Are Human Rights Treaties Considered As Binding International Law?

Binding International Law and Human Rights Treaties Dissertation – Reporting-based human rights conventions are among the most widely ratified international law instruments. They aim to create a normative framework to allow states to develop their own practices and laws to respect the rights that they seek to protect. United Nations committees assess reports from states parties and this feedback is intended to support national efforts at implementation.

The lack of reciprocity between parties to these conventions means that they are quite dissimilar from most other legal instruments. Furthermore, from a practical perspective, the compromises made in trying to achieve widespread ratification, the credibility lost by poor implementation and empirical evidence showing weak effects on state practice all raise serious doubts as to whether these instruments should be referred to as binding law.

While countries with good human rights records show little improvement as a result of these conventions, states with weak records can deflect criticism by ratifying these instruments resulting in either no improvement or human rights practices even getting worse. This tactic is given its value in part by the credibility accorded to the conventions by their designation as binding international law. Consequently, for countries with good human rights records, there is little or no added value in these conventions being designated as binding international law, while there is a demonstrable disadvantage with regard to countries with poor records. As a result, downgrading the legal nature of current or future international instruments on human rights could upgrade their effectiveness.

The United Nations has been directly responsible for the development of over eighty human rights instruments of various descriptions (conventions, covenants, optional protocols (OP), etc) since its foundation. The impetus for these initiatives comes from Articles 55 and 56 of the UN Charter, which call for joint and separate action of parties for the development of human rights. The first major result of the Charter was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, which is not legally binding but does have obvious moral force. Subsequently, the two major UN Covenants, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) were adopted in 1966.

These, in turn, led to a range of more specific conventions, on narrower areas of human rights such as racial discrimination (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination – CERD), torture (Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – CAT), women’s rights (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – CEDAW) and children’s rights (Convention on the Rights of the Child – CRC). All of the human rights conventions subsequent to the Universal Declaration have been given the status of binding international law.

Specialised agencies of the UN, such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have also produced binding international law instruments, such as the 1999 Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. In addition, the UN has also developed binding law on specific issues of human rights, such as the Genocide Convention.

  • 20,000 words – 68 pages
  • Excellent use of literature
  • Expertly written throughout
  • Outstanding piece of work


1 – The Legal Nature of Conventions

2 – State Practice

3 – Case Studies – CRC And Cedaw

4 – Empirical Analysis



Binding International Law Dissertation
Binding International Law Dissertation

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