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A Conversation with Goler T. Butcher Award Winner Professor Claudio Grossman at ASIL Annual Meeting

In a conversation with former ASIL President Sean Murphy, Professor Claudio Grossman, recipient of the Goler T. Butcher Medal, discussed the evolution of human rights in contemporary international law. Human rights as part of international law largely rose from the ashes of World War II, leading to the creation of the United Nations and various other intergovernmental organizations seeking to refocus the attention from a largely state-centric system into one that focused on protecting individual rights.

Consequently, since 1945, the legal texts have adapted to a common narrative of human dignity, one that recognizes that every human being has certain fundamental rights without discrimination of any type. This new legal language is echoed in the international human rights conventions that have been adopted since 1945, as well as the national laws that have implemented those international commitments. This is a tremendous step forward in legal recognition of individual rights. The recognition of human rights in international treaties has triggered the development of international human rights jurisprudence. For example, in Latin America, the jurisprudence that the Inter-American Human Rights System has created recognizes the rights of women, minorities, and the LGBT community.

While the world, and particularly Latin America, have changed for the better since 1945, the current situation in the Southern Hemisphere has experienced serious setbacks in the protection of human rights and the rule of law. We are witnessing throughout Latin America non-functioning or non-independent judiciaries, lack of free and fair elections, and the persecution and arbitrary detention of political prisoners, human rights defenders, and journalists. These are classic signs of the deterioration of the protection of human rights, lack of tolerance, and eroding democratic systems. While there has been progress, Latin America is still the most unequal region in the world, and the proliferation of COVID-19 has only exacerbated and exposed these structural deficiencies. There is still much progress to be done. Human rights lawyers and defenders in Latin America must recognize these structural deficiencies in Latin America and the need for a sustainable and tolerant reconstruction of the societies on the basis of the rule of law.