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The Slave Trade and the Origins of International Human Rights Law$
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Jenny S. Martinez

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195391626

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780195391626.001.0001

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(p.3) Chapter 1 Introduction
The Slave Trade and the Origins of International Human Rights Law

Jenny S. Martinez

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents an overview of the slave trade courts and the abolition of slave trade. Slave trade courts were the first international human rights courts. Called the “Mixed Commissions” because they consisted of judges from different countries, slave trade tribunals sat on a permanent, continuing basis, and they applied international law. Slavery and the slave trade are among the few universally acknowledged crimes under international law. In line with this, the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade remains one of the most successful episodes in the history of international human rights law. Historical evidence suggests that slavery was eliminated by people who had come to believe it was morally wrong. It was eradicated in part by military force and by coordinated international legal action, including international courts.

Keywords:   slave trade courts, transatlantic slave trade, Mixed Commissions, international law, human rights law, slavery

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