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Can Utilitarianism Ground Human Rights?

Appendix 1

Book cover: Practical Ethics by Peter Singer

Listed below are 11 key human rights declarations and conventions that served as important marking points in the theoretical and socio-political development of human rights thinking. I have added some brief notes and references to each. The first reference is to an online source for the content of the document while the second reference is to a brief online history of its development.

1. Magna Carta (1215 – England)

  • medieval Latin for 'Great Charter of Freedoms'
  • settled dispute between King John of England and rebel barons
  • reaction against King's arbitrary demands, extrajudicial punishments and debilitating taxes
  • established the right to due legal process
Text:
History:

2. Bill of Rights (1689 – England)

  • King James II of England dethroned
  • William III of Orange-Nassau (William of Orange) and wife, Mary, proclaimed King and Queen of England, France and Ireland
  • reaction against the King's cruel punishments, abuse of courts and parliamentary representation
  • model for the later Bill of Rights
  • still cited in legal proceedings in United Kingdom and broader Commonwealth
Text:
History:

3. U.S. Declaration of Independence (1776)

  • reaction against colonialist Great Britain's excessive taxes and punishments, judicial overreach, lack of political representation
  • played a key role in the later abolition of slavery
Text:
History:

4. U.S. Bill of Rights (1791)

  • constitute the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution
  • guarantees personal freedoms and rights, limitations on federal government's judicial powers and the deferring of non-declared powers to states
Text:
History:

5. Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789 – France)

  • reaction to King Louis XVI with rising social and economic inequality, ballooning government debt, economic depression, unemployment, high food prices, regressive tax system
  • in 1793, the Assembly condemned King Louis XVI to death for 'conspiracy against public liberty and general safety'
Text:
History:

6. American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (1948)

  • first general international human rights instrument
  • United Nations adopts Universal Declaration of Human Rights eight months later
Text:
History:

7. U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

Book cover: Big History - A Journey From The Big Bang To The Modern World And Into The Future by Giuseppe Ferrone
  • adopted by the General Assembly as UN Resolution A/RES/217(III)[A]
  • 48 voted in favour, none against, 8 abstained
  • reaction to atrocities committed by the Nazis
  • adopted universalist language
Text:
History:

8. European Convention on Human Rights (1950)

  • signed by Members of the Council of Europe
  • legally binding enactment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Text:
History:

9 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)

  • adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI)
  • legally binding enactment of Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Text:
History:

10. American Convention on Human Rights (1969)

  • adopted by many countries in the Western Hemisphere
Text:
History:

11. African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (1982)

  • adopted by members of the Organization of African Unity
Text:
History:

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