The Missing Middle: Procedural Rights in the Human Rights System

In this fourth installment of IHRC’s blog series The Matter of Human Rights, third-year-law-student Aaron Tucek argues that procedural rights have intrinsic value and prove crucial for securing substantive human rights protections. Where access to legal services is a matter of either “luxury or charity,” a large portion of individuals will lack the means to access fair and public hearings. Tucek calls this the “missing middle” problem and demonstrates how it both reflects and encourages a failure to recognize “the profound inherent value of procedural human rights.”

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History and State of the field

Writing the History of Human Rights: An Introduction

Historians discovered human rights in the late 1990s. Since then, lively conversations developed across almost every imaginable historical subfield, from medieval to modern. Much of the human rights historiography has been focused on the question of origins. Many historians have tried to locate the starting point of contemporary human rights ideas and practice, and they have suggested everything from as early as the twelfth century (and sometimes even earlier) to as late as the 1970s. Such enormous diversity of opinion can only be found in a field with widely divergent ideas about what in fact counts as “human rights.” The origins question is by no means settled and interesting debates on this issue continue. But in the last several years, many historians have been feeling fatigue set in on the origins debates. There is no reason that origins should be the organizing frame for the whole literature, and there is no shortage of alternative approaches available for historians of human rights to draw upon. This post is one way to make sense of (some of) what happened in the historiography over the last twenty years. I wrote it originally as a thought exercise for myself—there are of course other ways to think about the literature, and there’s a lot that I’ve left out of this (especially the many excellent and sophisticated histories written in the last few years). But it might also provide a useful introduction for non-specialists who would like to get a quick overview of how historians have written the history.

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