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Researching International Human Rights Law: Sources of International Human Rights Law

Guide to UH Law School students researching international human rights law.

Sources of Law

International human rights law is part of public international law.  Human Rights can be defined as basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled such as civil and political rights, the right to life and liberty, freedom of thought and expression, equality before the law, social, cultural and economic rights, including the right to participate in culture, the right to food, the right to work, and the right to education.

International Court of Justice

Article 38 of the International Court of Justice Statute outlines the sources of law as follows:

  1. International conventions recognized by contesting states (includes treaties)
  2. International custom
  3. General principles of law recognized by civilized nations
  4. Judicial decisions and teachings of the most highly qualified publicists (academic writings)

Weight of Authority:

The first three are primary authority listed in the order of their weight while the fourth is treated as secondary authority.

United Nations

Charter Bodies

The charter bodies created under the United Nations Charter are:

  • Human Rights Council
  • Commission on Human Rights
    • Special Procedures established by the Commission on Human Rights
    • Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
Treaty Bodies (UN)