By Andrea Lynn History is rich with examples of human rights abuses, but plenty of cases exist today - in Uganda, Rwanda, Bosnia, and possibly Haiti and China, among others. While there is general agreement that abuses occurred and continue to occur, there also is a debate among political theorists, philosophers, sociologists and human-rights activists about whether there is an objective standard or norm by which human rights can be universally justified. In fact, theoretical minds have grappled with the question of justification since the idea of human rights emerged in its modern form from the Enlightenment, and now another voice enters the debate, that of Jan Gorecki, who has written "Justifying Ethics: Human Rights & Human Nature," published recently by Transaction. An expert on the sociology of law, and professor of sociology at the UI since 1970, Gorecki dedicates a section of his book to nine "Christian Poles who helped my mother and me to escape from the Warsaw Ghetto and sheltered us in 1942-1945." In the book, Gorecki critiques the conventional standards for justifying human rights - human nature, divine will and reason - then shows how each can be discounted on analytical or practical grounds. Still, he argues that human nature - with its "innate plasticity" of human behavior and potential for social diversity - is sufficient grounds for human rights activity without objective justification. "Even so, the justification, if well established, would be of immense help." He also discusses the cultural and economic prerequisites for implementing human rights, and takes a shot at postmodernists' "acceptance of truth relativism and, thus, their rejection of objective knowledge," which leads some to "play games with words and logic." In the United States and other liberal democracies "the postmodern truth pragmatism is, of course, not deadly. Nonetheless, its dangers are serious." In a recent interview, Gorecki argued that the United States "has stopped playing the leadership role" with regard to human rights, because, among other things, "it has become paralyzed by internal problems." He also characterized international human rights law as "a terrible set of norms that contradict each other and are extremely vague and ambiguous," primarily because they derive from so-called customary law, treaties and other sources, rather than from "an orderly lawmaking process with bite." However, in his book, he suggests that recent events, including the decline of the most powerful tyrannies, offer a "new chance" for the worldwide incorporation of international human-rights law. "The decline, if answered by well-conceived policies on the part of open societies and especially of the United States - which is a big if indeed - can bring about a new, agreed upon limitation of any nation's sovereignty in favor of an effective, central international organization. And this would entail a better structured system of sources, as well as more energetic enforcement of international law and, especially, of the international law of human rights."