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International Law and Individual Rights Essay

The international law has been undergoing some evolutions since early and mid 19th century. The original international law laid a lot of emphasis on just the state as the custodian of individual rights of its citizens. (L. Oppenheim, 1912. )However, the law deemed inadequate to address individual rights, thus, following some developments, the law has undergone some transformations, which are aimed at promoting individual rights, regardless of their country, state, race, gender or religion.

The main developments which have triggered these evolutions of the international law include the Holocaust, the Second World War and the establishment of international criminal courts mainly to try the perpetrators of recent genocides like the former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda The Holocaust was a form of genocide, in which Germany, lead by Adolf Hitler, undertook the extermination of stateless Jews in Germany in which 6 million Jews were killed.

Nazi Germany planned and implemented the Holocaust because of the domestic jurisdiction principle of the then international law, which prevented any other state from interfering when Hitler undertook the persecution of the Jews. This made the Geneva Convention which came into being between 1864 and 1949 as a result of efforts by Henry Dunant, realize that the law needed radical changes to enable the international community to intervene in domestic matters of a nation especially those linked to individual rights (Buergenthal, T. 978 and 1997) The need for further changes to the status of individuals under international law went a notch higher after the Second World War, in which many people lost their lives due to the state of anarchy which prevailed then.

In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt in his freedom speech called for a world order in which the world could be founded upon four freedoms namely freedom of speech and expression, International Law and Individual Rights 4 reedom of worship in any way, freedom from want and freedom from fear. This was followed by the formation of the United Nations in 1949, whose main concern, among others was to address the International law, so as to empower the international community to address large scale violations of individual rights. The international law was further to evolve with the establishment of international criminal courts mainly to try the perpetrators of recent genocides like the former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda which took place in mid 1990s.

A treaty to create the new international criminal court was formed in 2002, while the international criminal court was formally constituted in 2003, about six decades after the Nuremberg trials (R. K. Woetzel 1962) and the Holocaust. The main objective of this court is to ensure that nations revise their human rights aspects in their constitutions and more importantly, prosecute the leaders who oversee the violation of human rights. It can be seen that international law has undergone all these evolutions, which are all inclined towards protecting the rights of the individual, not just the nation.


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