Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


This issue of the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law is a symposium devoted to human rights aspects of the Helsinki Final Act. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe was convened in Helsinki July 3, 1973. After sessions there and in Geneva, all European states, both Western and Eastern (except Albania), took part, as did also the United States and Canada. On August 1, 1975, the Final Act of the Conference was signed at Helsinki by thirty-five nations. Its provisions had been laboriously arrived at by consensus rather than by voting. Early pressures for such a conference had come chiefly from the Soviet bloc, which wished some "legitimation" of post-World War II boundaries in Europe...

Brief mention should be made of the amazing development in international law, during the last thirty-five years, with respect to international legal protection of human rights. Almost unheard of before World War II, the idea that individuals have rights under international law, even against the countries of which they are nationals, has found expression since 1945 in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, the two United Nations Covenants on Human Rights signed in 1966 and in force since 1976, the well-known European Convention on Human Rights with its Commission and Court, and the more recent Inter-American Convention on Human Rights. It may be important to remember that the United States has not yet ratified the Covenants nor the Inter-American Convention; this may in part account for the use by the United States of the Helsinki Final Act, to which it is a party, in complaining of human rights violations by other governments which are also parties.