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Human Rights Law

Introduction to the Regional Human Rights Frameworks

There are three established regional human rights systems that play a significant role in protecting human rights among their Member States - in Africa, the Americas and Europe. Newer bodies with fewer functions monitor human rights conditions in the countries of the Middle East and Southeast Asia. See more on the 'Regional Systems' pages of the International Justice Resource Centre website, including detailed information on the common features of the three established regional systems. In short, common features include:

  • Under the regional systems, only States may be held accountable for human rights violations. 
  • In the Americas, Africa and Europe, the key feature of each system is a complaints mechanism through which individuals can seek justice and reparation for human rights violations committed by a State party. The human rights bodies are commissions and courts, both of which can hear and decide on complaints.
  • Human rights systems are not meant to take the place of national courts. Rather, individuals alleging human rights violations before a regional human rights body must generally first try to resolve the problem using any appropriate remedies that are available at the local or national level.
  • In addition to deciding individual complaints, the regional human rights bodies engage in a range of human rights monitoring and promotion activities.
  • The regional human rights courts typically only receive complaints and do not engage in other monitoring or promotion activities. These courts also contribute to the understanding of regional human rights treaties through “advisory opinions” on the meaning of treaty provisions.

Finding Cases in WorldCourts

In WorldCourts, keyword searches can be used to search African and Inter-American regional courts and committees simultaneously. Please note: WorldCourts does not include decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.

Monitoring Compliance with international human rights obligations - Amnesty International & US Department of State Reports 

The UN Universal Human Rights Index Database 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 or region, right, body, affected person and, for the UPR, the State that made the recommendation, the position of the State under Review, and the session.

Amnesty International Annual Country Reports cover regions as well as individual countries:

  • Africa
  • South East Asia and the Pacific
  • The Americas

US Department of State Human Rights Reports 

  • Since 1999, 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 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.