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The Place of Law In National Development

One of the clauses of the 1215 charter, which has survived till this day, says:

“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice”.

The works of natural law theorists such as Thomas Aquinas, Hugo Grotius, Lord Edward Coke, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Paine further espoused the natural inalienable rights that were granted by the Magna Carta. Grotius famously wrote that “natural law is so immutable that it cannot be altered even by God”, since “He cannot cause that which is intrinsically evil be not evil”. In his 1792 book, “The Rights of Man”, Paine expanded the scope of man’s natural rights to include what he called ‘social rights’ such as; right to education and the right to social security, such as pensions, family allowances and full employment.

Most of these early legal theories were recorded to have contributed to agitations for better living conditions and socio-economic freedom, which later culminated in the enactment of the 1689 English Bill of Rights. The same prompted the 1776 American Revolution and Declaration of Independence, as well as the creation of the American Constitution and the subsequent 1789 Bill of Rights. So also, the French Revolution of 1789 and the resultant Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen were similarly instigated.

Notable Developments On The International Stage

Sir Williams Pitt, who was Prime Minister of Great Britain between 1766 and 1768, once famously declared that “where laws end, tyrannies begin”. So, citizens of nations where authoritarian rule had not given way to the rule of law after the medieval period, continued to suffer from tyranny, apartheid, feudalism and all forms of social and economic slavery.

Unlike in the Western countries of Europe and America (the Global North), where human natural rights had been established through enacted laws and charters of liberty, poverty and underdevelopment were the results of absolutism and authoritarianism that reigned supreme in nations of the Global South, particularly in Asia and Africa.

History records that attempts by certain groups and nations to revolt against the recognition of individual liberty, democracy, rights to freedom of speech and against discrimination, economic right to ownership of property and the right of individuals and countries to trade in the liberalized markets of the global economy, among other factors, eventually led to both World War I & II. As part of global efforts to restore law and order in the post-WWII era, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a set of thirteen articles of global governance, leading in 1948 to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Following the declaration, two other international treaties were formulated – the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols. These two Covenants were in 1966 merged with the UDHR to make up the International Bill of Human Rights (IBHR).