The United Nations and the protection of Human Rights: An analysis of issues and Institutional Mechanisms

Published date01 June 2011
Date01 June 2011
Subject MatterArticle
The United Nations and the protection of
Human Rights: An analysis of issues and
Institutional Mechanisms
T.V.G.N.S. Sudhakar*
(Paper presented in the UGC National Seminar on 'The United Nations in the
Twenty-first Century', organized by the Department of International Relations,
School of International Relations and Strategic Studies, in March 2005 held at
Jadavpur University.)
Since the times immemorial, every individual has certain basic inviolable
rights and these are recognized in natural law. In the modern era the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is considered to be a
landmark human rights instrument in the assertion of the basic and
fundamental human rights such as right to life, liberty, and equality.
The present paper at the outset addresses the role of United Nations
(UN) in the protection of human rights and discusses it in the light of
certain related issues such as, The Concept of Non-Derogable Rights; The
Fundamental Standards pf Humanity; The Growing Convergence of
International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law; humanitarian
intervention; Monitoring the Implementation of Law and Accountability
and Impunity. It next examines the main UN Institutional Mechanisms that
play an active role in the context of protection of human rights. It included,
Charter-based Mechanisms: the Security Council; Economic and Social
Council (ECOSOC) and the Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) and
other Treaty-Based Mechanisms.
Finally, the paper concludes with some possible recommendations to be
ensured for the effective enforcement of human rights by the UN.
* Associate Professor, West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences.
The United Nations and the Protection of....lnstitutional Mechanisms
The Development of International Human Rights Law
]" very State has an obligation to respect and ensure the enforcement of
international human rights and humanitarian law norms which include
those contained in treaty law and found in customary international law.1
The subject of human rights deals with the relationship between State
and individuals. The modern human rights movement had began
immediately following World War II. Human rights were recognized at the
international level in the immediate post-World War It era because; rights
were most at risk during the war.
It is estimated, in World War I civilian casualties were at five per cent,
but World War II it was increased to forty-eight per cent. During World
War II civilians were the prime targets of combatant attacks. "Of the 50
million persons killed, it was estimated that 26 million were in the armed
forces while 24 million were civilians, including many women".2
Therefore, protection of human rights became a matter of priority to the
international community and led to the development of international
human rights and humanitarian law. Largely in response to the atrocities of
the war, the UN Charter, drafted in 1945, embraced the principle that
certain universal human rights existed and must be respected. The result of
the recognition of human rights by the UN, even beyond their individual
state, individuals had another protectorate of their rights in the framework
of international law.
It must be understood, "Prior to the Charter's universal protection of
human life, the dominant theory controlling human interaction with states
was the more localized social contract theory, whereby the rights possessed
by individuals were the rights given to them by their respective state".3
1. Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims
of Violations of international Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Annex to the
Right to Restitution, Compensation and Rehabilitation for Victims of Gross Violations
of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Final reporfofthe Special Rapporteur,
Mr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, submitted in accordance with Commission resolution 1999/
33, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2000/62 (2000), at para 1.
2. Francoise Krill, "The Protection of Women in International Humanitarian Law",
International Review of the Red Cross, no.249 (1985),
3. The United Nations human rights "entitlements" : the right to development analyzed
within the application of the right of self-determination", Georgia Journal of
International and Comparative Law, Vol.31, (2003) at p.324.

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