The Security Council makes many decisions that have implications for human rights. This is especially true in connection with peacekeeping and peace-building initiatives. Examples are UN operations in Haiti, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to aviationopedia, the peace operations are aimed in particular at protecting the civilian population from abuses by state military forces and non-state armed groups. Particularly vulnerable groups in war and conflict are women and children, and those belonging to ethnic and religious groups affiliated with parties in conflict. In addition to ensuring that peace agreements are complied with, such operations can also monitor and report on human rights violations.
It was the Security Council that decided to establish the international courts for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. The Security Council may also refer cases relating to war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity to the Permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) . Conversely, it may also decide that the court must postpone an investigation for a period of up to 12 months (which may be renewed), if it deems this necessary for the sake of peace.
The discussions in the Security Council are often difficult, and the great interests of the great powers can lead to the Council being paralyzed. Nor is it the case that Security Council resolutions are always followed up by UN member states, even if they are obliged to do so.
8: Regional human rights systems
In Europe, there are two organizations in particular that work to strengthen the protection of human rights, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE, until 1992: KSSE).
The Council of Europe is primarily based on the legal system to ensure that states safeguard human rights. The OSCE uses political instruments such as diplomacy, mediation and institution building to promote democracy and human rights.
North and South America
The inter-American system was established by the Organization of American States (OAS), which was founded in 1948 and today has 35 member states. In April 1948, the United States Declaration of Human Rights and Duties was adopted, more than six months earlier than the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1959, the OAS decided to establish an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
In 1970, the commission was given the status of one of OAS ‘main bodies. The year before, in 1969, the US Convention on Human Rights had been adopted. When it came into force in 1978, America got a system for complaining about human rights violations reminiscent of the Council of Europe system. The supreme body is the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
In 1981, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) adopted the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Charter entered into force in 1986 and is the cornerstone of African human rights monitoring. The most important body for ensuring that states comply with the Charter is the African Commission on Human Rights . When the Charter was adopted in 1981, it was the first time that African states had independently organized protection of human rights. Previously, such initiatives had largely come only from Western states.
On January 25, 2004, the African Court of Human Rights was formally established, but it was not until 2006 that the first judges were elected. The court has not yet begun to hear cases.
A key provision is that colonized and oppressed peoples have the right to liberation. A people must decide for itself its wealth and its natural resources.
The African Commission on Human Rights can deal with individual complaints of abuse, but protection is weak compared to the European system. States have broad powers to restrict rights. It also turns out that the system often fails when the commission’s decisions are to be implemented.
9: Non-state actors
The UN’s monitoring mechanisms and regional systems are as strong or weak as the states allow them to be. This means that the work of independent international and national human rights organizations to monitor human rights, document and criticize human rights violations is invaluable in strengthening their protection. No matter where in the world it takes place and no matter who is the perpetrator and who is the victim.
How important their work is, unfortunately, is reflected in the fact that human rights defenders in far too many countries are imprisoned, tortured and, in the worst case, killed for silence and to scare others from telling the truth. The UN has adopted a separate declaration protecting their work.
Come to stay
Despite the fact that there are many challenges in securing human rights, more and more people in the world are becoming aware of their human rights and how they can proceed to ensure that they are safeguarded. Modern technology makes it possible to quickly disseminate information about abuse and take action against it.
And the understanding of what human rights are about is constantly evolving and today includes new actors, such as multinational companies and their responsibility to respect human rights. And new groups get stronger protection, such as the disabled.