International Human Rights Law

International Human Rights Law

In relation to Inter-American Treaties, Conventions and Agreements adopted within the framework of the OAS

The Organization of American States (a list of Members of the Organization of American States is here) adopted the following international instruments regarding Human Rights.

In relation to general Human Rights:

  • American Convention on Human Rights “Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica”
  • Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights “Protocol of San Salvador”
  • Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty
  • Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons
  • Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture
  • Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance
  • Inter-American Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance
  • Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities
  • See Disability

In relation to women Human Rights:

  • Inter-American Convention on the Granting of Civil Rights to Women
  • Inter-American Convention on the Granting of Political Rights to Women
  • Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women “Convention of Belem do Para”

Finally, in relation to Older Persons Human Rights, the Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Human Rights of Older Persons.

The Crisis of International Human Rights Law in the Global Economy

Facticity of the human rights impacts of economic globalisation increasingly undermines the normativity of the state-centred conception of international human rights law. The exposure of the international legal order of states to the operations of global business entities leads to a collusion of sovereign state interest and globalised corporate power at the expense of protecting the rights of victims of human rights violations in the global market economy. The contribution scrutinises two prominent attempts to address this lacuna of protection: transnational tort litigation and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It is argued that both approaches are not only an expression of the present crisis of international human rights law but also risk contributing to its perpetuation. While the ‘escape into tort’ results in the privatisation of public human rights in the global market economy, the UN Guiding Principles entrench their territorialisation in the state legal order in the face of global economic challenges. The concluding section reflects on the future pathways of international human rights law by positing a choice between, on the one hand, a more radical departure from human rights’ state-centred heritage and, on the other hand, a transformation of the international legal order of states by virtue of human rights. It highlights the importance of extraterritorial human rights obligations in recovering the state’s legal accountability for human rights violations committed in the course of global business operations.

Source: Augenstein D. (2014) The Crisis of International Human Rights Law in the Global Market Economy. In: Bulterman M., van Genugten W. (eds) Netherlands Yearbook of International Law 2013. Netherlands Yearbook of International Law, vol 44. T.M.C. Asser Press, The Hague.

Effects of International Human Rights Law on other Branches of Public International Law

Human rights are entrenched in international law. They are often regarded as one of the
fundamental values of the international legal order. Human rights in international law have
multiple sources. They figure, significantly, in international law treaties, both global and regional
and in some cases, they are customary international law, or constitute general principles of law.

International human rights law (IHRL) is also regarded as a specialised branch of international
law. Through regional human rights courts, United Nations quasi-judicial bodies and domestic
courts, International human rights law interpretations specify the scope of legal human rights and corresponding state duties together with the fine-grained conditions for the legitimate restrictions of human rights.

The central focus of international human rights law as a sub-branch of international law is the
specification of duties of states in the treatment of individuals within their jurisdiction.

International human rights law jurisprudence is built upon cases brought by individuals that claim individual rights violations in specific cases. Given the lack of a constitution in the international legal order, the extent to which human rights law underpin interpretation in other branches of international law is often underdetermined. While a limited number of human rights provisions (notably the freedom from torture and prohibition of slavery) have been regarded as jus cogens norms, international human rights law tout court does not enjoy a higher hierarchical place formally with respect to the rest of international law. It is also not clear whether the sole role of International human rights law in international law is to act as trump cards in relation to principles and purposes in other branches of international law.

International human rights law does fulfil a diverse range of functions in the international legal order. These include the enabling of coherent interpretation, filling gaps in other branches of international law, providing a humanised interpretation of international law (that is, to bring in an interpretative focus to the overall interpretation of international law based on the centrality of human rights of individuals) and to progressively develop international law.

Institutionally, not all branches of international law have permanent courts or authoritative
interpretive bodies. In other words, there is no forum to receive the effects of International human rights law, save in the case of the International Court of Justice. In addition, human rights courts often emerge as the key sites for explicitly formulating the effects of IHRL on other branches. In international humanitarian law and international environmental law this is particularly the case. This subsuming of another branch in International human rights law often operates as boosting the effects of IHRL on other branches. Yet, in some other branches, there are well-developed legal mechanisms with a clearly defined adjudicative mandate.

The World Trade Organization is one such example. The completeness of the institutional architecture in another branch affects the reception of effects from another branch. In the field of international criminal law, in particular, in the early jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, we see a heightened interest receiving the effects of IHRL as custom or treaty law. This interest is partly due to the institutional incompleteness of international criminal law in its early days. The field of international investment law brings yet a different set of institutional challenges. Non-permanent arbitration panels do not create incentives to aim for coherence in the interpretation of international law.

Authors: Çalı, McGregor, Galand, Durmuş and Crivet

Contents of International Human Rights Law

Contents of this subject matter include:

  • The concept of human rights: universalism and cultural relativism
  • International and regional human rights systems
  • Human rights law beyond treaties
  • Human rights treaties and derogation
  • State responsibility and jurisdiction
  • Limitations on human rights
  • Human rights in private relationships
  • Economic and social rights
  • Prohibition of discrimination
  • Self-determination and minority rights

Further Reading

  • Alston P (1997) The myopia of handmaidens: international lawyers and globalisation. Eur J Int Law 3:335–348
  • Anderson M (2001–2002) Transnational corporations and environmental damage: is tort law the answer? Washburn Law J 41:399–425
  • Augenstein D, Kinley D (2013) When human rights ‘responsibilities’ become ‘duties’: the extra-territorial obligations of states that bind corporations. In: Deva S, Bilchitz D (eds) Obligations of business: beyond the corporate responsibility to respect?. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 271–294
  • Baxi U (1990) Introduction. In: Baxi U, Dhanda A (eds) Valiant victims and lethal litigation: the Bhopal case. N.M. Tripathi Pvt. Ltd., Bombay, pp i–lxix
  • Baxi U, Dhanda A (eds) (1990) Valiant victims and lethal litigation: the Bhopal case. N.M. Tripathi Pvt. Ltd., Bombay
  • Clapham A (2006) Human rights obligations of non-state actors. Oxford University Press, Oxford
  • Cohen J (2004) Whose sovereignty? Empire versus international law. Ethics Int Aff 18:1–25
  • Coomans F, Künnemann R (2012) Cases and concepts on extraterritorial obligations in the area of economic, social and cultural rights. Intersentia, Antwerp
  • Deva S (2012) Regulating corporate human rights violations. Routledge, Oxon
  • Deva S (2004) Acting extraterritorially to tame multinational corporations for human rights violations: who should ‘bell the cat’? Melb J Int Law 5:37–65
  • De Feyter K (2005) Human rights: social justice in the age of the market. Zed Books, London
  • Fine R, Smith W (2003) Jürgen Habermas theory of cosmopolitanism. Constellations 10:469–487
  • Fischer-Lescano A, Teubner G (2004) Regime collisions: the vein search for legal unity in the fragmentation of global law. Mich J Int Law 25:999–1046
  • Friedman M (1962) Capitalism and freedom. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
  • Habermas J (2001) The postnational constellation. Polity Press, Cambridge
  • Joseph S (1999) Taming the Leviathans: multinational enterprises and human rights. Neth Int Law Rev 46:171–203
  • Klabbers J (2001) Doing the right thing? Foreign tort law and human rights. In: Scott C (ed) Torture as tort. Hart, Oxford, pp 553–566
  • Koskenniemi M (1991) The future of statehood. Harv Int Law J 32:397–410
  • Langford M, Vandenhole W, Scheinin M, Van Genugten W (2013) Global justice, state duties: the extraterritorial scope of economic, social and cultural rights in international law. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
  • Mann FA (1964) The doctrine of jurisdiction in international law. Collect Courses of the Hague Acad Int Law 111:1–162
  • Mares R (2012) Business and human rights after Ruggie: foundations, the art of simplification and the imperatives of cumulative progress. In: Mares R (ed) The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Leiden, pp 1–50
  • Muchlinski P (1987) The Bhopal case: controlling ultra-hazardous industrial activities undertaken by foreign investors. Mod Law Rev 50:545–587
  • Muchlinski P (2007) Multinational enterprises and the law, 2nd edn. Oxford University Press, Oxford
  • Muir Watt H (2011) Private international law beyond the schism. Transnatl Legal Theory 2:347–428
  • Newell P (2001) Managing multinationals: the governance of investment for the environment. J Int Dev 13:907–919
  • Peters A (2006) Compensatory constitutionalism: the function and potential of fundamental international norms and structures. Leiden J Int Law 19:579–610
  • Posner R (1995) Wealth maximisation and tort law: a philosophical inquiry. In: Owen D (ed) Philosophical foundations of tort law. Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp 99–112
  • Ruggie J (2012) An issues brief: Kiobel and corporate social responsibility. John F. Kennedy School of Government. Harvard University, Cambridge
  • Sassen S (1996) Losing control? Sovereignty in an age of globalisation. Columbia University Press, New York
  • Scott C (2001) Translating torture into transnational tort: conceptual divides and the debate on corporate accountability for human rights harms. In: Scott C (ed) Torture as tort. Hart, Oxford, pp 45–64
  • Teubner G (2011) Transnational fundamental rights: horizontal effect? Rechtsfilosofie & Rechtstheorie 40:191–215
  • Teubner G (1997) Foreword: legal regimes of global non-state actors. In: Teubner G (ed) Global law without a state. Dartmouth, Sudbury, pp xiii–xvii
  • Thomas C (1998) International financial institutions and social and economic rights: an exploration. In: Evans T (ed) Human rights fifty years on: a reappraisal. Manchester University Press, Manchester, pp 161–182
  • Walker N (2010) Out of place and out of time: law’s fading coordinates. Edinb Law Rev 14:13–46
  • Wai R (2002) Transnational liftoff and juridical touchdown: the regulatory function of private international law in an era of globalisation. Columbia J Transnatl Law 40:209–274
  • Zerk J (2010) Extraterritorial jurisdiction: lessons for the business and human rights sphere from six regulatory areas. Corporate Social Responsibility Working Paper No 59

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See also

  • Geneva Convention