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THE CURRENT STATUS OF HUMAN RIGHTS: Essays in Honor of Erich Hula / Vol. 38, No. 2 (Summer 1971)

George Ginsburgs and Nigel S. Rodley, Special Editors
Arien Mack, Journal Editor

Now that Erich Hula is seventy, and in partial retirement, ever more forcefully comes the realization that here is a teacher of rare virtues. The following article is a tribute to him.

Discusses the essays of Erich Hula, which pertain to political and sociological topics such as social research, nationalism, primitive war and war crimes, the United Nations, and the political objectives of the USSR.

The purpose of this essay is to try to determine who are the human rights confidence-men and what is the basis of their success. Such an excursion into muck-racking might help forewarn crusaders of the nature of the protagonists they will confront in the next phase of their struggle and plan strategy accordingly.

Within a few days of the cessation of hostilities in the Middle East war of June 1967, the United Nations Security Council was to manifest a concern for the fate of civilians in the area of conflict which it and other United Nations organs have continued to demonstrate. During the period in question, Israel has been accused of refusal to permit the return of refugees, wholesale violations of human rights, forced removal of Arabs from their homes and various specific infractions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, ranging from the imposition of collective punishments and the destruction of property to torture of individuals. Some of these charges, such as those regarding collective punishment and property destruction, are confirmed by statements of the highest officials of the Israeli government.

This paper focuses on two recent investigations by ad hoc committees of the United Nations, of alleged violations of human rights in the territories which were occupied by Israel during the hostilities of June 1967. In doing so, an attempt is made both to evaluate the utility of those investigations with respect to the very real human rights problems that have been alleged to exist in the occupied areas, and to inquire about the larger problem of the role of the United Nations ad hoc committees in the pacific settlement of international disputes.

The subject matter of the present paper is intimately connected with human rights in that (1) the traditional machinery of adjudication exits in principle to protect and enforce human rights, when recognized as legal rights, but has displayed certain defects, and (2) the “avoidance of traditional adjudication” has also in its turn aimed at the protection of human rights, including the avoidance of discrimination on grounds of property or race.

The Greek government, while far from committed to civil liberties as a matter of principle, displayed a certain amount of malleability on the issues of detention, search and seizure, and due process. How much the Greek case has damaged the effectiveness of the Commission of Human Rights is, at present, an imponderable.

In this discussion the author states the relation between custom and law is basically one of contradiction, not continuity. Custom is seen as social morality--the morality of primitive society. Law is the instrument of political society sanctioned by organized force and buttressing a set of social interests. Law and custom both involve regulation but are distinct as no evolutionary balance has been struck between developing law and custom. Specific examples are discussed, and the writings of Plato, Maine, Rattray, Taylor, Marx, and Nadel are considered, as they relate to this problem.

In the world of today the problem of international protection of human rights has assumed key importance. The idea of the international protection of human rights owes its origins to the tragic events accompanying the Second World War and the fascist excess preceding it. Before and during the war, millions were slaughtered in the name of racial superiority. Occurrences on the eve of, and during the Second World War proved that preparations for and the conduct of aggressive wars inevitably involve the violation of the rights and freedoms of wide sections of populations.

This article assesses the political influence wielded by the American Bar Association in foreign policy-making, specifically on the domestic application of treaties pertaining to human rights on an international scale during the 20th century.

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