International Human Rights Protecting the Individual

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/5475.htm)

International human rights can reach through national borders to protect individuals:

  • 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.
  • 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. For example, a group of Cree Indians known as the ‘Lubicon Lake Band’ referred the Canadian Government to it, under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, for expropriation of some of their tribal lands; their complaint was upheld.[1]
  • The Rome Statute uses human rights as the criteria by which it can be determined whether a national politician is oppressing a group of people, to enable the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute rights violations (

The ICC and the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine (5.3.7) are both still evolving, and they require political consensus to become more mature, as discussed at the end of this book (9.5.3).



[1] The University of Minnesota Human Rights Library website recorded the details of the ‘Lubicon Lake Band’ case against the Canadian Government in March 1990 at http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/undocs/session45/167-1984.htm; this record was available in May 2018.