There are numerous ways in which international human rights norms are enforced, many of which already have been examined in this blog. Here is at least a partial list of such methods:
- Alleged violators of such rights can be subjected to criminal prosecution by their own national courts, by other nations’ courts under the principle of universal jurisdiction, by so-called ad hoc international criminal tribunals and by the International Criminal Court.
- Alleged violators can also be subjected to civil lawsuits for money damages by national courts as in the U.S. under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victims Protection Act.
- Countries like the U.S. that are parties to certain regional organizations like the Organization of American States can be sued for alleged violations of human rights treaties in bodies like the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
- Complaints about a country’s alleged violations can be reported to special rapportuers with specific subject-matter competence for an investigation and report.
- Countries like the U.S. that are parties to certain human rights treaties like the Convention Against Torture submit reports to treaty bodies for review and recommendations for improving their compliance with the treaties.
- All members of the U.N. are subject to Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the U.N. Human Rights Council and obtain recommendations for ways they can improve their human rights records.
- Victims of certain human rights violations can obtain protection through being recognized as a “refugee.”
- Truth commissions can investigate and promulgate the results of those investigations as the “truth” of past violations which then can be used as evidence in the previously mentioned procedures.
These various institutions or mechanisms operate independently of one another. Other than the first two, they have limited power to force a recalcitrant government to change its behavior. Yet they also are all engaged in an interactive global struggle against impunity for violators of international human rights norms.