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International Human Rights Law
SUNY Buffalo Law School
Melish, Tara J.

Melish: International Human Rights Law Outline Fall 2012

Human Rights Law Exam Outline

– Exam has 2 questions: 1 is a strategy question- you are faced with a human rights case( with detailed facts provided). How would you go approach this?

o Look at second part of the class to help answer this.

o Choose 1 mechanism over another. Explain why its better and more applicable and how it will work to your clients best interest

o Pros and cons of bringing it over a treaty body, over a court of human rights, or before a government and utilize NGO’s

– Question 2:

o Application of relevant legal principle to the case to determine if there is state responsibility ( first half of the semester)

Possible Mechanisms to Respond to A Human Rights Violation

You want to think about humanitarian intervention, bring a case to the un sc, or through one of the regional systems, or use NGOs and the like, or foreign policy…

1. Country Reports

2. Special Rapporteurs

3. NGO investigation

4. State Foreign Policy


a. Use charter based mechanisms

b. Treaty based mechanisms

c. Note: unless you get SC to act non of those mechanism can nbe put into action to get a violation to end. Thus it is not effective


6. Bring A Claim in the International Criminal Court

7. Humanitarian Intervention

1. Country Reports

a. Country Reports ( written up by Department of States) on human rights conditions

b. Creates a new body within the state department- Human Rights Bureau

i. Changed to bureau of democracy, human rights and labor

c. Denies foreign aid or military assistance to states that are guilty of gross violations of human rights.

d. §502B, Foreign Assistance Act of 1961

i. Direct president to administer security assistance in ways that promote HR and avoids identifying US with repressive governments( enforceability- it has a high threshold)

ii. Forbids security assistance where consistent pattern of gross violations

iii. Requires state department to prepare report on HR practices of each proposed recipient of security assistance

iv. Mandates creation of a human rights bureau within the state department

e. §116, Foreign Assistance Act of 1961

i. Prohibits economic aid where consistent pattern of gross violation

1. Except where it directly benefits needy people

f. Use of Voice and Vote in IFIs

i. §701, International Financial Institutions Act

1. Requires US to advance HR by seeking to channel assistance away from governments engaging in pattern of gross violations

a. When US can do this: ( where it has influence)

i. Inter American Development Bank

ii. World Bank

iii. IMG

1. Veto?, effectiveness?, new form of imperialism?( especially in regards to developing countries)

a. Should US wield its significant economic influence?- economic policy is a powerful tool to gain compliance.

b. Other available options

i. 1. Unilateral sanctions ( economic , military, and trade sanctions)- can target sanctions to those who are responsible and not punish the population as a whole

ii. 2. Diplomatic sanctions( close down embassy)

iii. 3. Carrots ( give economic aid for countries that change their conduct in a positive manner). Check membership in human rights council

iv. 4. Possibility of interstate complaints ( but have not been invoked)

g. Human Rights Reporting

i. Section 116D- requirements of securtatr of state to submit annually to Congress, a full and complete report regarding of the status of internationally reqcognized human rights for all un member states

1. Torture or cid

2. Prolonged dentniton without charger

3. Dispearances of people

4. Worker rights

ii. State department must also report

1. Coercion in population control

2. Worker rights

3. Child labor practice

4. Votes of each country on all hrc resolutions

5. Refugee protection

6. Religious freedom violations

7. Acts of anti sentimism

8. Etc( see slides_

iii. Separate reporting requirements

iv. For religious freedom

v. Terrorism

vi. Human trafficking

1. Tip reports- mandatory annual reports on every country with 100+ people trafficked person per year

2. Ranking

a. Tier 1-

, and the Special mandates are individual

1. HRC issues reolution after public debate

2. Special mandates is delegated the authority to do the investigateion and reporting and submit the report ot HRD or general assembly

iii. Benefits of the special rapporter over charter based public debate and communication procedures

1. Have greater flexibility, more expertise, and has an incentive to draw international attention

a. Draws international attention by

i. Providing technical assistance

1. Office of high commissioner on human rights can provide governments with technical assistance in respecting and guaranteeing rights

ii. Training and workshiops

iii. Technical advice

iv. Fellowships

4. UN TREATY BASED Mechanisms

i. Have Periodic reporting requirement

ii. Have Individual collective complains procedures

iii. Inquiry procedures/ precautionary measures

1. Allows treaty body to investigate in systematic pattern of abuses in a treaty


5. NON Governmental Organizations

a. Largely responsibole for launcing the post war human rights movement

i. Help promote human rights provision of the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN Covenantss and other Covenants on human rights

ii. Continue to provide mobilizing force behind major advances in substantive law of human rights

iii. In many respects they have filled the vacuum in enforcement left by reluctant governments

b. Role of NGO’s( page 80 in outline)

i. Do fact finding and framing of the human rights issue (

1. Done by long term on site operations

2. Short term on site visits( most common)

3. Off site information gathering

4. Adjuctive proceedings