The Ethical Dimensions of

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The problem of Palestine

The problem of Palestine is another example that proves the same hypothesis. Like the Kashmir dispute, the problem of Palestine started in 1947 when the former British colonial power, decided to terminate its mandate on Palestine and to hand over the responsibility to the United Nations.

In November 1947 the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181, the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, which was a plan to resolve the Arab-Jewish conflict by partitioning the territory into two separate states, Jewish and Arab.

The plan was rejected by Arab and Muslim countries, which reacted violently. Later, it was accepted by the Jewish leaders who declared the creation of the State of Israel on 15 May 1948, a day before the end of the British mandate. Following the independence declaration of Israel, Arab-neighboring countries attacked Israel and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War followed. As a result of the War, Israel occupied more than 77 % of the Palestine territory. Consequently, the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was never implemented and it has inflamed a larger Arab-Israeli conflict.

Despite the active role of the UN General Assembly to resolve this conflict, several resolutions have been adopted in this regard but since the latter are non-binding, they only play the role of an international political pressure and have symbolic influences. The problem was complicated during the 1967 War between Arab countries and Israel; also known as the Six Day War, during which Israel seized additional Palestinian territory, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and the Syrian Golan Heights.

In November 1967 after the Six Day War, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 242 calling upon Israel to withdraw from the Arab territories that were occupied. Yet in this resolution, the Security Council did not request the application of Chapter VII of the Charter of the UN, thus, arguably it becomes a non-binding, and consequently, Israel has disregarded all Security Council resolutions related to this issue. Since then the Security Council has tried to adopt consequential resolutions but these were unsuccessful because of the supporting veto that they received from one Permanent Member.

Selectivity and double standards

The above cases are few classic examples, which prove that the right of self-determination is not applied equally to all peoples. They also demonstrate how the UN Security Council applies selectivity and double standards on political issues and neglects the rule of law. Thus, despite the fact that all UN Security Council resolutions are mandatory, depending on the interest of some Permanent Members of the Security Council, the Security Council adopts unambiguous resolutions requiring mandatory action in some cases, and non-binding resolutions in others.

It’s important to underline that the problem of the people of Kashmir and Palestine are politically and historically identical, because they were both colonized by the British and their plights started after the former colonial power decided the partition of these two former colonies. Besides, they are both conspicuous examples that demonstrate how the principle of the right of self-determination and human rights are sometimes applied on a selective basis by the UN Security Council.

When comparing these few examples and many other similar cases around the globe, one could thus presume that the right of self-determination is not always applied equally to all peoples. Its application depends on the political will and economic interests of the more powerful states, and could therefore be applied accurately to one case and ignored in another similar one.


The right of self-determination is a concept originating from the Peace Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. It then went through several changes during global mutations. It is actually a Western concept introduced in international law as a basic human rights principle only after the creation of the United Nations in 1945.

Since its introduction in the Charter of the UN and in other international instruments and treaties, the right of self-determination has played a major role on the de-colonization and liberation of more than some 80 countries.

The struggle against colonialism did not end peacefully around the world because in some cases, the right of self-determination was misinterpreted and mismanaged by the former colonial powers, obliging some countries to revolt and free themselves. Yet, until today, several territories are still under colonialism or foreign occupation or alien domination.

The right of self-determination is an inalienable legal human right in international law, a right that offers every human being to contribute and enjoy religious, economic, social, cultural and political freedom, a right that should be applied logically and equally to all. Unfortunately, in some cases it has been applied according to economic and political interests, and in others it has not.

In recent years and particularly after the end of the Cold War, the right of self-determination has raised anxieties around the world. Some rich and powerful countries interpret it as a tool to advance their own political and foreign policy interests, instead of as a principle of the rule of law.

Good governance, the imposition of democracy, humanitarian intervention, political aspirations, and the fight against terrorism, have all been used as justifications by some for the double standards in the imposition or denial of the right of self-determination without impartial reference to rule of law, or to the territorial integrity and political unity of independent states. “The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the war on terror have brought a sense of wariness to the world, and especially to countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. This limiting for the sake of security has made the ideals of the United Nations more difficult to keep-ideals such as promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion”.368

The right of self-determination is a complex concept. It is considered as a universal right for individuals living in a society to have their own political, religious, social and cultural freedom. It is also claimed as a collective right of peoples living within specific geographic and political parameters.

Around the globe there are several cases where people are still under foreign occupation and have been denied their right of self-determination because of political motivations or abuse of the rule of law. In some identical cases with similar political and historical merits, the right of self-determination is applied by some countries in a selective manner at the expense of the rule of law. One could thus conclude that the right of self-determination is not applied equally to all peoples.

Complicating this even further is the difficulty of deciding how deep this right of self-determination should go in its relationship with the possibility of secession. Since the concept of territorial integrity is built into the structure of international relations (Article 2.7 of the UN Charter), the problem becomes one of identifying who are the peoples or groups who are entitled to exercise this right of self-determination. The right of self-determination thus borders dangerously on the “right of secession”, something that states have never been inclined to accept easily. That is perhaps why an effort is currently being made by some Western states to replace the established concept of the “right of self-determination” with a new concept of the “right of autonomy” instead.


There is no doubt that slavery and the slave trade were appalling tragedies in the history of humanity, not only because of their abhorrent barbarism but also because of their magnitude, organized nature and especially their negation of the essence of the victims. Slavery is a crime against humanity and should always have been considered as one.

This paper will examine the definition of slavery, review the history of slavery worldwide, highlight the efforts to eliminate slavery and examine the contemporary situation.

Although slavery is a very old phenomenon, it exists in modern time, and efforts to eliminate it are largely unsuccessful.


The word slavery is often used as a pejorative to describe any activity one finds unpleasant or distasteful. On the one hand, this means the word slavery is applied in situations where it does not technically fit the definition. On the other hand, it also means that it is often not applied in situations that do fit the definition, but where the speaker feels that everyone has a duty to perform the action. Examples of the latter might include jury duty or military conscription, where a person is compelled to perform a job and is paid much less than one would have sought for a similar job in a free market.369

The first definition of slavery that appears in an international agreement appeared in the Slavery Convention of 1926 which defined slavery in the first Article as:" the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised... and the slave trade includes all acts involved in the capture, acquisition or disposal of a person with intent to reduce him to slavery; all acts involved in the acquisition of a slave with a view to selling or exchanging him; all acts of disposal by sale or exchange of a slave acquired with a view to being sold or exchanged, and, in general, every act of trade or transport in slaves”.370

The definition of slavery was further refined and extended by a 1956 supplementary convention The treaty augments the 1926 convention by acting to ban debt bondage, serfdom, servile marriage and child servitude.

Enslavement is deemed a criminal against humanity that falls under the jurisdiction of the international criminal court, which was established in 2002, and it is defined as "the exercise of any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership over a person and includes the exercise of such power in the course of trafficking in persons, in particular woman and children".371 It is obvious that this definition is similar to the definition of the Convention of 1926.

In addition, slavery is defined as a social-economic system under which the slaves are deprived of personal freedom and compelled to work.372

The definition of slavery has been controversial because there have been arguments about which practices should be categorized as slavery and thus designated for elimination. Also, while definitions have often been accompanied by obligations on states to carry out particular actions, there has been confusion about how to best accomplish the eradication of different forms of slavery.373

Definitions of slavery have caused controversy because opinions differ about which practices should be categorized as slavery and thus designed for elimination. Nevertheless, there is general agreement among historians, anthropologists, economists, sociologists, and others who study slavery, that most of the following characteristics should be present in order to term a person a slave:

In some societies slaves were considered movable property, in others immovable property, like real estate. They were objects of the law, not its subjects. Thus, like an ox or an ax, the slave was not ordinarily held responsible for what he did.

As there are limits in most societies on the extent to which animals may be abused, so there were limits in most societies on how much a slave could be abused.

The slave was removed from lines of natal descent. Legally and often socially he had no kin. No relatives could stand up for his rights or get vengeance for him. As an “outsider,” “marginal individual,” or “socially dead person” in the society where he was enslaved, his rights to participate in political decision making and other social activities were fewer than those enjoyed by his owner. The product of a slave’s labour could be claimed by someone else, who also frequently had the right to control his physical reproduction.374

History of Slavery in Ancient Civilizations

Slaves in Ancient Babylon

Information about slaves in early societies relates mainly to their legal status, which was essentially that of an object, or part of the owner’s valuable property.

The Code of Hammurabi, from Babylon in the 18th Century B.C., gives chilling details of the different rewards and penalties for surgeons operating on free men or slaves. Surprisingly, Babylonian slaves were themselves allowed to own property.

Slaves in Ancient Greece

The first civilization in which we know a great deal about the role of slaves is that of ancient Greece.375 Slaves in Ancient Greece suffered a lot because they had no power or status. They had no right to a family of their own, could not own property, and had no legal or political rights.

By the 5th Century B.C. slaves accounted for as much as one-third of the total population in some city-states. Greeks took many slaves from non-Greek populations, but they also enslaved other Greeks in war. Unlike in Rome, freed slaves in Greece did not become citizens.376

Slaves in Ancient Rome

As the Roman Republic expanded outward, entire populations were enslaved, thus creating an ample supply. The people subjected to Roman slavery came from all over Europe and the Mediterranean.

Such oppression by an elite minority eventually led to slave revolts, among which the Third Servile War led by Spartacus was the most famous.

Greeks, Berbers, Germans, Britons, Thracians, Gauls (or Celts), Jews, Arabs, and many more were slaves used not only for labor, but also for amusement. If a slave ran away, he was liable to be crucified. By the late Republican era, slavery had become a vital economic pillar in the wealth of Rome.377

Slaves in Ancient Egypt

The Egyptians used slaves captured in war or bought from foreigners. Contrary to popular belief, the great pyramids were built by free, not slave, labor. The Egyptians did not use slaves in great numbers. The lands were farmed by free peasants who gave the Pharaoh a portion of their crops.

All of the slaves captured in war were considered the property of the Pharaoh and were not sold to private citizens.

Slavery is also found in the sections of the Bible related to Egypt. Joseph is sold into slavery in Egypt, and after his time, at the beginning of Exodus, all the Hebrews of Egypt had been reduced to slave laborers.378

Slaves in Ancient China

In ancient China, the lives of slaves were the hardest of all Chinese. Many rich Chinese families had slaves to do the menial work for them, both in the fields and at home. The Emperor and his court usually owned hundreds or even thousands of slaves. Most people were born slaves because their mothers were slaves; other people were sold into slavery to pay debts and others were captured in raids or battle.379


Old Times

In the Viking era the Norse raiders often captured and enslaved the weaker peoples they encountered. In the Nordic countries the slaves were called “thralls’. The thralls were mostly from Western Europe, among them many Franks, Anglo-Saxons, and Celts. There is evidence of German, Baltic, Slavic and southern European slaves as well. The slave trade was one of the pillars of Norse commerce during the 6th through 11th Centuries. The slave raids came to an end when Catholicism became widespread throughout Scandinavia. As in the rest of Catholic Europe, the Scandinavian representatives for the church held that a Christian could not morally own another Christian. However, the moral aspect was not considered binding by church representatives in regards to enslavement of Africans. The thrall system was finally abolished in the mid-14th Century in Scandinavia. In the late 18th Century, Denmark-Norway set up slave colonies on the Caribbean islands of Saint Croix, Saint Thomas and Saint John and the Swedish King Gustav III established a Swedish slave trade colony on the Caribbean island Saint Barthelemy. In 1803, Denmark-Norway banned export trade in slaves, the first nation to do so, and in 1813 Sweden followed suit. Slavery in the colonies was finally abolished by Sweden (then in union with Norway) in 1847 and by Denmark in 1848.380

Slavery in early medieval Europe was so common that the Roman Catholic Church repeatedly prohibited it-or at least the export of Christian slaves to non-Christian lands was prohibited. The Mongol invasions and conquests in the 13th Century made the situation worse. Slave commerce during the Late Middle Ages was mainly in the hands of Venetian and Genoese merchants and cartels, who were involved in the slave trade with the Golden Horde. For a long time, until the early 18th Century, the khanate maintained a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. Medieval Spain and Portugal was the scene of almost constant warfare between Muslims and Christians. Slavery remained a major institution in Russia until the 1723, when the Peter the Great converted the household slaves into house serfs.381

The 15th Century Portuguese exploration of the African coast is commonly regarded as the harbinger of European colonialism. Britain played a prominent role in the Atlantic slave trade. The "slave triangle" was pioneered by Francis Drake and his associates. In 1807, following many years of lobbying by the Abolitionist movement, the British Parliament voted to make the slave trade illegal anywhere in the empire. Only in 1768 was a law passed in Poland that discontinued the nobility’s right of life or death over serfs. Some of the Roma people were enslaved over five centuries in Romania until abolition in 1864. Slavery in the French Republic was abolished in February 1794.382

Modern Times

Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazi regime created labor camps in Germany and Europe. Between 1930 and 1960, the Soviet regime created many Lageria (labor camps) in Siberia. It is estimated that there may have been 5-7 million people in these camps at any one time. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the impoverished former Eastern bloc countries such as Albania, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine have been identified as major trafficking source countries for women and children. Young women and girls are often lured to wealthier countries by the promises of money and work and then reduced to sexual slavery. It is estimated that two-thirds of the women trafficked for prostitution worldwide annually come from Eastern Europe, three-quarters have never worked as prostitutes before. The major destinations are Western Europe (Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, UK, and Greece), the Middle East (Turkey, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates), Asia, Russia and the United States. An estimated 500,000 women from Central and Eastern Europe are working in prostitution in the EU alone. It is estimated that half million Ukrainian women were trafficked abroad since 1991 (80 % of all unemployed in Ukraine are women). Russia is a major source of women trafficked globally for the purpose of sexual exploitation; Russian women are in prostitution in over 50 countries. In poverty-stricken Moldova, where the unemployment rate for women is estimated as high as 68 %, one-third of the workforce lives and works abroad.383


Old Times

Slavery was endemic in Africa and part of the structure of everyday life. During the 16th Century, Europe began to outpace the Arab world with its slave traffic from Africa to the Americas. The Dutch imported slaves from Asia into their colony in South Africa. The Middle Passage, the crossing of the Atlantic to the Americas, endured by slaves laid out in rows in the holds of ships, was only one element of the well-known triangular trade engaged in by Portuguese, Dutch, French and British. The Atlantic slave trade peaked in the late 18th Century, when the largest numbers of slaves were captured on raiding expeditions in the interior of West Africa. It is estimated that over the centuries, twelve to twenty million people were shipped as slaves from Africa by European traders, of whom some 15 % died during the terrible voyage, many during the arduous journey through the Middle Passage. The great majority was shipped to the Americas, but some also went to Europe and the south of Africa. The end of the slave trade and the decline of slavery were imposed upon Africa by its European conquerors. It is estimated that up to 90 % of the population of Arab-Swahili Zanzibar was enslaved. Roughly half the population of Madagascar was enslaved. Slavery continued in Ethiopia until the brief Second Italo-Abyssinian War in October 1935, when it was abolished by order of the Italian occupying forces. In August 1942, Haile Selassie issued a proclamation outlawing slavery. Between 1609 and 1616 England alone had a staggering 466 merchant ships lost to Barbary pirates. Slave-taking persisted into the 19th Century when Barbary pirates would capture ships and enslave the crew. Even the United States was not immune. In 1783 the United States made peace with, and gained recognition from, the British monarchy, and in 1784 the first American ship was seized by pirates from Morocco. Payments in ransom and tribute to the Barbary States amounted to 20% of United States government annual revenues in 1800 In Africa, the most important slave markets were the ports of Morocco, Tripoli, Algiers and Tunis.384

Modern Times

Slavery in Mauritania was legally abolished by laws passed in 1905, 1961, and 1981, but it has never been criminalized, and several human rights organizations report that the practice continues there. In Niger, slavery is also a current phenomenon; a study has found that more than 800,000 people are still slaves, almost 8 % of the population. The trading of children has been reported in modern Nigeria and Benin. In parts of Ghana, a family may be punished for an offense by having to turn over a virgin female to serve as a sex slave within the offended family. In this instance, the woman does not gain the title or status of "wife". In parts of Ghana, Togo, and Benin, shrine slavery persists, despite being illegal in Ghana since 1998. In this system of ritual servitude, sometimes called trokosi in Ghana or voodoosi in Togo and Benin, young virgin girls are given as slaves to traditional shrines and are used sexually by the priests in addition to providing free labor for the shrine. Slavery in Sudan continues as part of an ongoing civil war. Evidence emerged in the late 1990s of systematic slavery in cacao plantations in West Africa.385


Old Times

In pre-Columbian Meso-America the most common forms of slavery were those of prisoners-of-war and debtors. Slavery was not usually hereditary; children of slaves were born free. Many of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, such as the Haida and Tlingit, were traditionally known as fierce warriors and slave-traders, raiding as far as California. The Paraguayan War contributed to end slavery, since slaves enlisted in exchange for freedom. In Colonial Brazil, slavery was more a social than a racial condition. Slavery was legally ended nationwide and Brazil was the last nation in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery. Slavery was commonly used in the parts of the Caribbean controlled by France and the British Empire.386

The first historically significant slave in what would become the United States was Estevanico, a Moroccan slave and member of the Narváez expedition in 1528, who acted as a guide on Fray Marcos de Niza‘s expedition to find the Seven Cities of Gold in 1539.

It was not until the Slave Codes of 1705 that the status of African Americans as slaves would be sealed. This status would last for another 160 years, until after the end of the American Civil War with the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865, eight months after the cessation of hostilities. After the failure of Reconstruction, freed slaves in the United States were treated as second class citizens. For decades after their emancipation, many former slaves living in the South sharecropped and had a low standard of living. In some states, it was only after the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s that blacks obtained legal protection from racial discrimination.387

Modern Times

Although slavery has been illegal in the United States for nearly a century and a half, the United States Department of Labor occasionally prosecutes cases against people for false imprisonment and involuntary servitude. These cases often involve illegal immigrants who are forced to work as slaves in factories to pay off a debt claimed by the people who transported them into the United States. Other cases have involved domestic workers.

With regard to other South American countries, during the period from late 19th and early 20th Centuries, demand for the labor-intensive harvesting of rubber drove frontier expansion and slavery in Latin America and elsewhere.


Old Times

Even though no formalized slave trade has existed in South Asia, un-free labor has existed for centuries since the medieval ages, in different forms. The early Arab invaders of Sind in the 700’s are reported to have enslaved tens of thousands of Indian prisoners, including both soldiers and civilians. Later, during the Delhi Sultanate period (1206-1555 A.D.), references to the abundant availability of low-priced Indian slaves abound. Slavery was abolished in both Hindu and Muslim India by the Indian Slavery Act of 1843. Provisions of the Indian Penal Code of 1861 effectively abolished slavery in India by making the enslavement of human beings a criminal offense. Elsewhere, Korean slaves were shipped to Japan during the Japanese invasions of Korea in the 16th Century. Between the 17th and the early 20th Centuries one-quarter to one-third of the population of some areas of Thailand and Burma were enslaved.388

Modern Times

According to Human Rights Watch, there are currently more than 40 million bonded laborers in India, who work as slaves to pay off debts; a majority of them are Dalits. There are also an estimated 5 million bonded workers in Pakistan. As many as 200,000 Nepali girls, many under 14, have been sold into the sex slavery in India. Nepalese women and girls, especially virgins, are favored in India because of their fair skin and young looks. Slavery was abolished in Nepal in 1924. Slavery in China has repeatedly come in and out of favor. Slavery in China was finally abolished in 1910, although the practice apparently still continues unofficially in some regions. Slavery in Japan was, for most of its history, indigenous, since the export and import of slaves was restricted by the fact that Japan is a group of islands. During the Pacific War of 1937-45, the Japanese military used millions of civilians and prisoners of war as forced labor, on projects such as the railways. Approximately 5,400,000 Koreans were conscripted into forced labor from 1939 to 1945. About 670,000 of them were taken to Japan, where about 60,000 died between 1939 and 1945, due mostly to exhaustion or poor working conditions. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), an estimated 800,000 people are subject to forced labor in Myanmar.389


In the first half of the nineteenth Century, small-scale slave raids took place across Polynesia to supply labor and sex workers for the whaling and sealing trades, with examples from both the westerly and easterly extremes of the Polynesian triangle. By the 1860s this had grown to a larger scale operation with Peruvian slave raids in the South Sea Islands to collect labor for the guano industry. Slavery was outlawed when the British annexed New Zealand in 1840, immediately prior to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, although it did not end completely until government was effectively extended over the whole of the country with the defeat of the Kingi movement in the wars of the mid-1860s. The isolated island of Rapa Nui/Easter Island was inhabited by the Rapanui, who suffered a series of slave raids from 1805 or earlier, culminating in a near genocidal experience in the 1860s. The 1805 raid was by American sealers and was one of a series that changed the attitude of the islanders to outside visitors. Reports in the 1820s and 1830s indicated that all visitors were receiving a hostile reception. In December 1862 Peruvian slave raiders took between 1,400 and 2,000 islanders back to Peru to work in the guano industry; this was about a third of the island’s population and included much of the island’s leadership, and possibly the last who could read Rongorongo. After intervention by the French ambassador in Lima, the last 15 survivors were returned to the island, but brought with them smallpox, which further devastated the island.390

Islamic World

Old Times

Historians say the Arab slave trade lasted more than millennium. The Arab or Middle Eastern slave trade is thought to have originated with trans-Saharan slavery. Arab, Indian, and Oriental traders were involved in the capture and transport of slaves northward across the Sahara desert and the Indian Ocean region into Arabia and the Middle East, Persia, Central Asia and India. The slave trade from East Africa to Arabia was dominated by Arab and African traders in the coastal cities of Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam and Mombasa. Some historians estimate that between 11 and 17 million slaves crossed the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Sahara Desert from 650 to 1900 A.D.. Even as late as 1908, women slaves were sold in the Ottoman Empire. Most of the military commanders of the Ottoman forces, imperial administrators and de facto rulers of the Ottoman Empire, such as Pargalı İbrahim Pasha and Sokollu Mehmet Paşa, were recruited in this way. Mamluks were slave soldiers who converted to Islam and served the Muslim caliphs and the Ayyubid sultans during the Middle Ages. The Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismail "the Bloodthirsty" (1672-1727) raised a corps of 150,000 black slaves, called his Black Guard, who coerced the country into submission. In response to the Hazara uprising of 1892, the Afghan Emir Abdur Rahman declared a “jihad" against the Shiites. The large army defeated the rebellion at its center, in Oruzgan, by 1892 and the local population was severely massacred. Until the 20th Century, some Hazaras were still kept as slaves by the Pashtuns; although Amanullah Khan banned slavery in Afghanistan during his reign, the tradition carried on unofficially for many more years.391

Modern Times

The Arab or Middle Eastern slave trade continued into the early 1900s, and by some accounts continues to this day. As recently as the 1950s, Saudi Arabia had an estimated 450,000 slaves, almost one-fifth of the population. It is estimated that as many as 200,000 black south Sudanese children and women have been taken into slavery in Sudan during the Second Sudanese Civil War. In Mauritania it is estimated that up to 600,000 men, women and children, or 20 % of the population, are currently enslaved, many of them used as bonded labor. Slavery in Mauritania was finally criminalized in August 2007. The Arab trade in slaves continued into the 20th Century. Many of the Iraqi women fleeing the Iraq War are turning to prostitution; others are trafficked abroad, to countries like Syria, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Iran. In Syria alone, an estimated 50,000 Iraqi refugee girls and women, many of them widows, are forced into prostitution, and cheap Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists.392

Based on what was mentioned above we can say that slavery is a very old phenomenon and it occurred in civilizations as old as Sumer, and in every such civilization, including Ancient Egypt, the Akkadian Empire, Assyria, Babylon, Ancient, and Rome.

Slavery was a form of dependent labour performed by a non-family member. A slave was deprived of personal liberty and the right to move about geographically. There were likely to be limits on his capacity to make choices with regard to his occupation and sexual partners as well. Slavery was usually, but not always, involuntary. If not all of these characterizations in their most restrictive forms applied to a slave, the slave regime in that place is likely to be characterized as “mild”; if almost all of them did, then it would be characterized as “severe”.

Slaves were generated in many ways. Probably the most frequent was capture in war, either by design, as a form of incentive to warriors, or as an accidental by-product, as a way of disposing of enemy troops or civilians. Others were acquired through kidnapping on slave-raids or piracy expeditions. Many slaves were the offspring of slaves. Some people were enslaved as a punishment for crime or debt; others were sold into slavery by their parents, other relatives, or even spouses, sometimes to satisfy debts, sometimes to escape starvation.

Slavery and the slave trade, including the transatlantic slave trade, were appalling tragedies in the history of humanity not only because of their abhorrent barbarism but also in terms of their magnitude and organized nature. These characteristics further acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade are a crime against humanity and should always have been so.

Slaves have made significant contributions to the slaveholding societies. For instance, slaves in maritime employment in America and the Caribbean were essential to the functioning of the early modern economy. Without their contribution on the docks of colonial and later American ports and their skilled handling of small boats throughout the region, ships carrying the agricultural cargoes of the New World could not have weighed anchor.

Sporadically there have been movements to achieve reparations for those formerly held as slaves, or sometimes their descendants. Claims for reparations for being held in slavery are handled as a civil law matter in almost every country.

Efforts at Elimination

Individual efforts

There is no doubt that, human beings naturally want to live in freedom, thus the first attempts to reject slavery were made by the slaves themselves. The Prophet Moses led Israelite slaves out of ancient Egypt. This is possibly the first written account of a movement to free slaves.

In the last centuries, the first fighters for the abolition of slavery were the captives, and the slaves themselves who fought from their capture in Africa for their sale and exploitation on plantations in the Americas and the Caribbean. Rebellion and suicide were often used as the main forms of resistance. The American colonies were frequently disrupted by slave revolts, or the threat of revolt. The administrators of the British and French colonies in the 1730’s observed that a "wind of freedom" was blowing in the Caribbean, thereby indicating the existence of a veritable resistance to slavery. This was to materialize some 50 years later with the slave rebellion in Santo-Domingo. As early as the late 17th Century, individuals, as well as the various abolitionist societies that had been established, began condemning slavery and the slave trade.393

National efforts

The destruction of the slavery system began in the French colony of Santo Domingo towards the end of the 18th Century. The slave rebellion on Santo Domingo in August 1791 profoundly weakened the Caribbean colonial system, sparking a general insurrection that led to the abolition of slavery and the independence of the island. It marked the beginning of a triple process of destruction of the slavery system, the slave trade and colonialism. This long-running process lasted until 1886 in Cuba and 1888 in Brazil.

Two outstanding decrees for abolition were produced during the 19th Century: the Abolition Bill passed by the British Parliament in August 1833 and the French decree signed by the Provisional Government in April 1848. In the United States, the Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, extended the abolition of slavery to the whole Union in the wake of the Civil War in 1865. The abolition of slavery – which at the time concerned approximately 4 million people - became the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.394

International efforts

The 1926 Slavery Convention, an initiative of the League of Nations, was a turning point in banning global slavery. The Convention was amended by a Protocol that entered into force in July 1955.

Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 by the UN General Assembly, explicitly banned slavery it says that “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms’.395

The United Nations 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery was convened to outlaw and ban slavery worldwide, including child slavery.

In December 1966, the UN General Assembly adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was developed from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 8 of this international treaty bans slavery. It says that no one shall be held in slavery; slavery and the slave-trade in all their forms shall be prohibited.396

The 2001 World Conference against Racism (WCAR) which was held in Durban, South Africa, under UN auspices dealt with several controversial issues, including compensation for slavery. The issue of “Compensation for Colonialism and Slavery” is addressed in Paras 13, 14, 15, and 29 of the Declaration.397

By its Resolution 19/61, the General Assembly decided to designate 25 March 2007 as the International Day for the Commemoration of the Two Hundredth Anniversary of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The Assembly also urged member states that had not already done so to develop educational programmers, including through school curricula, designed to educate and inculcate in future generations an understanding of the lessons, history and consequences of slavery and the slave trade.398

The international community has drafted treaties on slavery but many states have yet to ratify and implement the different treaties and to identify what needs to be done to eliminate slavery in all parts of the world. Surely, the time has come to unite all states behind the principle of ending slavery. Furthermore, there is an urgent demand for laws and action to ensure that new forms of exploitation and oppression do not take the form of slavery, and that those responsible for slavery-like practices are identified and stopped.

There is no international mechanism for the monitoring and enforcement of state obligations to abolish slavery and related practices. The right of all individuals to be free from slavery is a basic human right; yet this lack of an adequate implementation procedure does little to encourage states to establish safeguards against all contemporary forms of slavery.

With regard to the international effort to eliminate slavery, the mandate of the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery could be extended to incorporate such a function to provide for a systematic review procedure. Alternatively, the Working Group could improve its own procedures to focus on thematic issues relevant to the prevention of slavery. Another option would be for the Commission to revive its previous proposal that the Working Group be upgraded into a Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights.

Whatever mechanism the Commission and Sub-Commission might choose to improve the implementation of the many treaties against slavery, an updated review of the international law against slavery has been published in order to continue the work of the Sub-Commission’s previous studies and as a means of further understanding the long-standing struggle to abolish slavery and its contemporary manifestations.399

Some countries have apologized for slavery but some still reject this idea because it could lead to reparations. Others have not even apologized, and resist all efforts to do so.

The Contemporary Situation

The current status

Although outlawed in nearly all countries today, slavery is still practiced in many parts of the world. According to a broad definition of slavery some human organizations state that there are 27 million people throughout the world in virtual slavery today. According to Free the Slaves (FTS), these slaves represent the largest number of people that has ever been in slavery at any point in world history.

Although it is now outlawed in most countries, slavery is, nonetheless, practiced secretly in many parts of the world. Outright enslavement still takes place in parts of Africa and Asia. In Mauritania alone, it is estimated that up to 600,000 men, women and children, are enslaved, many of them used as bonded labour. In Niger, slavery is also a current phenomenon. A Nigerian study has found that more than 800,000 people are enslaved, almost 8 % of the population. Child slavery has commonly been used in the production of cash crops and mining. According to the US Department of State, more than 109,000 children were working on cocoa farms alone in Côte d’Ivoire in “the worst forms of child labor” in 2002. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), an estimated 800,000 people are subject to forced labour in Myanmar.400 In June and July 2007, 570 people who had been enslaved by brick manufacturers in Shanxi and Henan were freed by the Chinese government.

Modern slavery

Contemporary slavery takes various forms and affects people of all ages and sexes. For example bonded labor affects millions of people around the world. People become bonded laborers by taking or being tricked into taking a loan for something as little as the cost of medicines for a sick child. To repay the debt, many are forced to work long hours, seven days a week, up to 365 days a year. They receive basic food and shelter as “payment” for their work, but may never pay off the loan, which can be passed down for generations. In addition, early and forced marriage affects women and girls who are married without choice and are forced into lives of servitude often accompanied by physical violence. Forced labour is another form of slavery and affects people who are illegally recruited by individuals, governments or political parties and forced to work - usually under threat of violence or other penalties. Moreover, trafficking involves the transport and/or trade of people – men, women, and children - from one area to another for the purpose of forcing them into slavery.

We can thus conclude that though many believe slavery ended in the 1800s, only the face of slavery has simply changed. There are an estimated 27 million slaves in our world today, and they are enslaved in every nation of the world.401

New forms of slavery, such as sexual exploitation of children, child labour, bonded labour, serfdom, migrant labour, domestic labour, forced labour, slavery for ritual or religious purposes and trafficking pose a great challenge to all of us.

Looking at the nature of the new slavery we see obvious themes: slaves are cheap and disposable; control continues without legal ownership; slavery is hidden behind contracts; and slavery flourishes in communities under stress. Slavery grows best in extreme poverty, so we can identify its economic as well as social preconditions. Being poor, homeless, a refugee, or abandoned, can all lead to the desperation that opens the door to slavery, making it easy for the slaver to lay an attractive trap. And when slaves are kidnapped, they lack sufficient power to defend themselves against that violent enslavement. We are facing an epidemic of slavery that is tied, through the global economy, to our own lives. If those whose rights are violated cannot find protection, they are unlikely to accuse and fight those with guns and power. Such is the case in many of the countries where slavery exists today.402

There are numerous problems hindering effective measures to eradicate these modern forms of slavery. Aside from obvious ones, such as the political unwillingness of many states to allocate resources to combat the crime, efforts to expand the meaning of slavery can be problematic. The international agreements all limit the definition of slavery to conditions similar to ownership.403 Unfortunately, there is no international mechanism for the monitoring and enforcement of state obligations to abolish slavery and related practices. The right of all individuals to be free from slavery is a basic human right; yet this lack of an adequate implementation procedure does little to encourage states to establish safeguards against all contemporary forms of slavery.


Despite the many efforts made to abolish all forms of slavery, it is not dead. It exists, and is even on the rise in some parts of the world, and new forms and manifestations of slavery pose a great challenge to all of us. We need to raise awareness about the scale of the problem, promote international partnerships, and work to gather to tackle this issue.

We must acknowledge the great lapse in moral judgment that allowed it to happen. We must urge present and future generations to avoid repeating history. We must acknowledge the contributions that slaves made to civilization. And countries that prospered from the slave trade must examine the origins of present-day social inequality and work to unravel mistrust between communities.

Above all, even as we mourn the atrocities committed against the countless victims, we take heart from the courage of slaves who rose up to overcome the system which oppressed them. These brave individuals, and the abolitionist movements they inspired, should serve as an example to us all as we continue to battle the contemporary forms of slavery that stain our world today.

We must promote the history of the slave trade and slavery, and make it known to the general public; we must also devote ourselves to rigorous scientific research that highlights the whole historical truth about the tragedy in a constructive perspective. As a matter of urgency this major episode in the history of humanity, whose consequences are permanently imprinted in the world’s geography and economy, should take its full place in the school textbooks and curricula of every country in the world.

The international community has drafted treaties on slavery but many states have yet to ratify and implement the different treaties and to identify what needs to be done to eliminate slavery in all parts of the world. Legal instruments are only one aspect of this struggle. Just as important are the efforts that are undertaken every day, in every country plagued by slavery, by courageous individuals who have committed themselves to ending it. Surely, the time has come to unite all states behind the principle of ending slavery, so that we can end it in practice. Furthermore, there is an urgent demand for laws and action to ensure that new forms of exploitation and oppression do not take the form of slavery, and that those responsible for slavery-like practices are identified and stopped.

Nowadays, forced labour, sexual exploitation and human trafficking afflict millions of people worldwide, including children toiling under unspeakably abusive conditions. Racism and racial discrimination still take a serious and sometimes deadly toll. We are all shamed by these repugnant crimes. And we are all challenged to respond.

We should carry the effort forward until no individual is deprived of liberty, dignity and human rights.


Our world is our home. It is a home for every human being on our planet, not only for black, white, or yellow or green people, but for everybody. Our society is characterized by permanent interrelations among all its elements.

Although some human beings may be able to live without any aim, the majority of mankind has a clear objective in its search for perfection. People from all over the world understand that the first priority of the mankind is communication with each other, which means tolerance and respect. But what does tolerance mean, and do we really need it? Tolerance is patience and respect for everybody's opinions, everybody's religion, everybody’s culture, everybody’s origin and nationality no matter what skin color, race, gender, or political ideology. In summary, tolerance is respect for everybody, everywhere, every time.

From the history of mankind, we already know how much societies have suffered much because of lack of tolerance. For example, during the World War II but it had not been for racial prejudices, millions of peaceful people would have been alive today.

Tolerance is like the building-blocks of society, for a building which needs to be planned and designed, and to be built up step by step, according to a strategic plan of human behavior, to be occupied by decent people, in the hope of the constant forward movement of human society

Tolerance is thus a fundamental part of all human rights, the very essence of the principles on which they are based.


The word "tolerance" is surely imperfect, yet the English language offers no single word that embraces the broad range of skills we need to live together peacefully. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the Greek word "agape"404 to describe the tolerance or the universal love that "discovers the neighbor in every man it meets”.

In the same way, tolerance could be defining like the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.405

The various disciplines concerned with human behavior have also offered a variety of synonyms for “tolerance”, among them: patience, sufferance, forbearance, liberality, impartiality, and open-mindedness.

In addition, tolerance suggests a liberal spirit toward the views and actions of others: Tolerance toward religious minorities implies necessarily the allowance or sufferance of conduct with which one is not in accord.

At the same time, we can say that tolerance is the appreciation of diversity and the ability to live and let others live. It is the ability to exercise a fair and objective attitude towards those whose opinions, practices, religion, nationality differ from one's own. As William Ury notes, "tolerance is not just agreeing with one another or remaining indifferent in the face of injustice, but rather showing respect for the essential humanity in every person"406

On the opposite side, intolerance is the failure to appreciate and respect the practices, opinions and beliefs of another group. For instance, there is a high degree of intolerance between Israeli Jews and Palestinians who are at odds over issues of identity, security, self-determination, statehood, the right of return for refugees, the status of Jerusalem, the legality of settlements in the Occupied Territories, and many other issues. The result is continuing inter-group violence.

From the history of mankind, we already know how deeply societies have suffered much because of lack of tolerance. For example the ethnic cleansings during the World War II by the Nazis and in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the Balkan War, in Sudan between Arabs and Black people, and in dozens of places elsewhere. Examples of intolerance abound, as does the long list of suffering peoples.

Tolerance according to the UNESCO 407

On an initiative by UNESCO, the United Nations decided to proclaim 1995 (the 50th anniversary year of both organizations) as the International Year for Tolerance.

Tolerance, multiculturalism, global diversity, religious and cultural dialogue were among the topics that were debated in over fifty national, regional and international meetings throughout the year. Serving primarily as occasions to exchange views and knowledge, these meetings also worked on the definition and requirements of tolerance and negotiated lines of action to promote tolerance and counter the rise of intolerance in coming years. These efforts culminated in the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, which was adopted and signed in Paris by UNESCO's 185 Member States in November 1995.408

In this Declaration, UNESCO offers a definition of tolerance that most closely matches our philosophical use of the word:

Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference. It is not only a moral duty; it is also a political and legal requirement. Tolerance, the virtue that makes peace possible, contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.

Tolerance is not concession, condescension or indulgence. Tolerance is, above all, an active attitude prompted by recognition of the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. In no circumstance can it be used to justify infringements of these fundamental values. Tolerance is to be exercised by individuals, groups and States.

Tolerance is the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism (including cultural pluralism), democracy and the rule of law. It involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments.

Consistent with respect for human rights, the practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one's convictions. It means that one is free to adhere to one's own convictions and accepts that others adhere to theirs. It means accepting the fact that human beings, naturally diverse in their appearance, situation, speech, behavior and values, have the right to live in peace and to be as they are. It also means that one's views are not to be imposed on others.

Historical Development

As a practical matter, governments have always had to rule on the importance of tolerance. The earliest known example of ethnic and religious tolerance is found in the Cyrus cylinder, published by Cyrus the Great after he founded the Persian Empire. Similarly, the Edicts of Ashoka the Great in the Maurya Empire also declared ethnic and religious tolerance.

The expanding Roman Empire later faced the question of whether or to what extent it should permit or persecute the local beliefs and practices of groups inhabiting the annexed territories. Jewish or Christian practices or beliefs could be tolerated or vigorously persecuted. Likewise, during the Middle Ages, the rulers of Christian Europe or the Muslim Middle East sometimes extended tolerance to minority religious groups, and sometimes did not. Jews in particular suffered greatly under anti-Semitic persecutions in Medieval Europe.409

In Europe, the development of a body of theory on the subject of tolerance did not begin until the 16th and 17th Centuries, in response to the Protestant Reformation and the Wars of Religion, and the persecutions that followed the breaks with the Catholic Church instigated by Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, and others. In response to the theory of persecution that was used to justify wars of religion, and the execution of persons convicted of heresy and witchcraft, writers such as Sebastian Castellio and Michel de Montaigne questioned the morality of religious persecution, and offered arguments for tolerance.410

A detailed and influential body of writing on the question of tolerance was first produced in Britain in the 17th Century, during and after the destructive English Civil Wars. John Milton and radical parliamentarians such as Gerrard Winstanley argued that Christian and Jewish worship should be protected, and it was during the period that Oliver Cromwell allowed the return of Jews to England. These early theories of tolerance were limited however, and did not extend to Roman Catholics (who were perceived as disloyal to their country), or atheists (who were held to lack any moral basis for action). John Locke, in his Letter Concerning Toleration and Two Treatises of Government proposed a more detailed and systematic theory of tolerance, which included a principle of Separation of Church and State that formed the basis for future constitutional democracies.411

The British Toleration Act of 1689412 was the political result of 17th Century theorists and political exigency, which despite the limited scope of the toleration it granted was nevertheless a key development in history, and which helped produce greater political stability in the British Isles.413

The philosophers and writers of the Enlightenment, especially Voltaire and Lessing, promoted and further developed the notion of religious tolerance. This was however not sufficient to prevent the atrocities of the Reign of Terror. The incorporation by Thomas Jefferson and others of Locke's theories of toleration into the Constitution of the United States of America was arguably more successful.414

Recent developments

Though developed to refer to the religious toleration of minority religious sects following the Protestant Reformation, the terms "toleration" and "tolerance" are increasingly used to refer to a wider range of tolerated practices and groups, such as the toleration political parties or ideas widely considered objectionable. Changing applications and understandings of the term can sometimes make debate on the question difficult.

For example, a distinction is sometimes drawn between mere "toleration" and a higher notion of "religious liberty"415: Some philosophers regard toleration and religious freedom as quite distinct things and emphasize the differences between the two. They understand toleration to signify no more than forbearance and the permission given by the adherents of a dominant religion for other religions to exist, even though the latter are looked upon with disapproval as inferior, mistaken, or harmful. In contrast these thinkers recognize religious liberty as the recognition of equal freedom for all religions and denominations without any kind of discrimination among them in the case of religious liberty; no one is rightfully possessed of the power not to tolerate or to cancel this liberty.

Discussions of toleration therefore often divided between those who view the term as a minimal and perhaps even historical virtue (perhaps to be replaced today by a more positive and robust appreciation of pluralism or diversity), and those who view it as a concept with an important continuing vitality, and who are more likely to use the term in considering contemporary issues regarding discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, gender, sexuality, disability, and other reasons.

There are also debates with regard to the historical factors that produced the principle of toleration, as well as to the proper reasons toleration should be exercised, with some arguing that the growth of skepticism was an important or necessary factor in the development of toleration, and others arguing that religious belief or an evolving notion of respect for individual persons was or is the basis on which toleration was or should be practiced.

Rethinking Tolerance

Tolerance has become a buzzword, which we use with little thought of its meaning. We often perceive of an idyllic tolerant environment that is fair and permissive to others' opinions and views that are different from our own. If this definition is the correct understanding of the word, we have come to find that achieving a tolerant environment is inherently impossible.416

Our society has constructed, more or less, a political system where we tend to be located in one specific part of a range of choices or possibilities. In doing so, we become, to some extent, intolerant of the opinions of the other side. We think we are right and they are wrong, and that we should do everything we can to change their minds. When polemic disputes occur, rarely do we observe the tolerant ideal.

Consider an institution that wishes to create an entirely tolerant community dedicated to every kind of diversity. Upon hearing this news, a group of Nazis wishes to attend, excited at the opportunity to express their views in an all-accepting environment. However, by the very nature of the group, we encounter our first dilemma. If the institution is to be tolerant to every kind of diversity, the Nazis should be granted a forum where their opinions can be expressed. However, the Nazi believe that their views are superior to those of everyone else, and such a mentality is antithetical to the ideals of the institution. How do we then resolve the dilemma?

If we are to be an entirely tolerant place where every kind of diversity is accepted, we are going to run into these problems. Imagine an openly gay person being verbally assaulted by individuals in a passing vehicle. If we are to be tolerant of everyone, should the individuals in the passing vehicle be allowed to express such a viewpoint?

After realizing the impossibility of an all-tolerant community, we have come to find that intolerance is perhaps not such a bad thing. Our use of the buzzword has pinned a negative connotation on any attitude which is deemed less than permissive.

We are very intolerant people. We refuse to put up with murder, abuse, rape, theft, and a myriad of other things. Our society is committed to being intolerant of any injustice or "discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, creed, ancestry, national and ethnic origin, or physical or mental handicap”. Such intolerance is a good thing. The word "tolerance" has suddenly lost its meaning. In a thesaurus, one can find "stupidity" as a synonym for intolerance. Is society then stupid for upholding an intolerant attitude toward discrimination?

For the most part, we have already taken stands on what we believe is right. These views are then somehow deemed "tolerant" simply because we believe they are right and it sounds good. Rather than putting on a façade of permissiveness and acceptance toward every opinion and idea brought to the table, we should acknowledge the ideas for which we stand and those we reject. Such action would curtail the use of meaningless buzzwords that we eagerly throw around in an effort to support a point.417

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