M. Cherif Bassiouni is an emeritus distinguished research professor of law at DePaul University and founder of the International Human Rights Law Institute. Professor Bassiouni currently directs the International Institute of Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences, was recently appointed chair of the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry on Libya, and served as chair of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. He taught at the College of Law for 45 years. This essay appears in the fall 2013 issue of Dialogue.
The future of human rights: Shifting priorities and a community in recession
By M. Cherif Bassiouni
The veneer of legal civilization is very thin. It took the single incident of September 11, 2001, for the United States to launch its extraordinary renditions program and Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The egregious kidnapping, torturing, and imprisonment of nearly 850 detainees was heightened by the revelation that some 600 were mistakenly held captive. In certain cases it took between two and 10 years to release those who did not constitute a threat to the United States.
If anything else, this is symptomatic of the fact that when security is concerned, neither domestic nor international law protects human rights. The enunciation of internationally protected human rights
in the modern world began with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1963, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were adopted. These treaties and covenants are described as the declarative stage of human rights protection.