|Early Civilization||Codes associated with such names as Menes, Hammurabi, Moses, Draco, Solon and Manu outline standards of conduct for fairly homogenous groups within limited territorial jurisdictions; international law not yet born. Many great religions are precursors of human rights in their requirements to treat fellow humans with dignity and help provide for each other's needs as the basis for a good community.|
|Greek city-states||Political rights (and duties) are conferred upon free male citizens.|
|27 B.C.- 476||Roman Empire develops natural law; rights of citizens.|
|476-1453||Medieval theology holds that infidels and barbarians are not entitled to humanistic considerations.|
|1215||Britain's King John is forced by his lords to sign the Magna Carta acknowledging that free men are entitled to judgment by their peers and that even a sovereign is not above the law.|
|1492-1537||Colonization of Western Hemisphere culminates in massacre of the Incas by the Spanish Conquistadors causing some theologians to challenge the means employed to enforce God's laws.|
|1583-1645||Hugo Grotius, Dutch jurist credited with the birth of international law, speaks of brotherhood of humankind and the need to treat all people fairly.|
|1628||British Petition of Rights is adopted.|
|1634||Maryland is founded as a Catholic colony with religious tolerance.|
|1647||Rhode Island assembly drafts constitution established freedom of conscience, separating church and state.|
|1648||Treaty of Westphalia ends Thirty Years' War, which split Germany into hostile religious camps. Europe reorganizes into a pluralistic, secular society of states.|
|1689||British Bill of Rights is adopted; John Locke sets forth the notion of natural rights of life, liberty and property.|
|1776||U.S. Declaration of Independence proclaims that "all men are created equal" and endowed with certain inalienable rights.|
|1783||The Massachusetts Supreme Court outlaws slavery in that state, citing the states bill of rights that "all men are born free and equal."|
|1785||Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom written by Thomas Jefferson passes Virginia House of Burgesses. (Jefferson ranked this along with Declaration of Independence and founding University of Virginia as one of his most significant accomplishments).|
|1787||The delegates of the Constitutional Convention adopt the United States Constitution. Nine states ratify it the following year.|
|1789||French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen is adopted.|
|1791||U.S. Bill of Rights incorporates notions of freedom of speech, press, and fair trial into the new U.S. Constitution.|
|1793||Henri Gregoire, Bishop of Blois, proposes a code of immutable principles whereby "the private interest of one nation would be subordinated to the general interest of the human family." (Proposal defeated.)|
|1807||The United States Congress outlaws the importation of African slaves into the United States. Nevertheless, some 250,000 slaves are illegally imported between 1808 and 1860.|
|1815||The Congress of Vienna is held by states that defeated Napoleon. International concern for human rights is demonstrated for first time in modern history. Freedom of religion is proclaimed, civil and political rights discussed, slave trade condemned.|
|1830||Congress passes the Indian Removal Act in order to free land for settlement, forcing 70,000 Native Americans to relocate in what came to be known as the "Trail of Tears." Many Native Americans died on the long treks westward.|
|1833||Great Britain passes Abolition Act, ending slavery in the British Empire.|
|1841||Russia, France, Prussia, Austria, and Great Britain sign the Treaty of London abolishing slavery.|
|1848||Some 200 women and men meet in Seneca Falls, New York, to draft a "bill of rights" outlining the social, civil, and religious rights of women.|
|1857||In the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court ruled that African Americans could not be free nor could they be citizens. The case was later overturned in the Civil Rights Act of 1866.|
|1863||On January 1, United States President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that "all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall be in rebellion against the United States" are "forever free."|
|1865||The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, abolishing slavery in the United States, takes effect on December 18.|
|1868||The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified on July 28. The amendment prohibits abridgment of citizenship rights and reaffirms the principles of due process and equal protection of the law for persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the laws thereof.|
|1870||The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which states that "the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude," goes into effect on March 30.|
|1885||Berlin Conference on Africa passes antislavery act.|
|1890||Brussels Conference passes antislavery act.|
|1907||Central American Peace Conference provides for the right of aliens to appeal to courts where they reside.|
|1914||Great War begins. With new weapons, civilian populations become victims of expanded warfare. As a reaction, a new sense of international morality begins to emerge.|
|1915||Massacre of Armenians perpetrated by Turks.|
|1919||At end of World War I,
Treaty of Versailles requires that Kaiser Wilhelm II be
placed on trial for a "supreme offense against
international morality and the sanctity of
treaties." He escapes, but for the first time in
history, nations seriously consider imposing criminal
penalties on heads of state for violations of fundamental
human rights. At Versailles, other treaties stress
minorities' rights, including right to life, liberty,
freedom of religion, right to nationality of the state of
residence, complete equality with other nationals of the
same state, and exercise of civil and political rights.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) is established to advocate human rights represented in labor law, encompassing concerns such as employment discrimination, forced labor, and worker safety.
|1920||League of Nations Covenant
requires members to "endeavor to secure and maintain
fair and humane conditions of labor for men, women and
children," "secure just treatment of the native
inhabitants of territories under their control, "and
take measures for the prevention and control of
disease." Out of these provisions grows work of
International Labour Organization.
The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting women the right to vote, is ratified on August 26.
|1924||The Snyder Act is approved by the United States Congress, admitting all Native Americans born in the United States to full U.S. citizenship.|
|1926||Geneva Conference passes Slavery Convention.|
|1930||Convention Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labor (ILO) is adopted.|
|1933||In a 100-day special session, Congress passes President Franklin D. Roosevelts "New Deal," guaranteeing social and economic measures for workers.|
|1934||The United States Congress passes the Indian Reorganization Act, which restores tribal ownership of reservation lands and establishes a credit fund for land purchases by Native Americans.|
|1933-1945||Adolph Hitlers Nazi regime comes to power in Germany on January 30, 1933. The period from this date through the end of the War in Europe (May 8, 1945) is remembered as the "Holocaust".|
|1933-1939||A series of discriminatory laws are passed in Germany (the "Laws of April" and the "Nuremberg Laws") which progressively exclude people of Jewish ancestry from employment, education, housing, healthcare, marriages of their choice, pension entitlements, professions such as law and medicine, and public accommodations such as theatres, cinemas and vacation resorts. Germany begins murdering physically and mentally disabled people by gas, lethal injection and forced starvation.|
|1939||Germany invades Poland thus beginning the Second World War.|
|1939-1945||During World War II, 6 million European Jews are exterminated by Hitler's Nazi regime. Millions of others civilians (Gypsies, Communists, Soviet POWs, Poles, Ukrainians, people with disabilities, labor unionists, "habitual" criminals, Socialists, Jehovahs Witnesses, homosexuals, Free Masons and indigent people such as vagrants and beggars) are forced into concentration camps, subjected to ghastly "medical" experiments, starved, brutalized, murdered.|
|1941||United States President
Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a speech before the United
States Congress, identifies "Four Freedoms" as
essential for all people: freedom of speech and religion,
freedom from want and fear.
United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill adopt the Atlantic Charter, in which they state their hope, among other things, "that all men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from want and fear."
|1942||Following the attack on the
United States by Japan on December 7, 1941, the U.S.
government forcibly moves some 120,000 Japanese-Americans
from the western United States to detention camps; their
exclusion lasts three years. Some 40 years later, the
government acknowledges the injustice of its actions with
payments to Japanese-Americans of that era who are still
Rene Cassin of France urges that an international court be created to punish those guilty of war crimes.
|1945||The United Nations (UN) is established. Its Charter states that one of its main purposes is the promotion and encouragement of "respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion." Unlike the League of Nations Covenant, the Charter underscores the principle of individual human rights.|
|1946||Commission on Human Rights
established by the UN Economic and Social Council
Commission on the Status of Women is established by ECOSOC (where it was originally a sub-commission of the Commission on Human Rights).
|1948||Convention on the Freedom of
Association and Protection of the Right to Organize
(ILO); Declaration of the Rights of Man by the
Organization of American States (OAS); and Convention on
the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
(UN) are adopted.
UN General Assembly adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ¾ the primary international articulation of the fundamental and inalienable rights of all members of the human family, and the first comprehensive agreement among nations as to the specific rights and freedoms of all human beings.
|1949||Convention on the Right to
Organize and Collective Bargaining (ILO) is adopted.
Geneva Conventions provide standards for more humane treatment for prisoners of war, the wounded, and civilians. Statute of Council of Europe asserts that human rights and fundamental freedoms are the basis of the emerging European system.
|1950||European Convention on Human
Rights; Convention for Suppression of Traffic in Persons
and Exploitation of Prostitution of Others (UN) are
United States Senator Joseph McCarthy launches a vigorous anti-Communist campaign, charging, but not substantiating, treachery among the top ranks of the U.S. government. The United States Senate eventually condemns McCarthy for his conduct.
|1951||Convention on the Status of Refugees (UN) is adopted.|
|1952||The Immigration and Naturalization Act ends the last racial and ethnic barriers to naturalization of aliens living in the United States.|
|1953||European Commission on Human Rights and Court of Human Rights are created; Convention on Political Rights of Women (UN) is adopted.|
|1954||The United States Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.|
|1957||Convention on Nationality of
Married Women (UN); Convention Concerning Abolition of
Forced Labor (ILO); Convention Concerning Indigenous and
Tribal Populations (ILO) are adopted.
The United States Congress approves a civil rights bill, to protect voting rights for African-Americans. It is the first civil rights bill since the Reconstruction period, which immediately followed the Civil War.
|1958||Convention Concerning Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (ILO) is adopted.|
|1960||Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is established, advisory to the Organization of American States; the Convention Against Discrimination in Education is adopted by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).|
|1961||European Social Charter defines economic and social rights for member States of the Council of Europe.|
|1962||The National Farm Workers (later known as the United Farm Workers of America) is organized by Cesar Chavez to protect migrant American farm workers, most of whom were Hispanic.|
|1964||The Omnibus Civil Rights
Bill bans discrimination in voting, jobs, public
accommodation, and other activities is adopted.
Martin Luther King, Jr. wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
|1965||A new Voting Rights Act
authorizes the U.S. government to appoint examiners to
register voters where local officials have made
African-American registration difficult.
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (UN) is adopted.
|1966||International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UN) are adopted and opened for signature. Together these documents further developed rights outlined in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.|
|1967||Convention on Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity (UN) is adopted.|
|1968||First World Conference on
Human Rights is held in Tehran. The United Nations
convened member States to evaluate the failures and
successes of human rights promotion since the adoption of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to work
toward the elimination of racial discrimination and
Rene Cassin wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
|1969||American Convention on Human Rights (OAS) is adopted.|
|1972||The United States Senate approves a constitutional amendment, the Equal Rights Amendment, banning discrimination against women because of their sex. The amendment is later defeated for lack of sufficient ratification among the states.|
|1973||International Convention on Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (UN) is adopted.|
|1975||Final Act of the Helsinki
Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE)
affirmed the International Convenant on Civil and
Political Rights and the International Convenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The conference
established an on-going forum for East-West communication
on human rights and humanitarian issues. This framework
for international communication inspired the creation of
many NGOs and citizens groups that would help monitor
human rights and demand compliance with standards set by
the UN and member States.
Declaration on Rights of Disabled Persons (UN) is adopted.
Andrei D. Sakharov wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
|1976||International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights enter into force after sufficient ratification among UN member States.|
|1977||United States signs the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
A human rights bureau is created within the United States Department of State. Its first reports on human rights are issued that year.
Amnesty International wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
|1979||The Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (UN) and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (UN) are adopted.|
|1980||The United States Supreme
Court orders the federal government to pay some $120
million dollars to eight tribes of Sioux Indians in
reparation for Native American land seized illegally by
the government in 1877.
United States signs the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
|1981||African Charter of Human and
People's Rights is adopted by the Organization for
African Unity (OAU).
Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance Based on Religion or Belief was adopted after nearly 20 years of drafting (UN).
|1982||Principles of Medical Ethics (UN) is adopted.|
|1984||Convention Against Torture
and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or
Punishment (UN) is adopted.
Desmund Tutu wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
|1985||Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights established (UN).|
against Apartheid in Sports (UN) is adopted.
Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women (UN) is adopted.
The United States Senate votes to impose economic sanctions on South Africa in protest against the governments apartheid policy.
|1986||Declaration on the Right to Development (UN) is adopted.|
|1988||After 40 years of lobbying by non-governmental organizations, the United States ratifies the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the "Genocide Convention").|
|1989||In Tiananmen Square, Chinese
authorities massacre student demonstrators struggling for
Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN) and the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty (UN) are adopted.
|1989||Dalai Lama wins the Nobel Peace Prize.|
|1990||The Americans With
Disabilities Act is signed into law, establishing "a
clear and comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on
the basis of disability."
Adoption by the World Summit for Children of the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children and of the Plan of Action for Implementing the World Declaration.
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (UN) is adopted.
|1991||Aung San Suu Kyi wins the Nobel Peace Prize.|
|1992||United States ratifies the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Security Council resolution to deploy the United Nations Protection Force in the former Yugoslavia (UN) is adopted.
Security Council resolution condemns "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UN). Security Council resolution demands that all detention camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina be closed (UN).
Rigoberta Menchu wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
|1993||Criminal Tribunal on the
Former Yugoslavia is established in the Hague as an ad
hoc international tribunal to prosecute persons
responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes
since 1991. These trials represent the first
international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg
Trials following WWII.
The Second World Conference on Human Rights convenes in Vienna, where Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action is adopted. The UN agrees to establish a post of High Commissioner for Human Rights.
United Nations General Assembly creates post of High Commissioner for Human Rights.
|1994 2005||UN Decade for Human Rights Education is declared on December 23 (UN).|
|1994||Emergency session of the
Commission on Human Rights convenes to respond to
genocide in Rwanda.
The first UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jose Ayala Laso, takes his post.
United States ratifies the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
United States signs the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
|1995||Beijing Declaration at the World Conference on Women declares "Womens rights are human rights." The Platform for Action designed at the conference contains dozens of references to human rights pertaining to women.|
|1996||Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Bello win the Nobel Peace Prize.|
|1997||Mary Robinson, former President of the Republic of Ireland, becomes the second UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.|
|1998||50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights marks a cornerstone event in humanitys struggle to recognize, promote, and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.|