International law and human rights

Authored by: Brian D. Lepard

Handbook of Human Rights

Print publication date:  September  2011
Online publication date:  February  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415480239
eBook ISBN: 9780203887035
Adobe ISBN: 9781134019083

10.4324/9780203887035.ch51

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Abstract

The protection of fundamental human rights by international law is one of the great legal achievements of the twentieth century. (For an overview, see Steiner et al. 2008.) Prior to 1945, the idea of universal human rights found only embryonic expression in international treaties and customary international law. These expressions built on earlier conceptions of human dignity that appeared in revered religious texts such as the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament, and the Qur'an. The Enlightenment conception of at least some human beings as deserving of equal rights also was a progenitor of the modern human rights idea (Ishay 1997, pp. 1–173).

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