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Democracy and its Characteristics

Chatham House, London

Event Documents


Dr Shirin Ebadi, Human Rights Activist and Nobel Laureate (2003)
Chair: Christopher Rundle, Research Analyst, Foreign & Commonwealth Office (1963-98)


“Excuses for violation of human rights laws, such as the cultural relativism or ideology of a winning majority, are indefensible and unacceptable. A majority elected to power does not have the right to ignore the rights of minorities.  In essence governments do not derive their legitimacy from the ballot box…but from the framework of human rights laws.” Dr Shirin Ebadi

Dr Ebadi, a former judge, human rights activist and founder of Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran, was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for championing democracy and human rights.