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Human Rights Protection

Overview

"NGO" is the abbreviation for "non-governmental organization". These are private associations of like-minded people that act on the international scene. NGOs are sometimes referred to as essential components of "international civil society". Human rights NGOs play an important role. They report in detail on human rights abuses around the world. They advocate for victims. They keep human rights issues in the public eye. They assist and often criticize the performance of the official international human rights bodies. Two outstanding examples of human rights NGOs are Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. There are many more. Directories of human rights NGOs are available on the World Wide Web. See, for example, the list maintained by the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library.

The Human Rights NGOs are doing a good job of disseminating their information on the World Wide Web. For example, both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch make available a large amount of their publications for free on the Web.

Human Rights NGOs publish various kinds of documents. Documents dealing with particular human rights issues, such as torture or illegal detention, are sometimes called thematic reports. Documents dealing with the human rights situation in a particular country are called country reports.

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch publish comprehensive annual reports covering thematic, regional, and country issues. These are available at the websites of the two organizations, noted above.

The U.S. State Department is required to submit to Congress annual human rights country reports. These are most easily consulted on the State Department's website. The hardcopy can be found in U.S. government documents collections, but it is published late.

Selected Human Rights Periodicals in the Law Library

Search Tips for Secondary Sources

The secondary literature, both books and journals, on the international protection of human rights is massive. An efficient solution in libraries is to use the Library of Congress subject heading "Human rights". This heading can be subdivided by country, e.g., "Human rights -- Colombia".

Thematic searching is also possible using Library of Congress subject headings or keyword searches, e.g., "Children's rights", "Detention of persons", "Disappeared persons", "Fair trial", "Freedom of expression", "Freedom of religion", "Political prisoners", "Torture", and so on.