Thank you for joining the New Tactics online community for a dialogue on Domesticating International Human Rights Law. Human rights are inherent, universal and indivisible, and have found expressions in various international and regional human rights instruments. National constitutions of various countries have adopted these human rights standards. Yet human rights violations are common practice in many parts of the world. Local human rights groups and practitioners have done tremendous work in translating/adopting these human rights standards/principles in their day to day work. They have found novel and innovative ways of translating international human rights standards into practical and meaningful things for local people.
This dialogue provides an opportunity for these practitioners and groups to learn from each other and share their novel and innovative approaches in domesticating international human rights laws/standards.
In this dialogue, human rights practitioners shared and discussed how international legal instruments can be implemented within a state’s domestic legislature. Domesticating international law promotes, strengthens, and re-enforces human rights. However, many states are reluctant to sign onto international treaties and conventions. How can civil society and non-governmental organizations work together to influence domestic legal instruments?
Components of domesticating international law
- Build awareness of international law
- Foster a functional domestic legal system
- Incorporate human rights law into culturally accepted customary law: In some countries, customary law plays a very large role, and often contradicts international law. Non-governmental organizations can facilitate the introduction and negotiation of international law into customary law. An example of blending international law and Sharia-inspired customary law in Indonesia.
- Involve multiple stakeholders
How do we use international law?
Incorporating international law into the domestic legal structure is a first step for advancing human rights. Legal efforts must be complemented by a variety of other mechanisms and tactics:
- Train judges and lawyers – an example from Kyrgyzstan – a joint training for defense lawyers and NGO lawyers on how to present complaints to the Human Rights Committee
- Work with the local population and develop local capacity to criticize the state’s lack of commitment to international law – a powerful example from Slovakia – training community members to monitor human rights abuses
- Pursue litigation where international law is domestically available
- Avoid conflicts of interest – draw a clear line between providing training to the government and pursuing litigation.
- Adopt international treaties at the local level – local examples from Brazil and Argentina
- Exceptionalism – exceptionalism can be defined as a double-standard shown by a government, it is often manifested as a state’s commitment to rights abroad but not in the domestic sphere.
- Tackling exceptionalism by engaging governments – an example from Uganda
- Lack of political will
- Insufficient knowledge of international law amidst lawyers in the domestic sector
- Holding governments accountable – in many countries, governments communicate a commitment to human rights but fail to act upon their rhetoric.
- Opposing the international sphere
Resources for NGOs and CSOs
- Guide to International Human Rights Mechanisms - provides advocates and activists with tools to prepare and submit information to international and regional human rights mechanisms.
- From Documentation to Advocacy
- National Implementation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the ICRC Advisory Service
- Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) - Implementation manual
- A Guide to Addressing Women’s Rights in Muslim Communities (Equitas)