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In this paper you are asked to examine a major contemporary human rights problem in a particular country. Your main goals are (1) to describe the problem, (2) identify the specific human rights being violated, and (3) suggest thoughtful recommendations for addressing the problem. In this way, your paper will combine description, legal analysis, and policy recommendations. Note that policy recommendations will often be connected to a discussion of the causes of the problem. The overall purpose of this exercise is to use a human rights perspective for understanding and seeking to remedy a severe social injustice.
In researching and compiling your paper, please follow the instructions below. You must cover the specified elements (ordered as you prefer), but try not to submit a paper that reads like a check-list. You are expected to fashion a coherent narrative, and to identify the most significant overall findings of your investigation. Those findings should be stated in the introduction of your essay, and reviewed in the conclusion.
1. Describe a human rights problem in a particular country. For information, consult one or more of the following sources.
•Amnesty International amnestyusa.org (Links to an external site.) (Go to “Our Work” and click on “Countries.”) Or go directly to http://www.amnestyusa.org/all-countries/page.do?id=1041024 (Links to an external site.)
•Human Rights Watch hrw.org (Links to an external site.) (Click on the triple-bar icon in the upper-left corner, and then click on “Countries.”)
•American Civil Liberties Union aclu.org (Links to an external site.) (limited to the US)
•US State Department Country Reports http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt (Links to an external site.) (does not include the US)
In addition, you may want to consult the annual world reports of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, also available online. Lexis-Nexis (UW restricted) will help you locate relevant news articles. You may consult other sources if you wish.
Scholarly articles and journalistic accounts may help you acquire a deeper understanding of your topic. To find such sources, I recommend using Google Scholar, Academic Search Complete, and/or the UW Libraries Search box.
NOTE: If you are a service learning student, you are encouraged but not required to write about one of the human rights problems addressed by your organization. You are also encouraged (but not required) to analyze the strategies used by your organization for promoting human rights. You must, however, complete all the other elements of the assignment listed here.
2. Identify the specific human rights that are being violated. Be alert to all the relevant human rights, and think about how violations of one human right can undermine others. Discuss how the relevant rights are defined (or ignored) in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
3. Read the national constitution, and discuss what protections it does or does not promise for the right in question. Use www.constituteproject.org (Links to an external site.), http://confinder.richmond.edu/ (Links to an external site.) http://oxcon.ouplaw.com (Links to an external site.) , or a similar page.
4. Identify any relevant UN human rights treaties, and describe how the rights are defined in those treaties. In most cases you should confine your attention to the “Core International Human Rights Instruments” listed here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CoreInstruments.aspx (Links to an external site.). In rare cases, you may want consult this longer catalogue: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/UniversalHumanRightsInstruments.aspx (Links to an external site.). Here is the portal to the UN page on international human rights law: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/index.htm (Links to an external site.) .
5. State whether the country has ratified the relevant UN treaties. You will find this information here: http://treaties.un.org/Pages/Treaties.aspx?id=4&subid=A&lang=en (Links to an external site.) . (This chart includes far more treaties than you should examine. Consult the major treaties that are relevant to your topic.) A country has ratified a treaty if there is a date appearing in the “Accession, Succession, Ratification” column.
6. Find out if the country has ratified the regional human rights treaty (if any) in its geographic area: the European Convention on Human Rights (Links to an external site.), the American Convention on Human Rights (Links to an external site.), or the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Links to an external site.). Ratification lists can be found at:
•Africa: http://www.achpr.org/instruments/achpr/ratification/ (Links to an external site.)
•The Americas: http://www.oas.org/juridico/english/Sigs/b-32.html (Links to an external site.) . A country has ratified if there is a date appearing in the “Ratification/Accession” column. Two countries, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela have withdrawn their ratifications.
•Europe: http://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/47-members-states (Links to an external site.)
Discuss how the relevant rights are defined in the relevant regional treaty.
7. Note: Here’s a convenient way to find out which human rights treaties, international and regional, the country has ratified: http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/research/ratification-index.html (Links to an external site.) . (But this list is a few years out of date.)
8. Note: Some of you may choose to write about abuses committed by insurgent groups or rebel armies. Though such organizations do not ratify international treaties, they are still governed by human rights law. You should refer to the Universal Declaration and any treaties that seem relevant. Moreover, insurgent organizations, like states, are governed by the law of armed conflict. You may therefore want to consult Articles 6-8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. To read the treaty, please paste the link www.un.org/law/icc/index.html (Links to an external site.) into your browser, click on “Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court” (under “Documentation”) and then click on “Entire Statute.”
9. Discuss whether and in what way the government’s (or insurgency’s) conduct is in violation of domestic law, the nation’s treaty obligations, and customary international law. Is the relevant human rights law, at the national and international levels, adequate and appropriate, and if not, how should it be improved?
10. Discuss what you think government officials (or insurgent leaders), national citizens, and international actors should do in light of your findings.
You must document sources for all specific information provided in your essay. You may use either footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical references that refer to a bibliography on the back page. Use a standard format (e.g., Chicago or MLA) and be consistent. Your citation should include enough information to identify the source clearly; please also list the web-page address. Subsequent citations to the same report should be abbreviated. Examples:
In this paper you are asked to examine a major contemporary human rights problem in a particular country. Your main goals are (1) to describe the problem, (2) identify the specific human rights being violated, and (3) suggest thoughtful recommendations for addressing the problem. In this way, your paper will combine description, legal analysis, and policy recommendations.