The Enforcement of Human Rights

In the socio-economical evolution the humankind has gone through, human rights developments has made some change for preservation of human dignity and protection of people. Nonetheless much is yet to be done and human rights is still the prevailing issue of the 21st century.

Looking at the international documents on human rights law one can observe “lofty and noble promises” in a human rights system tattered with gaps and inability when it comes to enforcing the promised. The prevailing question arises – what is Justitia without her sword if you leave the law without a proper enforceability mechanism? Left powerless the system relies on voluntary compliance of the states to uphold promises in conducting national legislative measures in accordance to international law and signed treaties.

“Most international human rights institutions are generally limited to monitoring state compliance and promoting adherence to underdeveloped international standards through dialogue, condemnation, and moral suasion.”

This leaves the most vulnerable – individuals, to the human rights violations – conducted by states or/and large enterprises, at risk of not finding the justice as can bee seen in Chevron/Texaco cases. If the perpetrating enterprise is in contractual relationship with the state itself, as is in the Chevron case, it leaves no choice in seeking justice for the individuals suffering from the human rights violations and environmental atrocities. It is obvious from the biggest environmental decay in history that caused indigenous people of Ecuador their homes and lives, was not enough to change anything whatsoever, as up until this day since the first litigation started in 1990, the company fled the responsibilities and continues its operation as good as ever.

Effectivity in realizing human rights is hindered by four factors described by Douglas Donohu. Namely, absence of institutional attributes that would encourage states to respect human rights, absence of categorising among the rights in regard to enforcement methods, failure to pursue governmental accountability for violations, and absence of economic, political and social incentives that would promote compliance of the states. As the author states the system is designed for failure and in my opinion this inability plagues other spheres of international law such as company law, where Chevron could easily transfer its assets to another country, create a new company under a new name and flee all the charges. Every court available around the globe, even including arbitration centers such as ICC, was tried by Ecuadorians to no prevail as enforcing the court order proved its difficulties/impossibilities.

International law relies much on conscience of  the States in creation, implementation and enforcement of principles that would curb noncompliance, the question whether there is an effective global accountability mechanism, or, rule-of-law abiding every State, is debatable. However as a legal reform proposal can prove to be an idealistic or positivistic approach, the issue of human rights compliance must be tackled from both legal perspective and social incentive. An example to that is the MBA oath which could spark an obligation to honor human rights law and morality in future stakeholders’ minds. “Lessons for reform should be drawn in this regard and developing enforcement alternatives that focus on individual accountability for a fairly narrow range of rights over which international consensus exists.”