Amnesty International (AI)
Founded in 1961, AI is one of the oldest and most prominent transnational human rights organizations, with international headquarters in London. The organization relies on 3 million members and supporters in 150 countries to carry out its work, and policies are vetted through complex processes and structures that involve membership in the decisions.
ESC – Economic, social and cultural rights. Generally understood to be those included in the ICESCR, although ESC rights are no longer considered a discrete category of rights.
Human Rights Council
HRC – Human Rights Council. An inter-governmental body within the United Nations (UN) system created in 2006 to replace the Human Rights Commission, which had become highly politicized and was generally recognized as non-functional. An intergovernmental organization created within the UN body in 2006 by the UN General Assembly.
Human Rights First (HRF)
Human Rights First – A prominent human rights NGO based in New York and Washington. Formerly known as the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights.
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
HRW – Human Rights Watch. A prominent international human rights NGO that originated as a series of US-based “watch committees.” The first such committee was charged to monitor Soviet compliance with the 1975 Helsinki Accords. Subsequent committees were formed to monitor human rights concerns in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Before consolidating as “Human Rights Watch” in 1988 the organization was known as the Watch Committees.
Inter-Governmental Organization (IGO)
IGO – Inter-governmental organization. Organizations whose members are nation states—such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization of American States.
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
A prominent human rights NGO founded in 1953 and based in Geneva, committed to defending human rights through rule of law.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
ICCPR – International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. A core human rights treaty that together with the UDHR and the ICESCR comprise the bedrock of international human rights law. It commits ratifying countries to respect, protect and fulfill civil and political rights. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966 and in force since 1976.
International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
ICESCR – International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. A core human rights treaty that together with the UDHR and the ICCPR comprise the bedrock of international human rights law. It commits ratifying countries to respect, protect and fulfill economic, social, and cultural rights. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966 and in force since 1976.
International Criminal Court (ICC)
ICC – International Criminal Court. A permanent international court established in 2002 to prosecute individual perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Not to be confused with the International Court of Justice, an organ of the UN that has a broader mandate to hear cases between states.
International Humanitarian Law (IHL)
IHL – International Humanitarian Law (or laws of war, international humanitarian law of war), the body of customary and treaty law that defines the conduct and responsibility of nations at war, relative to each other and to civilians. It includes most prominently the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, but also the 1997 Landmine Treaty.
NGE – Non-governmental entity. A term used by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations in the 1980s in reference to insurgent groups and other non-government political entities that commit human rights abuses. It has largely been replaced by the generic term non-state actor.
NGO – Non-governmental organization. In the human rights context, NGOs are organizations comprised of private individuals working to protect and promote human rights, either domestically or internationally.
Prisoner of Conscience
Prisoner of Conscience (POC) – A term coined by Amnesty International to identify individuals imprisoned for the non-violent expression of their beliefs or opinions. Amnesty International calls for the unconditional release of such prisoners.
Special Rapporteur – An individual charged by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate a specific set of human rights concerns. Also see Thematic mechanisms.
Thematic mechanisms – Refers to the various special rapporteurs, representatives, independent experts or working groups acting under United Nations auspices to investigate specific human rights concerns.
Treaty body – A committee of independent experts charged to monitor implementation of the core human rights treaties, such as the ICCPR and the Convention Against Torture.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
UDHR – Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The first and most fundamental human rights standard approved by the United Nations (1948). Its thirty articles elaborate a wide range of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. Even though it is not a legally binding document, the UDHR is considered the cornerstone of international human rights law.