Human Rights Treaty Body Reform: New Proposals
60 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2011 Last revised: 20 Feb 2015
Date Written: June 27, 2011
“Reform” in international human rights law has become a narrow concept. A survey of the literature reveals that nearly any suggestion for reform concerns greater enforcement of international human rights substantive norms. The proper role of treaty bodies is rarely discussed.
It is the purpose of this article to address the neglected question of treaty body role. Section II provides a nuts-and-bolts guide to the treaty body mandates for United Nations delegates, States Parties, and international lawyers. This section sketches the proper and improper actions for treaty bodies to take. It is our contention that if treaty bodies were limited to their proper role, they could more effectively use their already scant resources to promote human rights. Section III provides an in depth analysis of three treaty bodies, showing how their practices have strayed far from their limited mandates, and proposing explanations for how and why treaty bodies have overstepped their mandates. Section VI identifies the inaction of States Parties as enabling a host of problems that have distorted the treaty body system. Section V provides specific suggestions for internal reform of the international human rights legal apparatus.
Keywords: international law, human rights law, legal theory, sovereignty, plain meaning, treaties, Vienna Convention
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