From Civil to Human Rights

From Civil to Human Rights

Dialogues on Law and Humanities in the United States and Europe

Helle Porsdam

Europeans have attempted for some time to develop a human rights talk and now European intellectuals are talking about the need to construct ‘European narratives’. This book illustrates that these narratives will emphasize a political and cultural vision for a multi-ethnic and more cosmopolitan Europe.

Chapter 11: Epilogue

Helle Porsdam

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, politics and public policy, human rights


On 31 March 2009 the Obama administration announced its intention to seek election as one of the 47 members of the United Nations Human Rights Council. While well-received by most Western countries, this decision was derided by John Bolton, who served as ambassador to the UN during the Bush administration, for giving credibility to an institution that neither had nor deserved any such credibility. The Human Rights Council, which was established in 2006, constitutes an attempt to correct the worst flaws of its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission. On this Commission sat representatives of some of the worst dictatorships in the world, and John Bolton and other Bush administration hawks greeted the new Council with much scepticism. They were not sure whether it would mean an improvement and so far, their scepticism has turned out to be warranted. The Council has focused much of its energy on Israel and with the resolution on ‘religious defamation’ adopted on 26 March 2009, it has set itself on a collision course with Western ideas about free speech. Supported mostly by Islamic countries, the resolution was passed in spite of strong appeals from a number of secular as well as Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups who, in a joint statement, had argued that by denouncing the ‘defamation’ of faith the Council would risk supporting regimes that set out to ‘silence and intimidate human-rights activists, religious dissenters and other independent voices.’1 It is probably no coincidence that the decision on the part of the Obama...

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