Throughout the long and bloody history of man's gropings toward "civilization," we have learned to restrain the power of our governments by using constitutions and similar mechanisms to build in legal safeguards against oppression.
Unfortunately, many states have in varying degrees violated these "social contracts." An International Law of Human Rights has evolved to fill the need for a force superior to particular national legal systems. This independent code acts as overseer and final judge in cases where states are unwilling to police themselves. The horrors of world wars, genocide and torture have shown that human rights are both too valuable and too fragile to be left entirely to ephemeral governments tempted to override and squash them.
I confess that I approached Paul Sieghart's "The Lawful Rights of Mankind" with some skepticism about the usefulness of such international codes. Even the United Nation's magnificent "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" sometimes seems a mere collection of high-sounding but impractical ideals for nations to strive toward, not a basis for precise, enforceable human rights laws.
This nagging difficulty of enforcing international human rights laws haunts an otherwise brilliant exposition by Sieghart, an "international arbitrator and consultant" who wrote "The International Law of Human Rights" (1983). In this shorter non-technical work, he traces the growth of "human rights" from an allegorical village through priests, princes, Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment to the modern sovereign state.