This blog forms part of a series celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Recognising the numerous conflicts and the daily breaches of human rights taking place across the globe, this series aims to highlight both the challenges and the opportunities to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights elaborated in the UDHR.
Right to Effective Remedy
‘Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.’
The right to an effective remedy is the bedrock of human rights protection, offering a lifeline to those victimized by violations. It ensures access to justice through domestic courts, a critical element in upholding the rule of law and societal order. Without this avenue, vulnerable individuals are left without recourse, paving the way for unchecked impunity and the perpetuation of human rights abuses. However, pursuing an effective remedy isn’t a straightforward path, often proving practically unattainable, particularly for victims facing multiple violations or encountering legal and bureaucratic obstacles. Factors like exorbitant court fees, unfair time constraints, restricted legal aid, or the inability of domestic courts to apply international human rights law due to unincorporated treaties pose significant challenges, a reality observed in Scotland’s legal landscape.
I was nominated by the University of Edinburgh’s School of Law for a Work-based Placement, in lieu of a traditional dissertation, to explore access to justice in collaboration with the Human Rights Consortium Scotland. This immersive experience delved deep into Scotland’s legal dynamics, emphasizing the complex relationship between the Scottish Government and the UK’s central Government, the limitations surrounding international human rights law within domestic contexts, and, most crucially, the barriers individuals encounter daily while accessing justice. At this pivotal juncture, the Scottish Government faces an opportunity—considering the incorporation of core human rights treaties. This step could empower the people of Scotland to assert their rights fully, especially in cases concerning economic, social, and cultural rights, thereby reinforcing the right to an effective remedy.
My professional background in Sweden’s public sector and multiple publications on the topic of international criminal justice align closely with the insights gained during this program. In short, the necessity of the right to an effective remedy is as fundamental as core human rights such as the right to not be arbitrarily detained or the right not to be discriminated against. It serves as the linchpin ensuring the practical applicability of human rights, tearing down barriers for victims of abuses, and transforming the abstract as well as aspirational content of human rights treaties into tangible, actionable rights.
The evolution of human rights and the ongoing quest for meaningful protection remain in constant flux. National contexts present diverse challenges at different stages of advocacy. Yet, this diversity underscores the immutable truth—human rights efforts must never stagnate. Despite past progress, the call to fortify human rights and advocacy remains unyielding. In conclusion, the right to an effective remedy is not merely a legal doctrine; it is a shield for the oppressed, a beacon guiding justice, and a cornerstone of a society built on fairness and equality. Scotland’s stride toward incorporating core human rights treaties could mark a transformative leap toward equitable justice. It’s a testament to the evolving landscape of human rights—an evolving journey where stagnation finds no room. The pursuit of justice and the fortification of human rights remain perpetual endeavours, resonating with the essence of Article 8—never static, always advancing.
As part of the GJA UDHR@75 celebration, we invited present and past students to contribute their personal reflections on the relevance of the UDHR today. This blog is by Alexander Pedersen, who graduated from the LLM in Human Rights in November 2023.