Original Research

Universal dignity, justice and accountability: protection of human rights and dealing with atrocities

M Oelofse
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 6, No 1 | a126 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v6i1.126 | © 2010 M Oelofse | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 March 2016 | Published: 04 April 2010

About the author(s)

M Oelofse, Department of History, University of the Free State,, South Africa

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Abstract

The notion that human beings have rights as humans is part of the contemporary world and its pol itics . With respect to human rights , the United Nations (UN) plays a major role in promoting, protecting, and expanding internationally accepted rights through establishing several comprehensive agreements and mechanisms since 1945. Thus, on a global level, human rights and the violations thereof have become a legitimate concern of international society. However, there is a difference between declaring and practising human rights.

Consequently, political changes have occurred all over the world in recent years where several repressive regimes have been replaced with democratic or semi-democratic governments. In the process, these regimes are confronted with the question of justice and that accountability is due after atrocity. The widely held belief is that crimes against humanity must be addressed and perpetrators have to be called to account, while justice has to be determined.

The article will focus on what is understood by “human rights” and how the UN went about to guarantee human rights and el iminate the violations thereof by implementing a network of human rights instruments and mechanisms. The article will also indicate that, in practice, there are certain difficulties with the enforcement of these UN Conventions. The different options to be considered by countries in dealing with a violent legacy will be examined to explain why many transitional societies prefer to establish a truth commission.


Keywords

Human rights; United Nations; Conventions to promote and protect human rights; Human rights violations; Prosecutions; Blanket amnesty; Truth commissions

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