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Human Rights and Humanitarian Law: Regional Organisations

The Raoul Wallenberg Institute's Guide to Human Rights and Humanitarian Law


Organization of American States (OAS)

The Charter of the Organization of American States established the Organization of American States (OAS), which has among its principles and purposes the strengthening of peace and security, ensuring peaceful settlement of disputes, providing for a common action in the event of aggression, and promoting economic, social and cultural development.It also proclaims the fundamental rights of the individual without distinction as to race, nationality, creed or sex.
It was within the framework of the OAS that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was established, and that the 1948 American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, as well as the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights, were elaborated.


Although there is no specific system that covers all of the Asia/Pacific region a lot of countries have signed up to the United Nations treaties. Some countries in the region have more developed human rights systems than others.

There is a Asian Human Rights Commission which was set up 1986 as a non-governmental organisation to help promote Human Rights within the region.

Future Intergovernmental Human Rights Systems
On the 8th August 1967 the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was established and this has now 10 members: Indonesia (1967), Malaysia (1967), Philippines (1967), Singapore (1967), Thailand (1967), Brunei Darussalam (1984), Vietnam (1995), Lao PDR (1997), Myanmar (1997) and Cambodia (1997). This was not related to Human Rights but human rights has become a part of the remit recently with the decision to draft a ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.


The African Union

The African Union (AU) is an intergovernmental organization with 53 member states (cf. below) that was established on 9 July 2002 and succeeded the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The Assembly of the African Union is the semi-annual meeting of the heads of state and government of its member states. The AU's secretariat is called the African Union Commission (it will be renamed as African Union Authority). It is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and acts as the executive and administrative branch of the AU. It must be distinguished from the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. The main objectives of the AU are to accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent; to promote and defend African common positions; to achieve peace and security in Africa; and to promote democratic institutions, good governance and human rights.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples´Rights

 The Commission , based in Banjul, Gambia, is a subsidiary organisation, reporting to the African Union. It is tasked with promoting and protecting human rights and peoples' rights throughout the African continent.


Council of Europe

The Council of Europe is a regional intergovernmental organization whose main role is to strengthen democracy, human rights and the rule of law throughout its Member States of 47 (2012) countries.The Council of Europe established the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which entered into force in 1953, and is the main European human rights convention.

The European Convention on Human Rights, which was adopted in 1950 and came into force three years later, is a unique reflection of the values of civilisation and democracy.The importance of the Convention lies not just in the rights it protects but also in the supervisory system set up to consider alleged violations and ensure that states abide by their treaty obligations.