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International Human Rights

Human rights may be inalienable rights but they depend on State actors to enforce through laws and policies. This guide helps you research those laws and policies.

Introduction

Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction. 

G.A. Res. 217 (III) A, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Dec. 10, 1948), https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights.

 

Human Rights Framework

Human rights may be inalienable rights but they depend on State actors to enforce through laws and policies. The international system for the protection of human rights traces its origins to adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights along with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the ICCPR's two optional protocols (Optional Protocol, Second Optional Protocol), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) form the “International Bill of Human Rights.” The UN has designated nine of these treaties as core international human rights instruments, but there are other treaties and legal instruments for human rights. Regional and international oversight bodies work to ensure compliance and provide opportunities for redress and accountability that otherwise may not exist, but becoming party to a treaty or agreeing to oversight by a supranational body is voluntary.  

International human rights courts and monitoring bodies oversee implementation of international human rights treaties. Other sources involved in enforcing human rights include the judicial and quasi-judicial decisions of international and domestic courts on international human rights law; the decisions of domestic and international courts on international criminal law; and analysis and commentary by scholars and others.

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