- Nicole Scicluna
This chapter focuses on human rights, a perfect topic through which to study the interaction between law and politics in international relations. The topic of human rights offers a microcosm of the clashes and contradictions between realism and idealism, legal principles and political expediencies, state and non-state actors, and collective and individual rights, which characterize international order. The chapter defines human rights and outlines their international legal framework. The chapter then traces the postwar evolution of international human rights law (IHRL). It explains how, by the late twentieth century, the concept of human rights had captured the global imagination. It also explores the international political context in which the rise of human rights took place, including decolonization and the explosion in rights-based civil society activism in the 1970s. Finally, the chapter analyses the efficacy of IHRL in a world of sovereign states, before assessing the cultural relativist critique of human rights, which challenges their claim to universality, often from the perspective of postcolonial societies.