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Introduction

This database is intended to assist election assistance providers, election observers and others in their efforts to utilize human rights obligations for assessing the quality of electoral processes. While assessments of elections necessarily must consider mitigating and aggravating factors beyond the scope of international law, the use of common assessment criteria can help to ensure objectivity and increased professionalism in the work of the assistance and observation communities, while increasingly emphasizing that elections involve the fulfillment of a wide range of human rights.

Public international law provides a sound foundation for an electoral assessment methodology for several reasons. First, as states have obligated themselves through the signature and ratification of treaties to standards of behavior and respect for human rights, public international law provides a recognized, objective, and transparent set of obligations for assessing elections. In addition, standards based in public international law are prescriptive in nature, recognizing that all democracies are imperfect and require vigilance and constant efforts to maintain and improve their functioning.
Click Click here to read an article on Using Public International Law to Assess Elections(PDF).
 

As part of the process of identifying obligations for democratic elections based in public international law, a wide range of sources have been reviewed including: treaties and other legal instruments; judicial decisions; decisions/recommendations from treaty supervisory committees; and handbooks and manuals. In order to support the assertion that (1) there are international obligations to which ratifying states have agreed and (2) these obligations are applicable to the electoral process, this compendium provides a catalogue of source quotes that do one (or more) of the following three things:

  • Articulate a high-level obligation as found in public international law. (Sources that articulate the high-level obligations are generally treaties and other instruments);
  • Provide an interpretation of the meaning of the high-level obligation. (The sources that provide interpretation of obligations are judicial decisions or the decisions and comments of supervisory committees such as the United Nations Human Rights Committee);
  • Provide examples of how an obligation might be implemented or applied by states in the context of the electoral process.

In order to easily review source quotes, they are arranged into an electronic database, searchable by a number of criteria. This allows the reader to see relevant obligations in public international law, the sources upon which we rely to demonstrate the obligation’s relevance to the electoral process.

Click here for instructions on how to search the database (PDF). Please also reference our FAQs section and our Links which provide access to organizations’ websites, treaty body databases, a bibliography for the database and a list of court cases whose subject matter references one or more election obligation.
Though the database provides a useful reference tool for members of an election observation mission, a condensed Narrative of Obligations

 
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