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Human Rights and the Rights of the Displaced There has been a striking evolution—maybe revolution—in the last two decades in international humanitarian law. The absolute sovereignty of states has been gradually eroded in favor of recognition of certain inalienable rights of individuals. This new appreciation has led to the legal justification for humanitarian interventions in oppressive and failed states. Mrs. Sadako Ogata, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, notes that “to tackle the threats of the 21st Century, shifting attention to the security of the individual people, as complement to state security, has become a requirement.” Irene Khan, currently Secretary General of Amnesty International, writes that human rights are not incompatible with global security; in fact, she argues forcefully that diluting human rights as part of a “war on terrorism” will make the world less—not more—safe. Francis Deng, the UN Special Representative for Internally Displaced Persons, finds reasons for optimism despite the horrendous plight of those he represents . He sees the “crisis as offering opportunities for addressing the root causes” and notes that the reassessment of international law regarding the internally displaced may result in new legal standards where “in due course, what ought to be becomes recognized as what is.” David Rieff, a critical observer of international humanitarian operations, cautions against substituting emotion and rhetoric for reality: “In retrospect, this approach begged at least as many questions as it answered. There was the uncomfortable question of why, if the norms were so terrific, the reality of the world was so dire?” cahill.qxp 10/1/2004 1:36 PM Page 1 cahill.qxp 10/1/2004 1:36 PM Page 2 ...


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MARC Record
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