The International Human Rights Movement: A History

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Overview

During the past several decades, the international human rights movement has had a crucial hand in the struggle against totalitarian regimes, cruelties in wars, and crimes against humanity. Today, it grapples with the war against terror and subsequent abuses of government power. In The International Human Rights Movement, Aryeh Neier--a leading figure and a founder of the contemporary movement--offers a comprehensive and authoritative account of this global force, from its beginnings in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to its essential place in world affairs today. Neier combines analysis with personal experience, and gives a unique insider's perspective on the movement's goals, the disputes about its mission, and its rise to international importance.

Discussing the movement's origins, Neier looks at the dissenters who fought for religious freedoms in seventeenth-century England and the abolitionists who opposed slavery before the Civil War era. He pays special attention to the period from the 1970s onward, and he describes the growth of the human rights movement after the Helsinki Accords, the roles played by American presidential administrations, and the astonishing Arab revolutions of 2011. Neier argues that the contemporary human rights movement was, to a large extent, an outgrowth of the Cold War, and he demonstrates how it became the driving influence in international law, institutions, and rights. Throughout, Neier highlights key figures, controversies, and organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and he considers the challenges to come.

Illuminating and insightful, The International Human Rights Movement is a remarkable account of a significant world movement, told by a key figure in its evolution.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Review of Books
The dialectic between Eastern courage and Western organization deserves a historian and it has found one in Aryeh Neier, a figure who helped to make the history he writes. . . . With Aryeh Neier's retirement from the Open Society Foundations, the human rights movements marks the end of an era, and his book on the history of the movement is an occasion to reflect on how far the movement has come and what it must do next. . . . [Neier] and the thousands of people he drew into the movement have demonstrated what discipline, toughness, professionalism, and integrity can accomplish when up against the despots of our time.
— Michael Ignatieff
Kirkus Reviews
From a noted activist, an authoritative history of the global human rights movement from the late 18th century to the present day, with emphasis on its development since the 1970s. Neier (Taking Liberties: Four Decades in the Struggle for Rights, 2003, etc.), president of the Open Society Foundations and a founder and former executive director of Human Rights Watch, has the credentials to tell the story of the movement's philosophical roots, its nature and strength and its goals, challenges, successes and failures. Of particular interest is his account of the policies and actions of the United States during the Cold War era and his analysis of the impact of terrorism on human rights in the past decade. In his view, the movement, which comprises thousands of organizations in many nations, has been and will continue to be a force in world affairs. The two largest and most influential organizations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, each receive individual chapters; others receive shorter profiles. Neier traces the development of international law, and he also question: What are rights, under what circumstances may they be temporarily abridged and what abridgements are permissible? He discusses the latter two in the context of the post-9/11 response to terrorism. Among the post-9/11 challenges has been terrorists' immunity to embarrassment, one of the movement's chief weapons, and the high priority placed by the United States on national security. This has led not only to such abuses of rights as prolonged detention without charges, coercive interrogation and torture, but also to justification by other nations of similar practices. In the final chapter, "Going Forward," Neier is cautiously optimistic about the ability of the international human rights movement to develop a comprehensive approach to terrorism and to meet such future challenges as China's support of repressive regimes, the problems posed by increasing migration of ethnic minorities to Western Europe and the protection of civilian populations in areas of armed conflict. A fact-filled, well-documented, pull-no-punches account by an insider.
New York Review of Books - Michael Ignatieff
The dialectic between Eastern courage and Western organization deserves a historian and it has found one in Aryeh Neier, a figure who helped to make the history he writes. . . . With Aryeh Neier's retirement from the Open Society Foundations, the human rights movements marks the end of an era, and his book on the history of the movement is an occasion to reflect on how far the movement has come and what it must do next. . . . [Neier] and the thousands of people he drew into the movement have demonstrated what discipline, toughness, professionalism, and integrity can accomplish when up against the despots of our time.
Choice
Neier, a longtime official for the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, and Open Society Foundations, has written a personalized history of private action for human rights in world affairs. . . . [T]he book is a useful primer for those unfamiliar with human rights developments . . .
International Journal on World Peace - Michael Allen Fox
The International Human Rights Movement: A History is a first-class, insightful resource for understanding a vital phenomenon and an approach to humanity and human relations that is essential to the realization of a better world. Neier skillfully transforms his readers into witnesses of the most important period of our moral evolution, and coopts them into taking responsibility for its eventual success.
From the Publisher
"The dialectic between Eastern courage and Western organization deserves a historian and it has found one in Aryeh Neier, a figure who helped to make the history he writes. . . . With Aryeh Neier's retirement from the Open Society Foundations, the human rights movements marks the end of an era, and his book on the history of the movement is an occasion to reflect on how far the movement has come and what it must do next. . . . [Neier] and the thousands of people he drew into the movement have demonstrated what discipline, toughness, professionalism, and integrity can accomplish when up against the despots of our time."—Michael Ignatieff, New York Review of Books

"Neier . . . has the credentials to tell the story of the movement's philosophical roots, its nature and strength and its goals, challenges, successes and failures. . . . A fact-filled, well-documented, pull-no-punches account by an insider."—Kirkus Reviews

"Neier, a longtime official for the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, and Open Society Foundations, has written a personalized history of private action for human rights in world affairs. . . . [T]he book is a useful primer for those unfamiliar with human rights developments . . ."—Choice

"The International Human Rights Movement: A History is a first-class, insightful resource for understanding a vital phenomenon and an approach to humanity and human relations that is essential to the realization of a better world. Neier skillfully transforms his readers into witnesses of the most important period of our moral evolution, and coopts them into taking responsibility for its eventual success."—Michael Allen Fox, International Journal on World Peace

"[L]essons can be learned when we link Neier's assessment of the consequences of strengthened human rights and humanitarian law with a new body of academic work on the consequences of human rights. . . . All along, Neier's movement perspective and his lived experience at the center of the international human rights movement provide further inspiration to scholars, illustrating the potential benefits from Pasteur's Quadrant in the field of human rights research."—Joachim J. Savelsberg, Law & Social Inquiry

"[H]ere is an honest version of a vital social movement from a man who was there in the front when the crowd was first gathering and has been at the head of various bits of it ever since."—Conor Gearty, International Affairs

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Aryeh Neier has been president of the Open Society Foundations since 1993. Prior to that, he was a founder and executive director of Human Rights Watch and executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. A contributor to many major publications, he is the author of "Taking Liberties and War Crimes", among other books.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Chapter 1: The Movement 1
Chapter 2: Putting Natural Law Principles into Practice 26
Chapter 3: What Are Rights? 57
Chapter 4: International Human Rights Law 93
Chapter 5: International Humanitarian Law 117
Chapter 6: Defying Communism 138
Chapter 7: Rights on the Other Side of the Cold War Divide 161
Chapter 8: Amnesty International 186
Chapter 9: Human Rights Watch 204
Chapter 10: The Worldwide Movement 233
Chapter 11: Accountability 258
Chapter 12: Rights after 9/11 285
Chapter 13: Going Forward 318
Notes 335
Index 359

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