Since the end of World War II, the human rights regime has been established as the most important priority in the international system in response to atrocities that occurred during the World War II under the Nazi regime such as the Holocaust. Over the last years the governments have made human rights a priority and by doing so, they have elaborated an entire global framework of doctrines, and treaties such as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (1948) in order to promote and protect them. The Declaration launched modern international human rights laws with a goal to protect all individuals at all times, not just in war, and make states responsible in case of infringement. However, it was only the fundamental basis to expand the framework of international human rights treaties. This expansion continued with the establishment of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), and they are the only human rights treaties that promote and protect human rights through their legal binding nature. But are the international human rights treaties the best way to promote or protect human rights? Without a doubt, the Declaration itself and other treaties such as those mentioned above have been the basis of many human rights bodies and actors from Human rights Commission to local NGOs. However, these actors have failed to protect human rights adequately in various ways albeit the fact that they raise the public awareness regarding human right violations. Thus, there are some questions that we should bear in mind. Are human rights truly protected? If not, why? There is an ongoing debate challenging the effectiveness of human rights treaties regarding the protection of human rights because even in nowadays, millions of people’s rights are violated in a daily basis. The reason why this is happening is because of the lack of the international system to enforce those treaties within the domestic law of sovereign states and the incapability of states to respect and prioritize human rights in their political agenda.
The case of Saudi Arabia
Human rights violations still happen albeit the fact that states are now obliged under the international law to enforce the required policies in order to protect them. Furthermore, in the name of sovereignty states can exclude themselves from any part of the treaties that ratified for through a reservation or declaration and thus, they are not obligated to enforce those rights within their national borders. Hence, the human rights regime will be valuable to violation and discrimination. For example, after the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979), Saudi Arabia made a reservation in the event of a conflict between the Convention and Islamic law. Because of this conflict Saudi Arabia stated that their Kingdom would not follow the Convention to override their domestic law. Although, many European states were objected, the Saudi’s Arabia reservations remain to force. As a result, the conflict between rights also enhanced the difference between state and individuals rights because the state itself had to 3 deal with the dilemma of which part should be prioritized; state’s sovereignty or individuals’ rights. Most of the times, state’s sovereignty overrides individual’s rights and freedoms on the grounds that state want to protect its interests and retain its status quo in a domestic and international level.
We come to the conclusion that even though the framework of international human rights treaties promotes them domestically and internationally, it does not protect them. The reasons why the current framework cannot protect human rights in an efficient and adequate way rely on political, social and legal factors such as the sovereignty of states, conflict between state and individual rights and lack of legal definitions within the framework in order to protect them. Therefore, it creates more gaps than it solves and it leads to discrimination and exclusion of other rights and freedoms.