The goal that every human being should have full enjoyment of their human rights implies that nobody should suffer violations of those rights. The prevention of human rights violations is therefore a key part of the United Nations’ efforts to protect and promote human rights for all.
The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action says that “the international community should devise ways and means to remove the current obstacles and meet challenges to the full realization of all human rights and to prevent the continuation of human rights violations resulting therefrom throughout the world”. This objective is set into OHCHR’s core mandate in General Assembly resolution 48/141.
Similarly, the mandate of the Human Rights Council includes to “contribute, through dialogue and cooperation, towards the prevention of human rights violations and respond promptly to human rights emergencies” (A/RES/60/251, para. 5 (f)).
The contribution of the Human Rights Council to preventing human rights violations
The Human Rights Council has highlighted the importance of prevention since its creation in 2006 through regular resolutions on “the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights” (see below). In 2014, the Council mandated OHCHR to produce a study on the prevention of human rights violations and its practical implementation, following a process of consultations and seminars.
The Human Rights Council has in recent years been looking at ways to strengthen its contribution to the prevention of human rights violations. In 2018, it adopted resolution 38/18, which mandated three rapporteurs “to present… proposals on how the Council could effectively contribute in the future to the prevention of human rights violations”. The rapporteurs organized a series of intersessional seminars and other meetings in Geneva and New York. Their subsequent report formed the basis for resolution 45/31, which makes a general call for “all mechanisms of the Human Rights Council to integrate prevention into their work and, where appropriate, into their reporting, in accordance with their respective mandates” and puts in place some concrete measures to strengthen the Council’s prevention work, in conjunction with OHCHR. This work is ongoing.
Human rights mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council’s special procedures and its Universal Periodic Review as well as the treaty bodies can serve to provide early warning of human rights violations and support prevention work. Some mechanisms have adopted specific prevention approaches to their mandates. For example, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has developed early warning and urgent action procedures aimed at preventing violations of the Convention. The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi has adopted a preventive approach to its work, seeking “to determine whether there are any risk factors pointing to a possible deterioration in the human rights situation […] in keeping with the principles of early warning and prevention.” (A/HRC/42/49)
How to prevent human rights violations
The United Nations human rights system – the treaties, bodies and mechanisms that have been created over the years to promote human rights – aims wherever possible to prevent human rights violations from occurring in the first place or, when violations do occur, to address their causes so that they do not reoccur in the future. The system is based on three interdependent components that form the core of the United Nations’ approach to human rights:
- Norms or standards: International human rights standards, in the form of international treaties and other legal instruments, which set out the minimum standards that each State should aim for in terms of human rights protection;
- Monitoring and reporting: the impartial gathering of verifiable information to assess the situation on the ground, ascertain whether the minimum standards are being met or measure progress in realizing human rights for all; and
- Technical cooperation: designing solutions to address the issues and concerns identified through human rights monitoring and put in place measures to ensure that human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.
All three components help States to ensure that human rights violations do not occur or, when they do, that they are halted, and future violations cannot reoccur.
Monitoring and reporting are central to early warning which is a key part of effective prevention. OHCHR has been developing its early warning capacities to ensure that human rights information and analysis informs early warning, planning and preparedness across the United Nations system. Read more about OHCHR’s work on early warning.
The human rights system has created targeted mechanisms and approaches to prevention specific violations of human rights. Perhaps the most sophisticated example is the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), which requires States parties to take measures to prevention torture and other ill-treatment through the creation of a National Preventive Mechanism and by allowing the Sub-Committee on Prevention of Torture to access to places of detention. A notable feature of the preventive approach promoted by OPCAT is the “confidential report”, which creates space in which to address concerns away from the immediate glare of publicity.
Accountability is a key tool in helping to prevent new violations of human rights from occurring. If the perpetrators of human rights violations get away with impunity, they will not fear to commit violations again in the future – and others will be encouraged to commit similar violations themselves.
The right to remedy contains the concept of guarantees of non-repetition or non-recurrence which contributes to the prevention of human rights violations. The Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation lists a range of suggested measures that have preventive effect, including:
- ensuring civilian control of military and security forces;
- ensuring due process, fairness and impartiality in legal proceedings;
- strengthening judicial independence;
- protecting legal, medical and healthcare professionals, journalists, and human rights defenders;
- human rights education; codes of conduct and ethical norms for public servants and business;
- promoting mechanisms for preventing and monitoring social conflicts and their resolution; and
- reviewing and reforming laws contributing to violations.
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence includes working to “prevent the recurrence of crises and future violations of human rights”. In 2018, the Special Rapporteur issued a report looking specifically at the issue of prevention and proposing a framework approach to prevention. In the same year, the mandate-holder also undertook a joint study with the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide on the contribution of transitional justice to the prevention of gross violations and abuses of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law.
The concept of human rights due diligence has also proved to be a powerful tool in preventing human rights violations. For example, the United Nations Due Diligence Policy on United Nations support to non-UN security forces works by ensuring that the United Nations does not work with those responsible for human rights violations and support from the United Nations does not contribute to or increase the risk of human rights violations through the implementation of mitigation measures.
The prevention role of National Human Rights Institutions
In the same way that prevention forms a core part of human rights protection and promotion at the international level, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) play an important role in preventing human rights violations domestically as part of their mandate to promote and protect human rights. Some NHRIs have specific prevention mandates, such as the national preventive mechanisms established under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. But all NHRIs have a role in general efforts to prevent human rights violations from occurring or reoccurring within their jurisdiction. Their special character as a bridge between government and civil society can be especially important in prevention efforts by opening the space to address underlying structural causes of violations. Read more about NHRIs.
Human rights and the prevention of genocide and atrocity crimes
Human rights violations, especially when widespread and systematic, can be the precursors for ever more serious escalations in which atrocity crimes and genocide can take place. The prevention mandate of the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide complements that of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and OHCHR works closely with the Office on Genocide Prevention and Responsibility to Protect.
The Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes includes amongst the requirements for atrocity crime prevention “ensuring that the rule of law is respected and that all human rights are protected, without discrimination”. It includes, amongst the risk factors to watch, a record of “past or current serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, […] that have not been prevented, punished or adequately addressed and, as a result, create a risk of further violations.”
The Human Rights Council regularly interacts with the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide at its regular sessions and adopts resolutions on prevention of genocide.
- OHCHR Study on the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights (A/HRC/43/37)
- Preventing Torture: The role of national prevention mechanisms. A practical guide. (OHCHR Professional Training Series No. 21)
Discriminating at work based on traits like race, gender, and sexual orientation (The right to work) Failing to provide maternity leave (protection of and assistance to the family) Not paying a sufficient minimum wage (rights at work) Segregating students based on disabilities (the right to education)What are 5 examples of human rights violations? ›
Discriminating at work based on traits like race, gender, and sexual orientation (The right to work) Failing to provide maternity leave (protection of and assistance to the family) Not paying a sufficient minimum wage (rights at work) Segregating students based on disabilities (the right to education)How can social media prevent human rights violations? ›
- Identify abuse. Online violence and abuse has become a far too common experience. ...
- Report them. Everyone will deal with violence and abuse online differently. ...
- Mute them. ...
- Block them. ...
- Disable your location. ...
- Disable location on your photos. ...
- Setting a strong password. ...
- Two factor authentication.
However, the system can also serve to reduce the risk of violence and conflict by ensuring that the drivers and triggers of conflict are tackled early on. Human rights empower people (rights holders) to seek redress for their grievances and constrain those with the power to provide redress (duty bearers) to respond.What are three factors that led to human rights violation? ›
The three factors that led to Human Rights violation are, Economic Factors, Social Factors and Political Factors.How can social media help defend human rights? ›
Social media informs the citizens about their social and political rights. Social media provides a platform to raise the voice against their human and political rights. Social media plays a crucial role in exposing and naming and shaming human rights violators to help bring about the change.What are the five strategies for safer social networking? ›
- Be cautious and selective when accepting new requests. ...
- Manage your privacy settings. ...
- Don't give out personal information. ...
- Change your passwords frequently. ...
- Close old accounts that you don't use anymore.
Strangers can get access to your personal information that may put your safety at risk. Remember that information can be there for a very long time. This includes private and direct messages. Be careful before you start sexting or sending intimate images of yourself even when you may think it's private.What are 3 ways you can reduce conflicts? ›
- Communication. One of the most common causes of workplace conflict is either the lack of or poor communication. ...
- Stop avoiding it. ...
- Set a formal complaint process. ...
- Create an environment that promotes collaboration. ...
- Ensure everyone is treated fairly.
Human rights are basic rights that belong to all of us simply because we are human. They embody key values in our society such as fairness, dignity, equality and respect. They are an important means of protection for us all, especially those who may face abuse, neglect and isolation.
- Meet your neighbor. Introduce yourself while walking the dog or when you see moving boxes arrive. ...
- Keep your neighbors informed. ...
- Be aware of differences. ...
- Consider your neighbor's point of view, literally. ...
- Be appreciative. ...
- Be positive. ...
- Be candid. ...
- Be respectful.
Our right to privacy and our right to access information may be the most commonly violated human rights in western democracies, and this is because governments have been all too happy to defer to economic interests in cases where human rights violations are not considered overt or grave enough to force action.What is the most common form of human rights violation? ›
Abductions, arbitrary arrests, detentions without trial, political executions, assassinations, and torture often follow. In cases where extreme violations of human rights have occurred, reconciliation and peacebuilding become much more difficult.What are the main human rights violations? ›
It prohibits arbitrary deprivation of life; torture, cruel or degrading treatment or punishment; slavery and forced labour; arbitrary arrest or detention; arbitrary interference with privacy; war propaganda; discrimination; and advocacy of racial or religious hatred.What human rights are most commonly violated? ›
Our right to privacy and our right to access information may be the most commonly violated human rights in western democracies, and this is because governments have been all too happy to defer to economic interests in cases where human rights violations are not considered overt or grave enough to force action.What are serious violations human rights? ›
Indiscriminate attacks in situations of armed conflict. Rape and other sexual violence. Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Violations of the right to life, including murder and massacres, and extrajudicial and summary executions.What is an example of serious human rights violations? ›
Abductions, arbitrary arrests, detentions without trial, political executions, assassinations, and torture often follow. In cases where extreme violations of human rights have occurred, reconciliation and peacebuilding become much more difficult.What rights are being violated? ›
- Sex and gender discrimination in education.
- Housing discrimination based on race or national origin.
- Workplace sexual harassment.
- Denial of notice or an opportunity to be heard before having property taken away.