Unit II.  What Are Human Rights and
             Where Do They Come From?

A Case to Consider

Which would you support:

  • a government that provides order but suppresses freedom, or
  • a rebel movement that fights for independence but commits atrocities?

Josip Broz Tito, 1948
During most of the Cold War, Communist Yugoslavia under Marshal Tito was a country where most political rights were repressed. Tito was a dictator who led a country made up Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, ethnic Albanians, and other groups.

Tito suppressed individual rights to dissent from governmental decisions. He did not allow free and fair elections, free speech, or freedom of association. His government believed exercising such freedoms might lead to expressions of individual group loyalty and superiority among the peoples of the internal republics (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Montenegro) that made up Yugoslavia — that people might put ethnic identity above national loyalty. Under Tito, strict order was imposed from the top. There was some freedom to discuss economic management but not matters of high politics. There was little effort to teach tolerance, democracy, or human rights.

After the death of Tito, other leaders arose who became champions for the breakup of Yugoslavia. They used freedom of speech, freedom of association, and voting to advance chauvinistic nationalism, especially for Serbs and Croats. But in some areas, such as Sarajevo, ethnic groups had achieved a peaceful coexistence. There was resistance to the proposed breakup. T he result was a series of bloody events that included many atrocities such as ethnic cleansing, attacks on civilians, abuse of prisoners, and rape as systematic weapons of war between 1991 and 1999. Policy makers were forced to choose between supporting the old order, which was repressive but did not allow atrocities, or supporting independence movements that brought with them gross violations of human rights and war.

aired 10/11/00 on PBS
“The NewsHour”

Which is more important: order or freedom?

If you were president, would you support keeping Yugoslavia as one country or breaking it up into individual countries? Why?

In this unit, you’ll learn about the long and ongoing struggle to balance the need for order with the need for human rights.
Human Rights

Declaration of the
Rights of Man

Natural Rights
Moral Rights
National Law
John Locke
French Revolution

Social Contract
US Declaration
of Independence

United Nations
FDR’s Four Freedoms Cold War Overview
PBS NewsHour: A New Constitution for Bosnia (and Background)
UNHCR and ICRC in the former Yugoslavia: Bosnia-Herzegovina

Unit I. Why Do
We Need Human Rights?