Human Right Lawyers
Our lawyers are specialized in public international law and have successfully advised and represented clients before the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances and the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances. In addition, our team’s previous professional experience includes the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the United Nation’s International Law Commission.
If a client believes that their human rights have been infringed, our lawyers are prepared to advise on local and international measures. We have acted on behalf of clients all over the globe and have an in-depth understanding of national and international human rights instruments and proceedings.
We apply our human rights expertise to all of our practice areas.
Human Rights Claims – National and International Framework
National Legal Systems
At a national level, human rights safeguards, remedies and enforcement are provided for through domestic legislation. In most cases, national human rights protections emanate from international human rights treaties. When a State ratifies a human rights instrument, it is bound to comply with its provisions and, in many cases, these are incorporated into national legislation.
Today, most States are parties to human rights treaties, both at a universal (Member States of the United Nations) and regional level (Member States of regional intergovernmental organizations such as the Council of Europe, the Organization of American States and the African Union).
Whilst human rights treaty provisions are applied to and bind equally every State signatory to the relevant treaty, their domestic implementation varies significantly. In some States, international treaties automatically become part of the domestic legal system upon ratification. Other States require transposition of treaty provisions into national legislation for them to come into effect. In addition, some legal systems are explicit on the hierarchy of treaty provisions in relation to national legislation while others remain silent, which requires interpretation of domestic customary law and jurisprudence.
Thus, the procedure for claiming a human rights violations domestically varies and necessitates careful consideration of national legislative requirements and jurisprudence. In addition, it is also important to ensure that domestic remedies have been exhausted prior to submitting a complaint to an international tribunal.
International Human Rights Bodies and Tribunals
A State can commit a human rights violation directly or indirectly. A direct human rights violation is the result of intentional conduct of State actors or failure by the State to prevent the violation. On the other hand, an indirect human rights violation occurs when a State fails to take necessary steps to protect individual rights.
The reason of being of international human rights law and tribunals is that the responsibility for protecting and enforcing human rights lies with States and it is unlikely, or at the very least difficult, that a State which does not guarantee basic human rights will punish its own wrongdoing. Thus, the recourse to international courts is essential to ensure both the safeguard of individual rights and States’ compliance with international human right standards.
There are different international human right bodies and courts within universal and regional human rights systems. Each of these courts and bodies have different mandates and enforce different human rights treaties and international standards.
Below are the international human rights courts that decide on individual complaints, each pertaining to different human rights systems:
- UN Human Rights Committee
- UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
- UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
- UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances
- UN Committee on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights
- UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
- UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
- UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- UN Committee against Torture
- European Court of Human Rights
- European Committee of Social Rights
- African Court on Human & Peoples’ Rights
- African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
- African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
- Inter-American Court of Human Rights
- Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
The admissibility criteria for each tribunal varies. However, generally speaking, and subject to specific exceptions, for an international human rights tribunal to have jurisdiction over a complaint, the following must be established:
- The State against whom the complaint is filed is a party to and has ratified the relevant treaty, including any provisions that recognize the tribunal’s jurisdiction.
- The complaint is not precluded by a reservation made by the State to the relevant treaty.
- Domestic remedies have been exhausted.
- The complaint is filed within the tribunal’s application deadline from the final domestic judicial decision.
- The same matter has not been submitted to another international body.
Further requirements include that the complainant has suffered significant harm or a disadvantage.
- Submission of human right claims in domestic proceedings.
- Submission of human rights claims before international human rights tribunals.
- Strategic advice in relation to local and international measures.