Regional Human Rights Instruments

AuthorMark Freeman, Gibran Van Ert
1 Arab Charter on Human Rights 1994, adopted by the League of Arab States,
reprinted at (1997) 18 Human Rights Law Journal 151. Article 42(b) of the
Charter provides that it will enter into effect two months after the date of
deposit of the seventh instrument of ratification or accession with the Secretariat
of the League of Arab States. As of this writing, the Charter is under review. A
replacement treaty will likely be adopted in the near future.
2 Adopted 5 August 1990, at the Nineteenth Islamic Conference of Foreign Minis-
ters (Session of Peace, Interdependence and Development), Cairo.
3 See, for example, art. 1(a), which provides that “All human beings form one
family whose members are united by their subordination to Allah and descent
from Adam. . . .” Article 1(b) provides that “no one has superiority over another
except on the basis of piety and good deeds.” All the rights and freedoms listed
The enthusiasm for human rights in the post-war era produced not
only the UN instruments considered in the previous two chapters, but
also regional human rights law in the Americas, Europe, and (some-
what later) Africa. This chapter will review the main regional treaties
and declarations. Notably missing from this account are the Asian and
Middle Eastern regions. To date there is no Asian human rights system.
As for the Middle East, the League of Arab States has produced one
human rights treaty, but has so far attracted only one ratification.1The
Organization of the Islamic Conference has adopted the Cairo Declara-
tion on Human Rights in Islam 1990,2but the Declaration bears little
resemblance to any of the leading human rights treaties and appears to
draw its primary inspiration from the Islamic Shari’ah.3
chapter 6
Canada is a member of the Organization of American States (OAS)
and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OCSE),
and has observer status in the Council of Europe. Canada is neither a
member nor an official observer to the EU or the African Union,
although there are longstanding areas of co-operation with the EU.4As
a rule, these regional human rights systems have operated compatibly
with the more universal UN system.
A. Instruments of the Organization
of American States
The Organization of American States (OAS) has created an extensive
legal framework for the protection of human rights. Its scope of cover-
age and its impact is second only to the Council of Europe, discussed
below. Canada has been a member of the OAS since 1990.
1) The OAS Charter
Like the UN Charter, the Charter of the Organization of American
States 1948 (OAS Charter),5as revised,6makes only a few explicit ref-
erences to human rights. Article 3(l) of the revised OAS Charter pro-
vides that “the American States proclaim the fundamental rights of the
individual without distinction as to race, nationality, creed, or sex.”
Also, article 17 of the revised OAS Charter provides: “Each State has
the right to develop its cultural, political and economic life freely and
naturally. In this free development the State shall respect the rights of
the individual and the principles of universal morality.” The most sig-
nificant human rights provision is article 45, under which OAS mem-
Regional Human Rights Instruments 101
in the Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari’ah (art. 24), and the Islamic
Shari’ah is the only valid source of reference for explaining or clarifying any of
its articles (art. 25).
4 See, for example, the Framework Agreement for Commercial and Economic Cooper-
ation between the European Communities and Canada 1976 [1976] CanTS no. 35.
5 1948 [1990] CanTS no. 23.
6 At the time of Canada’s accession, the OAS Charter included prior amendments
pursuant to the Protocol of Buenos Aires, signed on 27 February 1967 at the
Third Special Inter-American Conference, and the Protocol of Cartagena de
Indias, approved on 5 December 1985 at the Fourteenth Special Session of the
General Assembly. The OAS Charter was subsequently amended by the Protocol
of Managua 1993 and the Protocol of Washington 1992. Canada ratified both
Protocols on 26 August 1993, but neither is listed in the CanTS.

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