"The Perplexities of the Rights of Man" * (1)

“The proclamation of human rights was also meant to be a much-needed protection in the new era where individuals were no longer secure in the estates to which they were born […] In the new secularized and emancipated society, men were no longer sure of these social and human  rights which until then had been outside the political order and guaranteed not by  government and constitution, but by social, spiritual and religious forces (2).
Therefore throughout the nineteenth century, the consensus of opinion was that human rights had to be invoked whenever individuals needed protection against the new sovereignty of the state and the new arbitrariness of society.
[But] man had hardly appeared as a completely emancipated, completely isolated being who carried his dignity within himself without reference to some larger encompassing order, when he disappeared again into member of a people.
The whole question of human rights, therefore, was quickly and inextricably blended with the question of national emancipation; only the emancipated sovereignty of the people, of one’s own people, seemed to be able to ensure them.
The full implication of this identification of the rights of man with the rights of peoples in the European nation-state system came to light only when a growing number of people and peoples suddenly appeared whose elementary rights were [not] […] safeguarded by the ordinary functioning of nation-states in […] Europe. […]

The Rights of Man, after all, had been defined as “inalienable” because they were supposed to be independent of all governments; but it turned out that the moment human beings lacked their own government and had to fall back on their minimum rights, no authority was left to protect them and no institution was willing to guarantee them. Or when, as is the case of the minorities, an international body arrogated itself a nongovernmental authority, its failure was apparent even before its measures were fully realised .
The stateless people were as convinced as the minorities that loss of national rights was identical with loss of human rights. […] The more they were excluded from right in any form, the more they tended to look for a reintegration into a national, into their own national community. […]
Not a single group of refugees or Displaced Persons has failed to develop a fierce, violent group consciousness and to clamor for rights as – and only as – Poles or Jews or Germans, etc.      
Civil rights - that is the varying rights of citizens in different countries - were supposed to embody and spell out in the form of tangible laws the eternal Rights of Man, which by themselves were supposed to be independent of citizenship and nationality. All human beings were citizens of some kind of political community; if the laws of their country did not live up to the demands of the Rights of Man, they were expected to change them, by legislation in democratic countries or through revolutionary action in despotisms.

The Rights of Man, supposedly inalienable, proved to be unenforceable - even in countries whose constitutions were based upon them - whenever people appeared who were no longer citizens of any sovereign state. "     

*And of Woman, one presumes (fff-note)
(1) Hannah  Arendt – From The Origins of Totalitarianism- (1951)  extracts from the  text reproduced in “The Portable Hannah Arendt” (2003)
(2) as far as those individuals were perceived as being a faithful member of some social or religious group, I would add  (fff-note)

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