The very purpose of the establishment of the UN in 1945 is the maintenance of International peace and security, which cannot be achieved without the protection of human rights. As such, there was an overwhelming response from the member states at the San Francisco Conference for the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Provisions relating to Human Rights under the UN Charter
The UN Charter provides for certain provisions for the protection of human rights as stated below:
Article 1(3) of the UN Charter envisages that international problems economic, social and cultural can be solved by promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Article 55 of the UN Charter imposes a duty to promote universal respect for observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Under Article 56, all member states have agreed to pledge themselves to take joint and separate action in co-operation with the organization to achieve the provisions enshrined in Article 55.
Article 62 of the Charter authorized the Economic and Social Council to make recommendations for the purpose of promoting respect for and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.
Article 68 directed the Council to set up commissions in economic and social fields and for the promotion of human rights and such other commissions as may be required for the performance of its functions.
Para (c) of Article 76 stipulated that one of the basic objectives of the trusteeship system is to encourage respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all.
WEAKNESSES OF THE PROVISIONS OF THE UN CHARTER
There are two weaknesses with respect to the Charter provisions on human rights. The Charter of the UN does not make provisions for the implementation of human rights. Secondly, human rights and fundamental freedoms are not defined in the Charter, therefore, making their ascertainment difficult. From these two premises, it is argued that the Charter of the UN does not impose legal obligations upon the contracting states with respect to human rights and fundamental freedoms.
THE ROLE OF UN IN PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
All the six principal organs of the UN such as the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Security Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice and Secretariat make effective contribution to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the world.
Four specialized agencies namely the International Labour Organisation, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN are successfully carrying out their activities in the human rights field. Seven monitoring committees- the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee against Tortures, the Group of three and the Committee on the Rights of the Child- have been recently established. Their functions are to monitor and supervise the implementations of concerned multilateral treaties, which are meant to ensure the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by everyone without distinction.
The relevant functions and powers of these bodies with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights are discussed below:
Through General Assembly- The General Assembly under Article 22 of the UN Charter is empowered to establish such subsidiary organs as it deems necessary for promotion and protection of human rights. Eg- International Law Commission; Special Committee on Decolonisation. The International Law Commission was established vide Resolution 21 of the General Assembly. Its main object is the codification of International Law Commission and progressive development. Whereas the Special Committee on Decolonisation was established vide General Assembly Resolution 27 in November 1961. The Committee also organizes seminars to examine the problems faced by the people of territories and to devise methods to help them in their pursuit towards self-determination.
Security Council– The primary function of the Security Council is to maintain International peace and security. Some of the problems dealt with by the Security Council may be enumerated as follows:
The failure of Israel to provide adequate protection to the civilian population in the occupied territories (Resolution 471 (1980)
The massive repression of all opponents of apartheid in South Africa (Resolution 473 (1980)
The continued massacres of the oppressed people of South Africa (Resolution 556 (1984)
The heightened violence in certain parts of South Africa (Resolution 556 (1984)
Economic and Social Council– The main function of Economic and Social Council is the promotion of economic and social progress, better standards of human welfare and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Trusteeship Council– The Trusteeship Council, under the authority of the General Assembly is assigned with the task of carrying out the objectives/provisions enshrined in Art 76 of the UN Charter:-
To further International peace and security;
To encourage respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all and to encourage recognition of the interdependence of the people of the world.
UN CHARTER BASED INSTITUTIONS
Commission on the status of women- It performs four major functions of programming, coordination, monitoring and policy development. The Commission on the status of women is also authorized by the Economic and Social Council to consider confidential and non-confidential communications on the status of women received from the individuals that appear to reveal a consistent pattern of reliably attested injustice and discrimination practices against women.
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees- The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was established in 1949. It is an important organ of the UN set up to solve the problems of refugees, displaced persons, and stateless persons, in accordance with the provisions of the Charter and the provisions of Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It has its headquarters at Geneva. The High Commissioner or the Officer is elected by the United Nations General Assembly on the nomination of the Secretary-General for the terms specified by the General Assembly.
UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
The Commission of Human Rights is one of the seven functional commissions set up by the Economic and Social Council. It was established in February 1946 vide Resolution of 16. In the beginning, it was in the ‘nuclear’ form but subsequently, it was made full Commission by Council’s resolution of 21 June 1946. Its membership was limited to 43 States Members of the United Nations, which was raised to 53 by Council’s resolution of 25 May 1990.
The mandate of the Commission on Human rights comprises of submitting proposals, recommendations, and reports to the council regarding:
An international bill of rights;
The protection of minorities;
To assist the Economic and Social Council in coordinating the activities concerning human rights.
The members of the Commission are elected for a three-year term and meets annually for a period of five or six weeks. The Commission submits a report on each session to the Economic and Social Council.
The Commission receives thousands of private complaints and the governments are asked to reply. It has also played an active role in investigating alleged violations of human rights. The principal functions performed by the Commission have been the preparation of the texts of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights and the Convention on the Political Rights of Women. It also publishes Yearbook on Human Rights. It holds its session annually and performs important functions in the field of human rights.
Now the Commission on Human Rights has become an important institution of the United Nations has become an important institution of the UN in the field of promotion and protection of human rights. Since, late 1960, the human rights questions have acquired a forefront position in the UN agenda. Consequently, the Commission has expanded its jurisdiction in order to cover practically all the human rights issues coming before the UN.
Although the Commission can be selective in its approach and its meetings often highly charged politically, it has contributed to developing new techniques to address human rights violation. It has also been a major forum for revealing human rights abuses.