The Tensions Between International Human Rights Obligations and State Sovereignty

Published: 2021-06-23
1868 words
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University of Richmond
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The state sovereignty refers to the ability of a state of governing its internal affairs without any interference from the outside as it protects its equality claim in the States' society. Sovereignty offers a base and remains in the middle of the state interaction in the modern world. The freedom assumes that no authority exists above a state without its consent. On the other hand, the international law is different to internal structures with the States being the major subjects and the primary agents (Donnelly,2004). They are in charge of formulating, enacting, and enforcing the law which applies to them. Human rights are concerned with the rights of people. They are concerned with viewing the humans as great beings who deserve respect and the care of the state and the international community. According to Donnelly (2004), the sovereignty of state impacts on the international human rights. If the human rights are abused in a certain state which is governed by laws which offer protection to the human rights and the victims, receive recourse through domestic based institutions. The problem comes up when the structures do no uphold the human rights due to their unwillingness to take action. In such cases, the scholars on international rights recognise that tension exists between the sovereignty of the state and protecting the human rights. The development of the international human rights aspects has led to a continuous conflict between the overall principle which governs the international legal regime of consent and the state sovereignty and the overall significance of maintaining the human rights. This paper will discuss the tension that exists between the obligations of the international human rights and the state sovereignty. It will also give examples of countries where the tension has been experienced.

Human rights and sovereignty are opposed in a fundamental way. The states' rights are pitted against the individuals' rights. Both the human right and the sovereignty of state were integrated after the adoption of the Charter of UN. However, their coexistence has been difficult. The two principles confronted each other most of the time rather than a partner. The sovereignty concept in the modern world involves the duty of protecting the rights of people and is reinforced widely. Adopting the UN charter and later enacting it on the human rights had a significant influence on the society such that there is no state which challenges the human rights principle that human beings have to earn the respect of every state (Negeri,2011).

The human rights are said to undermine or erode the sovereignty of the state but are embedded within the sovereignty. This is apparent from such publications as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the cultural rights. The Westphalia kind of sovereignty fails to provide a human rights' conception which is consistent with the documents about human rights (Sens and Stoett,2005). The persistence of the violation of human rights continues and those that violate them claim sovereignty over their states' internal policies. In such incidences, the reactions that follow are actions like political based condemnation, economic sanctions, and action of the military. The measures have benefits, but they also lead to more straining relationships between the states. According to Goldstein & Pevehouse (2008), respecting the sovereignty of a state may promote international unity but be undermining to the human rights' foundations. The assertion of the Westphalian sovereignty that the states are not meant to be subjects to external authoritative influences such as influence from other international organisations and other countries, it limits the abilities of the other countries in protecting the human rights that are not within its borders.

Human rights have also been burdened by sovereignty in its framing of dialogue among states and the choices which the other nations trust they own when the people are deprived of their rights. The majority of the arrangements empowered the governments to challenges each other. It might look like as the rights of the humans and their actions are influenced in a significant way by the norms, the sovereignty of a state also experiences the same. The sovereignty of the states has existed even before human rights came to be. The state sovereignty is recognised even by the United Nations (Moravcsik,2000).

The protection of the human rights has recently become a usual practice for several states. The protection of the human rights can be said to among the present objectives of some of the Western democratic states. However, in the past, sovereignty was of interest to the same states. The Westphalian sovereignty principle still has a significant role. The United Nations demonstrate the degree of the value placed on sovereignty by different governments during times of peacekeeping. Even when the government is not the one to blame for violating the human rights, and the violators turn out to be factions from the inside, the permission to conduct the operations of the peacekeeping is required for the state which is affected. The consent requirement for purposes of engaging in peacekeeping missions shows that despite the fact that there is an obligation to the rights of individuals, the reverence for the sovereignty of another nation comes first before the human rights are enforced (Sens & Stoett,2005).Sovereignty, in addition to shape the governed and the governors' view on the abuses of the international human rights it has strengthened how the human rights are imposed upon those that are not Western governments especially those that are not democratic or not secular.

A good example of this tension is illustrated in the Russian war which was conducted against the population of Chechen. In the progression of the warfare, Russia was said to have dishonoured many rights of the people by using extrajudicial killings, rape, and torture against the insurgents from Chechen and the population of Chechen in general. The acts done by Russia are defined by the standards of the UN as violations of the rights of persons by religion, sex, and regional affiliations. The European Union's (EU) intervention was looked upon by many people, but despite the many transgressions committed by Russia. This led to various speculations such as the interest in the fostering of a strategic relationship with Russia. Evidently, there is a detach amid the theoretical foundations of sovereignty which are responsible for the prevention of conflict and the human right's preservation. The EU, when it respected the internal sovereignty of Russia, it managed evaded significant diplomatic and economic repercussions (Goldstein & Pevehouse,2007). In the case of Russia, it is evident that the sovereignty of the state is directly opposed to the human rights.

Iraq is another state which has been having the tension between the human rights and the nation's sovereignty since the year 1990.It is one of the most affected countries which has more devastating experiences for human beings. There is a huge violation of the fundamental rights in the country under the presidency of Saddam Hussein in the Ba'ath regime were even insulting the president is a huge capital offence. There are inhuman practices such as torture that is so cruel, extra-judicial murders, prolonged detention without trial, disappearances of masses, persecution of the Southern Shi'a and the genocide activities on the minorities from Kurdish. The Iraq government offers simple ideas on sovereignty in the ugliest way. Different Non-Governmental organisations concerned with the human rights have been raising the inhuman acts in Iraq much time, but no action has been taken Bennoune (2002). The measure by the organisations does not implicate the sovereignty of the state in any way. The violation of the lives of the human beings is a matter of concern to the international community. The measures have only managed to keep the case known and alive at the international level and no improvements on the activities in the country. People have emphasized the documentation of the abuses of the human rights in Iraq with a particular political interest in Iraq. This detracts the credibility of the claims in public and at times facilitate the activities which have lethal effects on the people of Iraq. When Iraq is faced with scrutiny internationally about its practices, it has explicitly referred to the sovereignty concept of non-intervention in an effort of protecting it activities. The Iraq has denounced the idea of UN sending monitors of human rights to the country terming it as an interference in its internal affairs which is not compatible with the state's independence and sovereignty. This statement is a threat to the third world countries and other nations which desire the preservation of the independence and sovereignty of the states. The Iraq government has laid criticisms on the Security Council Resolutions terming them to be prejudicing the Iraq's sovereignty and dividing the people of Iraq into sectarian and ethnic grounds. In its response to the resolution on oil, the state argued that the divesting of the natural resources in Iraq as a sovereign state to sell off its assets in the Iraqi people's interests. To defend its animosity towards people from minority communities regarding ethnicity, the government claimed that the sovereignty of the country and its territorial integrity and unity have to be respected (Bennoune,2002).

It is evident that there exists a misunderstanding between the approaches used by the majority of proponents of the government and opponents of the non-governmental organisations concerning sovereignty. It has been overlooked that sovereignty should be exercised by the States according to the international law. The importance of the equality of sovereignty of states includes that each state has a duty of complying fully with the international obligations in good faith. This includes their responsibilities towards matters of human rights. Sovereignty should not be used by the states towards the excuse of endless suffering of its citizens and the violation of their rights. As much as the sovereignty of the nations is to remain, the protection of the human rights should be viewed with even more importance than the sovereignty itself, although that is not the case in many states (Bennoune,2002).

There has been some improvement in the spreading of the rights of persons. However, the sovereignty of the state remains to have superiority over the human rights. The propagation of the rights of people has continuously been decelerated down by the Westphalian concept of sovereignty. The sovereigntys reification and internalisation of by the state has made the situation even worse. Sovereignty has been redefining, and that is a step forward towards ending the tension. On the matters of sovereignty, the UN secretary general Kofi Anan maintained that the states are instruments which are at the service of their populations and not the people being instruments of service for the state (Annan,2009).It has also been said that sovereignty should not have the unlimited power of doing everything that is prohibited by the international law (Pellet,2009).A new approach of the sovereignty emerges when Annan's human-centric view is supplemented with the limited power view. The approach sees sovereignty as for the people's benefits and not the state and that it is not a way of avoiding international conflicts only but also for preventing the abuses of the human rights. This view of sovereignty nullifies the assumption of avoiding internal conflicts by way of sovereignty but also provides a disti...

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