Enforcing Human Rights – are mandatory frameworks enough?

September 1, 2010.

In the last few weeks, again horrific human rights violations have been highlighted in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Notwithstanding that in July, the United Nations Security Council had a adopted a new mandate to support the DRC government in protecting its civilians from human rights violations and had stated that this was a priority, the reality on the ground, was that between 30 July and 2 August, 200+ civilians, including a number of infants, were systematically raped and abused. The United Nations peacekeepers were unable to provide any assistance and although the Security Council issued a statement on 26 August 2010 calling on the DRC government to swiftly investigate the attacks and ensure that there is justice, one questions whether this is enough. Amnesty International believes that there have been failures by the DRC government and the United Nations in protecting civilians and that such failures need to be addressed.

Whilst legislative intervention is required as to how this practically works is questionable. Despite the July 2010 mandate, civilian violations still occurred and it must be asked as to how this can be prevented in the future. Women are often used a pawns in conflict situations and are most vulnerable to sexual violence. The protection of basic human rights of people should always be fundamental and Amnesty is correct in not only stating that such crimes should not be repeated but that in the aftermath of the recent violations, psychological and medical support should be provided immediately to the victims of 30 July/2 August. However the UN and the DRC government need to empower themselves so as to ensure that such abuses do not again occur – mandatory frameworks may not be enough as those who commit such crimes are deaf to the usual rule of law and the understanding of basic human rights and it may be that physical intervention is the only recourse.