Human Rights: Between Idealism and Realism (3rd edition)

ISBN : 9780199683727

Christian Tomuschat
528 Pages
173 x 240 mm
Pub date
Sep 2014
Collected Courses of the Academy of European Law
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This third edition of Human Rights: Between Idealism and Realism presents human rights in action, focusing on their effectiveness as legal tools designed to benefit human beings. By combining conceptual analysis with an emphasis on procedures and mechanisms of implementation, this volume provides a multidimensional overview of human rights. After examining briefly the history of human rights, the author analyses the intellectual framework that forms the basis of their legitimacy. In particular, he covers the concept of universality and the widely used model that classifies human rights into clusters of different 'generations'. In this edition, the author brings together the fundamental aspects of human rights law, addressing human dignity as the ethical foundation of human rights, the principle of equality and non-discrimination as the essence of any culture of human rights, the protections against racial discrimination and discrimination against women, and assesses the individual as a subject of international law. The volume then moves on to assess the activities of the political institutions of the United Nations, the expert bodies established by the relevant treaties, and the international tribunals specifically entrusted at the regional level with protecting human rights. This edition also includes specific analysis of the actions mandated by the UN Security Council against Libya in 2011. It also includes greater coverage of the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. The author explains how and why the classical array of politically inspired informal devices has been enriched by the addition of international criminal procedures and by endeavours to introduce civil suits against alleged individual violators of human rights. Finally, the volume is rounded off by a consideration of the importance of humanitarian law as an instrument for the protection of human life and dignity and an exploration of the future of human rights.


1. The General Framework of Human Rights
2. History of Human Rights
3. Universality of Human Rights
4. The Different 'Generations' of Human Rights: From Human Rights to Good Governance
5. Implementation at National Level
6. The Work of the Political Bodies of International Organizations
7. The Work of Expert Bodies: Examination of State Reports
8. The Work of Expert Bodies: Complaint Procedures and Fact-finding
9. Supervision by International Tribunals
10. Enforcement by States and the Role of Non-Governmental Organizations
11. Mitigating the Effects of Armed Conflict: Humanitarian Law
12. Criminal Prosecution of Human Rights Violations
13. Civil Suits against Human Rights Violators
14. Time for Hope, or Time for Despair?

About the author: 

Christian Tomuschat, born 23 July 1936 in Stettin (Germany). Professor of Constitutional and International Law in Bonn (1972-1995) and at Humboldt University Berlin (1995-2004). Member of UN Human Rights Committee (1977-1986) and of UN International Law Commission (1985-1996, President in 1992). Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Guatemala for UN Commission on Human Rights (1990-1993) and co-ordinator of the Comision para el esclarecimiento historico in Guatemala (1997-1999). President of German Society of International law (1993-1997). Member, Institut de droit international (since 1997). Counsel for German Government in proceedings before the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.

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