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Rights and Obligations International Legal System Essay


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Rights and Obligations in the International Legal System


International law lays down the basis for describing the nature, scope and obligations of the international legal system. International law is also the major changes and developments in the international legal system. This involves principal laws governing international agreements one significant example being treaties; recognizing the sovereignty of  states and their governance; jurisdiction, more so foreign and sovereign immunity and also doctrines governing the actions of states; guidelines for the resolution of international disputes; global and regional bodies such as the UN; international economic law, public international law which essentially prescribes human rights, laws governing international waters and the environment.

International Legal System

This essay seeks to delve and comprehensively examine the rights and obligations under the jurisdiction of international law, the relevance of international law with regards to private transactions, the international legal system’s operations in different governments and the problems that seem to arise in as a result of the traversing jurisdiction of different governments over persons, bodies and property. The accepted framework for the implementation of international human rights as stated in international legal documents and treaties as formulated and upheld by international organizations and places the key obligation of implementing and guaranteeing human rights squarely on the shoulders of governments to enforce and continuously ensure that the prescribed standards are met and upheld.

It is worthy to note that international law can be best considered as a parallel legal system whereby governments and states privy to it are the primary enforcers. We can therefore deduce that states and governments ought to bear the obligations to the implementation of the international law and scope on the international legal system both at the domestic and individual people’s levels which are in such a perspective as not to perceive the benefits accorded by both the international law and the international legal system. This expressly implies that in a situation where a country’s state of affairs is bearing conflict causing reasons for concerns as to the impact of such conflict then duly constituted state laws should be understood and accepted separately from the operational scope and obligations of the international legal system.

The international legal system as stated above has its scope prescribed by a number of sources which include treaties binding all governments privy to it and based on a government’s custom practices to which it is legally bound with the exception of countries not in the agreement with such law. However, in the international legal system there are laws and rule that are so fundamental (ius cogens) that no country has the option to sidestep the jurisdiction of such rules or laws.

What are the obligations of states regarding international human rights?

One of the newest and most well accepted aspects of international law is the fact that countries have enacted laws within their own territorial boundaries that prescribe human rights and this has ultimately been construed to imply that such countries have bound themselves to comply with obligations as stipulated by the international law concerning human rights.

Human rights can be described as the holistic norms for the enhancement in the protection of every individual and all peoples on the globe social, legal or political abuse from existing in both in law and morality. These are directly addressed to all governments so as to ensure the compliance and due enforcement in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other numerous human rights treaties and legal documents as passed by the United Nations, Organization of American States, Council of Europe, African Union and other international organizations for the advancement of humanity.

Human rights define the least probable conditions that ensures a group of peoples have basic civil, economic, cultural, political and social state of affairs ensuring that they live in an acceptable level of dignity. These conditions therefore have a universally accepted mode of application that is equality through the humanity as a virtue. With this in mind peoples, groups of people, societies, countries and the entire world can live in mutual respect, feel protected, live peacefully and be in a position to express their full potential as gifted human beings.

It is worthy to note that as much as the modern world has made commendable progress in advancing technology, political and socioeconomic milestones, grievances as to the tolerance respect and equality among human beings have in a great many aspects regressed to the age of the dinosaurs. With the dawning of the 19th century, focus with regards to the protecting individual rights and freedoms culminated with the endeavor to abolish slavery and improve the state of affairs of the wounded and underprivileged in times of war. After the First World War, it was evident that the promotion of human welfare was tantamount to protecting world peace and harmony by seeking to minimize factors that lead to social strife and unrest or even precipitate revolutions. The Second World War began before these international laws were comprehensively adopted and the atrocities of the war brought about greater urgency in resolving issues related to ensuring world peace and harmony. The Charter of the United Nations signed by member nations as a means to guarantee peace and justice for all mankind through international cooperation provides for the protection of the individual human being. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides the prescribed rights and freedoms for each individual human being. All states claiming to be members of the United Nations have an obligation under international law towards concerted or otherwise separate actions towards the realization of these rights and freedom regardless race, language, gender or religion.

The concept that is Human Rights is inherent as to the nature of every human being and should therefore not be denied to any single human being. This therefore implies that rights and freedoms essential to every human being are founded on the human family tree and thus no country should underscore this aspect with respect to humanity. The universal and ultimately inalienable rights fro all human beings are deeply rooted within the international legal system.

The most significant responsibility that a country can take with regards to international human rights law is to create national laws under through the guidance of international law and as such fundamentally ratify all treaties that seek for the guaranteeing of human rights. Basically treaties are formulated through committees composing representatives of a given country after which a treaty has to be ratified at national level. After a treaty is duly established, a country empowers such a treaty through the creation of internal law so as to ensure its implementation. After a treaty has been implemented, a state should then conform it conducts and beliefs to the norms prescribed by the treaty. The treaty is then applied as the benchmark for both internal and external criticisms and subsequent evaluations.

The UN Charter’s article 56 requires that all member states should act proactively whether together or on their own to ensure that all individuals within its or their borders have their rights and freedoms respected. It is therefore expected of a country to enhance the promoting of individual human rights as recognized by international law through the incorporation of internationally accepted customs and embed these into the existing sovereign constitution and more so into a country’s criminal law thus limiting federalism, and using propaganda and civic education to further promote the realization of universality with regards to rights and freedoms of human beings. Most countries around the world have redrafted their constitutions to duly realize the need for protecting the rights and freedoms of human beings.

Countries also ensure that human rights are protected within their boundaries through the enforcement of new treaties that criminalize opponents to the fulfillment of rights and freedoms of fellow human beings. International law is dutifully upheld when comprehensively integrated into the legal systems in sovereign countries. A good example is the adoption of international rules into the UK domestic legal system through the enactment of the Human Rights Act (1998). Under the act an individual residing in the country can claim redress in issues related to human rights without having to travel all the way to France for legal redress in the European Court for Human Rights.

States can also institute human rights commissions within their borders as a means with which to promote the protection of human rights and freedoms. Human rights commissions are tasked with enhancing civic education among the common people with regards to their freedoms and rights as prescribed by international law, more so promoting the universality of human rights and offering professional advice to state governments. Representatives from human rights commissions also serve to represent governments during annual sessions called by the United Nations on human rights thus highlighting a country’s human rights setbacks, developments or successes in international forums.

Countries also take unilateral or multilateral actions with other countries towards ensuring that human rights are well protected and adequately protected in other states. Such actions may be in the form of diplomatic efforts, economic embargos, publications of relevant documents and reports as well as military interventions.

Non governmental organizations also play an important and crucial role in ensuring that human rights and freedoms are comprehensively protected. NGO’s such as the Human Rights Watch are well placed to offer assistance in areas related to war crimes, humanitarian aid and more so human rights abuse on a multinational level. Through fact finding missions and thorough information processing NGO’s seek to educate the masses about their human rights and also collect data on countries violating the internationally accepted norms on human rights. Bearing the capacity to work at grass root levels, the NGO’s offer the international community with information concerning progress noted or otherwise and more so educate them on issues relating in different countries.

To what extent can or should the concept of human rights accommodate diversity

Human rights are founded on a principle that ultimately roots for the embracing of the fact that every individual no matter the place of residence has the right to dignity of life. This principle incorporates the universal jurisdiction of the international legal system with respect to human rights. However, the universalism on the application of human rights tends to contradict with the notion of cultural relativism. This is primarily because of the simple fact that human beings have the right to abide by their cultural ethics and values. In other terms, human rights without the due consideration of innate cultural rites and practices tend to diminish an individual’s cultural identity. This implies that this would in essence violate such an individual’s rights and fundamental freedoms as prescribed by international law.

It is worthy to note that cultural relativism by the nature of its incorporating many cultures extends the diversity and scope of human rights’ principle of universalism. Cultural relativism presents human rights development with the single most irreducible aspect that is the diversity of human cultures. Each human culture bears testament to its own unique norms and customs. This presents the main bone of contention with regards to human rights accommodating diversity. Cultural relativism basically upholds the perspective that all each and every culture is equal to the other and more so lays emphasis on the precept that universalism is secondary when relating issues to cultural norms.

Examples highlighting these aspects relative to cultural relativism are the prevalence of female genital mutilation in some cultures which consider the practice as a passage to womanhood and appropriately refer to the practice as female circumcision. This is quite predominant in African societies. However, this is not only subjected to the developing countries but is also present in cultures residing in developed countries. In the United States of America, if an American who happens to be un-insured through medical covers does not receive sufficient treatment for an illness by reason of being a low income earner, the contemporary American culture tends to accept this scenario as fate as will the American legal system. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights every individual has the right to receive proper and sufficient medical care. The international legal system is therefore with out teeth to bite with respect to cultural relativism though it has the ability to bark. This problem is compounded by the situation that arises from the lack of a comprehensive examination of the social structures that go a long way in defining cultural norms.

What difficulties do you see with such an approach to human rights?

These crimes against humanity are promoted through the retrogressive nature of cultural relativisms that tend to legitimatize and regrettably maintain savage customs and norms. Cultural relativism is detrimental to the promotion of universal human rights as prescribed by the international treaties and legal documents. Proponents of cultural relativisms preach the perception that the universalism in the application of human rights and fundamental freedoms as a concept with western principles at heart. This is more so among extremist religious groups, unfortunately there apparent acceptance of the use of equipment made in the western countries such as phones and airplanes seems not to fall in their views concerning western cultures.

This selective application of some supposedly innate cultural norms tends to deviate further from the truth and thus it is only fair to state that there is no supposed sanctity in apply cultural norms just for the main aim of maintaining cultures and thus a culture that fails to defend protect the living standards of human beings with an emphasis on mutual respect, feel protected, live peacefully and be in a position to express their full potential as gifted human beings is in essence not a culture. Fighting for the universal application of human rights in essence translates to doing away with backward beliefs that demean humanity’s purpose that is to excel.

This is negative perceptions rooted in cultural relativism are however not only rooted to non western nations but are present in the developed western countries too. After the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 by many nations including the United States, the US still had to grapple with the equality of African-Americans to those of dominant  races in that nation. Most white citizens in the southern parts of the US strongly opposed equality for all human beings and as such a classic deviation towards cultural relativism. Would have the fight for equality to human rights failed, then America would have served to nurture racism and thus legitimize this societal vice. This fight has been described by scholars as continuing to date and is one of the strongest examples as to the need for limits to cultural relativism.


To come to terms with what human rights really entail and the importance of the member states accommodating the universalism of human rights is fundamental to the realization of the potential of human beings. Countries should thus work with other stake holders in an effort to ensure that conflicting cultural practices are disregarded in support for universal human rights and thus enhance the jurisdiction of the international legal system.