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International Human Rights Law – Application, Impact & Relevance – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

International Human Rights Law – Application, Impact & Relevance

Session Report
Priyanka Negi

LPPYF Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship is an Online National Summer School Program, a Two- Month Online Immersive Legal Awareness & Action Research Certificate Training Course and Internship Program, from June-August 2023 by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. An informative and interactive panel discussion on International Human Rights Law – Application, Impact & Relevance” was held on the 14th of June 2023 by Dr Vahida Nainar, Independent Researcher, Gender & Human Rights Consultant.

Dr. Vahida Nainar gave an edifying presentation reflecting on the Human Rights Law, their application, impact & relevance. In her opening dialogue she addressed human rights to have been originated from suffering & exclusion by the society & the governing disposition of the time. She further elaborated on the role of human rights as the constitutional guarantees to hold government accountable. Following this she discussed the 4 broad components of the International Human Rights Law. She discussed the European, African and American systems. She also touched upon the National Human Rights commission in India set up under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. 

Application of International Human Rights Law

She talked about the application of the International Human Rights Law maintaining the 3 overseeing, monitoring & accountability mechanisms of the Human Rights Council within the UN. She then proceeded with providing valuable insights on the impact of IHRL. Speaking about the direct & indirect impacts she stated that the impact of IHRL is most seen in the indirect impact rather than the direct ones, which is interventions that protects rights by reinforcing public awareness, exposing violations & bringing it into documenting violations. She cited cases in India that benefitted from these laws such as the Vishakha Judgement & the case of torture in the criminal system.

Shedding some light on the trends seen on Human Rights, she stated that IHRL is often given lower priority to other things such as religious practices or laws as seen in India often because these justify the discriminatory treatment towards women & marginalised people. She mentioned that it is also considered lower to the national laws & that in many cases the national laws are contrary to the Human rights such as the death sentences or the extra-judicial killings.

She followed this up by listing the reasons for IHRL being on the backburner which had points such as- rise in autocratic governments which result in undermining of civil liberties & the marginalized people and the divisive nationalistic rhetoric & identity-based majoritarianism which chips away at the trust between communities thus aiding in harassment, discrimination & violence. She expressed her distress over the national legal system lacking adequate legal anti-discrimination remedies and the shrinking civic space for women who continue to remain subjected to discrimination & violence in the name of traditional values and are therefore denied access to opportunities & resources.

In the context of shrinking civic space she uncovered the alarming concern for the civil society organisations facing increasingly restrictive laws & regulations for their registration, access to funding & participation in public affairs. Human rights defenders received threats both in online & offline space for their legitimate Human Rights defence action often without accountability of their perpetrators.

Those who voice the rights of women, ethnic minorities, gender minorities, migrant refugees or those who work on anti-corruption measures, environmental rights and investigative journalism or opposition to government’s extreme right agenda are increasingly under threat. Either they are in detention or under surveillance & all kinds of regressive measures are imposed against human rights defenders. 

She then brought focus on the relevance of IHRL despite the regional challenges that it faces. She talked about the universality of the law & the expectation of compliance amongst several other reasons that justified the relevance of IHRL & cited examples from Peru & Palestine. She delved into the broad points emphasising on the importance of IHRL. The IHRL provides a common language i.e. rights groups anywhere in the world can invoke the same set of rights expressed in the same language, interpreted in the same way by either by human bodies, regional bodies or courts.

The universality of law has decisively quashed the prospect of any exception to these rights with regards to any geographical region or culture with more than three-quarters of the government having accepted the main Human Rights Treaty. This wide acceptance from the governments helped in asserting the legitimacy of these rights such that the advocacy groups can now assert these rights in holding these governments accountable for what they’ve signed up for as members of the treaty.

The human rights having gained the authority of international law, generates increased expectation of compliance & narrows the difference available to violators. She discussed some more points on the continued relevance of IHRL & concluded this section by stating that the international law cannot only condemn but also help humanity regain its moral compass.

She concluded her presentation by focussing on the importance of IHRL, its potential for direct & indirect impact & the existence of human rights regime with a comparable degree of universality that it provides.

The session ended with cogent discussion on topics such as the Cambodian genocide, Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal, current situation in Ukraine & Russia, political powerplay by America, data privacy & climate change.

Vote of thanks by Swetha Shankar brought the session to an end.

Priyanka is a research intern at IMPRI.

See picture gallery from the session on Instagram: IMPRI (@impriindia) • Instagram photos and videos

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