Human Rights (HR) monitoring is defined by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as:
… a broad term describing the active collection, verification and immediate use of information to address human rights problems. Human rights monitoring includes gathering information about incidents, observing events (elections, trials, demonstrations, etc.), visiting sites such as places of detention and refugee camps, holding discussions with Government authorities to obtain information and to pursue remedies and other immediate follow-up. HR Monitoring includes evaluative activities, fact-gathering and other work in the field. Additionally, monitoring has a temporal quality in that it generally takes place over a protracted period of time.
The main objective of monitoring is to prevent and deter human rights violations. In order to do so, HR monitoring examines possible causes of violations, proposes solutions and promotes accountability. HR monitoring is carried out by state institutions such as national Ombuds Institutions and National Human Rights Institutions as well as by regional and international institutions such as Human Rights Defenders and International Organisations. HR monitoring carried out by international and local non-governmental organisations is a complementary mechanism for Human Rights protection, which is above all a responsibility of the state.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), lists a series principles that any HR monitoring entity should follow:
- Human Rights Officers (HROs) have an obligation not to jeopardize the life, physical and psychological safety, freedom and well-being of victims, witnesses and all those who enter into contact with them in the framework of their monitoring work.
- Every HRO must be aware of its mandate and the international standards it is inscribed in.
- Seek full and unimpeded access to information sources and locations in order to carry out their work according to the principle of freedom of movement and within the parameters set out by field agreements and mandates.
- HROs should be fully familiar with the international human rights standards that are relevant to their mandate and applicable to the context of their work.
- HROs should exercise their sound judgement at all times and in all circumstances.
- HROs should regularly consult their colleagues and/or supervisors on the different aspects of human rights monitoring, especially when dealing with difficult cases.
- Credibility is a vital component of successful HR monitoring.
- So is respecting confidentiality and protecting information sources.
- When conducting interviews with victims of human rights violations, witnesses and other cooperating persons, HROs must obtain the interviewees’ informed consent to use and/or share the information provided.
- Respect the security of both the HROs and the persons who come in contact with them.
- HROs should understand the context in which they are working.
- HROs should ensure the participation and consultation of all the relevant parties including those that are most marginalized.
- Integrate gender perspective into HR monitoring.
- Information must be collected in a consistent manner and from a variety of sources. HROs should strive to obtain a comprehensive and thorough understanding of the situation by taking into account all possible sources of information.
- HROs must produce sound and precise analysis based on facts and thoroughly documented in order for that analysis to serve as a base for corrective action and recommendations.
- Impartiality should be observed at all times.
- So should objectivity.
- And sensitivity.
- HROs should act with integrity, professionalism, and respect for diversity.
- HROs should be transparent
- And raise awareness on HR topics and their own work.
Human rights monitoring is conducted against the backdrop of the International Human Rights Standards, Regional and National HR legislation and International Humanitarian and Criminal laws. Violations of these legal principles can be committed by states, groups, and individuals against states, groups, and individuals.
International Human Rights Standards are fundamental universal rights of all human beings, which are defined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948). These basic rights are supported and expanded by additional protocols, regional and national legislation and other legislative tools.
For a full overview of basic international, regional and national human rights legislative instruments, refer to the Human Rights Section.
INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW
International Humanitarian Law consists of a set of rules, principles and regulations that apply in times of war and conflict with the objective of protecting basic human rights and limiting the effects of war.
Key International Humanitarian Law instruments, as listed by the International Justice Resource Center are the 1907 Hague Regulations, four Geneva Conventions, and their Additional Protocols below:
- 1907 Hague Regulations (Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annex: Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land. The Hague, 18 October 1907)
- Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, Geneva, 12 August 1949
- Convention (II) for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea. Geneva, 12 August 1949
- Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949
- Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949
- Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977
- Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), 8 June 1977
- Protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Adoption of an Additional Distinctive Emblem (Protocol III), 8 December 2005
INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL LAW
International Criminal Law consists of a series of laws that complement International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Legislation. The main objective of these laws is to reinforce the respect for human rights and to impose the implementation of International Human Rights Standards by the states. Moreover, the laws seek to ensure that human rights violations are criminalised by establishing concrete sanctions to punish abuses. International Criminal Law penalizes crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes, acts of international aggression, and trans-national crimes, such as terrorism, drug-trafficking, piracy, slave-trading, etc. International criminal Law assigns individual criminal responsibility to the offenders.
Key international legislative instruments that complement those sited above (International Humanitarian Law) are:
Key links and resources:
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2001), Training Manual on Human Rights Monitoring. Professional Series No. 7.
About the Office of the Ombudsperson of Ukraine. UNDP (2015), Midterm review: Office of the Ombudsperson Strategy and Action Plan 2013-2017.
 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2001), Training Manual on Human Rights Monitoring. Professional Series No. 7. Available here.
 Ibid. p 4-11.
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