Equal dignity in international human rights
Two genealogies of human rights Human rights reflect a determined effort to protect the dignity of each and every human being against abuse of power through fundamental rights. Notably, in the global political idea of human rights that emerged after the Second World War, two genealogies converged: First, the fight for universal recognition and equal protection of the dignity of each and every human being; and, second, the struggle for inalienable fundamental rights as a way to protect citizens against abuse of power, in particular by their own sovereign (the state). Strikingly, while the emergence of the basic rights idea as legal protection against abuse of power, particularly by one's own sovereign, may indeed be called a ‘Western’ history, the narrative of universal recognition and protection of human dignity could just as well be termed ‘anti-Western’ history in the sense that equal dignity had to be vindicated in contravention of Western ideas and powers. For instance, the idea of legal principles was already part of Roman law (generalia iuris principia). One of these referred to freedom as something of inestimable value (libertas inaestimabilis res est); yet the application of this principle excluded subjugated peoples in general and slaves in particular. In fact, the whole story of the realization of universal human dignity must be understood as an ongoing political struggle. Indeed, the struggles against colonization and conquest, and the historical efforts to fight racial and ethnic hierarchy, have shaped the idea of truly universal human rights (Gilroy 2009).