The International Human Rights Law


People are social beings, they live together in families, societies and a nation in general, and to live in harmony human beings have an obligation toward each other in the community. Governments acts as a central controlling power to the society,, it has to come up with policies and structures that reinforce the growth of harmony and good relation among community members, some of the rights it offers include right to education, right to good health care, and equal employment right. Since the end of Second World War the global environment got more concerned about internationally recognized human rights; international bodies guided by Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948, the main objective of the declaration was to protect human rights across borders. The declarations as well the international body do not work in isolation however they should collaborate and develop the best way of protecting, enacting and overseeing the observance of law.

The declaration aimed at giving out the basic civil, cultural rights, economic rights, social and political that all human beings are entitled to by the virtue of birth, the declaration does not work in isolation but has other supporting organisations, which include ICCPR, (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), and International Bill of Human Rights. When human beings are born, they are by default entitled to enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedom; when making the conventions, the parties involved (state governments) are included to offer their inputs to the declarations. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognises that there may be some regional and national level human rights activities who advocate for some special rights within an economy, the rights can be accepted; however there is need to ensure that there is no violation of the rights of other people.

The Second World War was an eye opener to local and international human rights players, they came together after the fight and sort to come up with such international human rights whose main or the fundamental focus is the protection of human dignity. Since 1945, a number of conventions, treaties and domestic laws that have been enacted to protect human beings rights; at the domestic level, legislators define the policies and pathways at national level while conventions and treaties deal with the internationally accepted policies. When enacting the policies, the international law on human rights takes centre stage and other regional or domestic rights are seen to build on them. Despite the above notion, there are some issues that have been challenged and some nations decided to take their own way, for instance according to the international human rights law, it offers the right to life. When it comes to the issue of aborting, the law is rather silence making national governments decide the fate on these areas. Other international human rights protection instruments, protocols, conventions, agreements, and declarations; are also considered when developing local policies, it is of importance to get guidance from the internal human rights instruments.

International human rights instruments bound any country which is signatory to respect, protect, and be bound by the laws. The states to the instruments have the mandate of ensuring that their local/domestic human rights protection does not contravene the international set ones, they should not interfere or curtail their citizens from enjoying the international rights as they enjoy the domestic ones. Other than the state governments’ protection, the law expects that there is continuos education to the citizens of a country about their rights and how they are expected to respect other people’s right as they enforce the respect of their own human rights. The state should have mechanisms where an offended person can report a case and get full refuge and his rights respected. At some cases, the law calls for compensation or damage coverage in case some human rights have been violated. International conventions of human rights require a binding country to have the international human rights declaration as some of its domestic human rights; local government are the custodians of international human rights.

In the case that the government has failed to protect the citizens rights as required by international human rights agreements, the aggrieved party can move to court and challenge the government; the party should enforce that his or her right should be respected, implemented, and enforced at the local level.

International human rights declarations do not limit the definition of human rights to a certain tribe or race or otherwise but enforces that they are universal irrespective of nationality, gender, race, age, skin/eyes colour, language, social class, religious believe among other human differences; they should be offered in full thus non-divisible.

The section below discusses the forms and nature of human rights:

The nature of human rights in international law

According to international law, human beings are entitled to enjoy full human rights by virtue that they have been born; the question of where, how, when or condition of the born does not come into play, the plain statement is everyone is entitled to human rights by birth. When handling the issue at an international level, the international law differentiates that under the domestic laws there may be some special rights to a certain population for the interest of a nations, the special rights are not admissible under the international rights but can be enforced in domestic courts

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights made the differentiation of domestic special rights and universal rights, for example, it calls for equal employment irrespective of gender, however it might not enforce affirmative action is favouring a certain gender in a certain country.

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights emphasises that when a country has decided to have some special case of human rights, for example the some affirmative actions, they should be done in good faith, there should be no group that should suffer the law. On the other hand, in case there is a contradiction of the laws then the international human rights law should take the day.

Basic human rights principle

Human rights are built in the lines of human dignity, keeping aside any differences there in; the general concept and the application across the board make them acceptable by different states and people.9 From the virtue of their making, human rights are universal, indivisibles and interdependent; violation of one right might lead to the violation of another. In the case of children, there are some duties that are placed on the community and the parents, the child is expected to be giving its full benefit and any violation can be enforced by guardian or any other interested party.10

Kinds of human rights

Generally, human rights can be classified into four main areas; economic, social and cultural rights civil and political rights; despite the distinction, they are in separate and they interlock at many instances:

Civil and political rights: The rights falls in the bodily integrity and autonomy concepts; they are the main rights under United Nations human rights declarations, which has the main aim of creating dignity and respect to human life; they include rights to life and freedom from genocide.

Economic, social and cultural rights: When the civil and political rights seeks to offer a dignified life, the economic, social and culture right guarantee human beings the right to have a well lived life where they have peace, wealth, property that is protected by the state. The need for the right were propagated by the effects of World War Two; international bodies like UDHR, the ICCPR and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) were the main organisations who formed the nature and the approach of rights, rights included the right to have property and the protection of the property by the state. When someone is born in a certain state should take care of the person and by default accept that the human rights and freedom has started to accrue to the person.

Solidarity rights: As societies develop, there is need to adjust human rights to fit the needs of human beings; in 1970s, saw the development of ‘third generation’ human rights or ‘rights of solidarity’; the right are aimed at binding nations to hold to a certain right and respect certain conventions at national level. In case of a violation, state governments are held accountable, the rights include environmental and refugees rights.

In the real situation, there are times that the above three kinds of human rights can be seen operating in people at different extents; some may mean much to someone depending with the circumstances of the case. For example a child may have his rights more inclined to Civil and political rights than the case would be on solidarity rights. Such situation are accepted and allowed by the international rights; in most cases, when one right has been violated, another right also is violated; for example when the right to accumulate wealth is denied, then the right to live a happy life may have been denied also but indirectly.

State obligations arise from human rights

Under the international rights, the following are the duties of states binding to international legal rights:

  • the duties to respect the conventions and uphold to them, states are custodians of human rights laws and conventions, they should thus respect and ensue they are upheld in the communities
  • to protect and ensure that the right are respected; this is done through enacting such policies that can respect and see the adherence of the laws, they include education bodies, courts and dispute resolution mechanisms
  • Fulfil, ensure that the right have been implemented and adhered to; in the case of dispute, the state should protect the rights in all lengths.

The above obligations mandate a state to obliged to refrain from interfering and limiting the enjoyment of the rights, state bodies are expected to be the custodians of international human right and when making and protecting their domestic rights, then they should ensure that they are in line with the international rights. In the case that domestic rights are not in line with the international ones, then the international rights take the upper hand and stand.

Promotion and protection of human rights (by states)

Article 56 of the UN Charter mandates a country in its constitution and criminal law to enact and include such policies that can protect, uphold and respect the international human rights declaration; some of the provisions required include the respect of Genocide Convention. To ensure that citizens understand and uphold to the needs of international human rights, governments are expected to enact such policies that supports the rights and creates awareness, they include education of human rights for example United Kingdom’s Human Rights Act of 1998, acknowledges the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France on admissibility of citizenship.

Promotion and protection of human rights (Regional Human Rights Systems)

To promote the respect for human rights, international laws and the UN recognizes three main areas that the right should be protected in; they are Europe, the Americas, and Africa. Due to the differences in regions, size, economic developments, the three main areas are allowed to develop their own regional rights that they have the duty of enforcing the rights, when doing this; they should always have the international rights in mind. The following in the operations of the three arms of regional human rights system:

The European System

Since the mid-1950s, the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) was enacted under the ECPHR (European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights) to enact policies that facilitated the enactment and respect of international human rights at national and international level; in article 3, the convention requires all nation states to abide and respect international human dignity.

The European Convention’s commitment clause mandates all state nations to respect fundamental human rights and freedom; to have the approach at an international level, the European Court of Human Rights, has the powers of listening to any violation from a state government. The main aim of the European Convention is to ensure that human rights and freedom have become universal in the union and every nation agrees to respect and implement a list of rights. Since there are some differences in the states that might call for investigation, mediation, and adjudication of human rights complaints, the European Convention opens a door for such exercises and ensures that justice has been done on the party that had been aggrieved. Any country that is bound by European convention is answerable to the convention’s council and they are expected to adhere to the provisions of international human rights, on the other hand, in case there is a special need, then each state may come up with such a right but should consult the council.

The Inter-American System

In 1948, 21 states enacted the Organization of American States (OAS) charter; the charter was aimed at ensuring that there is democracy, liberty, and equality among states, every state was mandated with the task of ensuring that their states has respect to human rights and fundamental human freedom.

In the Inter-American system, article 3 shares the same definition of human rights and fundamental freedom as that of international human rights conventions; the charter acts under the frameworks of two declarations as ADRDMA (American Declaration of the Rights) and Duties of Man and the American. At the administration level, there is the IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) and the IACHR (Inter-American Court of Human Rights), which were established in 1959 and 1961 respectively to oversee the respect of Americans human rights and fundamental freedom. The following are the main functions of the commissions:

  • In cases of individual petitions on any human rights issue, they should look into the matter in a way that the parties concerned are satisfied.
  • Periodically, they are expected to have publications that advice on human rights protocols and gauge the rate of compliance in the country.
  • They are mandated with the task of ensuring member states fulfil the obligations required by the states; they include visitation and general management of the system.
  • Have periodical that advice and elaborate on certain areas that have come up or where some challenges seem to have been seen.
  • In case of conflict that might require a legal interpolation, they are allowed to offer such guidance and recommendations as they find fit.
  • Collaborate with Inter-American Court of Human Rights, on areas that might need legal redress or enforcement.

The African System

AFCHPR (African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights) of 1981 adopted the Organisation of African Unity; the unity was mandated with ensuring that the Africans have been well trained on their fundamental rights and freedoms then going further and ensuring that they have been enacted and such policies that facilitate full respect of the rights have been received accordingly.

Other than the unity of Africans, there are other African Union policies and conventions that seeks to protect the rights of the Africans, the continents is slightly lagging behind but can be seen improving its operations of late. Despite the backwardness of the continent, there are some regional integrations that enforce the laws they include EAC (East Africa Community) and SADDAC.

The Role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

OHCHR’s has the main role of ensuring that all protocols, human rights and fundamental freedoms established under United Nations Charter has been respected, the following are the main areas that he addressed. In addition, OHCHR’s work on the issue of business and human rights is focused on three areas:

  1. Have the powers to enact human rights that should be respected by the business community such as corporate social responsibilities. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is mandated to educate and ensure that the business community understand the conventions of human rights to facilitate their respect
  2. Advising the business community on human rights and their implications, business community are seen as a stakeholder in the enactment of human rights, some of the rights that affect them include labour rights, discrimination rights among others
  3. An active member of United Nations Global Compact: to ensure that the global spheres of life respect human rights and fundamental freedoms; in current globalising world, OHCHR ensures that human rights are respected across all nations.


Human rights are universal, indivisible, and apply across the board irrespective of human beings social, economical, cultural, or national differences; they are enacted to maintain, guarantee, and protect dignity of human beings; international human rights law aims at developing such policies that can be enforced and adhered in the efforts of maintaining human rights. Despite the international human rights being the main source of fundamental human freedom and rights, it accepts that there may be some special cases, that can be justified, that calls for the establishment of certain special human rights at domestic level. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is the oldest body that currently works under the frameworks of United Nations to oversee the implementation and respect for human rights; at regional level, three main arms as European System, Inter-American System, and African System represent it; the systems are expected to respect protocols, conventions, and agreements of human rights. States have the role of protecting and promoting fundamental human rights; they are expected to draft their local human rights legislations with the international human rights law in mind, there should not be a contradiction. Human rights systems at international, regional or domestic level are expected to have a mechanism of solving violation disputes that might occur among parties.

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DemoEssays. "The International Human Rights Law." December 30, 2022.