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Human Rights: Between Idealism and Realism

Christian Tomuschat

Oxford University Press, 2nd ed., 2008


Human Rights: Between Idealism and Realism"Human Rights between Idealism and Realism" presents human rights in action, focusing on their effectiveness as legal tools designed to benefit human beings. By combining conceptual analysis with an emphasis on procedures and mechanisms of implementation, this volume provides a multidimensional overview of human rights.

After examining briefly the history of human rights, the author analyses the intellectual framework that forms the basis of their legitimacy. In particular, he covers the concept of universality and the widely used model that classifies human rights into clusters of different 'generations'.

The volume then moves on to analyse the activities of the political institutions of the United Nations, the expert bodies established by the relevant treaties, and the international tribunals specifically entrusted at the regional level with protecting human rights. The author explains how and why the classical array of politically inspired informal devices has been enriched by the addition of international criminal procedures and by endeavours to introduce civil suits against alleged individual violators of human rights. Finally, the volume is rounded off by a consideration of the importance of humanitarian law as an instrument for the protection of human life and dignity and an exploration of the future of human rights.

Table of Contents




1. The General Framework of Human Rights

2. History of Human Rights

3. The Different 'Generations' of Human Rights: From Human Rights to Good Governance

4. Universality of Human Rights

5. Implementation at National Level

6. The Work of the Political Bodies of International Organizations

7. The Work of Expert Bodies: Examination of State Reports

8. The Work of Expert Bodies: Complaint Procedures and Fact-finding

9. Supervision by International Tribunals

10. Enforcement by States and the Role of Non-Governmental Organizations

11. Mitigating the Effects of Armed Conflict: Humanitarian Law

12. Criminal Prosecution of Human Rights Violations

13. Civil Suits against Human Rights Violators

14. Time for Hope, or Time for Despair?




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