Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



Human rights are articulable expressions of legal ideas that can be readily identified. The developments of the last thirty-five years have created a duality of sources from which fundamental rights of the individual derive. There are, on the one hand, national human rights. They derive from the constitution and the laws of each nation, from its traditions, values and other elements that make up what may be appropriately called the "national human rights culture." They are expressive of the specific needs of each society and indicate the purposes for which governments are created. They necessarily differ from one country to another. For example, Soviet legislation will never duplicate the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution nor can United States civil rights legislation be expected to comport with the Soviet Constitution.

Despite these differences international human rights have emerged. They are a product of the universal human rights culture built on faith "in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small," and on the conviction that respect for the fundamental freedoms of the individual is an indispensable condition for peace. Because of these beliefs, governments have accepted the concept of universal human rights, agreed that they are appropriate for international concern, cooperated in defining them, assumed international obligations to respect them, and submitted to some international scrutiny as to their compliance with these obligations.