How to Prevent Human Rights Violations

The international human rights community has developed a practical and theoretical approach, to address specific human rights violations. To achieve this end, legislation, mechanisms, approaches, treaties and protocols have been put into place. There are, for instance, treaties and protocols on genocide, war crimes and torture. Nations are often requested to ratify treaties and protocols in this regard.

With respect to the practical methodology, human rights theorists have made achievements in many issues, based on two elements:

• Preventing the incidence of violations in the first place.

• Addressing violations when they occur.

Now, it is intended that this methodology be applied to all types of violations, rather than specific violations. Thus, states can follow all the necessary steps towards taking effective measures and procedures that prevent the occurrence of violations; and also to have in place mechanisms and legislation that would help in addressing the effects of these violations and prevent their recurrence, if they do occur.

The question is how to prevent the occurrence of violations at the outset, based on the proverb: “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”.

According to UN literature “Direct prevention aims to eliminate risk factors and establish a legal, administrative and policy framework which seeks to prevent violations. It is also contingent on establishing a culture of respect for human rights, good governance and the rule of law, and an enabling environment for a vibrant civil society and free press.”

For example, the prevention of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment includes adopting laws prohibiting their use and providing for prosecution of those who violate them. It also includes putting in place procedural safeguards – such as registers in places of detention and video recordings of interrogations – as well as ensuring independent oversight, including regular monitoring of places of detention by independent bodies”.

But, what steps need to be taken by states in the event of incidence of violations, and how can their recurrence be prevented?

The first step is to identify the root causes underlying violations by conducting investigations;

Secondly, the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators according to the law;

Thirdly, to ensure the right of victims to know the truth about violations, as well as their right to an effective remedy, including compensation;

Fourthly, the development of legislation - in case of lack of legislation- covering a specific violation, or amending some legislation to close the legal gaps and hence prevent the recurrence of violations.

In all cases, the responsibility lies almost entirely with the state to prevent violations, and this makes it incumbent on the state to: ratify and implement human rights treaties; to create and promote a tolerant culture that respects human rights; to activate the national institutions and civil society in order to carry out their functions; and finally, the state is responsible for assisting and redressing victims of violations.