Human Rights

   Inalienable human rights that states are called on to recognize and defend. According to this definition, states do not grant rights; instead, they guard rights that already exist. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1948, proclaims a wide range of rights—civil and political, economic, social, and cultural. Among them are the right to an adequate standard of living; the right to leave the country, and to return; the right to obtain and deliver information; the right to participate in government; and the right to the integrity of the person, or due process (freedom from extralegal detention, torture, and execution). Human-rights advocates tend to regard the right to the integrity of the person as fundamental. During the “dirty wars,” the military regimes violated any number of rights—they banned political parties, censored the press, and forced people into exile. The most common and serious violation, however, was abducting and torturing people, many of whom were never seen again.
   In Latin America the concept of human rights is reinforced by the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, which is similar to the UN declaration and was adopted by the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1948. The OAS document preceded the UN declaration by several months and was the first to recognize that rights are inherent in humanity and not granted by states. Neither document is legally binding, but in 1967 the OAS adopted a protocol making the American Declaration the standard for member nations. Both the UN and the OAS helped draw world attention to human-rights violations in South America. But both organizations, composed of states, were put in the awkward position of investigating crimes committed by some of their own members. Human Rights Nongovernmental Organizations (HRNGOs), in contrast, are independent of government control and therefore freer to investigate and report abuses. HRNGOs such as Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) are accredited with the UN, and in the 1970s supplied it with evidence that helped to build cases against Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. At the regional level, the HRNGO Servicio Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ, Peace and Justice Service) lent support to victims of state violence (especially the poor) throughout Latin America. The branches of SERPAJ in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay were among many local HRNGOs that came into existence during the “dirty wars.”

Historical Dictionary of the “Dirty Wars” . . 2010.

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