensson, Marina, The Chinese Conception of Human Rights, Wei Jingshen, Courage to Stand Alone, New York: Viking, 1997.Ê See the ongoing series from the NYC-based, Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs on human rights standards in East Asia

Week XII: April 16, 2001

Humanitarian Assistance

How has humanitarian assistance raised a plethora of human rights issues? What standards other than human rights might be applicable?

Required: Cahill, Part I: Reality

Consult for Papers: Iain Guest, Behind the Disappearances; news accounts of the ongoing crises in Chile and Argentina on their "dirty wars."

Week XIII: April 23, 2001

Refugee Rights and Assistance


Consult for Papers: "The UN and Refugees' Human Rights," Secretariat of the International Service for Human Rights," Geneva, 1997, Arboleda, Eduardo, "Refugee Definition in Africa and Latin America: The Lessons of Pragmatism," 3 International Journal of Refugee Law, 1991, no. 2, pp. 184-207, Goodwin-Gil, G.S., The Refugee in International Law, Oxford: Clarendon, 1986.

Week XIV: April 30, 2001

The Vienna Human Rights Conference and the Post-Cold War

What effects did the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights have? How has the end of the Cold-War begun to harm and protect human rights? How are NGOs evolving? With the dawn of the new century, what new perspectives on improving and strengthening protection mechanisms are emerging?


Consult for Papers: Cancado Trindade, Antonio, "The Current State of International Implementation of Human Rights," Hague Yearbook of International Law, 1990, pp. 2-29; Fodor, Janos, "Future of Monitoring Bodies," Canadian Human Rights Yearbook, 1991-1992, pp. 177-209, Martenson, "The United Nations and Human Rights Today and Tomorrow," in Mahoney and Mahoney, eds., Human Rights in the Twenty-First Century: A Global Challenge, Dordrecht: Nijhoff, 1993, pp. 925-936, Ramcharan, B.G., "Strategies for the International Protection of Human Rights in the 1990s," Human Rights Quarterly, 1991, pp. 155-169.

Final Examination: Monday, May 7, 7:15 - 9:15 p.m.

For Additional Reading

Alston, Philip, Promoting Human Rights Through Bills of Rights: Comparative Perspectives, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, 825822-4, $64

Barbieri, William A., Jr., Ethhics of Citizenship: Immigration and Group Rights in Germany, Durham: Duke University Press, 1998, 0-8223-2071-1, $16.95, 216 pages

Braun, Herbert, Our Guerillas, Our Sidewalks: A Journey Into the Violence of Colombia, 0-87081-357-9, $17.50

Burg and Walter Laqueur, The Human Rights Reader, Meridian/Pergamon, rev. ed., 1990, 0-452-01026-8

Fabricius, Fritz, Human Rights and European Politics: The Legal Political Status of Workers in the European Community, New York University Press, 0-85496-763-X

Heraclides, Alexis, The Self-Determination of Minorities in International Politics, London: Frank Cass, 1991, 0-7146-4082-4, $20, 291 pages

Holt, Robin, Wittgenstein, Politics and Human Rights, New York: Routledge, 1997, 184 pages, $55, hardback, 0-415-15438-3

Howard, Rhoda E., Human Rights and the Search for Community, Boulder: Westview, 195, 272 pages, $19.95,0-8133-2579

Human Rights Watch, World Report, 1995, Yale University Press, 1995, 500 pages, $25, 06363-6 and equivalent ones for 1996, 1997

Ishay, Micheline, R., The Human Rights Reader, New York: Routledge, 1998, 0-415-91849-9

Mullerson, Rein, Human Rights Diplomacy, New York: Routledge, 1997, $18.95, 0-415-15391-3

Newberg, Paula, The Politics of Human Rights, New York: NYU Press, 1980, 0-8147-5755-3

Robertson, A.H. and J. G. Merrills, Human Rights in Europe: A Study of the European Convention on Human Rights, Manchester University Press/distributed by St. Martin's, 1995, 0-7190-4613-0, $29.95, paper, 448 pages

Roht-Arriaza, Naomi, ed., Impunity and Human Rights in International Law and Practice, New York: Oxford University Press, 1995

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