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International Human Rights Law

International Human Rights Law (10th edn)

Rhona K. M. Smith
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date: 22 March 2023

p. 92. Historical backgroundlocked

p. 92. Historical backgroundlocked

  • Rhona K. M. SmithRhona K. M. SmithProfessor of International Human Rights, Newcastle University


This chapter provides an historical sketch of international human rights. It considers some of the divergent views as to the origins of human rights. The chapter traces relevant developments including the emergence of the law of aliens; diplomatic laws; the laws of war; the prohibition on slavery; recognition of minority rights; the establishment of the International Labour Organization; and human rights protection after the Second World War. Such incidences of international cooperation and agreements predate, but have influenced, elements of modern international human rights laws. Indeed, some of these historical agreements, such as the prohibition on slavery and minority rights, form part of contemporary human rights.

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