So I stumbled onto an interesting piece on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the United Nations Human Rights Committee. While all of the points were solid, the following two are my biggest gripes against the UNHRC. [You can read the full article here: http://clg.portalxm.com/library/keytext.cfm?keytext_id=122 ]
No Enforcement Power
The Human Rights Committee cannot enforce its views. Assuming that member states even file reports, they can easily ignore Committee views. In fact, rather than increase a state’s support of human rights, an individual’s appeal to the Committee may even have a perverse effect. Robertson says that death row inmates are sometimes targeted for execution precisely because they have filed a complaint with the Committee. Without any mechanism to enforce Committee views, states will have little incentive to take the Committee’s views seriously.
Not Focused on Individual Rights
The “Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” focuses on state duties toward individuals and not individual rights against states. It has no power as a court to protect individual rights. It cannot compel or even pressure states to abide by their Covenant duties. The Committee needs some way of protecting individual rights rather than simply encouraging states to do their duty. There also needs to be some way of putting pressure on states to live up to the Covenant’s standard of human rights.
So what are the solutions? How can we benefit from international human rights provisions if they are ultimately unenforceable and their remedies rarely trickle down to the actual people? Is international law just an abstract concept that can only threaten states but have very little jurisdiction or real authority?
In all fairness there have been major successes of the UNHRC in recent years. [Check out this report for more information if you’re interested in that aspect of their work http://www.hrw.org/reports/2011/09/22/keeping-momentum]