Human Rights conventions have come up with mechanisms geared to monitor compliance with international laws on human rights. According to Steiner, the International Covenant on Civil and political Rights guarantees a list of rights and freedoms. The committee respects all individuals without distinction of language, sex, religion, color, race, birth, property, social origin, birth, or nationality. The party ensures that all individual rights in its jurisdiction are respected. Its legal duty is to ensure the modification of domestic laws to comply with the international legal obligation. It also ensures that the laws are in proper implementation by the officials and all public organs. He further goes on to look at the main supervisory mechanisms, the procedures of allegations and challenges the treaties face. This paper will expound these points in a broader manner.
The major distinct types of international supervisory mechanisms are the treaty- based mechanism and the non- treaty based mechanism. The treaty based mechanism or treaty bodies are the agreed upon conventions. They consist of the inspection of regular reports submitted on individual complaints or by state parties. Many of the supervisory mechanisms are the result of resolutions of representative bodies in charge of overseeing compliance with human rights. An example of the treaty is the American Convention on Human Rights. The decision-making organizations are the Committee of Ministers in Europe or the Commission on Human Rights in the Unite States. Other treaties that deal with supervision are the European Convention for the prevention of Torture, and the UN Convention against torture. The non-treaty or charter -based mechanisms are based on the charter of an intergovernmental human rights forum, constitution, or on decisions from the assembly. The resolutions have no traits of a treaty. Examples are the UN procedures based on resolutions. On regional levels the non- treaty based mechanisms include the procedure detailed in the Vienna document and the Declaration of the Committee of Ministers of Europe.
The third is the Inter-State complaints mechanism. In this, the state assents the human rights treaties. These treaties contain commitments by states to protect human rights of individuals within their dominion. The interstate mechanism is rarely used due to its delicate nature. Many states do not also recognize the competence of these supervisory bodies. The fourth consist of a system of inquiries, advisory mission, and field visits. They largely depend on information submitted by petitioners or the government. This final procedure helps in establishing facts, promoting human rights, and preventing violations in a passive manner.
In selecting a procedure, one must be able to determine the specific human right violated, the place where this violation occurred, and the government responsible. It is of importance to have the knowledge of the convention that protects the rights in question and know whether the State responsible is a party to the human rights treaty.
Committees monitor the implementation of treaty obligations by considering the government reports submitted occasionally on the implementation of the treaties. The periodical submissions show the actions that the State has taken on the implementation of the laid down obligations. The committee also monitors compliance by considering communications made by individuals.
These complaints procedures are similar in all the four treaties. According to Steiner, the committee considers a violation alongside the government’s opinions on whether a human right violation occurred. The committee after consideration of an issue then makes a conclusion based on the written information. The committee’s opinions are not legally binding but a government should make sure that it complies with them. A failure of the government to comply exposes it to international criticism. A committee has a right to follow up on the actions a government has taken regarding its recommendations.
A complaint can only be brought against a state that is party to the treaty and one that recognizes the competence of the committee. An individual lodging a complaint should be in a position to claim that his or her rights were violated. In case the individual is not in a position to prove by himself, a written consent from another person to claim for his or her rights’ violation should be offered. However, the written consents are exempted for cases such as a parent on behalf of a young child, of a prisoner with no access to the outside world, or on behalf of one who is not in a position to give a formal consent. One wishing to raise a complaint should set all facts regarding the claim. One should also provide details on the steps taken regarding the claim in one’s country.
If the complainant has met the above elements, the case is then listed for consideration. At this point, advice on registration is given. The first major stage in a case is the admissibility stage and the second is the merits stage. The admissibility stage is where the formal requirements are met prior to the committee consideration. This means that all the complaint has met all relevant and sufficient requirements. According to Steiner, only individual complaints are allowed by the ICCPR. The merits are the basis that the committee uses to determine whether the individual’s rights are violated. At this stage, the committee confirms that the individual has authorization in case he or she is acting on behalf of another. If a complaint regards the individual, he or she must show that the law has directly affected him or her, and the complaint is compatible with the invoked treaty provision. For the committee to consider a complaint, the facts about it must be sufficient and well developed. The complainant must also show that he or she have exhausted all remedies in his or her local state before taking the matter to the committee. If one brings repeated complaints, which the committee has previously dismissed, the committee has a right to reject the claim. If one’s complaint is being examined under another mechanism, that is, if the complainant has submitted his or her case to a regional mechanism, the committee dismisses the complaint to avoid duplication. These regional mechanisms include the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights or the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Once a case is considered admissible, the committee goes ahead to consider the merits of the complaint. The consideration of a case happens in closed sessions. Once a decision is taken, the committee adopts its views and the recommendations made public and transmitted to the State party and the individual simultaneously. There is usually no appeal against the committee’s decision. On the decision that the individual is the victim of a violation, the committee invites the State party to give information on the steps it has taken regarding the issue. This information is supplied within duration of three months. If the committee decides that there was no rights violation, the process ends once the committee transmits its decision to the State party and the individual. If the case is acceptable, the State party makes submission on the merits within a specified period.
The advantage of this is that the individual and the government are treated equally. However, the entire filling process is long and there is no room for witnesses or oral debate. It is nevertheless a worthwhile chance for individuals who have exhausted all local remedies.
According to Steiner, annual monitoring mechanism for IHR has been established. This monitoring involves a continuous certification of progress of county plans. The certification determines where implementation is progressing as planned. It also helps to detect a problem before it occurs. This ensures quality data and an improvement in performance. The IHR requires that State Parties develop a plan of action. Existing plans are updated and major elements are included. Advocacy is essential in making changes. It comprises of defining issue and setting objectives. The aim of it is to sensitize national authorities on their roles, the IHR implementation and to increase national and international awareness. Steiner stresses on resource mobilization at a national level in order to obtain timely and adequate support. An active engagement with donors should be cultivated and proposals prepared as per the donors requirement.
The main purpose of the supervisory mechanisms is to promote compliance to human rights and combat their violation. In many instances, states unwilling to implement the international decisions and recommendation concerning human rights ignore them.
The reasons for this may be the fact that bureaucrats who have no political knowledge undertake the process. Disorganization and delayed efforts by the ministries concerned show a lack of cooperation and communication. Lack of commitment by political actors plays a major part in the human rights implementation failure. The individual complaint mechanism faces delays due to the large number of complaints involved. In addition, the conventions face communication challenges due to low finances and understaffing. Neglect of government structures and lack of qualified staff for the posts are a source of failure to any progress in human rights implementation. In most cases, the state parties fail to submit the required reports in the specified period causing further delays. The non-treaty procedures also take long forcing the cases that require urgent attention to wait until the regular annual session takes place.