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Genocide and Emergence of Human Rights Discourse
Human beings enjoy fundamental rights in today’s world. The belief that everyone has certain rights by virtue of humanity is relatively not new. However, the Second World War was a prime catalyst that advanced human rights into the global stage and conscience. Notably, the idea of human rights gained momentum and popularity after the Holocaust in which the Nazis and collaborators attempted to destroy the European Jewry. The killing of many Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, and people with disabilities by the Nazi Germany horrified the globe. The painful experience attracted the world attention, and global leaders saw the need for nations living together in a dignified manner. Holocaust contributed to the emergence of human rights discourse and respect for all.
The issue of human rights is rich in history. From the drafting of Magna Carta to the making of the US Constitution, the world has attempted to have principles that uphold the dignity of a person (Sensen 72). However, the quest for human rights emerged stronger after the Second World War. The aftermath of the war, particularly the Holocaust spurred legal and political development with the aim of establishing regimes that respect human rights. The unfortunate and horrible event serves as a historical basis for advocating and drafting of principles that shape the modern human rights. The atrocities attracted the world attention and spurred spirited debate about the significance of according individuals dignity as they enjoy the fundamental human rights (Moeckli, Shah, Sivakumaran, and Harris 29). Notably, the Holocaust became the absolute references in legal and political contexts as many factions sought to curb the recurrence of such event in the future. During the Nuremberg trials, the perpetration of crimes against humanity and aggression resulted in the conviction of the perpetrators (Tomuschat 839). Holocaust serves as a backbone that propelled the idea of human rights into the global conscience (Snyder 112). As evident in the trial, the perpetrators sought to destroy a particular human grouping by attempting to kill every member of the group, hence violating their rights.
The Holocaust was unprecedented, and the effects were hefty. No other mass killing with the intent that caught the world attention had happened before the extermination of the Jewish people. Although the Nazis committed other genocides in Poles and Roma, the adverse effects of the Holocaust were intense and aimed at wiping every single Jew out of existence (Friedlander 270). Arguably, it was the threshold in defining genocide and violated the victims’ right to life and freedom. The intensity of this heinous activity prompted debates in many circles regarding the abuse of the fundamental rights as the Nazi Germany moved people around Europe against their will (Snyder 83). During the trial, it was apparent that the regime murdered people for what they were as opposed to what they had done. Being a Jew was the basis of killing after denied the due process of the law. Notably, the Nazis did not charge them with any wrongdoing. Property seizure coupled with denying the Jewish people the opportunity to earn a living amounted to gross violation of human rights.
The concept of humanity shaped by the genocide still enjoys popularity and international bodies such as the United Nations impose it on nations seeking to resolve conflicts (Moeckli, Shah, Sivakumaran, and Harris 28). The claim of universality that holds all actors in interdependent globe share the same values that shape humanity is the basis of human rights in the contemporary world. The Holocaust has a direct link with the drafting and ratification of conventions that bolster human rights issues today. A historical relationship exists between the Holocaust that culminated in the convictions of the perpetrators and the Genocide Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Hancock 387). The immediate discussions that followed the Second World War aimed at establishing the United Nations to boost international peace and prevent wars as well. Discussions centered on upholding human rights and ensuring that no individuals would unjustly deny others freedom, life, and nationality. Although President Franklin Roosevelt had talked about the significance of human rights principles, similar voices fueled by the atrocities that Nazi Germany committed played a critical role in drafting the United Nations Charter in 1945 (Carmichael 2). The adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 further strengthened the endeavor to respect human dignity. The declaration meant that nations were duty-bound to uphold human rights and any violation would attract legal interventions including trial and sentencing of the perpetrators. The ratification of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide endeavored to set principles of preventing and punishing actions of genocide. Carmichael contends that the punishable crimes that violate human rights include genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and genocide complicity (1).
The current human rights have roots in the post-war discussions and deliberation that responded to mass atrocities as revealed in the Nuremberg Trials. It is unfortunately though true that the advancement in the field of international law and human rights is a result of wars or catastrophes involving the loss of life. The genocide that culminated in the sentencing of the perpetrators to prison and death contributed tremendously to the understanding of human rights and drafting of the international law to protect humanity (Sensen 75). Bernal-Bermudez contends that the Nuremberg trial showed the dire need to redefine human rights and establish universal legislation that could guide the handling of crimes against humanity (26). Such a trial without precedent opened a human rights discourse to set up legal frameworks that deal with crimes, which violate the fundamental rights of people. Holocaust advanced the dialogue and created the international law of human rights on top of contributing to the emergence of the international criminal law. Before the Holocaust, the existing international legal procedures offered no protection for the victims of Nazi Germany (Tomuschat 833). Such lawlessness encouraged the perpetrators to harm and kill the European Jewry. Fundamentally, the heinous crimes in the history of humanity constituted a legacy that prompted leaders to introduce preventive measures and curb recurrence. The humanization of the international law has guaranteed individuals human rights (Bernal-Bermudez 24). In this regard, nations and persons are subject to the revised international law. The creation of more and more institutions and tribunals as well empower people to assert their human rights direct against the nations that have violated them. It is noteworthy that the basis of the modern law of human rights is the Charter of the United Nations adopted after the experience of Second World War and Holocaust (Tomuschat 836). Following the revision of the international law after the universal declaration, ratification of many human rights agreements including Genocide Convention has happened. Compliance of human rights has reduced the existences of mass killings even in war-torn nations.
In my opinion, the international tribunals should handle war crime. The horrific nature of the offense requires that impartial courts that offer the accused the opportunity to explain their involvement in the criminal activity. I believe that the Nuremberg Trials created a significant precedent for the handling of the war crimes. The critical principles that the tribunal established are still robust and influence the international conduct. It gave the concept of crimes against humanity a juridical legitimacy that was missing before the Second World War. One of the important aspects of the tribunal such as Nuremberg Trial is offering the victims as well as their families the chance to confront the perpetrators and probably allow them to put behind the horrible experience. They regain power, which they may have lost emanating from a war crime.
In conclusion, the genocide, particularly the Holocaust spurred the emergence of the human rights discourse. Holocaust has a direct link to the emergence of the human rights discourse and continues to shape the field. It propelled the issue of human rights into the global limelight and conscience. The Nuremberg Trial exposed the gross violation of human rights as the Nazi Germany deliberately executed its plan of killing the Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, and disabled people. Discussions around human rights gained momentum after the Second World War and resulted in the drafting of conventions such as the Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Additionally, the violations led to the revision and enforcement of international law that safeguarded the rights of humans regardless of their nationalities. In essence, the genocide started the human rights discourse that has enabled the globe to devise mechanisms of preventing further occurrence of the heinous crimes in the future.
Bernal-Bermudez, Laura. “Crimes against humanity: Global justice and the human rights discourse”. Vniversitas 129 (2014): 17-38. Print.
Carmichael, Cathie. “Raphael Lemkin, historians and genocide”. The routledge history of genocide. Carmichael Cathie and Maguire, Richard (Eds). London: Routledge, 2015. 1-30. Print.
Friedlander, Saul. Nazi Germany and the Jews: The years of persecution, 1933-1939. London: Harper Perennial, 1998. Print.
Hancock, Ian. “True Romanies and the Holocaust: A re-evaluation and an overview”. The Historiography of the Holocaust. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. 383-396. Print.
Moeckli, Daniel, Shah, Sangeeta, Sivakumaran, Sandesh, and Harris, David. “Human rights on the international plane after the second world war”. International Human Rights Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. 28-49. Print.
Sensen, Oliver. “Human dignity in historical perspective: the contemporary and traditional paradigms”. European Journal of Political Theory 10.1 (2011): 71-91. Print.
Snyder, Timothy. Black Earth: The Holocaust as history and warning. New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2015. Print.
Tomuschat, Christian. “The legacy of Nuremberg”. Journal of International Criminal Justice 4 (2006): 830-844. Print.
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