The Challenge of Human Rights
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The Challenge of Human Rights

Past, Present and Future

Edited by David Keane and Yvonne McDermott

The Challenge of Human Rights takes a detailed and exploratory approach to topics across the field of human rights, and seeks to map a path for future research and policy development.
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Chapter 2: Freedom from Fear and the Human Right to Peace

William A. Schabas


William A. Schabas The human right to peace may be one of the best examples of a forgotten right. It was central to the vision of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who launched the modern process of recognition and codification of human rights with his ‘Four Freedoms’ speech. It was actually his ‘State of the Union Address’ to the United States Congress in 1941. The first three rights, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, and freedom from want, were well-anchored in domestic legal provisions, many of them constitutional. Freedom from fear, on the other hand, could not be ensured by national law alone. It required international recognition and protection. Of course, the list of four freedoms was really a form of political shorthand. Roosevelt knew that many other rights were needed to complete the catalogue. When the codifiers at the Commission of Human Rights put flesh on the skeleton that Roosevelt had produced, they required 30 distinct provisions, adding to the list rights to privacy, the protection of the family, association, scientific progress, torture, fair trial and many more. The ‘right to peace’, labelled ‘freedom from fear’ according to Roosevelt’s nomenclature, is included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the preamble, for example, explicitly cites the four freedoms). But it does not have the same prominence given in the speech to the first three freedoms. Roosevelt’s attention to ‘freedom from fear’ cannot be challenged, however. What is difficult to understand is how ‘freedom from fear’ became somewhat marginalized in...

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