Organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch promote human rights and denounce human-rights abuses. In addition, such abuses around the world are monitored and documented by independent investigators (
special rapporteurs) appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, which, in turn, rebukes cited nations for their human-rights failures. (The council replaced the UN Human Rights Commission, which had been accused of protecting human-rights violators, in mid-2006. Similar accusations have been leveled at the new council, and the United States withdrew from it in 2018 over its criticism of Israel.)
In Europe, the supranational European Court of Human Rights, established under the Council of Europe, is intended to protect individual human rights from government abuse. In the Americas, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, part of the Organization of American States, enforces the American Convention on Human Rights, but individuals cannot appeal directly to the court. The African Union has both the African Commission and the African Court on Human and People's Rights. The former may decide complaints against all parties to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights; the latter has a more restricted jurisdiction.
The charging in 1998 by a Spanish court of former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet with human-rights violations and the 1999 British ruling that he could be extradited to Spain, as well as the indictment and arrest (2000) in Senegal of former Chadian president Hissène Habré for human-rights violations during his presidency (although charges were later dropped, he was subsequently rearrested on a Belgian warrant), were regarded as small steps forward in the international protection of human rights.
See also civil rights; feminism; gay-rights movement; war crimes.
See M. A. Glendon, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2001); A. Fagan, The Atlas of Human Rights (2010); S. Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (2010); A. Neier, The International Human Rights Movement (2012).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: International Law