Skip to content

Tag: human rights

Human rights: Why debating their universality is unhelpful

By Koen Donatz

 Human rights have become a hotly debated topic in both the academic and the political world, one of the main points of contention being whether they are universal or not. As Eva Brems has shown, feminists and cultural relativists are among the staunchest opponents of the claimed universality of human rights, criticizing its male bias and Western bias respectively. Thus, many debates discuss the universality of human rights at what Jack Donnelly calls the historical or anthropological level, examining its historical roots. However, most of such debates (and debates with different approaches, for that matter) ignore the fundamental question: How can we know for sure if any or all human rights are (not) universal? My answer is that we cannot. We may make claims, but the social, legal, moral and philosophical complexity involved in human rights demands that we always acknowledge the uncertainty of our own claims. In other words, the debate about the universality of human rights is irresolvable, which has significant international implications.

Leave a Comment

“Responsibility to Protect-lobbyisten hebben hun geloof in mensenrechten zo goed als opgegeven”

© UN Multimedia

Door Annette Jansen        Genocide en etnische zuivering komen al sinds het begin van de 19e eeuw voor, maar pas eind jaren 90 – na de bloedbaden in onder meer Rwanda en Oost-Timor – ontstonden er groepen activisten die pleitten voor militair ingrijpen door de Verenigde Naties bij massale wreedheden. Wie zijn deze antigenocide-activisten en wat beweegt hen om geweld met geweld te bestrijden? Annette Jansen onderzocht het mens- en wereldbeeld van twee groepen antigenocide-activisten: Oost-Timor-activisten, die actief waren van 1975 tot 1999, en Responsibility to Protect (R2P)-lobbyisten, actief van 2001 tot op heden.

Leave a Comment

Rebiya Kadeer at the VU, or the anthropologist’s dilemma

By Pál Nyiri When I lecture on China and democracy, I show students excerpts from Carma Hinton and Geremie Barme’s 1992 film, The Gate of Heavenly Peace. In the film, one of the leaders of the Tiananmen Square student movement, referring to exaggerated stories of the 1989 massacre, asks: “Must we use lies to stand up to our lying enemy,” i.e. the Chinese Communist Party?

The same question arose in me on 30 March as I listened to Rebiya Kadeer, the “leader of the Uyghur people” according to the president of the Turkish Academic Student Association (TASA), which organised her appearance at the VU. He had asked me, as a “China scholar,” to speak at this event, which he called a “symposium”, on the situation of the Uyghur people in China.