This introductory chapter first sets out the focus of the book, namely how courts might perform the task of adjudicating disputes as to the content of human rights and their application to concrete situations. Because the most developed jurisprudence on the content, scope, and application of human rights law is in Europe and the United States, this book looks primarily, but not exclusively, at decisions from the United States and from European courts such as the House of Lords in the United Kingdom and particularly the European Court of Human Rights, which has handled more human rights disputes than all other international courts combined over the entire course of human history. The chapter then discusses the expansion of the range of asserted universal human rights and the use of courts to protect those rights—a phenomenon that took wings in the last quarter of the 20th century.
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