The Integrated Enforcement of Human Rights


Saunders PQ. The Integrated Enforcement of Human Rights. New York University Journal of International Law and Politics . 2012;45 (1).


The strengths and weaknesses of different human rights enforcement regimes are typically assessed from a vantage point that evaluates each type of mechanism in isolation from others. From this perspective, human rights courts are sometimes regarded as the “gold standard” in human rights enforcement because they possess what their far-more-common enforcement brothers — reporting and monitoring mechanisms — lack: The authority to impose sanctions on states that have violated their human rights obligations. When viewed side by side with human rights courts, reporting and monitoring mechanisms are frequently found wanting.

In fact, however, reporting and monitoring mechanisms have strengths as well as weaknesses. Moreover, they support treaties that have substantive obligations that overlap those found in treaties that are enforced by human rights courts. Once the connections between the treaties are taken into account, it follows that the treaties’ enforcement mechanisms also may impact one another. Viewing enforcement as an integrated phenomenon reveals a much more nuanced and complicated picture of the strengths and weaknesses of different types of enforcement mechanisms than is typically depicted when they are viewed as acting in isolation from one another.

 Recognizing that different regimes of human rights treaty enforcement can be integrated requires re-conceiving the coercive and persuasive influence of mechanisms that have no direct sanctioning authority. Far from being “toothless,” these enforcement mechanisms have the potential to directly impact human rights courts with strong enforcement authority. Moreover, the ability of the courts to identify non-compliant behavior is strengthened through their interactions with other treaties’ reporting mechanisms.

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Last updated on 05/09/2017