How Does International Law Protect Human Rights?

International law aims to protect the values and interests of states. International human rights law creates legal obligations to states, which are of binding nature. States becoming parties to international human rights treaties take on an international legal obligation to respect and to protect human rights covered by those treaties – as it is their obligation under international customary law and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. 

This is a complex obligation. First, it means that they have to refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. Second, states have to protect individuals (and groups, if needed) against violations of human rights. Third, they also have to take effective steps towards the facilitation of the enjoyment of human rights, even by legislative actions, if necessary. 

Here, if we took the case study of flood disaster in Pakistan, we can elucidate the relationship between human rights and international law. Catastrophic flooding in Pakistan in 2010 had caused devastating damage to housing, infrastructure, livestock, and agricultural lands. The floods had displaced at least twenty million people. The UN had issued urgent appeals for humanitarian aid to help rebuild people’s lives. 

In November 2004 the European Court of Human Rights said an 11-year-old boy did not have a fair trial because he did not understand the consequences of any penalty, including imprisonment.

In The Queen vs Chaarani, Justice Beale of the Victorian Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to an earlier order prohibiting the wearing of a niqab(veil) by a spectator during the trial of three men accused of plotting a Christmas bombing of Federation Square in Melbourne’s CBD. Ms. Aisha Al Qattan, the wife of one of the accused, submitted that a prohibition against wearing the veil while in the public gallery of the court breached Ms. Al Qattan’s right of religious freedom and right to participate in public life. Both rights are prescribed in the Victorian Charter of Human Rights.

In Zahira Habibullah Sheikh v State of Gujarat, the Indian Supreme Court held that a fair trial was an important principle of the protection of human rights and pivotal to the administration of justice, and thus had to be understood as based on a triangulation of interests. The court referred to the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Thus, Human Rights and International Law are quite linked with each other, and these are
considered two branches of law, and are interdependent on each other.

Recent Posts

Fatima Tariq Written by:

Fatima Tariq, a law student at Kinnaird College for Women and a political science student at the University of Punjab. Research fellow at Insaaf Camp. Follow me at