International Human Rights

In this article, you will be introduced to the concept of International Human Rights, a vital subject that seeks to safeguard the fundamental freedoms and dignity of every individual across the globe. Initially, you will explore the foundation of International Human Rights Law, delving into key documents that have shaped its development, as well as the vital role played by the United Nations. We will also discuss the significance and celebration of International Human Rights Day, understanding its historical context and the various themes and activities that surround this important global event. Additionally, you will discover the components of the International Bill of Human Rights – the cornerstone of modern human rights principles – and learn about the International Court of Human Rights, its functions, and enforcement mechanisms. Lastly, we will examine the objectives and impact of the International Human Rights Foundation, focusing on its key initiatives and promotion of education and awareness in this crucial area of law.

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Table of contents

    Introduction to International Human Rights

    International Human Rights are the fundamental rights and freedoms that every individual is entitled to, regardless of nationality, gender, race, religion, or any other status. These rights are essential to the dignity and development of each person and are codified in various international agreements and documents.

    The foundation of International Human Rights Law

    The foundation of International Human Rights Law lies in the recognition that each individual has inherent rights and dignity, irrespective of their background or circumstances. The development of this body of law has been gradual, with roots in ancient philosophical traditions, religious texts, and historical events. However, the modern evolution of international human rights law can be traced to the aftermath of World War II, which spurred the global community to establish legal instruments to protect these inalienable rights.

    International Human Rights Law: A set of international legal norms that aim to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals and groups, and to ensure that states respect, protect, and fulfil these rights.

    Key documents in International Human Rights Law

    International Human Rights Law comprises various documents, including treaties, conventions, and declarations. Some of the most important instruments are:

    • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948)
    • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 1966)
    • International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 1966)
    • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979)
    • Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1989)
    • Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT, 1984)

    These instruments provide the legal framework for the protection and promotion of human rights and outline the obligations of states to respect, protect, and fulfil these rights.

    The role of United Nations in International Human Rights Law

    The United Nations (UN) plays a pivotal role in the development and enforcement of International Human Rights Law. Established after World War II, the UN's primary goal is to maintain international peace and security while promoting cooperation in solving international problems. Promoting and protecting human rights is one of the core missions of the UN, as reflected in its Charter and several other legal instruments.

    The UN fulfils its role in International Human Rights Law through:

    • Adopting human rights treaties and supervising their implementation
    • Establishing human rights bodies that monitor state compliance
    • Developing human rights standards in international law
    • Providing technical assistance and capacity-building to states
    • Disseminating human rights information and raising awareness

    For instance, the UN Human Rights Council, established in 2006, is an intergovernmental body responsible for addressing human rights violations and promoting the protection of human rights. It is composed of 47 Member States, elected by the UN General Assembly, and its functions include reviewing and assessing the human rights situation in each UN Member State through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism.

    Other notable UN human rights bodies include the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which helps coordinate UN human rights activities and acts as the secretariat for human rights treaty bodies, and the various UN Special Procedures, which are independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to monitor and report on human rights issues, such as freedom of expression or the rights of indigenous peoples.

    In conclusion, International Human Rights aim to ensure that the fundamental rights and freedoms of every individual are respected and protected. This robust system, built on the foundation of international law, is facilitated by the United Nations and its various instruments and bodies. Understanding the foundational aspects of International Human Rights and the role of the United Nations is crucial in grasping the importance of preserving the dignity and rights of all human beings.

    International Human Rights Day: Significance and Celebration

    International Human Rights Day is observed every year on the 10th of December. It marks the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is a milestone document that, for the first time, set out the fundamental human rights and freedoms to be universally protected for all people, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, religion, or any other status.

    On the 4th of December 1950, the UN General Assembly invited all member states to observe the 10th of December as Human Rights Day (Resolution 423(V)). The purpose of this day is to raise awareness of human rights issues, promote the values enshrined in the UDHR, and encourage people worldwide to stand up for their rights and the rights of others.

    Throughout its history, International Human Rights Day has played a significant role in advancing human rights, raising public awareness, and inspiring action. Notable events that have taken place on or around this day include the adoption of the convention on the Rights of the Child on 20 November 1989, and the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies, which are held annually on the 10th of December in honour of the UDHR's adoption.

    Themes and activities on International Human Rights Day

    Each year, International Human Rights Day is marked with a specific theme that highlights a pressing human rights issue or promotes a particular right. Themes have included gender equality, disabilities, social justice, and the right to education. The United Nations, governments, and various organisations around the world organise events and activities that focus on the chosen theme for that year.

    Some of the past International Human Rights Day themes include:

    ,
    2014Human Rights 365
    2015Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.
    2016Stand up for someone's rights today
    2017Let's stand up for equality, justice, and human dignity
    2018Stand Up for Human Rights
    2019Youth Standing Up for Human Rights
    2020Recover Better - Stand Up for Human Rights

    Activities on International Human Rights Day vary between countries and organisations but often include conferences, seminars, workshops, cultural events, educational programmes, and online campaigns. These activities aim to raise awareness of human rights issues, stimulate discussions, and inspire individuals to take action to protect and promote human rights.

    In 2019, the theme "Youth Standing Up for Human Rights" highlighted the achievements and contributions of young people in promoting human rights. Events and activities focused on empowering young people and highlighting their role as agents of change in advocating for a better future. This included organising forums for young people to discuss human rights issues, launching social media campaigns to amplify their voices, and recognising the work of young human rights defenders.

    In conclusion, International Human Rights Day is a vital occasion to promote the significance of human rights and to inspire citizens around the world to stand up for their rights as well as for others. By observing themed activities and events, individuals and communities can better understand and address pressing human rights issues, ultimately working together to create a more just and equitable world for all.

    The International Bill of Human Rights

    The International Bill of Human Rights is a set of fundamental human rights instruments consisting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Together, these documents form the basis of international human rights law and encompass various rights and freedoms to be universally protected.

    Components of the International Bill of Human Rights

    The International Bill of Human Rights is composed of three main instruments, each of which serves a unique purpose in enshrining and promoting specific categories of human rights. The three components are:

    • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
    • The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 as a response to the atrocities committed during World War II. Although not legally binding, the UDHR holds significant moral and political importance and has laid the foundation for modern human rights law. It consists of a preamble and 30 articles that enumerate various civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, setting the standard for global human rights protection and promotion.

    Some key rights enshrined in the UDHR include:

    • Right to life, liberty, and security (Article 3)
    • Freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 5)
    • Right to fair and public hearings (Article 10)
    • Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion (Article 18)
    • Right to work and to the free choice of employment (Article 23)
    • Right to education (Article 26)

    The UDHR has inspired the development of numerous human rights instruments, national constitutions, and legislations, and serves as the foundation for the International Bill of Human Rights.

    The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

    The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a multilateral treaty that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966 and came into force in 1976. This legally binding instrument constitutes a comprehensive codification of civil and political rights, expanding upon the rights set forth in the UDHR. The ICCPR consists of a preamble and 53 articles that outline state obligations and specific rights, such as the right to self-determination, individual freedoms, and guarantees of due process.

    Some core elements of the ICCPR include:

    • Right to life and prohibition of the arbitrary deprivation of life (Article 6)
    • Freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 7)
    • Right to privacy (Article 17)
    • Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion (Article 18)
    • Right to peaceful assembly (Article 21)
    • Right to participate in public affairs and elections (Article 25)

    The ICCPR is accompanied by two Optional Protocols to strengthen the protection of individual rights. The First Optional Protocol allows individuals to bring complaints against states violating their ICCPR rights, while the Second Optional Protocol aims to abolish the death penalty.

    The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

    The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is another multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966, entering into force in 1976. The ICESCR is a legally binding instrument that encompasses a broad range of economic, social, and cultural rights and complements the ICCPR. It consists of a preamble and 31 articles that outline state obligations, as well as rights related to work, social security, family life, healthcare, and education.

    Key provisions of the ICESCR include:

    • Right to work (Article 6)
    • Right to just and favourable working conditions (Article 7)
    • Right to social security and social protection (Article 9)
    • Right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (Article 12)
    • Right to education (Article 13)
    • Right to take part in cultural life (Article 15)

    While the rights detailed in the ICESCR are considered non-derogable, meaning they cannot be suspended or restricted under any circumstances, their realisation is subject to progressive realisation. This means that states have the obligation to continuously take steps towards their full implementation, bearing in mind the limitation of available resources.

    In conclusion, the International Bill of Human Rights, formed by the UDHR, ICCPR, and ICESCR, is the foundation of international human rights law. This comprehensive set of instruments enshrines a wide range of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights that require states to respect, protect, and fulfil their obligations. Understanding the precise components and provisions of these instruments is essential for grasping the extent of human rights protection worldwide.

    International Court of Human Rights: Role and Functions

    The International Court of Human Rights, also known as the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), is a supranational court established in 1959 by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The ECtHR is located in Strasbourg, France, and its primary role is to ensure that the 47 member states of the Council of Europe adhere to the human rights standards set forth in the ECHR.

    In order to understand the role and functions of the ECtHR, it is essential to cover the following aspects:

    • Jurisdiction and case admissibility
    • Individual applications and state referrals
    • Decision-making process
    • Remedies and execution of judgements

    Jurisdiction and case admissibility

    The ECtHR has jurisdiction to hear cases alleging violations of the civil and political rights set out in the ECHR. Cases can be brought before the court by individuals, groups of individuals, non-governmental organizations, as well as states. However, the court can only consider cases when all domestic remedies have been exhausted, and the application is made within six months following the final decision at the national level. Moreover, the case must concern a right protected under the ECHR, and the alleged violation must have been committed by a state party to the Convention.

    Individual applications and state referrals

    One of the main functions of the ECtHR is to receive, examine, and adjudicate applications alleging violations of the rights protected by the ECHR. There are two types of applications:

    • Individual applications: These are claims submitted by individuals, groups of individuals, or non-governmental organizations who allege that their rights under the ECHR have been violated by a state party. Individual applications represent the majority of cases brought before the court.
    • State referrals: Cases referred to the ECtHR by one state party against another state party, alleging non-compliance with the ECHR. State referrals are relatively rare compared to individual applications.

    Decision-making process

    The decision-making process in the ECtHR typically consists of several stages:

    1. Admissibility stage: After receiving an application, the Court assesses whether the case meets the admissibility criteria. If the case is found inadmissible, it is dismissed at this stage.
    2. Communication: If the application is found to be admissible, the Court communicates the case to the respondent state, requesting its observations on the merits of the case. The applicant is also given the opportunity to provide additional observations.
    3. Deliberation and judgement: Following the exchange of information, the case is examined and deliberated by a chamber of seven judges. The judges then deliver a judgement, which includes findings on the admissibility, merits, and just satisfaction, along with any necessary remedies and compensation for the alleged violations.

    Judgements and enforcement mechanisms of the International Court of Human Rights

    Once a judgement is delivered by the ECtHR, several enforcement mechanisms come into play:

    1. Execution of the judgement: The respondent state is legally obliged to execute the judgement, conforming to the requirements and measures outlined by the court. This may include the payment of just satisfaction to the applicant or implementing general measures to prevent similar violations in the future.
    2. Supervision of execution: The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe supervises the execution of ECtHR judgements. It verifies that the respondent state takes appropriate measures to implement the judgement and addresses any systemic issues identified in the case.

    In conclusion, the International Court of Human Rights or ECtHR plays a vital role in ensuring that states adhere to the human rights standards set by the ECHR. It achieves this through its jurisdiction to hear cases, its examination and adjudication process, and its enforcement mechanisms. By understanding the specific roles, functions, and processes, individuals, groups, and states can utilise the ECtHR as an avenue to hold states accountable for human rights violations and seek remedies for the affected parties.

    International Human Rights Foundation: Objectives and Impact

    The International Human Rights Foundation is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. The foundation aims to raise awareness, educate communities, advocate for policy changes, and support victims of human rights violations.

    Key initiatives of the International Human Rights Foundation

    To achieve its objectives, the International Human Rights Foundation engages in a variety of initiatives, ranging from local grassroots projects to global campaigns. The following key initiatives outline the main areas of work:

    Promoting education and awareness on International Human Rights Law

    Public understanding and awareness of International Human Rights Law are crucial for the protection and promotion of human rights. The International Human Rights Foundation focuses on educating various stakeholders – including policymakers, law enforcement officers, educators, and the general public – on human rights principles, instruments, and practical applications. This initiative includes:

    • Developing and disseminating educational resources and tools, such as guides, booklets, and online courses;
    • Organising workshops, seminars, and conferences to facilitate knowledge sharing and dialogue;
    • Partnering with educational institutions to incorporate human rights education into curricula;
    • Conducting public awareness campaigns through print, broadcast, and social media platforms.

    Advocating for policy changes and legal reform

    Legal reform and policy changes are essential to ensure the proper implementation and enforcement of international human rights standards at the national level. The International Human Rights Foundation engages in advocacy efforts to influence governments and policymakers to adopt human rights-friendly policies, laws, and regulations. This includes:

    • Researching and documenting human rights violations, producing comprehensive reports and policy papers;
    • Engaging with policymakers, stakeholders, and decision-makers through consultations, meetings, and roundtable discussions;
    • Submitting recommendations and shadow reports to United Nations human rights mechanisms;
    • Collaborating with other human rights organisations and civil society groups to build coalitions and amplify advocacy efforts.

    Offering support to victims of human rights violations

    The International Human Rights Foundation is committed to providing assistance to individuals and communities affected by human rights violations. This support comes in various forms, ensuring that the needs of the victims are appropriately met. Key activities under this initiative include:

    • Offering legal aid and representation for victims in national and international courts;
    • Facilitating access to medical care, psychosocial support, and rehabilitation services;
    • Providing temporary shelter and safety for those at risk, including human rights defenders and whistleblowers;
    • Supporting economic empowerment initiatives, such as vocational training and income-generating projects, to help victims rebuild their lives.

    Through these initiatives, the International Human Rights Foundation strives to fulfil its mission of promoting and protecting human rights in a holistic manner, addressing both the underlying causes of violations and the needs of those affected. The foundation's impact is not only tangible, in terms of legal victories or policy changes but also intangible, as its work raises awareness and motivates individuals to stand up for their rights and the rights of others in their communities and beyond.

    International Human Rights - Key takeaways

    • International Human Rights: fundamental rights and freedoms that every individual is entitled to, regardless of nationality, gender, race, religion, or any other status.

    • International Human Rights Law: a set of international legal norms aiming to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals and groups, and to ensure that states respect, protect, and fulfil these rights.

    • International Human Rights Day: observed on 10th December to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and to raise awareness of human rights issues.

    • International Bill of Human Rights: a set of fundamental human rights instruments consisting of the UDHR, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

    • International Court of Human Rights (European Court of Human Rights): a supranational court ensuring that member states of the Council of Europe adhere to human rights standards set forth in the European Convention on Human Rights.

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    Frequently Asked Questions about International Human Rights
    What are the international human rights?
    International human rights are a set of universal principles and norms designed to protect and promote the dignity, equality, and freedom of all individuals, regardless of nationality, race, gender, religion, or other status. These rights are enshrined in various international treaties, declarations and conventions, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. They encompass civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, and apply both to states and non-state actors. States are obligated to respect, protect, and fulfil these rights for everyone within their jurisdiction.
    What are the 7 main international human rights treaties?
    The seven main international human rights treaties are: 1) The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 2) The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), 3) The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), 4) The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), 5) The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), 6) The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and 7) The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW).
    What are examples of international human rights laws?
    Examples of international human rights laws include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). These laws outline the fundamental rights and freedoms to which all individuals are entitled, encompassing civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.
    What are the two main international conventions on human rights?
    The two main international conventions on human rights are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly, and the two binding covenants that emerged from it: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), both adopted in 1966.
    Is the UK still part of the European Convention on Human Rights?
    Yes, the UK is still part of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Despite the UK's exit from the European Union, the ECHR is a separate international treaty managed by the Council of Europe and remains in force. The UK's Human Rights Act 1998 also incorporates the ECHR into domestic law, ensuring the convention's continued significance within the UK's legal system.

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