The need to reform the United Nations human rights system

Dalia Vitkauskaitė-Meurice


The article analyses the primary initiative of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights drafters to establish the judicial supervision of the Declaration provisions. This initiative was not implemented due to lack of consensus, although some latter proposals to establish the International Court of Human Rights were discussed. The Cold War prevented from discussions on improvement of human rights system and especially from establishing the International Human Rights Court. Some scholars even called this idea utopian, although on the other hand, many scholars criticising the current UN Human Rights system were suggesting to establish a judicial institution that would be granted the right to adopt decisions binding to all state parties on the basis of the human rights conventions. In late 2008, celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, Switzerland came up with the proposal to form the Panel of Eminent Persons and to prepare the Agenda for Human Rights. The latter Agenda included the proposal to establish the International Human Rights Court. This initiative was the expansion of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights proposal to create a unified standing treaty body.
Therefore, it must be noted that the scholars analysing the strength and weaknesses of the UN human rights system do not share similar point of view on the functions of the Court. Some scholars argue that new court should play the role of a court of appeal or a constitutional court. Moreover, some scholars (such as Manfred Nowak) think that the access of individual petitioners should be limited, as the court should be seemed as dealing with the cases having major importance to the development of the human rights law.
However, it must be noted that despite the form it will acquire, the new institution most probably is going to face financial problems, as did some criminal tribunals. Moreover, it is not excluded that some states will refuse to accept the jurisdiction of the court and even to review their obligations under current human rights treaties.


human rights; UN human rights treaty system; reform; international court of human rights

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"Societal studies" ISSN online 2029-2244 / ISSN print 2029-2236