POLSH262: Human Rights and Global Politics

POLSH262: Human Rights and Global Politics

POLSH262: Human Rights and Global Politics

Spring 2009

MW 2:30 – 4:00pm, Stokes 016

Professor: Craig Borowiak

Office: Hall 214

Office Hours: Weds 10:00am - 12:00 (or by appointment)


This course critically examines the principles, history and practice underlying the international human rights regime. Mixing political theory and policy discussions, it will address such issues as the historical and theoretical origins of human rights discourse, the cultural specificity of human rights, the role of national sovereignty and international law, and questions of accountability for human rights abuses. Attention will also be paid to the impact of globalization and the role of civil society in human rights campaigns.


1. Participation

While I will lecture from time to time, the course is built around the hope that discussion will provide the principal intellectual energy. It is imperative that you come to class well-prepared and ready to participate. The quality of this course will depend on the effort each of us puts into it. We will be exploring some deep and contentious issues – questions, challenges, and disagreements are, of course, encouraged.

2. Discussion Questions

Each student will be asked to write two discussion questions for every class period. These need to be more than one sentence questions asking the obvious. Instead they should provide some context for the question and display some thought and sophistication regarding how you are processing the texts. I will not collect these for every class, but I will not hesitate to call upon students to present their questions during class. I will periodically collect them in class and evaluate them with a , -, or +. These will factor in your participation grade.

3. Co-Leading Discussion

Each student will sign up to work with one (or two) other students to present discussion points/questions for one class period during the semester. These should be posted on Blackboard by 9pm the night before class. You will then be asked to present your discussion points in class.

3. Take-Home Midterm Exam

4. Policy Brief and NGO Essay

There will also be two additional writing assignments. The first will be a policy brief you will write on Guantanamo Bay, security and the rights of prisoners, and the Geneva Conventions. The second will be an overview and assessment of a human rights NGO. This will involve some independent research. We will then compile these overviews in a single document for the class.

5. Final Paper (10-15 page) with Annotated Bibliography

You will write a longer paper on a human rights issue of your own choosing. You will be expected to do some outside research for this. This paper may critically explore further material discussed in class or it may push beyond course material to address particular human rights cases, new agendas for human rights, or theoretical debates surrounding human rights. Instead of creating a regular bibliography for this paper, you will be asked to generate an annotated one to be shared with the class.

Evaluation criteria (approximate)

Midterm exam30%

Policy brief + NGO overview15%

Final Paper35% (+ 5% for bibliography)

Quality of Class Involvement(including reading questions)15%

The Following Books Are Available at the Bookstore

Ishay, The Human Rights Reader, 2nd edition (HR Reader)

Forsythe, Human Rights and International Relations, 2nd edition

Lauren, The Evolution of Human Rights

Additional Resources


  • List of International Human Rights Instruments: http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/ainstls2.htm
  • University of Minnesota Human Rights Library: http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts
  • United Nations, human rights related resources:
  • United States Department of State, Human Rights Country Reports: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/hr/index.cfm?id=1470
  • Foreign Policy magazine's links:
  • Amnesty International:
  • Human Rights Watch:
  • the UN homepage http:
  • Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems, International:

Human Rights Journals
Human Rights Quarterly; Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights; Human Rights Review; Human Rights Journal; International Journal of Human Rights; Harvard Human Rights Journal; Human Rights and Human Welfare; The American Journal of International Law; Australian Journal of Human Rights; Northwestern Journal of Human Rights; Journal of Human Rights; Human Rights Law Review; Health and Human Rights: an International Journal; Human Rights Brief; Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal

Course Schedule

(Subject to Change)

W, Jan 21Introductions

UN Declaration

US Bill of rights (http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.billofrights.html)


Lauren, The Evolution of Human Rights, Chapter One (4-36)

Forsythe, Chapter One (3-28)

Section One: Historical and theoretical arguments for human rights

M, Jan 26Enlightenment Liberalism & Civic and Political Rights I

Freedom of Religion and opinion (HR Reader 95-102)

Milton, “Areopagitica”

Locke “Letter Concerning Toleration”

Voltaire “Reflections on Religion”

The Right to Life (HR Reader 102-113)

Hobbes, the Leviathan

Cesare Beccaria Treatise on Crimes and Punishment

Habeas Corpus Act (HR Reader 484-486)

Voltaire, “On Torture” (Blackboard)

Robespierre, “on the Death Penalty” (Blackboard)

W, Jan 28Enlightenment Liberalism & Civic and Political Rights II

The Right to Property (HR Reader 113-123)

Gerard Winstanley, “A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed of England”

John Locke, “on Property”

Rousseau, “On the Limits of Property”

Robespierre, “On Property Rights”

The Rights of Man

Paine, the Rights of Man (HR Reader 148-151)

Kant, from Perpetual Peace and Metaphysics of Morals (HR Reader 153-162)

English Bill of Rights (HR Reader 486-488)

American Declaration of Independence (HR Reader 488-490)

French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (HR Reader 490-491)

UN International Covenant on Civic and Political Rights (HR Reader 507-513)

US Bill of Rights (http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.billofrights.html)

M, Feb 2Socialism and Economic and Social Rights

Marx, On the Jewish Question (HR Reader 263-271)***

Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The Four Freedoms” (HR Reader 479-481)

Proudhon, “What is property?” (HR Reader 208-215)

“Chartism: On the Petition for Voting Rights” (HR Reader 204-205)

Marx, “On Universal Suffrage” (HR Reader 205-206)

Marx (HR Reader 218-223)

“On Limitation of the Working Day”

“On Freedom of Association and Trade Unions”

“On Education for Both Sexes”

“On National Education”

“On Social and Economic Rights”

Marx, “Inaugural Address of the Working Men’s International Association” (HR Reader, 255-257)

United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (HR Reader 513-519)

Engels, Anti-Duhring (HR Reader 198-204)

Kautsky, “On Political Reform and Socialism” (HR Reader 239-246)

Trotsky, “Their Morals and Ours” (HR Reader 246-251)

W, Feb 4Human Rights For Whom?


Olympe de Gouge, “The Declaration of the Rights of Women” (HR Reader 175-181)

Mary Wollstonecraft, “The Rights of Women” (HR Reader 181-188)

August Bebel, “Women and Socialism” (HR Reader 272-277)

Clara Zetkin, “On Women’s Rights and Social Classes” (HR Reader 277-279)

Lenin, “On the Emancipation of Women” (HR Reader 279-280)

Barbarians and Slaves?

Olaudah Equiano, “On the Memoirs of an African Slave” (HR Reader 169-171)

Marx, “Letter to President Abraham Lincoln” (HR Reader 271-271)

Bartolomé de Las Casas, In Defense of Indians (HR Reader, 165-168)

M, Feb 9Anti-Colonialism and the Right to Self-Determination.

HR Reader 283-291

J. S. Mill, Considerations on Representative Government (HR Reader 291-297)

Rosa Luxemburg, The National Question and Autonomy (HR Reader 297-304)

Lenin, “The Right of Nations to Self-Determination” (HR Reader 304-308)

Woodrow Wilson, “The Fourteen Points” (HR Reader 308-310)

Covenant of the League of Nations (HR Reader 311-312)

Ho Chi Minh, “Declaration of Independence” (HR Reader 324-325)

Kwame Nkrumah, “Speech on Decolonization” (HR Reader 325-326)


Lauren, The Evolution of Human Rights, Chapter Three

W, Feb 11The UN Charter and the Universal Declaration

Lauren, Chapters 6-7 (166-232)

Jacques Maritain, “The Grounds for an International Declaration of Human Rights” (HR Reader 1-6)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (HR Reader 493-497)

William Korey, “Genesis: NGOs and the UN Charter” in NGOs and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 29-50 (Blackboard)

M, Feb 16Documentary: The Nuremberg Trials


Visit Robert Jackson Center:

Robert Jackson, “Nuremberg in Retrospect: Legal Answer to International Lawlessness” American Bar Association Journal, Vol 35 (oct 1945) 813-816, 881-887 (Blackboard)

Section Two: Contemporary Theoretical debates.

W, Feb 18Economic and Social Rights vs. Civil and Political Rights

"Economic and Social Rights: Overview and Historical Background,"
in International Human Rights in Context (256-273) (Blackboard)

Henry Shue, Basic Rights: Subsistence, Affluence, and US Foreign Policy, 2nd Edition (Selections) (Blackboard)

Maurice Cranston “Human Rights, Real and Supposed,” in D. D. Raphael, ed., Political Theory and the Rights of Man (1967) (Blackboard)

Further Reading

Amartya Sen, “Development as Freedom” (HR Reader, 356-359)

M, Feb 23Relativism vs. Universal Rights

Perry, Michael J., “Are Human Rights Universal? The Relativist Challenge and Related Matters” Human Rights Quarterly 19.3 (1997) 461-509

Rorty, “Human Rights, Rationality, and Sentimentality” (HR Reader, 410-414)

William F. Schulz, In our own best interest, 1-37 (Blackboard)

W, Feb 25Islam and Human Rights

R. Afshari, “An Essay on Islamic Cultural Relativism in the Discourse of Human Rights,” Human Rights Quarterly 16 (May 1994): 235-276.

Ibrahim Moosa, “The Dilemma of Islamic Rights Schemes” (Blackboard)

Abdullahi An-na'im, "Human Rights in the Muslim world: Socio-Political Conditions and Scriptural Imperatives – A preliminary Inquiry" Harvard Human Rights Journal 3 13-52 (1990) (Blackboard)

Further Reading

Ann Elizabeth Mayer, Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics, 48-52, 163-187

M, Mar 2Intercivilizational Standards: Rights and/or Dignity

Chandra Muzaffar, “On Western Imperialism and Human Rights” (HR Reader 414-418)

An-Na’im, “Toward a Cross-Cultural Approach to Defining International Standards: The Meaning of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” in Human Rights in Cross-Cultural Perspectives (19-39) (Blackboard)

Jack Donnolly, “Human Rights and Human Dignity: An Analytic Critique of Non-Western Human Rights Conceptions” APSR 76, 2 (June 1982), 433-449. (JSTOR)

Yasuaki, “In Quest of Intercivilizational Human Rights,” in Joanne R. Bauer and Daniel A. Bell, eds., The East Asian Challenge for Human Rights, pp. 103-123 (Blackboard)

Further Reading

Amartya Sen “Human Rights and Asian Values” (Blackboard)

Chandra Muzaffar, Human Rights and the New World Order (Penang: Just World Trust, 1993), chapters 1-2 (pp. 1-17) (Blackboard)

Charles Taylor, “Conditions of an Unforced Consensus on Human Rights,” in Joanne R. Bauer and Daniel A. Bell, eds., The East Asian Challenge for Human Rights, pp. 124-44

W, Mar 4Deconstructing Human Rights

Gayatri Spivak, “Righting Wrongs” (Blackboard)

Midterm Exam Due

Mar 6 – 15 Spring Break

Section Three: Institutional Accountability for Human Rights abuses

M, Mar 16 International Instruments

Forsythe, Chapters 2 and 3 (29 – 88)

Human Development Report 2000, 44-55 ( )

Steven R. Ratner and Jason S. Abrams, Accountability for human rights atrocities in international law: Beyond the Nuremberg legacy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001) (27-44, 80-107) (Blackboard)


Lauren, Chapter 8 (233-270)

Stephen Marks, “The United Nations and Human Rights” (341-355) (Blackboard)

Oona Hathaway, “Do Human Rights Treaties Make a Difference?” Yale Law Journal (2002), pp. 1935-2042

W, Mar 18Regional Instruments and Foreign Policy

Forsythe: Chapter 5 and 6 (121-187)

Dinah Shelton, “The Promise of Regional Human Rights Systems” in Human Rights in the World Community, 355-368 (Blackboard)

Further Reading

Textbook on International Human Rights, Chapters 6-9

M, Mar 23Responding to Atrocities: Humanitarian Intervention

J. L. Holzgrefe, “The Humanitarian intervention debate” (15-52) (Blackboard)

Kelly Kate and David P. Forsythe. “Human Rights, Humanitarian Intervention, and World Politics.” Human Rights Quarterly Vol. 15, 2 (1993): 290-314 (Blackboard)

Samantha Power, “Raising the Cost of Genocide” (HR Reader 456-461)

Michael Ignatieff, “The Burden” (HR Reader 461-463)

ICISS, The Responsibility to Protect: The Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (Synopsis, Foreword, pgs 1-18)

Further Reading

J.L. Holzgrefe and Robert Keohane (eds). Humanitarian Intervention: Ethical, Legal, and Political Dilemmas (2003)

Jonathan Moore, ed., Hard Choices: Moral Dilemmas in Humanitarian Intervention

W, Mar 25Humanitarian Intervention: Hard Choices, Difficult Cases

Alberto Coll, “The Problems of Doing Good: Somalia as a Case Study in Humanitarian Intervention” [Pew Case #518] (Blackboard)

John Ausink, “Watershed in Rwanda” [Pew Case # 374] (Blackboard)

Samantha Power. “Bystanders to Genocide” Atlantic Monthly 2001. (Blackboard)

Alison Des Forges. “Learning from Disaster: U.S. Human Rights Policy in Rwanda.” In Debra Liang-Fenton Implementing U.S. Human Rights Policy: Agendas, Policies, and Practices, pp. 29-50. (Blackboard)

Jack Donnelly, “Genocide and Humanitarian Intervention,” Journal of Human Rights, Vol 1, No 1 March 2002 (Blackboard)

Elizabeth Rubin, “If Not Peace, Then Justice” NY Times Magazine, April 2, 2006 (Blackboard)

Visit for information about the genocide in Sudan

Further Reading

Wayne Sandholtz, “Humanitarian Intervention: Global Enforcement of Human Rights?” In Alison Brysk (ed) Globalization and human rights, 201-225.

Jack Donnolly, International Human Rights, Chapter Seven (on Yugoslavia)

Jon Western. “U.S. Policy and Human Rights in Bosnia : The Transformation of Strategic Interests.” In Debra Liang-Fenton Implementing U.S. Human Rights Policy: Agendas, Policies, and Practices

Nicholas Wheeler, Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society

Films: “Forsaken Cries: The Story of Rwanda”; “Blackhawk Down”

M, Mar 30Universal Jurisdiction and International Criminal Courts

Forsythe, Chapter 4 (84-108)

Eric K. Leonard, “Establishing an International Criminal Court: The Emergence of a New Global Authority?” [Pew Case #258]. (Blackboard)

Ratner and Abrahms, Accountability for Human Rights Atrocities in International Law (190-201, 201-206) (Blackboard)

(skim) American Journal of International Law. Accounts of war crime trials in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (Blackboard):

- Michael Scharf. Prosecutor v. Tadic, AJIL 91-4 (October 1990: 718-721)

- Virginia Norris, Prosecutor v. Kauyabashy, AJIL 92-1 (Jan 1998: 66-70)

Chandra Lekha Sriram, Globalizing Justice for Mass Atrocities, 13-34 (Blackboard)

Dempsey, “Not-So-Supreme Court” ( )

Kissinger, “The Pitfalls of Universal Jurisdiction” ( )

Roth, “The Case for Universal Jurisdiction” ( )

Further Reading

Gary Jonathan Bass, Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).

Judith Shklar. Legalism: Law, Morals and Political Trials, 155-190

Yves Beigbeder, Judging war criminals: the politics of international justice.

W, Apr 1 Responding to Atrocities: Truth commissions

Priscilla Hayner, Unspeakable Truths: Confronting State Terror and Atrocity, 1-49 (Blackboard)

David Goodman, “Why Killers Should Go Free” Washington Quarterly (Spring 1999): 169-181 (Blackboard)

Further Reading

Priscilla Hayner 1994. “Fifteen Truth Commissions--1974-1994: A Comparative Study.” Human Rights Quarterly, 16:597-655.

Martha Minow, Between Vengeance and Forgiveness

Aryeh Neier, War Crimes: Brutality, Genocide, Terror, and the Struggle for Justice

Wilson, Richard. 2001. The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Legitimizing the Post Apartheid State.

Film: “Facing the Truth” (about S. Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation experiment)

M, Apr 6Torture Debates

HR Reader (447-456)

Darius Rejali, Torture and Democracy, pp. 45-63, 261-267, 279-333 (skim), 446-479, 500-512, 523-526, 553-556 (Blackboard)

Oona Hathaway, “The Promise and Limits of the International Law of Torture,” in Sanford Levinson, ed., Torture: A Collection (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 199-212 (Blackboard)

UN Convention against Torture ( )

Further Reading

Mark Danner, Torture and Truth

Sanford Levinson, ed., Torture: A Collection Torture: A Collection (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004)

Darius Rejali, “Six Questions for Darius Rejali, Author of ‘Torture and Democracy’” Harpers Magazine

Darius Rejali, “Torture’s Dark Allure” Salon

W, Apr 8Guantanamo Bay

Collection of memos, commentary, and briefs (Blackboard)

Geneva Convention (HR Reader 497-500)
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Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Gen. IV) < http:/ >

Policy Brief due

M, Apr 13Stateless Peoples and the Right to Have Rights

Hannah Arendt, “On the Rights of the Stateless (HR Reader 373-376)

Giorgio Agamben, “Beyond Human Rights” in Radical Though in Italy, 159-166 (Blackboard)

Kristin Hill Maher, “Who Has a Right to Rights” in Globalization and human rights, 19-43 (Blackboard)

Boswell, Christina 2000: “Doing Justice to Refugees: Challenges and Limits of the Current Debate”, International Journal of Human Rights, 4 (2), pp 79-88 (Blackboard)

Human Rights & Refugees Fact Sheet:

Study Guide: The Rights of Refugees http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/edumat/studyguides/refugees.htm

UNHCR basics:

Visit UNHCR page:

W, Apr 15The Role of Civil Society

Forsythe: Chapter 7 (188-217)

Keck and Sikkink, “Human Rights Advocacy Networks in Latin America” in Activists Beyond Borders,79-120 (Blackboard)

Claude Welch, “Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch: A Comparison” in NGOs and Human Rights: Promise and Performance, 85-118 (Blackboard)

Further Reading

Richard Pierre Claude, “What Do Human Rights NGOs Do?” 424-433 (Blackboard)

Ann Marie Clark, Diplomacy of Conscience: Amnesty International and Changing Human Rights Norms

Claude E. Welch, ed., NGOs and Human Rights: Promise and Performance

William Korey, NGOs and the Universal Declaration of Human Right

Arthur J. Klinghoffer and Judith A. Klinghoffer, International Citizen’s Tribunals

M, Apr 20The Environment and Cultural Rights

HR Reader 360-372

Luis Rodriguez-Rivera, “Is the Human Right to Environment Recognized Under International Law” (261-274) (Blackboard)

Additional Reading TBA

NGO Assignment Due

W, Apr 22Transnational Corporations and Human Rights

Forsythe, chapter 8 (218-250)

William F. Schulz, In Our Own Best Interest, 66-104 (Blackboard)

Karl Schoenberger, Levi’s Children: coming to terms with human rights in the global marketplace, Chapter 5 (133-154) (Blackboard)

See Global Compact

Further Reading

Morton Winston, NGO Strategies for Promoting Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 16.1 (Spring 2002), 71-87

M, Apr 27Globalization and the Future of Human Rights I

Lauren, Chapters 9

Forsythe, Chapter 9

Richard Falk, Human Rights Horizons: The Pursuit of Justice in a Globalizing World (Selections) (Blackboard)

W, Apr 29Last Class. Catch up. Wrap up.

Paper copy of final paper due in my box on Friday, May 15, noon.

(Seniors: Paper due on Friday, May 9, 5:00 p.m.)

Some Additional Human Rights Reading

Jack Donnelly, Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice (Second Edition)

Henry Shue, Basic Rights

Joel Feinberg, "The Nature and Value of Rights," in Patrick Hayden (ed.), The Philosophy of Human Rights.

James Nickel, Making Sense of Human Rights (http://www.law.asu.edu/HomePages/Nickel/msohr%20welcome.htm)

Martha Nussbaum, "Capabilities and Human Rights," in Patrick Hayden (ed.), The Philosophy of Human Rights.