International Law and Fact-Finding in the Field of Human Rights

Revised and Edited Reprint


Human rights fact-finding is at the heart of efforts for the international protection of human rights. Gross violations of human rights are still a tragic feature of life in many parts of the world and governments responsible for them go to great lengths to hide them from detection and to avoid international scrutiny. When scrutiny does occur, governments frequently attack fact-finding reports to avoid further processes and the need to accept responsibility for the violations perpetrated. For this and for many other reasons, it is crucial that careful attention is paid to the substantive and methodological integrity of fact-finding reports. At the time of its original publication in 1982, this ground-breaking volume sought to identify fundamental norms and standards which could help to guarantee the quality and integrity of fact-finding reports. A lot has happened in human rights fact-finding since then. There are numerous human rights fact-finding rapporteurs within the United Nations system and within regional organizations; there are many international commissions of inquiry; international criminal tribunals have helped clarify various areas of the law; NGOs are extremely active in the field. Despite, or perhaps because of these developments, controversies over fact-finding reports are very common. A source of reference to help fact-finders strengthen their work is sorely needed, and this volume remains of inestimable value in that regard. The guidance it provides has stood the test of time and is as valuable today as it was when it was first advanced, arguably it is more valuable today when the need for objective standards of human rights fact-finding has become of urgent importance in a world in which the political ground is shifting visibly. The current volume is a re-issued version of the original text, with new introductory materials.

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Professor Dr. Bertrand G. Ramcharan (Guyana) Ll.B. (Hons.), LL.M., Ph.D (LSE), Barrister-at-Law of Lincoln’s Inn, is President of UPR Info and has been Director of the Guyana Institute of Public Policy. He was UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ad interim in 2003-2004 with the rank of UN Under-Secretary-General, and Deputy High Commissioner from 1998-2003. He was Professor and First Swiss Chair of International
Human Rights Law at the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva from 2006-2008 and has been Chancellor of the University of Guyana. Previously he was Head of the Speechwriting Service of the UN Secretary-General, Director of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia, and Director of the Africa I Division of the UN Department of Political Affairs for three years.
He has been UN Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and, before that, Fellow of the LSE. He was a member of the UN Panel of Eminent Persons on Human Rights in Darfur (2007), Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the peace process in Georgia (2008), and member of the ILO Commission of Inquiry into trade union and human rights in Zimbabwe (2009-2010).
Foreword: Dr. N. Valticos, Former Assistant Director-General and Adviser for International Labour Standards, ILO; Secretary-General, Institute of International Law
Introduction: Dr. B.G. Ramcharan
Chapter I Substantive law applicable – Dr. B.G. Ramcharan
Chapter II Procedural law – K.T. Samson, Co-ordinator for Human Rights, ILO
Chapter III Evidence – Dr. B.G. Ramcharan
Chapter IV The competence and functions of fact-finding bodies – Prof. Felix Ermacora, Member of the Austrian Parliament, Member of the European Commission on Human Rights, Member of the Human Rights Committee, former member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Chapter V Hearings – A. Dieye, Judge of the Supreme Court of Senegal, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Chile, Member of the Human Rights Committee
Chapter VI Legal representation – Prof. R. Clark, Rutgers University
Chapter VII Visits on the spot
A. The Experience of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – Edmundo Vargas Carreno, Executive Secretary, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
B. The experience of the European Commission on Human Rights – C.H. Kruger, Secretary, European Commission of Human Rights
C. The experience of the I.L.O. – Mr. G. von Potobsky, Chief, Application of Standards Branch, International Labour Standard Department, I.L.O.
D. The experience of the United Nations – Dr. B.G. Ramcharan
Chapter VIII The reports of fact-finding bodies – Dr. Theo C. van Boven, former Director, United Nations Division of Human Rights.
Chapter IX Fact-finding by non-governmental organizations – Prof. D. Weissbrodt, University of Minnesota, and J. McCarthy
Annex I: Model rules of Procedure for United Nations Bodies dealing with violations of human rights
Annex II: Draft Model Rules of Procedure suggested by the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Ad Hoc bodies of the United Nations entrusted with studies of particular situations alleged to reveal a consistent pattern of violations of human rights
Annex III: Economic and Social Council resolution 1870 (LVI): Model rules of procedure for United Nations bodies dealing with violations of human rights.
Annex IV: Belgrade Minimal rules of procedure for international human rights fact-finding missions
Annex V: U.N. General Assembly Resolution 35/176
Bibliography; Index.