HOLDING GOVERNMENTS TO ACCOUNT

KIBII: Coerce ‘rogue states’ to uphold human rights

Emergence and expansion of formal human rights regimes can be explained by either a realist or an ideational explanation

In Summary

• Human rights groups fight against torture, imprisonment, religious and political persecution, slavery, labour issues amongst other abuses against human life.

• States, on the other hand, are the source of the international human rights system and the principle of contemporary mechanisms for implementing and enforcing rights.

VERDICT: Women’s rights researcher for Africa Agnes Muriungi, Human Rights Watch’s Africa deputy director Leslie Lefkow and Human Rights Watch deputy program director Babatunde Olugboji during the launch of the 2015 World report on human rights at the Serena hotel, Nairobi
VERDICT: Women’s rights researcher for Africa Agnes Muriungi, Human Rights Watch’s Africa deputy director Leslie Lefkow and Human Rights Watch deputy program director Babatunde Olugboji during the launch of the 2015 World report on human rights at the Serena hotel, Nairobi
Image: PATRICK VIDIJA

As Havard’s Law school scholar David Kennedy notes human rights realm is now more than an institutional regime but a universal ideology with international standards of legitimacy for sovereign power, common vernacular of justice and global civil society.

Human rights groups fight against torture, imprisonment, religious and political persecution, slavery, labour issues amongst other abuses against human life.

However, unlike other common institutionalised international organisations that deal with trade, monetary and international business, peace and security, environmental conservation and social matters, international human rights regimes are not designed with the primary objective of regulating policy externalities away from societal interactions between borders.

Theirs is to hold governments accountable for domestic/ internal activities that touch on human rights. They empower individual citizens to challenge the domestic activities of their own state. This in a number of cases is not happening though.

Emergence and expansion of formal human rights regimes can be explained by either a realist or an ideational explanation: It is either regimes are coerced by democratic governments and transnational actors of democratic civil societies to accept human rights norms (realist view) or they persuade other governments to do so(ideational view)

This consequently informs the two theories of international human rights cooperation —coercion and normative persuasion. It is time to go with coercion in countries that have consistently abused human rights.

States are the source of the international human rights system and the principle of contemporary mechanisms for implementing and enforcing rights. Unfortunately, rape and other forms of sexual violence are being used as war tactics in states that are experiencing conflicts.

This has even seen some organisations calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council to create an international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by all relevant parties.

In South Sudan, the US State Department in 2013 released a report painting a grim picture of serious human rights abuses. They ranged from extra-judicial killings, rape, arbitrary arrest, human trafficking, discrimination and violence against certain ethnic communities, inhumane treatment of civilians and many others.

For uniformity and respect for human rights across the globe, international human rights regimes should be strict in ensuring states respect and uphold human rights.

 

Kibii comments on current affairs