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United Nations as a Watch Dog Of Human Rights

What Are Human Rights?

Broadly speaking human rights may be regarded as those fundamental and inalienable rights which are essential for life as a human being. Human rights are the rights which are possessed by every human being, irrespective of his or her nationality, race, religion, sex, etc., simply because he or she is a human being. Human rights are thus those rights which are inherent in our nature and without which we cannot live as human being.

Human rights and fundamental freedoms allow us to fully develop and use our human qualities, our intelligence, our talents and our conscience and to satisfy our physical, spiritual and other needs. They are based on mankind's increasing demand for a life in which the inherent dignity and worth of each human being will receive respect and protection.[1]

Since human rights are not created by any legislation, they resemble very much the natural rights. Any civilized country or body like the United Nations must recognize them. They cannot be subjected to the process of amendment even. The legal duty to protect human rights includes the legal duty to respect them. Members of the U.N. have committed themselves to promote respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.[2]

It has been aptly remarked A human right violation is now conceived as a violation of not only of those personally and directly aggrieved but of everyone.

The United Nations has repeatedly emphasized the need to integrate human rights into the broad range of its activities. It is essential to recognize the potential of almost all UN human rights mechanisms and procedures for contributing to the protection and promotion of children's rights.[3]

United Nations And Human Rights

U.N. Charter and Human Rights

The Charter of the United Nations represents a significant advancement so far as faith in and respect for human rights is concerned. The appalling atrocities of the Nazis against the Jews and against other races during the Second World War led to a strong movement for the international protection of fundamental human rights, and the Charter contains numerous references to them.[4]

What is the role of the United Nationsfor the monitoring of human rights?

At the international level, various bodies within the United Nations system monitor the compliance of states with their human rights obligations.

A short overview:
These are in particular the so-called treaty bodies, but also the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and the Security Council. International human rights NGOs are likewise essential for monitoring human rights practices. On the regional level, the organs of the European, Inter-american, and African human rights protection system are important since the rulings of regional human rights courts are binding for the member states.[5]

The provisions concerning human rights run throughout the U.N. Charter like a golden thread.[6]

Provisions Of The Charter Concerning Human Rights

Human rights would occupy a significant chapter in any story of the U. N. Their place in the original conception of the U.N. is underlined in the charter and there are as many as seven
references in The Preamble; among purposes of the U.N. (article1.3),among the responsibilities of the General Assembly [Article 55 (c)];among the objectives of the International EconomicCo-operation [Article13(2)]; among the functions of the ECOSOC[Article 62(2)] as a responsibility of one ECOSOC's Commission (Article 68); and among the objectives of the Trusteeship system [Article 76(c)]. The provisions of the U.N. Charter concerning human rights providehuman rights. They indicate the wide possibilities of the international recognition of human rights.[7]
  1. How does the UN promote and protect human rights?

    The United Nations (UN) system has two main types of bodies to promote and protect human rights: Charter Bodies and Treaty Bodies.

    Charter Bodies are established under the UN Charter in order to fulfill the UNs general purpose of promoting human rights. They have broad mandates that cover promoting human rights in all UN member states.

    • The Human Rights Council

      The principal UN Charter Body responsible for human rights is the Human Rights Council (HRC). The General Assembly established the HRC in 2006, in the hope that it would be more efficient and effective than its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission. Forty-seven UN member states sit on the HRC. One of its main purposes is to review the human rights record of every UN member state once every four years and to make recommendations for improvement. Australia is not currently a member of the Human Rights Council.
    • Office Of The United Nations High Commissioner For Human Rights

      The Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), a department of the United Nations Secretariat was established following the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993. Its role is to prevent human rights violations and secure respect for human rights by promoting international cooperation and coordinating the United Nations' human rights activities. The OHCHR conducts a very broad range of activities from is headquarters in Geneva. It also works directly in areas where there are severe human rights violations though field offices and as part of UN peace missions.

      Treaty Bodies have responsibility for monitoring and promoting compliance with a particular human rights treaty. As such they are only concerned with countries that are a party to that treaty.

      A number of human rights treaties have established treaty-monitoring bodies to supervise the implementation of treaty obligations by State Parties;
    • High Commissioner for Human Rights

      The commission on Human Rights established by the Economic and Social Council in February, 1946 was the nearest approach to permanent machinery for the supervision of the problem of protection[8] of human rights,. It was one of the six Functional Commissions established by the Economic and Social Council. Under its terms of reference, the Commission was directed to prepare recommendations an d reports on:
      1. An international Bill of Human Rights;
      2. International conventions or declarations on civil liberties;thestatus of women, freedom of information and similar other matters;
      3. The protection of minorities;
      4. Other matters concerning human rights.

        The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) lead responsibility in the UN system for the promotion and protection of human rights. The office supported the human rights components of peacekeeping missions in several countries, and has many country and regional offices and centres. The High Commissioner for Human Rightsregularly commented on human rights situations in the world and had the authority to investigate situations and issue reports on them.

        The General Assembly decided to replace U.N. Human Rights Commission by Human Rights Council vide its resolution 60/251 of 15 March, 2006. U.N commission on Human Rights was often criticized for its system of election. It was not elected by all the members of the General Assembly.
    • Human Rights Council

      The Human Rights Council, established in 2006, replaced the 60-year-old UN Commission on Human Rights as the key independent UN intergovernmental body responsible for human rights. The General Assembly also decided that the council will assume, review and were necessary improve and rationalize all mandate, mechanisms, functions and responsibilities of the commission on Human Rights in order to maintain a system of special procedures, expert advice and complaint procedures. The council shall complete this review within one year after the holding of its first session.
    • Human Rights Treaty Bodies

      The human rights treaty bodies are committees of independent experts that monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties.The creation of a body of international human rights law is one of the United Nations' great achievements. The United Nations has helped negotiate more than 70 human rights treaties and declarations—many focused on the rights of vulnerable groups such as women, children, persons with disabilities, minorities and indigenous peoples.

      Together, these treaties and declarations have helped create a culture of human rights throughout the world, providing a powerful tool to protect and promote all rights. In accordance with the treaties, States parties have set up treaty body committees that may call upon States to respond to allegations, adopt decisions and publish them along with criticisms or recommendations.[9]
    • Special Procedures

      The special procedures of the Human Rights Council are prominent, independent experts working on a voluntary basis, who examine, monitor, publicly report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective.
    • UNDG-HRM

      The UN Development Group's Human Rights Mainstreaming Mechanism (UNDG-HRM) advances human rights mainstreaming efforts within the UN development system.
  2. Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect

    The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide acts as a catalyst to raise awareness of the causes and dynamics of genocide, to alert relevant actors where there is a risk of genocide, and to advocate and mobilize for appropriate action; the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect leads the conceptual, political, institutional and operational development of the Responsibility to Protect.[10]
  3. universal Declaration Of Human Rights

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights[11] was adopted by the General assembly by a vote of 48 to nil with eight abstentions.[12]The declaration has been hailed as an historic event of the profound significance and as one of the greatest achievements of the United Nations.[13] The declaration on Human Rights was prepared by the commission on Human Rights in 1947 and 1948 and was adopted by the General Assembly on December 10, 1948. When the declaration of Human Rights was adopted, it was a most eloquent expression of hope by a world emerging from the most devastating war in the history of human race.

    Preamble Of The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights

    One of the main reasons for the inclusion of the provisions concerning human rights in the U.N. Charter was the bitter experience which the mankind had undergone during the First and second world Wars when large scale violations of human rights were made. That is why the preamble of the United Nations Charter expresses the determination to save succeeding generations from the scourge of the war and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women. Thus, large scale violations of human rights during two world wars, especially the Second World War, including the Nazi atrocities were fresh in the minds of the framers of the U.N. charter.

    That is why, one of the first decisions that the general assembly took was to prepare an International Bill of Human Rights and for thi purpose asked the Economic and Social Council for a study by the Commission of Human Rights. The large scale violations of human rights including the Nazi atrocities were also fresh in the minds of those drafted and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These are echoed in every word of the Preamble to affirm their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human too, it to be the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
  4. United Nations Human Rights Council

    The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a United Nations System inter-governmental body responsible for promoting and protecting human rights around the world.[14]Its 47 seats are filled by member states elected for three-year terms.

    The UNHRC is the successor to the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR, herein CHR), and is a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly. The council works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and engages the United Nations special procedures.
    • Special procedures
      Special procedures[15] is the general name given to the mechanisms established by the Human Rights Council to gather expert observations and advice on human rights issues in all parts of the world. Special procedures are categorized as either thematic mandates, which focus on major phenomena of human rights abuses worldwide, or country mandates, which report on human rights situations in specific countries or territories. Special procedures can be either individuals (called Special Rapporteurs or Independent Experts), who are intended to be independent experts in a particular area of human rights, or working groups, usually composed of five members (one from each UN region). As of September 30, 2016 there were 43 thematic and 14 country mandates.[16]

      The mandates of the special procedures are established and defined by the resolution creating them.[17] Various activities can be undertaken by mandate-holders, including responding to individual complaints, conducting studies, providing advice on technical cooperation, and engaging in promotional activities. Generally the special procedures mandate-holders report to the Human Rights Council at least once a year on their findings.[18]

    • World Conferences and Summits
      The standards articulated in the international covenants and conventions have been reinforced through declarations and plans of action that have emerged from a series of World Conferences organized by the United Nations. These conferences have gained importance as real forums for deciding on national and international policy regarding such global issues as the environment, human rights and economic development. They focus world attention on these issues and place them squarely on the global agenda.

      UNICEF's work in the area of child rights is informed by the World Summit for Children (1990), as well as by the World Conference on Education for All (1990), the World Conference on Human Rights (1993), the World Summit for Social Development (1995), the Fourth World Conference on Women (1995), the Millennium Summit (2000), and the World Summit and Special Session on Children (2005). The 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, in particular, recognized that the human rights of children constitute a priority for action within the United Nations system. At the 2005 Special Session on Children, Member States committed themselves to improving the situation of children.

    • Other mechanisms for protecting human rights
      The United Nations promotes respect for the law and protection of human rights in many other ways, including:
Monitoring the human rights records of nations: The treaty body committees receive technical, logistical and financial support from the United Nations. The United Nations also has an Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is mandated to promote and protect the enjoyment and full realization by all people of human rights.

Appointing special procedures to address specific country situations or broader issues: The United Nations may also appoint experts (sometimes titled special rapporteurs, representatives or independent experts), to address a specific human rights issue or particular country. These experts may conduct studies, visit specific countries, interview victims, make specific appeals and submit reports and recommendations.

These procedures include a number of child-specific procedures and many broader procedures which increasingly make reference to children's rights. Child specific procedures include the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the impact of armed conflict on children.
Many broader procedures increasingly include references to children's rights in the context of their particular mandates.

Such procedures include the Special Rapporteurs on the right to education; on torture; on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; on violence against women; on freedom of religion or belief; and on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; and also an Independent Expert on human rights and extreme poverty.

Country-specific Special Rapporteurs:
who focus on the human rights situations in particular countries and regions and can receive individual complaints-and the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons have also singled out violations of children's rights. Some other relevant mechanisms include Working Groups on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and on Arbitrary Detention.[19]

  1. Fawcett J.E.S, The Law of Nations (Alien Lane, The Penguin Press, London, 1968), p.151
  2. Lauterpacht, International Law and Human Rights, op cit, at p.152
  4. BrieflyJ.L., The Law Of nations, Sixth Edition (1963), p.292
  6. Humphrey, The U.N. Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Laud (ed). The International Protection of Human Rights (London 1967).
  7. OppenheimL. , International Law, Vol.1, Eighth Edition (1970), Edited by H. Lauterpacht. p. 783;
  8. BrownieJan, Principles of Public International Law, Second Edition(1973), p.554
  11. Gen. Ass.Resolution 217-A (111) of 10nDecember, 1948: Gen. Ass. Official Records, Third Session, Part I, Resolutions (U.N. Dec.A/810) pp. 71-77.
  12. The eight absententions were: Bylorussian, SSR, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Ukranian SSR, USSR and Yugoslavia.
  13. Lauterpacht,Sir H. International Law and Human Rights, p.394.
  14. About the Human Rights Council.Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  15. History of the United Nations Special Procedures Mechanism. Universal Rights Group
  16. Special Procedures of the Human Rights
  17. Policy Report: UN Human Rights Council resolutions. Universal Rights Group.
  18. Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council.Section Annual reports.International Justice Resource Center

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