International charters supporting the idea of certain freedoms

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International human rights are rights to which
every human being is entitled simply because they are human. International Human
rights law (IHRL) are universal so, they take no account of race, sex or color.
As the UDHR1
article 1 states, “All human beings are born free and equal in rights and
dignity” and are therefore deserving of the same opportunities and treatment,
whilst simultaneously respecting their cultures and traditions, political
persuasion, sexuality, social origin, status etc. International Human rights
law come from the early European charters supporting the idea of certain
freedoms were Magna Carta 1215, the Union of Utrecht 1579 (Netherlands), and
the Bill of Rights 1689. In 1946, the UN Commission on Human Rights was
established and less than two years later it had drafted the UDHR, which was
adopted by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in 1948. Subsequently,
membership of the UN was made conditional upon endorsement of the UDHR,
thereby, in theory, increasing the sphere in which human rights operated. All the
states are members of United Nations and therefore are bound by the
international human rights law to take effective measures to comply with the
convention. In the aftermath of
the Second World War, the Council of Europe (COE)2 was
formed: a political organisation whose single greatest achievement is the
European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). 
It set out a number of civil and political rights and freedoms and also
established a mechanism for international enforcement of these rights. The ECHR
came into force in 1953 and is the most developed regional system for
protection of rights in the world.In theory, international Human rights are
universal and it is not limited to only one region therefore, it is applicable
to all the human beings around the world but, in practice this is not the case.
Rights are clearly not applied universally today with oppression, torture and
various atrocities committed in many parts of the world hence, are universally
broken. There are also various debates over the universality of human rights
norms. Is the content and the scope of rights are variable according to
regional, religious and political background or is there is a set of human
rights applicable to every individual? The debates upon the issue of universality
has been a divisive one with challenges being presented on the basis of
cultural, regional and religious distinction3. Conventional
wisdom suggests that human rights are universal, timeless and inalienable
entitlements. The universal declaration of human rights famously declares that
human rights represents a “common standard of achievement for all people and all
nations” that derives its authority from the “inherent dignity” and “equal
inalienable rights of all members of the human family”4. Even
though International human rights are binding upon all states, there are
situations where the states can derogate from their obligations of the
convention due to state emergency. Before going into the subject of derogations
in detail, it may be useful to consider briefly the nature of derogations from
human rights obligations as compared with limitation on the exercise of human
rights under normal circumstances. States may impose limitations on the
enjoyment of the many rights such as the right to freedom of expression5, association
and assembly for certain legitimate purposes. Such limitations are often called
“ordinary” limitation since they can be imposed permanently in normal times.
Derogations, on the other hand, are designed for particularly serious crisis
situations that require the introduction of extraordinary measures. Public emergencies
such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, civil wars, and economic
catastrophes test the theoretical as well as the practical commitments of the
international human rights law. During such crisis, international law allows
the affected state to derogate from many human rights protections (given to the
individuals) in order to safeguard national security. There are limitation clauses in human
rights treaties to empower states to limit the individual liberties within
their jurisdiction in order promote general societal interests such as national
security and public health. There are derogations in different jurisdictions
e.g. in International Covenant on Civil and political Rights (ICCPR), the
states parties can derogate under article 46,
in American Convention on Human rights (ACHR) under article 277
and also in ECHR under article 15, states can derogate in times of emergency,
albeit not concerning all rights under the ECHR.          In this essay,
the aim is to determine whether international human rights impose limits on
states during the times of emergency.   

1 Universal declaration of human
rights 1948 hereinafter UDHR

2 Council of Europe 1949

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3 Rehman,
J. (2010). International Human Rights Law. 2nd ed. Pearson Education
Limited, pg. 8.

4 Universal Declaration of Human Rights pmbl, G.A.
Res. 217A, U.N. GAOR, 3d Sess., 1st plen. mtg., U.N. Doc. A/810 (Dec. 10, 1948)


5 Article 10 of ECHR

6 International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights 1966 (came into force on 23 March 1976), Article 4
hereinafter ICCPR)

7 American Convention on Human rights
(ACHR) 1969 (came into force on 18 July 1978), article 27 hereinafter ACHR

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