René Cassin: Les droits de l'homme and the Universality of Human Rights, 1945–1966

TitleRené Cassin: Les droits de l'homme and the Universality of Human Rights, 1945–1966
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsSluga, Glenda
EditorHoffmann, Stefan-Ludwig
Book TitleHuman Rights in the Twentieth Century
PublisherCambridge University Press

In January 1947 sixty-year-old René Cassin (1878-1976), Vice-President of the French Conseil d’État and official French delegate to the newly created United Nations Human Rights Commission, arrived in New York from Paris. That commission was to define and implement a postwar international regime of rights, beginning with the drafting of a human rights document that might become internationally binding. This book chapters explores René Cassin role as a drafter of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He proposed appointing individuals rather than nation-state delegates to the Human Rights Commission. Although unsuccessful, his efforts helped sustain a vision of an international organization not only represented by individuals but also representing them. Cassin also supported, against the majority, the right of petition over and above the rights of state representation to the UN. Unusually for a man in high national office, he defended the inclusion in the postwar French Constitution of a clause allowing the abrogation of French national sovereignty in the interests of established international principles. His imprint is also obvious in the Universal Declaration’s invocation of the equality of all individuals as members of ‘the human family’.

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