Medical humanities II
Prof. Marija Definis-Gojanović, MD, Ph.D.
Human rights
• "fundamental rights to which a person is inherently
entitled simply because she or he is a human being."
- universal (applicable everywhere),
- egalitarian (the same for everyone)
- natural / legal
- in national / international law
History of concept
• In 539 B.C., the armies of Cyrus the Great,
the first king of ancient Persia:
- conquered the city of Babylonm
- he freed the slaves, declared that all people had the
right to choose their own religion, and established
racial equality,
- recorded these on a baked-clay cylinder in the
Akkadian language - has now been recognized as
the world’s first charter of human rights.
Magna Carta (Magna Carta Libertatum or The Great
Charter of the Liberties of England)
• not charter of human rights,
rather the foundation and
constituted a form of limited
political and legal agreement
to address specific political
• originally issued in Latin in
1215, translated into French in
1219, and reissued later in the
13th century in modified versions
Magna Carta (Magna Carta Libertatum or The Great Charter of
the Liberties of England)
• required King John of England to proclaim certain
liberties (e.g., the right of the church to be free from
governmental interference, the rights of all free
citizens to own and inherit property and to be
protected from excessive taxes)
• led to the rule of constitutional law in the English
speaking world
• was important in the colonization of American
colonies and used as England's legal system
Statute of Kalisz
• One of the oldest records of human rights (1264)
• Gave privileges to the Jewish minority in the
Kingdom of Poland such as protection from
discrimination and hate speech.
• The basis of most modern legal interpretations of
human rights: recent European history
The Twelve Articles (1525)
• were part of the peasants' demands
of the Swabian League during
the German Peasants War
• considered to be the first
record of human rights in Europe
Petition of Right, 1628
• English Parliament sent to Charles I
• a statement of civil liberties
• was based upon earlier statutes and charters and
asserted four principles:
(1) No taxes may be levied without consent of
(2) No subject may be imprisoned without cause shown
(reaffirmation of the right of habeas corpus),
(3) No soldiers may be quartered upon the citizenry,
(4) Martial law may not be used in time of peace.
History of concept
• Two major revolutions occurred during the 18th
- in the United States (1776), leading to the adoption of
the United States Declaration of Independence and
- in France (1789), leading to the adoption of the
French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the
both of which established certain legal rights.
United States
Declaration of Independence, 1776
• Its primary author, Thomas Jefferson, wrote the
Declaration as a formal explanation of why Congress
had voted to declare independence from Great
Britain, and as a statement announcing that the
thirteen American Colonies were no longer a part of
the British Empire.
• Philosophically, the Declaration stressed two themes:
individual rights and the right of revolution.
The Constitution of the United States of America
(1787) and Bill of Rights (1791)
• Constitution of the United States of America is the
fundamental law of the US federal system of
government and the landmark document of the
Western world. It is the oldest written national
constitution in use.
• The first ten amendments to the Constitution—the Bill
of Rights—limited the powers of the federal
government and protecting the rights of all citizens,
residents and visitors in American territory.
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the
Citizen (1789)
• 6 weeks after the storming of the Bastille, and 3
weeks after the abolition of feudalism, the
Declaration was adopted by the National Constituent
Assembly as the first step toward writing a
constitution for the Republic of France.
• proclaims that all citizens are to be guaranteed the
rights of “liberty, property, security, and resistance to
“...the exercise of the natural rights of each man has only those
borders which assure other members of the society the
enjoyment of these same rights.”
The First Geneva Convention (1864)
• provided for care to wounded soldiers
• sixteen European countries and several American
states attended a conference in Geneva, at the
invitation of the Swiss Federal Council
• main principles provided for the obligation to extend
care without discrimination to wounded and sick
military personnel and respect for and marking of
medical personnel transports and equipment with the
distinctive sign of the red cross
on a white background
History of concept
• In the 19th century, human rights became a central
concern over the issue of slavery
• The abolition of slavery was achieved in the British
Empire by the Slave Trade Act 1807 and the Slavery
Abolition Act 1833
History of concept
• In the United States, all the northern states had
abolished the institution of slavery between 1777 and
• one of the reasons for the southern states‘ secession
and the American Civil War. During the period
immediately following the war, several amendments
to the United States Constitution were made: 13th banning slavery, 14th - assuring full citizenship and
civil rights to all people born in the United States, and
15th – guaranteeingAfrican Americans the right to
History of concept
• 20th century in Europe and North America:
- labour unions brought about laws granting workers
the right to strike, establishing minimum work
conditions and forbidding or regulating child labor
- women's rights movement succeeded in gaining for
many women the right to vote
History of concept
- national liberation movements in many countries
succeeded in driving out colonial powers
- one of the most influential was
Mahatma Gandhi’s movement
to free his native India from
British rule
- Movements by long-oppressed racial and religious
minorities succeeded in many parts of the world,
among them the African American Civil Rights
History of concept
• The establishment of the International Committee
of the Red Cross, the 1864 Lieber Code
and the first of the Geneva Conventions
in 1864 laid the foundations of
International humanitarian law,
to be further developed following
the two World wars.
History of concept
• The League of Nations, 1919
- negotiations over the Treaty of Versailles following the
end of World War I (goals: disarmament, preventing
war through collective security, settling disputes
between countries through negotiation and
diplomacy, and improving global welfare...)
• At the 1945 Yalta Conference, the Allied Powers
agreed to create a new body to supplant the
League's role; this was to be the United Nations..
1. Civil and political rights /1st generation/
- Universal Declaration of Human rights (UDHR, art. 3-21)
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
2. Economic, social and cultural rights /2nd generation/
- Universal Declaration of Human rights (UDHR, art. 22-28)
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights
3. Right to piece, clean environment... /3rd generation/
The UDHR included both economic, social and
cultural rights and civil and political rights
because it was based on the principle that the
different rights could only successfully exist in
All human rights are universal, indivisible and
interdependent and related. The international
community must treat human rights globally in a
fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and
with the same emphasis.
Economic, social and cultural rights are argued to be:
• positive, meaning that they require active provision
• resource-intensive, meaning that they are expensive
and difficult to provide
• progressive, meaning that they will take significant
time to implement
• vague, meaning they cannot be quantitatively
• ideologically divisive/political, meaning that there is no
consensus on what should and shouldn't be provided as
a right
• socialist
• non-justifiable, meaning that their provision, or the
breach of them, cannot be judged in a court of law
• aspirations or goals, as opposed to real 'legal' rights
Similarly civil and political rights are categorized as:
- negative, meaning the state can protect them simply
by taking no action
- cost-free
- immediate, meaning they can be immediately provided
if the state decides to
- precise, meaning their provision is easy to judge and
- non-ideological/non-political
- justifiable
- real 'legal' rights
In the aftermath of the atrocities of World War II,
there was increased concern for the social and
legal protection of human rights as fundamental
United Nations Charter provided a basis for a
comprehensive system of international law and
practice for the protection of human rights. Since
then, international human rights law has been
characterized by a linked system of conventions,
treaties, organizations, and political bodies, rather
than any single entity or set of laws.
International protection
United Nations Charter
Article 1(3) states
that one of the purposes of the UN is:
"to achieve international cooperation in solving
international problems of an economic, social,
cultural, or humanitarian character, and in
promoting and encouraging respect for human
rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without
distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion".
International protection
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- was adopted by the United Nations General
Assembly in 1948
- was a non-binding resolution; now considered by
some to have acquired the force of international
customary law which may be invoked in
appropriate circumstances by national and other
Articles 1 and 2 are the foundation blocks: their
principles of dignity, liberty, equality and
Articles 3–11: rights of the individual, such as the
right to life and the prohibition of slavery.
Articles 12–17: rights of the individual in civil and
political society.
Articles 18–21: spiritual, public and political
freedoms such as freedom of religion and freedom
of association.
Articles 22–27: social, economic and cultural
Five categories of Human Rights:
Civil and political rights are a class of rights
that protect individuals' freedom from
infringement by governments, social
organizations, and private individuals, and which
ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and
political life of the society and state without
discrimination or repression.
Civil rights include the ensuring of peoples'
physical and mental integrity, life and safety;
protection from discrimination and individual
rights such as privacy, the freedoms of thought
and conscience, speech and expression, religion,
the press, assembly and movement.
Political rights include natural justice (procedural
fairness) in law, such as the rights of the accused,
including the right to a fair trial; due process; the
right to seek redress or a legal remedy; and rights
of participation in civil society and politics such as
freedom of association, the right to assemble, the
right to petition, the right of self-defense, and the
right to vote.
Economic, social and cultural rights are socioeconomic human rights, such as the right to
education, right to housing, right to adequate
standard of living, right to health and the right to
science and culture.
Member states have a legal obligation to respect,
protect and fulfil economic, social and cultural
rights and are expected to take "progressive
action" towards their fulfilment.
International treaties
- generally known as human rights instruments
- some of the most significant (with ICCPR and
ICESCR) are:
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women
United Nations Convention Against Torture
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All
Migrant Workers and Members of their Families
Customary international law
may protect some human rights, such as the
prohibition of torture, genocide and slavery and the
principle of non-discrimination
International humanitarian law
- regulates the conduct of armed conflict (jus in bello)
- branch of international law which seeks to limit the
effects of armed conflict by protecting persons who
are not or no longer participating in hostilities, and by
restricting and regulating the means and methods of
warfare available to combatants
- includes the Geneva Conventions and the Hague
Conventions, as well as subsequent treaties, case
law, and customary international law.
The Geneva Conventions
- came into being between 1864 and 1949 as a
result of efforts by Henry Dunant, the founder of the
International Committee of the Red Cross
- 1859 - aftermath of the Battle of Solferino
- he was horrified by the sight of thousands of wounded
soldiers lying helpless and abandoned with no one to care for
- experience led him to suggest the setting up of voluntary
relief societies who could be trained, during peacetime, to
care for the wounded in time of war
- called for an international agreement to be drawn up to
protect the wounded, and those who looked after them, from
further attack.
The Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the
Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in
the Field was adopted in 1864, revised and replaced by
the 1906 version, the 1929 version, and later the First
Geneva Convention of 1949.
The Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the
Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members
of Armed Forces at Sea was adopted in 1906, revised and
replaced by the Second Geneva Convention of 1949.
The Geneva Convention relative to Treatment of Prisoners
of War was adopted in 1929, revised and replaced by the
Third Geneva Convention of 1949.
The Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection
of Civilian Persons in Time of War was adopted in 1949.
Three additional amendment protocols to the Geneva
Protocol I (1977): Protocol Additional to the Geneva
Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the
Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts. As
of 12 January 2007 it had been ratified by 167 countries.
Protocol II (1977): Protocol Additional to the Geneva
Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the
Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts.
As of 12 January 2007 it had been ratified by 163
Protocol III (2005): Protocol Additional to the Geneva
Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the
Adoption of an Additional Distinctive Emblem. As of June
2007 it had been ratified by seventeen countries and
signed but not yet ratified by an additional 68.
The Geneva Conventions establish the standards of
international law for the humanitarian treatment of the
victims of war.
The articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949)
extensively defined the basic, wartime rights of prisoners
(civil and military); established protections for the
wounded; and established protections for the civilians in
and around a war zone.
Two Protocols were adopted in 1977 that extended the
terms of the 1949 Conventions with additional protections.
In 2005, a third brief Protocol was added establishing an
additional protective sign for medical services, the Red
Crystal, as an alternative to the ubiquitous Red Cross and
Red Crescent emblems, for those countries that find them
Nations who are party to these treaties must enact and
enforce legislation penalizing any of these crimes, are
obligated to search for persons alleged to commit these
crimes, or ordered them to be committed, and to bring
them to trial.
The principle of universal jurisdiction also applies to the
enforcement of grave breaches when the UN Security
Council asserts its authority and jurisdiction from the UN
Charter to apply universal jurisdiction. The UNSC did this
via the International Criminal Court.
Summary of main points about Geneva Conventions
The First
extends the
taking into
modern means of
warfare and
transport and
aiming to give
further protection
to civilians
The Second
provides a code of
protection for the
combatants and
the civilian
population during
civil wars. They
embody the main
idea which led to
the founding of the
Red Cross
The Forth
covers all individuals "who do not belong to the
armed forces, take no part in the hostilities
and find themselves in the hands of the
Enemy or an Occupying Power"
The Third
covers members of
the armed forces
who fall into
enemy hands.
They are in the
power of the
enemy State, not
of the individuals
or troops who
have captured
United Nations system
Under the mandate of the UN charter,
UN, as an intergovernmental body, seeks
to apply international jurisdiction for universal
human-rights legislation.
Within the UN machinery, human-rights issues are
primarily the concern of the United Nations Security
Council and the United Nations Human Rights Council,
and there are numerous committees within the UN with
responsibilities for safeguarding different human-rights
treaties. The most senior body of the UN in the sphere of
human rights is the Office of the High Commissioner for
Human Rights.
European Convention on Human Rights
Convention consists of three parts.
The main rights and freedoms are contained in Section I,
which consists of Articles 2 to 18.
Section II (Articles 19 to 51) sets up the Court and its rules
of operation.
Section III contains various concluding provisions.
Many of the Articles in Section I are structured in two
paragraphs: the first sets out a basic right or freedom
(such as Article 2(1) – the right to life) but the second
contains various exclusions, exceptions or limitations on
the basic right (such as Article 2(2) – which excepts
certain uses of force leading to death).

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