6.3.7 Compliance with International Human Rights

Compliance with international human rights is a sign of good governance; breaches create adverse reactions, internally and externally.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 (the UDHR, see Appendix 1) was negotiated after the Second World War, to set governance standards and to protect people from politicians who abuse their powers.  It was adopted by the UN General Assembly, with “over 50 Member States participating …  with eight nations abstaining from the vote but none dissenting”.  Countries individually decide how to implement its provisions.

Any government can meet most of the requirements of the UDHR – although socio-economic rights depend upon affordability, and authoritarian governments don’t comply with Article 21.3 (elections).  It is not legally binding in international law, except for countries that have placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court ( or the Geneva conventions (

A country, or group of countries, can incorporate some human rights in law to constrain politicians (5.4.7).  The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, for example, is binding on EU countries and is a test for new applicants.  The American Constitution is another example which offers considerable protection to its citizens; it is enforced by the Supreme Court, which can enforce compliance.

As described earlier (4.2.4), the UDHR has considerable moral authority.  Compliance with international human rights is a useful criterion for judging the performance of national politicians and putting pressure on them.  Conversely, failure to comply creates internal and external problems for politicians – as vividly illustrated by Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.  Israel has been violating the human rights of Palestinians for years.  An Amnesty International report in February 2022 described Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: a cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity:

“massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcible transfer, drastic movement restrictions, and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians are all components of a system which amounts to apartheid under international law. This system is maintained by violations which Amnesty International found to constitute apartheid as a crime against humanity, as defined in the Rome Statute and Apartheid Convention.”

The violations continued in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians dared not protest.  A violent response came from Gaza, though, as reported on this website.  The terrorist group Hamas invaded Israel on the 7th of October 2023.  A Reuters report described How an Israeli kibbutz ‘paradise’ turned into hell in Hamas attack.  1400 civilians were murdered, and hostages were taken in an appalling act of terrorism.

By definition (7.2.8), terrorists behave badly – but governments are held to higher standards.  Benjamin Netanyahu’s government responded by trying to completely eliminate Hamas, with what has been described as Death and Destruction in Gaza.  His government was held to account in the court of public opinion in the following months, during which time more than 30,000 Palestinians were killed and much of Gaza was reduced to rubble.

Alleged war crimes, and failure to observe the human rights of Palestinian civilians, drew widespread condemnation:

●  Sky News described how Protesters take to streets around the world to show support for Palestinians.

●  It was reported that Israel [is] facing growing international criticism for Gaza war: “The diplomatic pressure on Israel is growing”.

●  Israel’s refusal to let sufficient food reach Gaza resulted in the headline: Gaza starvation could amount to war crime, UN human rights chief tells BBC.

●  The BBC reported that UK antisemitic hate incidents hit new high in 2023, says charity.

●  NPR reported that As Israel fights to destroy Hamas, the group’s popularity surges among Palestinians.

Most western governments supported Israel’s right to defend itself, but its lack of compliance with international human rights aroused indignation.  The danger is that Jews everywhere are tainted by these crimes.  The Israeli government, and many Israelis, appear not to have realised how counterproductive its strategy of repression has been.  The above Amnesty report concluded with this statement:

“Israel must dismantle the apartheid system and start treating Palestinians as human beings with equal rights and dignity. Until it does, peace and security will remain a distant prospect for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

As noted later (, the Israel-Palestine conflict can only be resolved if the two populations reject the extremists in their midst and work towards a viable political agreement.  No government can ignore the human rights of its population without risk of instability and violence – as South Africa, in another example, learned in the 1990s.


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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/637b.htm.