Today in Legal History: Human Rights Day

On December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The UDHR’s broad range of political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights are not binding; however, the document has inspired the human rights laws and treaties which constitute an international standard of human rights. The UDHR was created to serve as “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations,” and was the first universal document to state that all humans have certain inalienable rights. Human Rights Day was formally observed after the Assembly passed the resolution 423 (V) in 1950, which invited all nations and interested parties to observe December 10th as Human Rights Day.

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Social Justice Monday: Mexico’s Human Rights Crisis

Social Justice Monday–January 11, 2016
Submitted by Jeanna McLellan, Electronic Services Assistant

Last September, the world was shocked by the appalling disappearance of 43 student activists from a rural teacher’s college in Ayotzinapa.  Search parties have discovered the clandestine graves of many others murdered in Mexico, a country overwhelmed by violence and corruption.  In fact, Mexico has become one of the world’s most deadly countries for rights advocates and journalists. The threats do not only come from drug cartels. Political leaders and law enforcement officials — themselves strongly linked to cartels in many cases — routinely persecute social activists. Their brutal methods have left thousands of victims killed, tortured, or detained.

Ricardo Lagunes,  distinguished human rights attorney on the front lines of Mexico’s crisis,   has defended the rights of indigenous communities, political prisoners, and migrants for over a decade—often collaborating with our very own International Human Rights Clinic. Ricardo Lagunes provided his view of Mexico this Social Justice Monday. The event  was moderated by Alejandra Gonza, an Argentine human rights lawyer who currently directs the Business and Human Rights Clinic at the University of Washington School of Law and is also a member of the Seattle Human Rights Commission.

Interested in learning more? Here are some related books available from the Law Library:

Binational Human Rights: The U.S.-Mexico Experience

Edited by William Paul Simmons and Carol Mueller

Available Online

From the Publisher:

Mexico ranks highly on many of the measures that have proven significant for creating a positive human rights record, including democratization, good health and life expectancy, and engagement in the global economy. Yet the nation’s most vulnerable populations suffer human rights abuses on a large scale, such as gruesome killings in the Mexican drug war, decades of violent feminicide, migrant deaths in the U.S. desert, and the ongoing effects of the failed detention and deportation system in the States. Some atrocities have received extensive and sensational coverage, while others have become routine or simply ignored by national and international media. Binational Human Rights examines both well-known and understudied instances of human rights crises in Mexico, arguing that these abuses must be understood not just within the context of Mexican policies but in relation to the actions or inactions of other nations—particularly the United States.

The United States and Mexico share the longest border in the world between a developed and a developing nation; the relationship between the two nations is complex, varied, and constantly changing, but the policies of each directly affect the human rights situation across the border. Binational Human Rights brings together leading scholars and human rights activists from the United States and Mexico to explain the mechanisms by which a perfect storm of structural and policy factors on both sides has led to such widespread human rights abuses. Through ethnography, interviews, and legal and economic analysis, contributors shed new light on the feminicides in Ciudad Juárez, the drug war, and the plight of migrants from Central America and Mexico to the United States. The authors make clear that substantial rhetorical and structural shifts in binational policies are necessary to significantly improve human rights.


The Constitution of Mexico: A Contextual Analysis

José Maria Serna de la Garza

Available at LAW-4th Floor (KGF2921.S47 2013)

From the Publisher:

This book provides an overview of Mexico’s political evolution since it became independent from Spain in 1821, and its current constitutional arrangements, principles and structures. The aim is to explain this evolution as the result of struggles between the interests and ideologies of different groups within Mexican society, each with a different political vision of how the State should be organised. Chapter 1 reviews Mexico’s constitutional trajectory, and explains why democracy, republicanism, federalism, separation of state and church, protection of fundamental rights and the Nation’s ownership of mineral resources first became constitutional principles. Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5 deal respectively with democracy and the electoral system, and the legislative, executive and judicial branches of federal government. Chapter 6 introduces the institutional structure of Mexico’s federal system, while Chapter 7 discusses the rules, principles and institutions for the protection of human rights. Chapter 8 examines the constitutional regime of Mexico’s economy. The conclusion explains how a series of factors has combined to produce a gap between the formal Constitution and what can be seen as the living Constitution; bridging that gap presents Mexican politics and society with one of its great contemporary challenges.


Check it Out: The Reckoning – The Battle for the ICC

In 1998 more than 100 nations came together to form the International Criminal Court, the first permanent court created to prosecute perpetrators (no matter their positions) of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. The Reckoning follows prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo as he issues arrest warrants for the rebel leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, puts four Congolese warlords on trial in The Hague, charges the president of Sudan with genocide and war crimes in Darfur, challenges the UN Security Council to have him arrested, and shakes up the Colombian criminal justice system. Whether you are interested in human rights, international law, or would just like to see how the ICC works, check out The Reckoning from the law library.


Check it Out: The Amistad Revolt


This documentary is the history of the 1839 Amistad Revolt and the ensuing campaign to free the Africans jailed for murder and piracy. Amistad was a Spanish ship sailing to Cuba with 53 captive Africans aboard who captured the ship and demanded to be returned to their country. Instead of being returned to their home, the Africans were taken prisoner and jailed. The incident effected the U.S. Supreme Court’s first civil rights case, U.S. v. The Schooner Amistad, which resulted in the freedom of the captive Mendi and their eventual return to their homeland. Check out The Amistad Revolt from the law library.


Check it Out: Justice for Sale

Justice for Sale follows a courageous Congolese human rights lawyer Claudine Tsongo in her struggle against injustice and widespread impunity in the Congo. In Claudine’s journey to obtain justice, she uncovers a system where the basic principles of law are virtually ignored. The documentary not only provides a glimpse into the failings of the Congolese judicial system, but also examines how justice may be for sale as the international community and NGOs offer financial support to the Congolese judicial system. Check out Justice for Sale from the law library.


Check it Out: Invoking Justice

In Southern India, family disputes are settled by Jamaats, all male bodies which apply Islamic Sharia law to cases without allowing women to be present, even to defend themselves. To solve this fundamental inequity, a group of women in 2004 established a women’s Jamaat, which soon became a network of 12,000 members spread over 12 districts. Despite enormous resistance, they have been able to settle more than 8,000 cases to date, ranging from divorce to wife beating to brutal murders and more. Check out Invoking Justice from the law library.


Check it Out: Quest for Honor

This documentary, Quest for Honor, investigates the practice of honor killing of women by male relatives for actions deemed dishonorable to their families in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. The film follows Runak Faranj, a former teacher and activist, as she works with local lawmen, journalists and members of the Kurdish Regional Government to solve the murder of a widowed young mother, protect the victim of a safe-house shooting, eradicate honor killing and redefine honor. Check out Quest for Honor from the law library.


Check it Out: Women, War & Peace

This PBS mini-series challenges the conventional wisdom that war and peace are men’s domain, and reveals the central role of women in the quest for peace and justice in modern warfare. Narrated by Matt Damon, Tilda Swinton, Geena Davis and Alfre Woodard, this mini-series is the most wide-ranging global-media initiative ever produced on the roles of women in war and peace. Check out Women, War & Peace from the law library.


Kiobel Decided by U.S. Supreme Court

In what may be a landmark opinion in U.S. human rights practice, the Supreme Court held that conduct occurring on foreign territory will not be the subject of litigation under the Alien Tort Claims Statute. The court invoked the “presumption against extraterritoriality” in arriving at its opinion. Read an analysis by Prof. Curtis A. Bradley in this ASIL Insight.


Check it Out: Proteus

ProteusSet in 18th century South Africa, Proteus is a fictionalized account of the interracial gay love story of two men incarcerated on the infamous South African Robin Island. One is a black prisoner, Claas Blank, and the other a Dutch sailor, Rijkhaart Jacobsz. Both men were charged and placed on trial for sodomy. The film explores both the theme of racism and the theme of homophobia, and how they are still present today.