In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Enforcement of Human Rights

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Human Rights Enforcement in the Americas
  • Human Rights Enforcement in Africa
  • Enforcement Within the State

International Law Enforcement of Human Rights
Marko Milanovic
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 June 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 June 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0062


This bibliographical section will present literature on the various mechanisms designed to secure effective compliance by states with their human rights obligations. These mechanisms are by and large set up by the specific sources of international law—particularly treaties—which define the relevant substantive human rights obligations. As such, the issue of enforcement is inextricably linked to the question of scope of the relevant treaties, for which the reader is referred to the article on Human Rights. Similarly, this article’s examination of enforcement will generally exclude the broader question of why states choose to assume and comply with international legal obligations generally. It should also be noted that large-scale human rights violations can also implicate other areas of international law, such as international humanitarian law and international criminal law, and that one could for instance see trials before international criminal courts and tribunals as methods of human rights enforcement broadly speaking. Again, however, the reader is referred to the relevant articles examining these topics in more detail. There are several ways in which this article could be structured. Rather than grouping the various enforcement mechanisms by their method of operation (e.g., monitoring and reporting, inter-state and individual complaints), the sections will be organized by the various systems of protection, each of them based on a particular set of legal instruments, and each of them including various enforcement mechanisms. The reason for doing so is that the relevant scholarship is by and large focused on one particular system, or one particular aspect of a system. After first covering some standard general works, this article will look at the various mechanisms of enforcement within the universal human rights system, and then at the several regional systems and at enforcement within the state.

General Overviews

Alfredsson, et al. 2009; Baderin and Ssenyonjo 2010; and Bloed, et al. 1993 are excellent edited collections wholly or partly devoted to human rights enforcement. Moeckli, et al. 2010 is a recent textbook, useful for further research. Tomuschat 2008 could be read as a textbook, but it is also a book equipped with a central thesis that requires a thorough examination of human rights enforcement, while Shelton 2005 connects enforcement to the law of remedies.

  • Alfredsson, Gudmundur, Jonas Grimheden, Bertrand G. Ramcharan, and Alfred de Zayas, eds. International Human Rights Monitoring Mechanisms: Essays in Honour of Jakob Th. Möller. 2d ed. Leiden, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004162365.i-728

    A remarkable collection of essays—indeed, one of the few Festschrifts ever to actually have a second edition—which comprehensively covers the topic of human rights monitoring mechanisms, with sixty-eight individual contributions by leading authors in the field, running at more than seven hundred pages. The standard work on the subject.

  • Baderin, Mashood A., and Manisuli Ssenyonjo, eds. International Human Rights Law: Six Decades After the UDHR and Beyond. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2010.

    A recent edited collection generally on human rights law by leading scholars. Chapters 11–20 are specifically devoted to mechanisms of enforcement.

  • Bloed, Arie, Liselotte Leicht, Manfred Nowak, and Allan Rosas, eds. Monitoring Human Rights in Europe: Comparing International Procedures and Mechanisms. Leiden, The Netherlands: Kluwer/Martinus Nijhoff, 1993.

    Despite its title, this edited collection is not confined solely to European regional monitoring mechanisms. While by now dated and interesting mainly for the assessment of human rights enforcement mechanisms as they stood at the beginning of the 1990s, it is still notable both because of the expertise of its contributors and because of its explicitly comparative perspective.

  • Moeckli, Daniel, Sangeeta Shah, Sandesh Sivakumaran, and D. J. Harris, eds. International Human Rights Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

    An excellent postgraduate textbook in international human rights law, with Part 4 (chapters 18–22) covering the various universal and regional systems of human rights protection. A good first port of call for further research.

  • Shelton, Dinah. Remedies in International Human Rights Law. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    A different look at the enforcement of human rights. While this important book does deal with the institutional aspects of human rights enforcement mechanisms, its primary focus is on the theoretical and practical analysis of the remedies that they can provide.

  • Tomuschat, Christian. Human Rights: Between Idealism and Realism. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    A good general book on human rights law, with specific emphasis throughout on mechanisms of enforcement and implementation.

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