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Three famous misrepresentations in the history of human rights

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La Trobe University (Social Sciences Building room 232 - Moot Court)

Plenty Road

Melbourne, VIC 3086

Australia

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Prof. Dr. Bernd Kannowski is Chair of Civil Law and Legal History at the University of Bayreuth (Germany), a position he has held since 2012. He has been Dean for Teaching of the Law Faculty since 2014. Prior to taking up his position at the University of Bayreuth, he was a Full Professor at the University of Freiburg. He has also been an academic staff member at the University of Frankfurt and practised as a lawyer specialising in commercial law, insurance law, tort law and foreclosure.

Professor Kannowski has many academic publications to his name, mostly in legal history but also in civil law and procedure. He has been invited to present his work in many different countries and has received a number of academic scholarships.

Paper Abstract

The respecting of human rights (whatever this may be) is a commonly agreed basic level of understanding between all states of the world and a knock-out argument in every debate. Since there is hardly a more sensitive and delicate subject, the history of human rights is especially susceptible to instrumentalisation or even lies and forgery. Is forgery better when it serves a good purpose?

The fact that 'égalité' in the triad of the French Revolution was by no means valid for all human beings and that the passionate fighter for women’s rights Olympe de Gouges finally ended on the scaffold may well be known to some. There is a sign "birthplace of modern democracy" on a meadow near London, although historically knowledgeable people are aware that the classification of the Magna Charta as "democratic" is above all a result of 17th century propaganda. What doubtlessly takes the prize for misrepresentation, though, is the celebration by renowned human rights organisations and others of the Cyrus Cylinder from sixth century BC’s Persia as the source of human rights. What is built up here is based on a propaganda trick by Persia’s last Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi designed to clad his totalitarian regime in the shiny colours of Western values. Are we supposed to remain silent for political reasons and say that it does not matter because it is all so long ago and what counts are the effects as a symbol? The presenter answers this question in the negative. What is always impermissible is turning a blind eye to the truth.

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La Trobe University (Social Sciences Building room 232 - Moot Court)

Plenty Road

Melbourne, VIC 3086

Australia

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