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International human rights instruments

International human rights instruments can be distinguished into declarations, adopted by bodies such as the United Nations General Assembly, which are not legally binding although they may be politically so; and conventions, which are legally binding instruments concluded under international law.

International human rights instruments can also be divided into global instruments, to which any state in the world can be a party, and regional instruments, which are restricted to states in a particular region of the world.

Most conventions establish mechanisms to oversee their implementation. In some cases these mechanisms have relatively little power, and are often ignored by member states; in other cases these mechanisms have great politicial and legal authority, and their decisions are almost always implemented. Examples of the first case include the UN treaty committees, while the best exemplar of the second case is the European Court of Human Rights.

Mechanisms also vary as to the degree of individual access to them. Under some conventions, e.g. the European Convention on Human Rights (as it currently exists) individuals are permitted automatically to take individual cases to the enforcement mechanisms; under most, however, (e.g. the UN conventions) individual access is contingent on the acceptance of that right by each state party, either by a declaration at the time of ratification or accession, or through ratification of or accession to a protocol to the convention.

Table of contents

Declarations

Conventions

Global

Regional: Europe

Regional: Americas

Regional: Africa



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