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8 - Civil and political rights

Ilias Bantekas
Affiliation:
Brunel University
Lutz Oette
Affiliation:
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
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Summary

Introduction

Civil and political rights emerged out of fundamental rights conceptions protecting life, integrity and liberty of a person against an overbearing state. The twentieth century demonstrated that these rights were at risk in multiple contexts, ranging from genocidal campaigns, dictatorships and arbitrary law enforcement to conflict and a breakdown of law and order. Rights such as freedom from ill treatment may also be at risk from other sources, namely non-state actors in the domestic and other spheres, which have taken on a growing importance in the wake of states’ withdrawal from public functions. While international human rights standards have been developed to provide adequate protection in these circumstances, their implementation requires certain structures without which it is unlikely that core civil and political rights can be effectively protected. The rule of law (although a rather ambiguous term), the administration of justice and democratic structures are key components in this regard. While international human rights law does not mandate that a particular political system be in place, it is difficult to see how rights can be effectively protected without having at least a minimum of checks and balances.

Equally, however, a democratic system as such is not a panacea for rights protection. Indeed, there are deep-seated structural factors that can, and have, undermined the effective protection of rights in all systems. Social exclusion, inequality and discrimination in particular are prone to significantly increase vulnerability, as evident in the higher likelihood of persons from certain ethnic or class or national backgrounds being subject to arbitrary arrest, detention, ill treatment and other violations. As a yardstick of power relations in a society, social exclusion, inequality and discrimination are also closely related to lack of access to justice, which both reflects and compounds vulnerabilities and impunity. The lack of effective remedies and accountability of those responsible has been identified as a central factor contributing to the perpetuation of violations. The resulting impunity constitutes both a cause and manifestation of a malfunctioning system that fails to protect. Against that background this chapter identifies the normative content of the right to life, the prohibition of torture, the right to liberty and security, the right to a fair trial and qualified rights, particularly freedom of expression, and examines the challenge of ensuring their effective protection. It also considers the issue of enforced disappearance, one of the most serious violations that has spawned a rich jurisprudence but has only recently become the explicit object of an international treaty.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2013

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  • Civil and political rights
  • Ilias Bantekas, Brunel University, Lutz Oette, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
  • Book: International Human Rights Law and Practice
  • Online publication: 05 April 2013
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139048088.009
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Send book to Dropbox

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  • Civil and political rights
  • Ilias Bantekas, Brunel University, Lutz Oette, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
  • Book: International Human Rights Law and Practice
  • Online publication: 05 April 2013
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139048088.009
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Civil and political rights
  • Ilias Bantekas, Brunel University, Lutz Oette, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
  • Book: International Human Rights Law and Practice
  • Online publication: 05 April 2013
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139048088.009
Available formats
×