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What would be required for successful direct protection of human rights? The authority to command violating parties to do otherwise? The ability to enforce such a command? Overwhelming political pressure directed against human rights violations to the exclusion of other interests? No United Nations human rights body has such authority and power.
The United Nations‘ primary raison d‘etre in the human rights field as acted upon by the Human Rights Committee is long-term. It may be that the sum total of UN activity in this field is supposed to socialize or educate actors into changing their views and policies on human rights over time toward a cosmopolitan human rights standard as defined by United Nations instruments. Conversely one can say that the entirety of UN human rights activity is to dispense or withhold a stamp of legitimacy on member states according to their human rights record. It can be persuasively argued that in some cases a ruling regime lost ground in its struggle for legitimacy in the eyes of important actors because of violations of aforementioned rights. The United Nations‘ definition of human rights probably contributed to the process.
At some point, socialization and manipulation of legitimacy must directly change specific behaviour and must lead to direct protection by some actor. In a few situations this linkage can already be demonstrated. In the case of Filartiga v. Peña Irala in the United States, a federal court held torture to be prohibited by customary international law, using United Nations instruments and actions as part of its reasoning. ―Once a tort can be considered to be in violation of the law of nations, Sec. 1350 allows immediate access to a federal court.… It is now generally accepted by the United States and the vast majority of other member nations of the United Nations that gross violations of human rights are, as a matter of international law, a legitimate concern of the world community.‖ This case opened the possibility of express prosecution of torturers of any nationality who appear in the jurisdiction of the United States. Other courts in the U.S. have also used United Nations instruments and activities as part of their decisions, and other states beyond the U.S. show some influence from UN instruments in their legal and administrative decisions. The 1998 Pinochet extradition case in London, described by Human Rights Watch as a ―wake-up call‖ to tyrants everywhere, was decided on the basis that both Britain and Chile had ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture.
2. The passage suggests that the author would most likely agree with which of the following statements?
A. The UN has done little to affect the protection and establishment of human rights.
B. Human rights violations should be the primary concern of the UN.
C. International policies can be influenced by UN activities and proclamations.
D. Future human rights court cases may turn to UN policies for assistance.
E. The UN needs to be given military powers
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