Human rights violations have happened and continue to happen all the time; so who is responsible for making sure that human rights violations do not take place? And when they do take place, who is responsible for making things right?
Wednesday, 16 November 2022 / Published in
Who is responsible for protecting against human rights violations?
In this context, the word protection can take on a few different meanings. One method of protection against human rights violations is preventing the offenses from occurring. This can be done through various methods, such as establishing laws prohibiting certain violations or setting goals to enhance knowledge about human rights. However, when violations do occur, there are also means of redress. These violations can be redressed in multiple ways, such as prosecuting offenders, or imposing sanctions on offending countries. When violations occur, offenders’ punishment encourages both specific deterrence- ensuring that the offender does not recidivate, and general deterrence- discouraging others from committing violations. One method of prevention is education. There are international documents that establish plans to expand education on human rights. These documents are not legally binding, but set standards and put pressure on national governments to cooperate. Documents that form a worldwide educational policy include the World Plan of Action on Education for Human Rights and Democracy (Montreal 1993), the Declaration and Integrated Framework of Action on Education for Peace, Human Rights and Democracy (UNESCO, Paris 1995), and the Plan of Action for the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education 1995-2004 (1995). These plans have a variety of educational goals. For example, the Plan of Action for the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education focuses on not only formal methods of education but also more widespread methods like mass media. The goals of this plan are a) The strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. b) The full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity. c) The promotion of understanding tolerance and gender equality as well as friendship among all nations, indigenous peoples and racial, national, ethnic, religious and linguistic groups. d) The enabling of all persons to participate effectively in a free society. e) The furtherance of the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace (Plan of Action 1998: 3) (Lenhart & Savolainen, 2002) These documents establish moral guidelines and goals, but the UN security council also developed legally binding multilateral treaties that establish human rights. There are nine main treaties, and nine optional protocol treaties. Some examples include The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Six of these treaties were derived directly from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. When a State Party ratifies a treaty, it becomes law. There are ten treaty bodies made up of human rights experts that monitor the implementation of different treaties. If a party violates a treaty, the UN Security Council may take corrective action. The UN Charter gives the UNSC the authority to investigate and mediate, dispatch a mission, appoint special envoys, and request the Secretary-General to use his good offices. They may also issue a ceasefire directive, dispatch military observers or a peacekeeping force. After The Nuremberg Trials of World War II, the General Assembly of the United Nations, the general policy developer for the United Nations, realized there was a need for an International Criminal Court. The UNGA invited the International Law Commission (established by the UNGA under article 13 of the UN Charter) to draft a statute for a potential international judicial organ. The ILC consists of 34 members of various countries that are recognized as experts in international law, nominated by the Governments of State Members of the UN, and elected by the General Assembly. The UNGA then established the Ad Hoc Committee on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, and later created the Preparatory Committee on the Establishment of the ICC to continue revising the draft. After many meetings and discussions, a draft was developed. The United Nations Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an ICC was held by the UNGA, and in 1998, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was adopted. The treaty came into force on July 1, 2002. 123 countries are State Parties to the Rome Statute. The ICC is intended to be complementary to national criminal jurisdictions in the states that are State Parties. The ICC is a permanent, independent court that only tries crimes when national jurisdictions are either unwilling or unable to do so. A State that is Party to the Rome Statute may request that the Office of the Prosecutor carry out an investigation, or the Office of the Prosecutor opens an investigation on its own with reliable evidence and approval from the Pre-Trial Chamber judges. A State not Party can also accept the jurisdiction of the ICC. The ICC has jurisdiction over the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. These are categories of crimes. The Rome Statute defines five crimes that fall under the category of genocide, eleven that fall under crimes against humanity, and fifty-three that fall under the category of war crimes. Crime of aggression specifically refers to an individual in a position of power acting to gain control over another state in a way that violates the Charter of the United Nations. There are seven crimes that fall under this category. Another example is the implementation of sanctions. Under the Charter of the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council may order enforcement measures to give effect to its decisions. This can include the interruption of economic relations, communications, and diplomatic relations. The UNSC may also decide to set up Sanctions Committees to monitor the implementation of the sanctions. For example, in 1963, the Security Council imposed an arms embargo on South Africa under Resolution 181. This embargo called for all states to cease the shipment of arms, ammunition, and military vehicles to South Africa. It was made mandatory in 1977. The intention of this sanction was to impede South Africa’s ability to produce sophisticated arms economically, and therefore weaken them against the internal resistance of apartheid. However, in practice, these protections are not always effective. Human rights violations are committed by the action or inaction of the government against a group of people. A problem is created when that same government is responsible for preventing or redressing these violations, as governments tend not to punish themselves. In theory, the UN Security Council would take action against these governments if they were to commit offenses, but there is often disagreement among the five permanent members of the UNSC (China, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Russia), and no action is taken.