Skip to main content

Human Rights Law Research Guide: Comparative / Global Human Rights

UN Treaties - Ratification Status and Reservations

Check any country's human rights and optional protocols treaties' ratification & accession status and reservations in the UN Treaty Collection Status of Treaties database.

See regional and individual country's ratification status of 18 human rights treaties at a glance on the OHCHR's Status of Ratification Interactive Dashboard.

Monitoring Compliance with international human rights obligations - UN, Govt & Civil Society Country Reports

UN REPORTS ON GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS

Country Reports include information on the latest Universal Periodic Review, and the status of the country in relation to UN Charter based bodies and Treaty bodies.

The UN Universal Human Rights Index provides access to country and region-specific human rights information emanating from international human rights mechanisms in the United Nations system: the Treaty Bodies, the Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The Index allows users to access and search Treaty Body, Special Procedure and UPR recommendations through several categories: State, right, body, affected person and, for the UPR, the State that made the recommendation, the position of the State under Review, and the session. Several countries can be searched together for comparative purposes.

The UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. Individual Member Country Reports can be viewed on the Documents database.

CIVIL SOCIETY REPORTS ON GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS

Amnesty International Annual Country Reports

  • covers over 160 countries and territories
  • reports cover regions as well as individual countries

Human Rights Watch annual  World Reports 

  • click on the latest report and then choose the country you are interested in
  • covers over 90 countries and territories
  • 1990 to current 

Freedom House's Freedom in the World - an annual study of political rights and civil liberties 

  • covers over 195 countries and 15 related and disputed territories
  • 1972 to current 
  • Use the Interactive Map to compare countries. Country scores are based on two numerical ratings—from 1 to 7—for political rights and civil liberties.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS ON GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS

US Department of State Human Rights Reports 

  • These annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices  cover internationally recognised individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements. The Department of State submits reports on all countries receiving assistance and all United Nations member states.
  • You can see reports by region, country and human rights topic. A really useful feature is 'Build a Report', which allows you to select one or more human rights topics, then add regions or countries and then build a report to compare those areas. To access this feature: 

1) select an annual report from the left hand menu on the Human Rights Reports page.

2) click on the Build a Report tab on the top menu.

European Union - EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 

  • Provides an overview of the EU’s policies and actions in the field of human rights vis-à-vis third countries, in multilateral bodies, and on certain specific thematic issues. Intended to create transparency and visibility as well as to facilitate evaluation of the effectiveness of EU actions. 
  • Available online from 2009 to current

UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office -  Annual Reports on Human Rights

  • Provides information on the FCO’s activities over the past year to promote human rights abroad.
  • Covers 27 countries with the most-serious, wide-ranging human rights concerns.
  • Available online to current

Latest UN Global Human Rights News

Loading

The purpose of this page

This page aims to provide research tools to:

  • find information on all countries and regions, and tools to compare jurisdictions; and
  • to find cases from several jurisdictions in multiple courts.

Finding Worldwide Domestic Human Rights legislation

UNHCR's Refworld legal collection is primarily a tool for disseminating international law relating to refugees and asylum seekers. However, it more generally contains human rights caselaw and instruments. Included in the collection are international instruments relating to human rights and international and national legislation.

Legislationline.org is a free database of national and EU legislation, as well as international norms and standards, on the human rights topics listed below. This database is an excellent starting point for comparative research. To compare countries, choose the topic and then select the jurisdiction you want. Jurisdictions covered are the 57 Member States of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Legislationline.org is produced by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. 

WARNING: the legislation is not necessarily up to date, or a complete representation of all the human rights instruments in every jurisdiction, so once you find the piece of legislation you want, locate it in its official national legislation website to ensure you have the most up to date information.  

Human Rights rankings in the Rule of Law Index

The latest Rule of Law Index from the World Justice Project provides rankings for 102 countries based on their adherence to protection of fundamental human rights.  See each country's statistics and ranking here. See the full Rule of Law Index report for all countries here.

The factors taken into account in assessing protection of fundamental rights rank are those established under the Universal Declaration :

  • effective enforcement of laws that ensure equal protection; 
  • the right to life and security of the person;
  • due process of law and the rights of the accused;
  • freedom of opinion and expression;
  • freedom of belief and religion;
  • the right to privacy;
  • freedom of assembly and association; and
  • fundamental labor rights, including the right to collective bargaining, the prohibition of forced and child labor, and the elimination of discrimination.  

Human Rights Cases in Multiple Courts

The following databases can be searched or browsed to find human rights jurisprudence in UN Committees, regional and domestic courts.

The databases can be searched to find individual decisions, cases in a particular court or cases on a particular topic in multiple courts.

FREE DATABASES

WorldCourts

In WorldCourts,  keyword searches can be used to search a single court or several courts simultaneously.
Note that WorldCourts can only be used to search international and regional courts, not domestic courts.

INTERIGHTS 

The Interights Commonwealth and International Human Rights Law Databases provide summaries of significant judicial decisions from Commonwealth countries’ domestic courts, regional human rights bodies, and UN human rights treaty bodies, searchable by keyword. Note that Interights ceased operation in 2014 and the databases do not contain documents published after 2011.

Refworld 

To search Refworld's caselaw collection, choose 'caselaw' from the 'Jurisprudence' tab in the top menu on the Refworld home page. From here you can browse to relevant cases by continually narrowing by court, topic etc.

Alternatively, you can perform an advanced search. Use the 'search tips' page for help in searching. 

Child Rights International Network (CRIN) 

The CRIN Legal Database contains summaries of judgments from high-level national, regional and international courts around the world on children's rights issues. Each summary explains the background, significance, and CRIN's assessment of the decision's consistency with the CRC. Case summaries also include excerpts from relevant judicial discussions of the CRC and, where possible, links to full text decisions.

Human Rights Law Centre Caselaw Database

Although the focus of this database is cases on the Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities 2006 (Vic), it is useful for finding selected cases in all Australian jurisdictions, in comparator foreign jurisdictions such as the UK, New Zealand, Canada, the US and India, the European Court of Human Rights and UN Committees. Cases can be searched by topic, court / tribunal and jurisdiction. Useful case summaries are provided. 

LAW REPORTS ON SUBSCRIPTION DATABASES (available to University of Melbourne staff and students only)

Oxford International Law Reports (ORIL).

To find human rights cases in international, regional and domestic courts on ORIL, you can perform an advanced search or browse to human rights cases by selecting 'Subject' from the top blue menu bar, then 'Human Rights' and browsing to the topic using the + signs in the menu on the left, and narrowing the search further by eg: court and keywords.  

International Human Rights Reports

  • vol 1 (1994) to current. Please note that this report series is several years out of date. 
  • UniMelb staff & student access. Password required
  • The IHRR contains jurisprudence of the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee against Torture, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Inter American Court of Human Rights, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, the former Yugoslav and Rwandan War Crimes Tribunals and the Bosnian Human Rights Chamber. 

Butterworths Human Rights Cases ('BHRC' - on LexisNexis Academic) includes human rights decisions from international, regional and national courts and tribunals that make a significant contribution to the way in which a particular right or freedom is interpreted or applied. It includes cases from the European Court of Human Rights as well as appeal courts from the UK, the Americas, Africa, Australia and New Zealand; the UN Human Rights Committee, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and others.

The International Law Reports on JUSTIS contains decisions of international courts and arbitrators as well as judgments of national courts. From the JUSTIS home page, select Cases, then Data Sources. Select All Cases from the dropdown menu, then tick the International Law Reports box. This will open a search screen where you can add information such as parties, headnote, subject etc.

For more information on finding cases in international courts and tribunals, see our International Law Research Guide - cases page.

Finding worldwide cases citing a case

LawCite (open access) will find cases citing your case in all courts in all jurisdictions that have a LII (AustLII, BAILII, SAFLII etc), whether or not your case is itself contained in a LII database.

For example, the UK case of R v Ministry of Defence, Ex p Smith [1995] EWCA Civ 22;  [1996] QB 517 (available on BAILLI) has been cited in the UK, Hong Kong, Australia, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and the European Court of Human Rights. 

The results can be sorted by jurisdiction, date, court or citation. Links are provided to the full text of the citing cases.