6. “Non-interference in the internal affairs of states”

Origins and use:

This principle was laid out in Article 2 of the 1945 UN Charter explicitly for the newly founded organization, which states that nothing in the Charter “shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction”, unless there are serious threats to international peace, breaches of the peace or acts of aggression. The same principle is recognized for the relation between states.


Implications for human rights:

With its permanent membership on the UN Security Council and its regular seats on other UN bodies, such as the Human Right Council, China is in a powerful position to push its priorities and reject or counter actions that conflict with its “non-inference” objectives.

As well as using the principle of “non-interference” to reject criticism of its own human rights violations, China applies this principle when doing business in other countries. Therefore countries with poor human rights records can be confident that Chinese state-owned enterprises operating in their territory will turn a blind eye to any abuses committed there.

“Non-interference” in the extreme leads to the powerlessness of the international community to improve or even criticize the human rights conditions in any given country. Impunity for human rights violations will flourish if outside attempts to address abuses are dismissed out of hand as “interference in internal affairs”. The international human rights system exists precisely because states often fail in their duty to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and because ending grave violations of human rights is a concern and an obligation of the international community as a whole. People who do not have genuine access to effective domestic systems for redress and accountability must be able to appeal to institutions beyond their government’s control. Institutions that represent international law, like the UN, should be able to step in when governments are failing to protect, or actively violating, the rights of the people under their control.