The Divided World: Human Rights and Its Violence by Randall Williams

By Randall Williams

Taking a severe view of a honored overseas precept, Randall Williams exhibits how the concept that of human rights—often taken with no consideration as a strength for reliable within the world—corresponds without delay with U.S. imperialist goals. mentioning internationalists from W. E. B. Du Bois and Frantz Fanon to, extra lately, M. Jacqui Alexander and China Miéville, Williams insists on a reckoning of human rights with the violence of colonial modernity.
Despite the emphasis on overseas human rights in view that global struggle II, Williams notes that the discourse of human rights has always strengthened the worries of the ascendant worldwide strength of the us. He demonstrates how the alignment of human rights with the pursuits of U.S. growth isn't a question of direct keep watch over or conspiratorial plot however the results of a constructing human rights consensus that has been formed by way of postwar overseas associations and debates, from the United countries to foreign legislation. Williams probes high-profile circumstances concerning Amnesty overseas, Nelson Mandela, the overseas Lesbian and homosexual Human Rights fee, Abu Ghraib, and Guantánamo, in addition to supplying readings of works akin to Hotel Rwanda, Caché, and Death and the Maiden that experience positioned forth radical opinions of political violence.
The such a lot forceful contradictions of foreign human rights discourse, he argues, come into reduction inside of anticolonial reviews of racial violence. To this finish, The Divided World examines how a human rights-based overseas coverage is finally mobilized to regulate violence—by restricting the entry of its sufferers to justice.

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45 Most critically, then, the nonviolence clause in the concept of the prisoner of conscience all-too-readily cedes the monopoly over the means of violence to the state. In its strict circumscription of what type of subjects merit protection, the concept of the prisoner of conscience performs a reification of the state’s monopoly on violence as secured through Law — sanctioning the institution of the Law to carry out the enforcement of this monopoly. Hereafter the concept of human rights can be posed only within the question of the proper/improper application of the law (a procedural question).

The concept not only works to banish from recognition those who resort to or advocate violence, but at the same time it works to efface the very historical conditions that might come to serve as justification — political and moral — for the taking up of arms. Like the South African court that was not interested in Mandela’s historical account but only in whether he was guilty of an offense of the legal code, Amnesty’s investment in steering clear of “politicized judgments” reifies the antihistoricism of the Law in the name of an absolute (ahistorical) principle: nonviolence.

3 It is neither insignificant nor incidental to Amnesty’s success as an organization that its first political category of intervention was the “prisoner of conscience,” a term that did not even appear in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Amnesty’s early focus on the prisoner of conscience has only expanded over its history, with more than forty thousand prisoners of conscience having been adopted by the organization, and it continues to constitute the core of its operations despite the exceptional growth of the organization and the frequent refashioning of its mandate.

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