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Advanced Introduction to International Human Rights Law

Dinah L. Shelton

In this landmark text, Dinah Shelton offers an insightful overview of the current state of international human rights law: its norms, institutions and procedures, both global and regional. Providing an invaluable entry point to this complex area of the law, and an insightful reference for seasoned experts, the book will prove a useful resource for professors and practitioners of international law. It will also serve as a stimulating introductory text for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses on human rights.
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Compliance and monitoring mechanisms

Dinah L. Shelton


Human rights governance started with a revolutionary concept – that a government’s treatment of those within its power is a matter of international concern – but it began modestly, declaring and defining a set of fundamental rights in the UDHR and ADRDM, leaving to States the choice of means and policies to implement the norms. Human rights compliance mechanisms and enforcement procedures have evolved over time, however, and become gradually stronger with the adoption of global and regional treaties and protocols.

In both national and international legal systems, law making is undoubtedly and deliberately a political process. Various interests press their agendas to obtain favourable decisions on norms they advocate or support. The process may be distorted by powerful groups who intervene by offering financial incentives or disincentives, threatening to withhold support or block other goals of legislators, but legislative decision making is the legitimate and accepted procedure for enacting laws in democratic societies. Once laws are adopted, however, politics supposedly disappear from compliance monitoring and enforcement; the fundamental principle of equality before the law demands fair and principled enforcement.

Numerous international procedures today monitor State compliance with human rights obligations, calling for remedies to individuals and groups whose rights have been violated. Independent monitoring bodies increasingly have investigatory functions and jurisdiction to hear complaints brought by other States and by non-State actors. At the global level, acceptance of such jurisdiction is usually made optional for the States Parties and supplements other international procedures to promote compliance, such...

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