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Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network

Human Rights Defenders

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

 Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 1

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Hard Law vs Soft Law

General Assembly resolutions fall into the category of “hard” international law and are binding instruments.   The concept that a government must protect against torture or inhuman and degrading treatment is widely accepted by governments and is considered to be customary international law.  Thus a “soft law” can over time become so accepted and customary as to be universally accepted by governments.  The “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (UDHR) is the best example of a soft law (it was adopted in 1948 as a non-binding UN General Assembly Resolution) that is widely considered to have become binding, customary international law.

An example of “hard law” is the conventions which can also be referred to as treaties, pacts or charters.   The United Nations Charter is perhaps the most important treaty as it establishes the framework for the United Nations and commits member States (nations) to promote universal respect for human rights.   Treaties are binding on the governments (States Parties) that ratify them.

Obligations of Nation States to Uphold International Human Rights Law

Governments are under an obligation, under international human rights law, to ensure that government policies and practices conform to binding international human rights law. For example:  the Vienna Declaration reaffirms, people with mental disabilities are protected by the same human rights law that protects all other individuals – including the provisions of binding human rights conventions. International human rights law creates a number of broad protections that provide important rights to people with mental disabilities.

So national governments including the United States of America have an obligation to “ensure and respect” human rights law, including the creation of safeguards for rights enforcement.

The major UN conventions, including the ICCPR and the ICESCR, create treaty-based supervisory bodies. Governments that ratify conventions agree to report regularly on the steps that they have taken to implement the convention – through changes in legislation, policy, or practice. Non-governmental organizations can also submit information for review by oversight bodies. Oversight bodies review both the official and non-governmental reports and publish their findings, which may include a determination that governments have not met their international obligations under the convention. The international oversight and reporting process thus provides an opportunity to educate the public about a specialized area of rights. This process can also be a powerful way to pressure governments to realize convention-based rights.

The Vienna Declaration reaffirms, people with mental disabilities are protected by the same human rights law that protects all other individuals – including the provisions of binding human rights conventions. International human rights law creates a number of broad protections that provide important rights to people with mental disabilities. These provisions of human rights conventions affirm the rights of persons with disabilities the following rights: (1) the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; (2) protections against discrimination (3) protections against torture, inhuman, or degrading treatment; (4) protections against arbitrary detention.

The major UN conventions, including the ICCPR and the ICESCR, create treaty-based supervisory bodies. Governments that ratify conventions agree to report regularly on the steps that they have taken to implement the convention – through changes in legislation, policy, or practice.  Non-governmental organizations can also submit information for review by oversight bodies. Oversight bodies review both the official and non-governmental reports and publish their findings, which may include a determination that governments have not met their international obligations under the convention. The international oversight and reporting process thus provides an opportunity to educate the public about a specialized area of rights. This process can also be a powerful way to pressure governments to realize convention-based rights.

There is widespread recognition that all internationally recognized human rights are ultimately indivisible and interrelated.

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cescr.htm

The two types of obligations can be described as an “obligation of outcome” and an “obligation to take action.”  There are “core concepts” in the ICESCR, which are non-derogable, for which a State party cannot, under any circumstances whatsoever, justify its non-compliance. More important, many of the same abuses violate both the ICCPR and the ICESCR.

Is there a system of international criminal justice, with the International Criminal Court now at its center? What might be its component parts, and how do these many institutions and actors best align their work? In this five-minute video, leaders from across the field discuss and debate the role of police organizations, NGOs, regional courts and the ICC within this dynamic infrastructure of actors who are working to advance complementary goals.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
 
― Leo Buscaglia

Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network

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"Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself."  Confucius

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt- Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic", delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910