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The UDHR is neither a Binding Document nor a Treaty By Bankole Clifford Ekundayo Morgan, Human Rights Advocate

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Article No: 55

(The thoughts expressed in this article are purely and entirely those of the author)

Under international law, a treaty is any legally binding agreement between states

It is important to note that international agreements are formal understandings or commitments between two or more countries. Generally, agreement between states can either be “bilateral” or “multilateral”.  An agreement between two countries is called “bilateral,” while an agreement between several countries is “multilateral.” Countries signing to an international agreement are obviously bound by that international agreement. Countries of international agreement are generally referred to as “States Parties.” Under international law, a treaty is any legally binding agreement between states (countries). A treaty can be called a Convention, a Protocol, an Accord, etc

The UDHR is neither a Binding Document nor a Treaty

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is neither a binding document nor a Treaty or Convention or Protocol or an Accord, but a declaration. However, the UDHR serves as an eye opener in the projection of the respect for the protection and promotion of human rights. Procedurally, a declaration does not have the binding force of law, but however, it carried great moral weight.  The UDHR is not an international convention or treaties like the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) of which each has the full force of the law. It is important to note that Sierra Leone is a signatory to these UN treaties/conventions aforementioned.

Procedure for State to Accede to Human Rights Treaties/Conventions

Essentially, there is a set procedure for state parties to accede to a treaty and or any human rights convention. In order to give the human rights listed in the UDHR the force of law, the United Nations drafted two treaties, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). These are two well-known international human rights treaties/ conventions that contained Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These two covenants are interconnected, and the rights contained in one covenant are necessary to the fulfilment of the rights contained in the other. Together, the UDHR, ICCPR, and ICESCR are known as the International Bill of Human Rights. The contained a comprehensive list of human rights that governments must respect, protects, and fulfil.

Human Rights can be traced to the Period of the World War II

The modern human rights essentially can be traced to the period of the World War II when there were grave concern to end slavery, genocide, discrimination, and government’s oppression. It was evident that there were blatant and consistent violations of fundamental human rights by super powers, which said act led to huge loss of lives, properties, infrastructures, etc. It was glaring that the efforts made by governments at that time to protect individual rights from violations and or abuse were inadequate. Later the super powers came to the realization that there was need for the protection and promotion of human rights. The desire for the projection of the respect for human rights brought about a declaration that came into existence which became known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948. This declaration serves as an eye opener to other human rights treaties and there are host of rights that contained in the UDHR and these rights are: Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural rights. These components of rights by international standard are entitlement that all human beings should enjoy. The declaration was ratified without opposition by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. The 10th day of December in each year is observed and commemorated as International Human Rights day. Essentially, human rights are standards that allow all people to live with dignity, freedom, equality, justice, and peace.

Human Rights are also Part of International Law

Human rights can be defined as a fundamental right of an individual protected by law and guaranteed by state. Human rights are importantly standards that allow all people to live with dignity, freedom, equality, justice, and peace. Every person has these rights simply because they are human beings. Human Rights are guaranteed to everyone without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. Human rights are essential to the full development of individuals and communities. Many people view human rights as a set of moral principles that apply to everyone. Human rights are also part of international law, contained in treaties and or conventions that spell out specific rights that countries are required to uphold. Countries often incorporate human rights in their own national, state, and local laws. For instance, in Sierra Leone we have the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, which came into existence through an Act of Parliament and its mandate is to protect and promote human rights in Sierra Leone.

Human Rights Protect People Against Violation from State Actors.

Human rights are very important on the basis that the set standards necessary for people to live with dignity. Essentially, human rights give people the freedom to choose how they live, how they express themselves, and what kind of government they want to support, among many other things. Human rights also guarantee people the means necessary to satisfy their basic needs, such as food, housing, and education, so they can take full advantage of all opportunities. Fundamentally, by guaranteeing life, liberty, equality, and security, human rights protect people against violation and or abuse by those who are more powerful. Human rights are upheld by the rule of law and strengthened through legitimate claims for duty-bearers to be accountable to international standards. It is important to note that, human rights, rule of law, democracy, good governance and accountability measures are promoted through a broad range of work of a strong and effective National Human Rights Institution. Under human rights treaties, governments have the legal obligation to respect, protect, and fulfil the rights contained in the treaty or treaties they have signed. In conclusion, it is evident that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is neither a binding document nor a Treaty or Convention or Protocol or an Accord, but a declaration. However, the UDHR serves as an eye opener in the projection of the respect for the protection and promotion of human rights.

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