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Use of International Law to Protect Human Rights Essay

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1. Introduction

Treaties are the highest source of international law besides jus cogens norms that have binding effect on the parties that ratify them.2 International human rights treaties rely on the “name and shame” mechanisms to pressure states to improve practices.3 However with “toothless” international human rights norms, moral coercion is not always effective. An empirical study conducted by Professor Oona Hathaway assessing the effect of human rights treaty ratification on human rights compliance, maintains in its findings that ratification of human rights treaties has little effect on state practices.4 States do not feel pressured to comply and change their practices, rather, signing treaties is “more likely to offset the pressure rather than augment it.”5 So, is it time to abandon human rights treaties and remit protection of human right to domestic institutions. Hathaway posits elsewhere that despite this treaties “remain an indispensable tool for the promotion of human rights.”6 Instead of getting rid of the treaty system, it is necessary to enhance the monitoring and enforcements mechanism to strengthen the human rights regime to ensure compliance.7 This article evaluates the extent to which international law serves as a useful tool for protection of human rights.


2. Development of Human Rights Protection

States ratify human right treaties to enter into agreements and commit each other to respect, protect and fulfill human rights obligations. However, the adherence to human rights treaties is not ensured by the same principle of reciprocity instead to ensure compliance, collective monitoring and enforcement mechanisms were introduced.8 International organizations and treaty ...


... middle of paper ...


... Berkeley Journal of International Law 256
44 Ann Janette Rosga and Margaret L. Satterthwaite, ‘The Trust in Indicators: Measuring Human
Rights’ (2009) 27 Berkeley Journal of International Law 253, 257
45 Oona Hathaway, ‘Do Human Rights Treaties Make a Difference?’ (2003) 112 Yale Law Journal
1935, 2025
46 Allan Rosas, ‘States Sovereignty and Human Rights: towards a Global Constitutional Project’ in
David Beetham, Politics and Human Rights (OUP 19995), 62
47 Justin Conlon, ‘Sovereignty vs. human rights or sovereignty and human rights?’ (2004) 46
Race and Class 75,
48 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted 10 December 1948 UNGA Res 217 A(III) (UDHR), Art 1
49 Robert McCorquodale, ‘A Future for Human Rights Law’ in Mashood A Baderin and Manisuli
Ssenyonjo, International Human Rights Law: Six Decades after the UDHR and Beyond (Ashgate
2010), 544



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