- Claude Heller, Chairperson, Committee Against Torture, United Nations
- Rochus J.P. Pronk, Deputy Ambassador of the Netherlands in Iraq
- Gerald Staberock, General Secretary, World Organization against Torture, Geneva, Switzerland
In the last half a century, the international community has agreed on extensive human rights standards set forth in more than 1000 instruments, including treaties and declarations, covering civil and political as well as economic, social, and cultural rights. Some treaties enjoy wide ratifications. While states carry the primary responsibility under international law for implementation, several international and regional organizations have in place an increasing number of monitoring institutions for scrutinizing national performances.
It is suggested that the human rights movement has, historically speaking in a short period, been very successful in terms of popular support and in the realization of the international standards, although there is still a long way to go. The mainstreaming of human rights has allowed human rights considerations to increasingly count in international debates relating to international peace and security, trade, multinational companies, children, development, the environment, and so on. Many states take human rights into account in their foreign policies. Non-governmental organizations, like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, play a crucial role in keeping the debate honest and open. The press nowadays reports on human rights issues on a regular basis.
Furthermore, it is suggested that international law regulation, mainly based on treaties to which states have agreed, is a good way of overcoming political, religious, and cultural differences and perceptions the world over. Important aspects of an international law approach are the universality and objectivity of application, with all countries expected to abide by the same rules, no matter whether they fit into political alliances or not. It is the underlying assumption of the UN Charter that respect for these rules will make the world a better and more peaceful place. We should analyze, discuss and test each topic in the course schedule below, as a matter of both law and politics, during the days we have together.