Comparing Human Rights Systems

April 4, 2013

In addition to the United Nations' overarching human rights regime, Europe, Africa, and the Americas each have regional human rights systems.  They share similarities and also have significant differences and histories.  Below is a chart summarizes some of the primary features demonstrating those similarities and differences over time.

Comparative Human Rights Systems


United Nations

Council of Europe

Inter-American System

African Union


1945 - Charter of the United Nations

1949 - Treaty of London

1948 (in force 1951; amended 1970) - Charter of the Organization of American States;

1969 (in force 1978) - American Convention on Human Rights

1981 (in force 1986) - African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights



Declaration of Human Rights

Dec. 1948 - Universal Declaration of Human Rights

1950 (in force 1953) - European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

May 1948 - American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man

Charter (above);

Grand Bay Declaration and Plan of Action on Human Rights



1949 - European Commission of Human Rights (abolished with Protocol No. 11)

1959 (1st session 1960) - Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

1981 (in force 1986) - African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights



1959 - Protocol No. 11 (created the Court)

1967 (in force 1970) - Protocol of Buenos Aires (transformed the Commission into a Charter body)

1998 (in force 2004) - Protocol to the Charter (created the Court)



1959 (1st case 1960) - European Court of Human Rights

1969 - Inter-American Court of Human Rights

2006 (1st decision 2009) - African Court of Human and People’s Rights


1918 - League of Nations


1890 - International Union of American Republics (later called the Pan-American Union)

1963 - Organization of African Unity

The Lillian Goldman Law Library has one of the world's greatest human rights collections.  You will find it interspersed among our comparative law collection on the UES as well as in the collections of individual nations on the LES.  We have a Human Rights research guide to help you get started as well.

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