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Abstract

This work argues that international human rights originate from group protection standards developed after the Great War. Although the aftermath of World War II is usually identified as spurring the contemporary human rights regime, a close analysis of minority protection instruments, and the League of Nations’ practice suggests that the 1919 peace midwifed contemporary human rights standards. Surprisingly, the wide-ranging civil, political and economic rights developed under the multilateral League Guarantee to protect national, religious and linguistic minorities in Central and Eastern Europe are hardly considered as legacy precedents of human rights today. Most scholars highlight the break between the League and its successor, the United Nations, but this thesis bridges these experiences by showing that human rights are consecutive to minority rights in substance. It also advances that the employment of equality as a legal standard of protection was seamlessly transposed from minority rights to human rights. After the Second World War, the 1948 Universal Declaration merely expanded the scope of application of the previous regime to all individuals equally, regardless of group membership. Thereafter, individual equality acquired a prominent role in human rights instruments.

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