The concept of universal human rights has been diluted by a proliferation of conventions that pander to special interest groups, an international human rights activist and researcher says.
"We are in trouble with respect to how people understand human rights," Aaron Rhodes, former executive director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, told editors and reporters at The Washington Times on Tuesday. "Human rights is very rapidly losing its meaning. … It has become detached from the concept of liberty."
Mr. Rhodes said a proliferation of conventions has resulted from governments trying to ingratiate themselves with different interest groups, citing as examples recent international efforts to establish a human right to employment counseling and a convention to protect the rights of the elderly.
The proliferation has "diluted human rights … watered it down," he said. "Human rights is becoming something divisive, whereas human rights was envisioned by people like Eleanor Roosevelt as a big tent. … Everybody has human rights."
The United Nations says all human rights are equal and indivisible.
Mr. Rhodes disagreed. "I believe that there are some human rights that are a little more consequential than others," he said.
Mr. Rhodes is in Washington to participate Wednesday in a briefing on "America's Response to Religious Persecution in Allied Nations," organized by the Universal Peace Federation, which is affiliated with the Unification Church. The Rev. Sun Myung Moon founded The Washington Times in 1982.
Participants in the event will include the Rev. In Jin Moon, president of the Unification Church of America; Tina Ramirez, director of International and Government Relations of the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom; and Kathryn Cameron Porter, president and founder of the Leadership Council for Human Rights.