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Who Will Watch the Watchdogs? Human Rights NGOs and the Case for Regulation

Full Article

Blitt, Robert Charles. "Who Will Watch the Watchdogs? Human Rights Nongovernmental Organizations and the Case for Regulation." Buffalo Human Rights Law Review 10 (2004): 261-398.

[Abstract]

Academics and activists alike attribute much of the momentum surrounding the study of human rights and its on-going entrenchment in the post-World War II international system to the human rights movement. In particular, these observers credit the work of an ever-growing assembly of non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”) whose sole purpose is monitoring, reporting and advocating in favor of human rights. Much praise has been lavished upon these organizations for their tireless efforts, dedication to the justice and morality of their cause, and bravery in the face of adversity. Indeed, these traits have resulted in impressive accomplishments, including advancing the drafting and passage of international legal instruments designed to curtail human rights abuses, such as the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and providing key evidence necessary for the prosecution of alleged war criminals including Slobodan Milosevic. Milestones such as these are a testament to the evolving role of human rights NGOs and underscore the sharp departure from their humble roots within the international system. Unquestionably, human rights organizations (HROs) in operation today enjoy amplified standing at the United Nations and other intergovernmental bodies, expanded mandates and networks scrutinizing a wider array of rights and international actors, and widespread dissemination of their message across a broad range of media outlets. Significantly, these dramatic transformations have emerged despite the fact that HROs lack any international legal personality, “formal jurisdiction over specified domains,” or a source of formal accountability within the international system or at international law.