International Human Rights Bodies

International human rights bodies can reach through national borders to protect individuals against rights abuses by their governments.

The European Court of Human Rights acts as a court of appeal which, as a condition of EU membership, can override rulings by national courts if necessary (  It can also prevent the passing of new legislation that would overturn people’s human rights.

There are also several international human rights bodies operating under the aegis of the United Nations (UN):

●  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is the UN body which performs a similar service on a global basis.

●  The Human Rights Committee of the UN can be asked to adjudicate – as in the case Lubicon Lake Band v. Canada, where a group of Cree Indians challenged the government’s expropriation of some of their tribal lands. Their complaint was upheld.

●  The UN’s International Criminal Court (ICC) can prosecute rights violations under the Rome Statute, which defines criteria for determining whether a national politician is oppressing a group of people (

●  The UN Security Council can authorise the use of force to prevent a national ruler from oppressing its citizens under an emerging ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine (, although that is still evolving.

The above UN organisations require political consensus to become more mature, as discussed at the end of this book (9.5.3).



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/edition04/5475a.htm.