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International Law Human Rights
by
Jessica Almqvist

Introduction

The adoption in 1945 of the UN Charter and in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights marks the initial stages in the development of the current international human rights regime. The UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, respectively, both endorsed in 1966, represent a milestone in establishing the international legal foundations for this regime. Together with the Universal Declaration, the two covenants constitute the International Bill of Rights. Since the time of their endorsement, the body of international human rights law has expanded dramatically both at international and regional levels. Much energy has been expended to achieve equality and to fight against discrimination. In this process, different groups have been singled out as especially vulnerable: women, children, and minorities, including indigenous peoples. The notion of human rights has been criticized as a Western construct with little or no relevance elsewhere. However, with time, this challenge has come to be understood not as requiring the abandoning of universality but as calling for cultural sensitivity and dialogue. The human right to development is still controversial, and its proclamation has been seen as requiring the advancement of a rights-based approach to development. At the same time, the idea of three generations of rights is generally rejected and the indivisibility of all human rights reinforced. A lack of respect for international human rights obligations is a serious problem, prompting the establishment of international procedures in the UN context and regional human rights systems, including human rights courts in Africa, America, and Europe. In recent years, more attention is paid to domestic enforcement, including the extraterritorial application of human rights. Also of interest are the human rights obligations of nonstate actors. Serious human rights violations are an important characteristic of contemporary conflicts, urging a focus on the international criminal responsibility of their perpetrators and on applicable law, as well as on remedies and reparations in transitional contexts. Likewise, it has prompted the more polemical question of whether the international community has a responsibility to protect populations whose governments are unable to do so themselves, including through humanitarian interventions and transitional administrations. Despite the relative success of the international human rights regime since the 1950s, its future is uncertain. Its stability and further improvement will depend on its ability to tackle contemporary challenges, such as the “War on Terror,” world poverty, environmental degradation, and climate change.

General Overviews

General overviews in the field encourage scholars and students to deepen their understanding of the meaning and significance of international human rights law in a broader legal, political, and social context. The relationship between this body of law and international politics attracts considerable attention. The purpose is not merely to explain how international human rights has come to influence global politics and vice versa (Donnelly 2006 and Vincent 2009) but also how other disciplines, notably political theory, can improve our understanding of human rights as a common language of social criticism in global politics (Beitz 2009). In a similar vein, Forsythe 2006 suggests we make use of contributions from international relations when studying decision-making processes in the area of human rights. And Vincent 2010 insists on the need to emphasize the political basis for all human rights law. Freeman 2011 goes further in this regard by arguing that a multidisciplinary approach is essential when approaching human rights law and especially when assessing experiences of victims of human rights violations. Also of importance are contributions that explore the multiple intersections and complex relationships between international human rights law and general international law, including the laws of war, treaty law, state responsibility, and immunities (Meron 2006 and Kamminga and Scheinin 2009). Scholars and students who are interested in the relationship between human rights law and other specialized bodies of laws, notably, international humanitarian law and international criminal law, are advised to consult the section In Conflict and Postconflict Situations for further guidance.

  • Beitz, Charles R. The Idea of Human Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    Understands human rights as the common language of social criticism in global political life. Presents a model of human rights as matters of international concern whose violation by governments can justify international action ranging from intervention to assistance.

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  • Donnelly, Jack. International Human Rights. 3d ed. Dilemmas in World Politics. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2006.

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    Explains the rise, development, and consolidation of human rights, including dark periods of resistance and setbacks, in the light of changing international political scenarios. Also considers problems of cultural relativism. Includes diverse case studies, suggested readings, discussion questions, and essential human rights documents.

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  • Forsythe, David P. Human Rights in International Relations. 2d ed. Themes in International Relations. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    Advances our understanding of human rights policymaking processes in light of contributions from international relations. A special focus on the UN, regional organizations, state foreign policy, human rights groups, and transnational corporations. Also concerned with the difficulties of reconciling the liberal tradition with the realist paradigm.

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  • Freeman, Michael. Human Rights: An Interdisciplinary Approach. 2d ed. Key Concepts. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2011.

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    Offers a unique interdisciplinary approach. Shows that there is a fundamental tension between the philosophy of human rights and the way in which the notion of human rights is understood in the social sciences. Especially appealing for students who want an introduction to the nonlegal aspects of their subject.

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  • Kamminga, Menno T., and Martin Scheinin, eds. The Impact of Human Rights Law on General International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199565221.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Considers the formation of customary law, treaty law, immunities, and state responsibility, etc. Analyzes the degree to which human rights concepts are being incorporated by the International Court of Justice and the International Law Commission. A most comprehensive examination of the topic.

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  • Meron, Theodor. The Humanization of International Law. Hague Academy of International Law Monographs 3. Leiden, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 2006.

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    Examines the claim about the revolutionary effect of human rights and humanitarian law on general international law. Provides a nuanced response by exploring several sectors of international law, including the laws of war, treaty law, and state responsibility.

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  • Vincent, Andrew. The Politics of Human Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Provides a systematic introductory overview of the nature and development of human rights. Suggests that an account of human rights should focus primarily on politics, because there are no universally agreed moral or religious standards to uphold them. Human rights exist in the context of social recognition within a political association.

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  • Vincent, R. J., ed. Foreign Policy and Human Rights: Issues and Responses. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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    A collection of essays that contribute to our understanding of the issue of human rights in international relations and the response to outstanding contemporary concerns as reflected in the foreign policies of states. Collects case material and links concerns to responses.

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Textbooks

International human rights law is a popular course among students both at undergraduate and graduate levels around the world. The most widely acclaimed textbooks continue to be produced in English. However, there are also excellent textbooks in French (Sudre 2011) and German (Buergenthal and Thürer 2010). Some textbooks in the field are designed to meet the needs of students without any prior exposure to the topic, including its wider legal and political context (Smith 2010). Others are clearly more demanding in the sense of including a wealth of primary and secondary materials, exposing students and professors alike to unresolved debates and conundrums and, in this sense, meant to be used mainly at graduate levels (de Schutter 2010 and Steiner, et al.2007). Most textbooks are coauthored by two or more scholars, although there are exceptions such as Moeckli, et al. 2010, which has chapters written by experts in their respective fields. Furthermore, not all textbooks are organized in the same manner and have the same teaching method in mind. For example, whereas Henkin, et al. 2009 is especially suited to case-oriented legal training, Sudre 2011 and Kälin and Künzli 2010 may be more appropriate for continental-style teaching. Also, the great majority of textbooks seek to cover themes of contemporary significance, such as the challenges posed by poverty, environmental degradation, and international terrorism, not to mention their negative impact on human rights (de Schutter 2010; Moeckli, et al. 2010; Steiner, et al. 2007). Several authors devote special attention to international humanitarian law, as well as international criminal justice understood as a critical mechanism for responding to massive human rights violations (Buergenthal and Threr 2010, Kälin and Künzli 2010). Finally, several textbooks published in the 21st century are accompanied by extremely useful online resource centers (Moeckli, et al. 2010 and Smith 2009, the latter cited under Reference Works).

  • Buergenthal, Thomas, and Daniel Thürer. Menschenrechte: Ideale, Instrumente, Institutionen. Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos, 2010.

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    Provides a concise introduction to international human rights law and human rights protection as institutionalized in the UN, Europe, America, and Africa. Also considers national arrangements in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Explains links to international humanitarian law and criminal law.

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  • de Schutter, Olivier. International Human Rights Law: Cases, Materials, Commentary. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    A clear and well-structured textbook that draws upon a wide range of case law, legislation, and academic debates, with the aim of encouraging debates in classrooms and beyond. An attractive and innovative treatment of human rights law as a dynamic tool to address counterterrorism, global poverty, and diversity.

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  • Henkin, Louis, Sarah Cleveland, Laurence R. Helfer, Gerald L. Neuman, and Diane F. Orentlicher. Human Rights. 2d ed. University Casebook Series. New York: Foundation Press, 2009.

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    A casebook with a special focus on the relationships among international, regional, and national legal systems, especially the US legal system. Contains an intellectual and historical background to the idea of human rights and includes a consideration of corporate responsibility, terrorism, refugees, international criminal law, and the role of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

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  • Kälin, Walter, and Jörg Künzli. The Law of International Human Rights Protection. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Introduces key ideas, concepts, and doctrine of human rights law. Underscores implementation and enforcement at the domestic, regional, and universal levels, including the Human Rights Council. Also includes a long section on substantive guarantees, including the right to life, freedom from torture, nondiscrimination, and economic rights.

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  • Moeckli, Daniel, Sangeeta Shah, Sandesh Sivakumaran, and David Harris, eds. International Human Rights Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Each chapter is written by an expert in his or her respective field. Covers aspects of a typical human rights course, ranging from foundational issues to substantive rights to systems of protection. Addresses terrorism, poverty, and environmental degradation. An ideal companion for students. Includes an online Resource Centre with six-month updates.

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  • Smith, Rhona K. M. Textbook on International Human Rights. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Its concise and clear approach enables students with no prior background in the subject to develop a good understanding of it. Provides references to further reading, key cases, and weblinks at the end of each chapter and through its online Resource Centre. Ideal for undergraduate courses.

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  • Steiner, Henry J., Philip Alston, and Ryan Goodman, eds. International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, Morals. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    Arguably the most widely acclaimed textbook in the field. Challenges students and scholars by presenting a host of carefully edited primary and secondary materials together with editorial comments and study questions that encourage critical reflection. Exposes the sharp contradictions and dilemmas in the human rights movement.

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  • Sudre, Frédéric. Droit européen et international des droits de l’homme. 10th ed. Collection Droit fondamental. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2011.

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    Offers the most comprehensive and updated account of human rights law available in the French language. Examines foundations, substantive guarantees, and different systems of protection. Designed for human rights courses taught in French that give a special place to European human rights law and mechanisms.

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Reference Works

New reference works are constantly produced to provide updated and accessible accounts of the ever-growing body of international human rights legislation. Available compilations include the basic international texts and instruments adopted by the UN and relevant regional organizations, such as the Council of Europe, the European Union, the Organization of American States, and the Organization of the African Union (Brownlie and Goodwin-Gill 2010 and Decaux 2008). Other reference works are wider in scope, in the sense of including texts that are not formally part of international human rights law but are often studied both in undergraduate and graduate courses, such as the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court of 1998. Also included in these broader works are texts that are formally classified as soft law, such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of 2007, or interesting documents that stem from other regions where a full-blown human rights system is still lacking, such as the Arab Charter of Human Rights of 1994 (Lillich, et al. 2009). Some reference works also comprise key documents adopted at the national level, such as in the case of Ghandhi 2010, which includes the UK Human Rights Act of 1988. Smith 2009 provides an innovative approach by providing a reference work organized thematically around basic concepts, with excerpts of treaties and other materials of major significance. Also of relevance is the increasing availability of human rights dictionaries and lexicons that seek to clarify key issues and concepts in the field (Andriantsimbazovina, et al. 2008 and Marks and Clapham 2005). The most ambitious human rights encyclopedia project to date is the five-volume Forsythe 2009.

  • Andriantsimbazovina, Joël, Hélène Gaudin, Jean-Pierre Marguénaud, Stéphane Rials, and Frédéric Sudre. Dictionnaire des droits de l’homme. Collection Grands dictionnaires. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2008.

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    An extremely useful dictionary without any equivalent in the French language. Prepared by 185 authors with different perspectives, including theoretical, legal, and philosophical ones, to permit us to understand and deepen our understanding of the complex questions of human rights. Includes 274 entries.

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  • Brownlie, Ian, and Guy S. Goodwin-Gill, eds. Basic Documents on Human Rights. 6th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    A wide-ranging collection of key documents adopted by the UN and its agencies, regional organizations, and other relevant actors, including case law and legislation. Accompanied by authoritative commentary, a bibliographic annotation, and an online Resource Centre featuring all relevant weblinks. A wonderful reference both for undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

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  • Decaux, Emmanuel. Les grands textes internationaux des droits de l’homme. Commission nationale consultative des Droits de l’homme. Paris: La Documentation Française, 2008.

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    Provides a collection of the essential human rights documents adopted by the UN and by the following European organizations: the OSCE, Council of Europe, and the European Union. Covers texts that have not been ratified by France and are thus difficult to find in domestic sources.

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  • Forsythe, David P., ed. Encyclopedia of Human Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    An outstanding reference source, this five-volume encyclopedia offers comprehensive coverage of all aspects of human rights theory, practice, law, and history. Central themes include organizations and institutions, as well as human rights events and crises. More than three hundred A to Z entries by leading scholars and experts in the field.

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  • Ghandhi, Sandy, ed. Blackstone’s Statutes International Human Rights Documents. 7th ed. Blackstone’s Statutes Series. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Comprehensive coverage of all international human rights legislation elaborated within the auspices of the UN and regional organizations in Europe, America, and Africa. Also includes the UK Human Rights Act of 1998. Accompanied by an online resource center providing useful updates and weblinks.

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  • Lillich, Richard B., Hurst Hannum, S. James Anaya, and Dinah Shelton. International Human Rights: Documentary Supplement. New York: Wolters Kluwer/Aspen, 2009.

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    An indispensable compilation of the major UN and regional texts on human rights and humanitarian law. Also includes key ILO and UNESCO documents as well as the Rome Statute, the Arab Charter on Human Rights, and US legislation linking economic and military assistance to human rights. Accompanied by a CD.

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  • Marks, Susan, and Andrew Clapham. International Human Rights Lexicon. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    An essential guide to key human rights issues, ordered alphabetically. Includes twenty-eight short essays. Reviews topics in the light of contemporary debates and problems. Circumvents traditional human rights law categories by focusing on how rights are invoked and debated in specific contexts. Supplemented with an online resource.

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  • Smith, Rhona K. M. Texts and Materials on International Human Rights. 2d ed. London: Routledge, 2009.

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    Approaches human rights thematically by collecting material around key concepts rather than specific rights. Each chapter includes author commentary and questions for students to engage with. An introductory text for each section briefly explains and contextualizes cited cases and materials. Helps students to locate sources online and develop research skills.

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Periodicals

Several widely cited articles in the field are published in international law journals, such as the American Journal of International Law and the European Journal of International Law. The first journal with an exclusive dedication to human rights issues was launched in the United States in the mid-1980s: the Human Rights Quarterly. The Harvard Human Rights Law Journal was founded shortly thereafter. Both continue to be leading journals in the field, attracting a broad variety of scholarship. Since the time of their publication and at least since 1990 on, the number of human rights journals has multiplied to meet different interests and needs. Human Rights & International Legal Discourse encourages more-critical studies concerning the increasing influence of human rights law on legal discourse developing in other fields of international law, including development, environment, and criminal justice. Sur: International Journal on Human Rights, in contrast, promotes a Global Southern perspective on human rights and seeks to facilitate dialogue among professors and activists from the Global South. Furthermore, Revue trimestrielle des droits de l’homme is directed at French-speaking scholars, professors, and practitioners. Other journals with high-quality research in the field include Human Rights Law Review and the International Journal of Human Rights. While most journals include a recent-development section devoted to new decisions, jurisprudence, and the like, the Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights may provide the most-comprehensive and detailed reports from the OAU, OAS, and the OSCE. Also, yearbooks devoted to human rights are available, such as the important Jahrbuch–Menschenrechte. The tables of contents of all the cited journals and the mentioned yearbook can be accessed online.

Human Rights Reports

States, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) participate in the production of annual reports on the human rights situation around the world. It is important to be wary of looming criticisms in terms of coverage and focus of annual reports. Especially evident is the common focus on violations of civil and political rights (Freedom in the World). Less attention is paid to violations of economic and social rights. The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, published by the US State Department, provides an encompassing report in terms of themes and countries under consideration. Examples of comprehensive annual reports of leading human rights NGOs are those published by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The annual reports of the European Union focus on the human rights situation of third countries; those of the UK Foreign and Common wealth Office, on human rights abroad. All the reports mentioned below are frequently consulted both by practitioners and scholars in their studies and work.

Histories

As in the case of general international law, contemporary international human rights scholarship is also marked by the “turn to history.” This strand of research reveals a general understanding of human rights and their introduction into global politics and international law as reminiscent of significant moral progress and improvement (Lauren 2011). At the same time, the same strand indicates that there is no agreement among historians on fundamental issues such as when human rights can be said to have originated. For some, human rights stretch back to ancient times (Ishay 2008), whereas for others, human rights are a relatively recent invention (Hoffmann 2011 and Moyn 2010). Historians also seem to differ in their views on the factors driving the introduction of human rights into global politics and international law. Though there is an evident emphasis on social struggle and political activism, other approaches abound. For example, Hunt 2007 presents a cultural and intellectual history of human rights that explores the role of novels and the arts in spreading the idea of human rights.

  • Hoffmann, Stefan-Ludwig, ed. Human Rights in the Twentieth Century. Human Rights in History Series. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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    A volume consisting of contributions by historians analyzing how human rights came to define the bounds of universal morality in response to political crises and conflicts of the 20th century. Considers human rights to be a relatively recent invention that emerged in contingent and contradictory ways.

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  • Hunt, Lynn. Inventing Human Rights: A History. New York: W. W. Norton, 2007.

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    A cultural and intellectual history of human rights. Understands human rights as stemming from the rejection of torture as a means of finding the truth. Also demonstrates how novels and art helped to spread this idea, as well as the continued significance of human rights today.

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  • Ishay, Micheline. The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

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    A comprehensive account of the struggle for human rights across the ages, capturing the historical and intellectual developments from the time of the Mesopotamian Code of Hammurabi until the present. Develops a framework for understanding contemporary challenges to human rights, such as globalization, the War on Terror, and armed interventions.

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  • Lauren, Paul Gordon. The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen. 3d ed. Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.

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    Widely acclaimed and highly regarded, this monograph now appears in a new edition covering the ICC and the UN Human Rights Council. Explores the transformation of a world patterned by traditional structures, gender abuse, racial prejudice, class divisions, slavery, and colonial empires into a global community of human rights.

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  • Moyn, Samuel. The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010.

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    A highly acclaimed historian revisits the classical understanding of the origins of human rights as dating back to the dawn of Western civilization. Shows that it was in the decade after 1968 that human rights began to gain a popular foothold and turned into a tool for social activism.

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Philosophical Foundations

In spite of the time that has passed since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and subsequent upsurge of international human rights legislative initiatives, philosophical discussions devoted to the foundations of human rights continue to occupy a central place on the broader human rights research agenda. Hayden 2001 collects and orders such discussions, singling out the main participants and their principal contributions across time. Although international lawyers may well have reservations about the direct relevance of such discussions to their work, as Wellman 2011 explains, philosophical contributions may be of use when providing justifications of international human rights law. The contemporary philosophical interest in providing substantive justifications of human rights is revealed in, for example, Griffin 2008. Attention is also paid to the possibility of grounding human rights in a pluralist world (Kao 2011). More-provocative contributions are found in Ignatieff 2003.

  • Griffin, James. On Human Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199238781.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A widely renowned moral philosopher showing how the notion of human rights introduced at the end of the Enlightenment is a secularized and incomplete version of natural rights. Offers a more determinate concept of human rights working from certain paradigm cases, such as freedom of expression.

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  • Hayden, Patrick. Philosophy of Human Rights: Readings in Context. Issues in Philosophy. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2001.

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    An extensive and far-reaching collection of critical readings in the field. Combines traditional Western views on human rights with feminist, multicultural, and environmental perspectives. Each reading begins with a brief introduction and is followed with study questions and suggested further readings.

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  • Ignatieff, Michael. Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry. Edited by Amy Gutmann. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003.

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    A provocative exploration of the ideas that underpin human rights, warning that human rights must not turn into idolatry. Inspired by Isaiah Berlin, argues that human rights can command universal assent only if designed to protect and enhance the capacity of individuals to lead their lives as they wish.

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  • Kao, Grace Y. Grounding Human Rights in a Pluralist World. Advancing Human Rights. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2011.

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    A sociologist who critically examines the strengths and weaknesses of maximalist and minimalist views on the question concerning the foundations of human rights. Defends an account of human rights that links it to a conception of our common humanity and to ethical realism.

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  • Wellman, Carl. The Moral Dimensions of Human Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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    Discusses the moral, international, and national dimensions of human rights, in an integrated manner. Advances an original view of moral human rights, explains their relevance from the standpoint of international human rights law, and describes four methods for incorporating moral and international human rights into national legal systems.

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Sources

The modern process of international legal codification of human rights has diminished doubts about the legal grounding of many human rights. In several cases, treaty law provides a solid and compelling legal foundation. Nevertheless, to the extent that not all states have ratified all human rights treaties and the fact that not all human rights claims can be firmly grounded in treaty law, the question about the sources of international human rights law continues to baffle scholars and practitioners in the field. The potential of other sources of law besides treaties, such as those listed in Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, including custom and general principles, to ground human rights claims has been explored (at times in an arguably distorted manner), and scholarly efforts are made to counter this tendency (Simma and Alston 1988–1989). Still remarkably controversial is the legal status of so-called Third Generation Rights, including the rights to development, peace, and a clean environment, since the bulk of these rights have been articulated in UN General Assembly resolutions and not in treaty law. The concept of soft law has been introduced to emphasize the law-like character of these rights and to capture the idea that they are in the process of becoming part of international law (Chinkin 1989). A different source of international law that attracts considerable attention in the field of human rights is the notion of peremptory norms expressed in the jus cogens doctrine. Meron 1986 examines the utility of this notion as a method to arrange rights in a hierarchical order. Charlesworth and Chinkin 1993, in contrast, criticizes it for constituting a male-oriented source of law that reflects male priorities.

  • Charlesworth, Hilary, and Christine Chinkin. “The Gender of Jus Cogens.” Human Rights Quarterly 15.1 (1993): 63–76.

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    Argues that the human rights principles most frequently designated as jus cogens do not in fact operate equally upon men and women. A rethinking of every aspect of the doctrine is required to counter its male-oriented priorities and masculine interpretation.

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  • Chinkin, Christine. “The Challenge of Soft Law: Development and Change in International Law.” International & Comparative Law Quarterly 38.4 (1989): 850–866.

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    Defends the concept of soft law to direct attention to the way in which UN General Assembly resolutions and other instruments allow for the incorporation of conflicting standards and goals and provide states with tools to induce change in international law. Special attention is given to the right to development.

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  • Meron, Theodor. “On a Hierarchy of International Human Rights.” American Journal of International Law 80.1 (1986): 1–23.

    DOI: 10.2307/2202481Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Addresses the usage of hierarchical terms in discussing human rights and provides a critical reflection of the tendency to upgrade certain rights into higher or superior ones by recognizing them as forming part of jus cogens.

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  • Simma, Bruno, and Philip Alston. “The Sources of Human Rights Law: Custom, Jus Cogens, and General Principles.” Australian Year Book of International Law 12 (1988–1989): 82–108.

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    Caution against the temptation to resort to a progressive, streamlined theory of customary law, stripped of the traditional practice requirement. Proposes a shift of focus to general principles of law as a secondary, albeit crucial, source.

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Universality and Cultural Relativism

Concerns about the authentic universality and the cultural legitimacy of international human rights law have been expressed since the time of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The Statement of Human Rights that was submitted to the UN by the American Anthropological Association in 1947 is especially revealing of how the doctrine of cultural relativism seeks to bring the proclaimed universality of this body of law into question (Engle 2001). The most-fervent scholarly critiques of the assumed universality have come from the West. For example, Pollis and Schwab 1979 argues that the area of human rights reflects cultural and ideological ethnocentrism. Over time, however, more-explorative approaches have emerged aiming at overcoming the difficulties confronting human rights as a result of differing cultural and ideological perspectives (An-Na’im 1995). Though the claim about the universality of human rights by no means has been abandoned, it is accompanied by carefully crafted responses to the cultural relativist critique, and efforts are made to counter the problem of marginalization of non-Western conceptions of human rights (Donnelly 2003). In particular, there is a clear interest in fostering intercultural dialogue within the international human rights framework (Twining 2009). The possible tension between international human rights and Islam occupies a special place in ongoing discussions. There is a felt need to refute stereotypes about a supposedly monolithic Islam inherently incompatible with human rights (Mayer 2007) and to set forth comprehensive and nuanced accounts related to the compatibility between human rights and Islamic law (Baderin 2005). See also subsections related to Asia and The Arab World, as well as Women.

  • An-Na’im, Abdullahi Ahmed, ed. Human Rights in Cross-Cultural Perspectives: A Quest for Consensus. Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995.

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    The contributors of this book examine difficulties surrounding the purported cultural legitimacy of international human rights standards, exploring ways to overcome them. Includes Marxist and liberal viewpoints, regional and indigenous cultural perspectives, and a thoughtful introduction and conclusion by the editor himself.

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  • Baderin, Mashood A. International Human Rights and Islamic Law. Oxford Monographs in International Law Series. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199285402.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A comprehensive comparative analysis of the question whether Muslim states can comply with international human rights law while adhering to Islamic law. Offers a vision of the realization of international human rights, within the application of Islamic law.

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  • Donnelly, Jack. Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. 2d ed. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003.

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    Outlines a theory of human rights that captures its universality without denying the special connection of human rights with the rise of liberalism in the modern West. Examines at great length the challenges posed by cultural relativism, non-Western conceptions of human rights, and the “Asian values” debates.

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  • Engle, Karen. “From Skepticism to Embrace: Human Rights and the American Anthropological Association from 1947–1999.” Human Rights Quarterly 23.3 (2001): 536–559.

    DOI: 10.1353/hrq.2001.0034Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the Statement of Human Rights submitted to the UN by the American Anthropological Association in 1947 and contrasts it with the Declaration of Anthropology and Human Rights adopted by the same association in 1999. Concludes that the latter does not imply a radical change of stance.

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  • Mayer, Ann Elizabeth. Islam and Human Rights: Traditions and Politics. 4th ed. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2007.

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    Refutes stereotypes about a supposedly monolithic Islam inherently incompatible with human rights and analyzes the political motives behind the selective use of elements of the Islamic tradition by conservative groups opposed to democracy and human rights. Includes an annotated bibliography.

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  • Pollis, Adamantia, and Peter Schwab. “Human Rights: A Western Construct with Limited Applicability.” In Human Rights: Cultural and Ideological Perspectives. Edited by Adamantia Pollis and Peter Schwab, 1–18. New York: Praeger, 1979.

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    Sets forth a claim about the prevalence of cultural and ideological ethnocentrism in the area of human rights and human dignity and holds that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a document that promotes democratic and libertarian values. One of the most widely cited critiques in the field.

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  • Twining, William, ed. Human Rights, Southern Voices: Francis Deng, Abdullahi An-Na’im, Yash Ghai and Upendra Baxi. Law in Context Series. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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    An anthology comprising contributions of four leading scholars in the area of human rights, who present distinct Southern perspectives on human rights and contemporary issues concerning Islam, African custom, constitution making, and abuses of the language of human rights.

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The International Bill of Human Rights

The International Bill of Human Rights refers to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR) adopted in December 1948, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (see Civil and Political Rights) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) (see Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights), both adopted in December 1966. The two covenants have been in force since 1976.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (see Morsink 2000) has inspired much of the post-1945 codification of human rights both at global and regional levels. It is also the foundational document of the human rights movement. The drafting process leading up to its adoption exhibits the great degree to which the declaration was a product of individualized efforts, and it must be understood as an international response to the horrors of World War II (Glendon 2002, Morsink 2000, Lauterpacht 1945). The declaration recognizes a wide array of human rights, not only civil and political rights but also economic, social, and cultural ones (Alfredsson and Eide 1999). From the outset proclaimed as “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations,” the declaration has come to exert considerable moral, political, and legal influence on the behavior of states and other actors in relation to individuals and groups. Even if the great majority of states have ratified the two UN Covenants: ICCPR (165 states parties) and the ICESCR (160 states parties), not all of them have done so. In these cases, the UDHR remains the primary source of law and rights. How to best understand the legal status of the declaration—as part of customary international law or as reflecting general principles of international law, or both—is thus a question that attracts scholarly attention (Hannum 1995–1996). (See also the section Sources.) Doubts are also expressed about the actual degree of acceptance of this document in non-Western cultures (Ignatieff 1999). See also the section Universality and Cultural Relativism.

  • Alfredsson, Gudmundur, and Asbjorn Eide, eds. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: A Common Standard of Achievement. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1999.

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    A collection providing an in-depth interpretation of the meaning and scope of the different rights and freedoms proclaimed in the UDHR, in the light of the discussions that took place at the drafting stage and subsequent legal developments. An article-by-article approach.

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  • Glendon, Mary Ann. A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. New York: Random House, 2002.

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    A narrative about the remarkable group of persons who participated in the historic achievement and provided the founding document of the modern human rights movement. A landmark work of narrative history based in part on diaries and letters. The best book available on this topic.

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  • Hannum, Hurst. “The Status of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in National and International Law.” Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law 25.1–2 (1995–1996): 287–397.

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    Surveys references to the UDHR in national courts where it has been used as a rule of decision or a significant interpretative guide of domestic constitutional provisions. Next examines the declaration as part of customary international law and as reflecting general principles of international law.

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  • Ignatieff, Michael. “Human Rights: The Midlife Crisis.” New York Review of Books 46.9, 20 May 1999, 58–62.

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    Reflects on the fiftieth anniversary of the UDHR and the problems it faces in terms of maintaining an appearance of a widely accepted document, considering the reality of massive human rights violations and deeper disagreements across cultures. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Lauterpacht, Hersch. An International Bill of the Rights of Man. New York: Columbia University Press, 1945.

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    In a spirit of optimism and idealism, Lauterpacht presents a proposal—article by article—of an International Bill of Human Rights. A “must” for anyone interested in the arguments and ideas preceding the adoption of the UDHR. Continues to provide food for legal thought.

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  • Morsink, Johannes. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Origins, Drafting, and Intent. Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.

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    A definitive account of the drafting of the UDHR. Brings into focus the significance of World War II and reflects on its provisions related to equality and nondiscrimination, property, social security, work, and duties to the community. Includes a guide with references to further readings on specific topics and articles.

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Civil and Political Rights

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) was adopted in 1966 and entered into force in 1976. Its first substantive provision upholds the right to self-determination. Thereafter, the covenant recognizes the right to life and the freedom from torture and other cruel or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and also prohibits slavery and compulsory labor. Furthermore, it affirms the right to liberty and security of persons and in this context specifies a prohibition against arbitrary arrest and detention. Also recognized are the rights of accused as well as fair-trial guarantees. The same instrument goes on to uphold the freedom of movement, the right to privacy, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression, freedom of association, family protection, and minority rights (see Minorities and Indigenous Peoples), as well as equal protection before the law and nondiscrimination (see Equality and Nondiscrimination). Finally, in the political sphere, it affirms the right to vote and to be elected in genuine periodical elections. The First Optional Protocol establishes the Human Rights Committee (HRC) (see The United Nations System of Human Rights Protection). It is the UN treaty body that has received the most scholarly interest, because it provides the most significant collection of case law. When interpreting the ICCPR, primary attention is thus paid to the views, concluding observations, and general comments produced by this committee, even if it is a quasi-judicial international organ without any competence to hand down binding decisions in response to individual communications. The general acceptance of the authoritative character of the case law coming out of the HRC is reflected to a great degree in contemporary scholarship devoted to the meaning and scope of civil and political rights as endorsed by the ICCPR (Conte and Burchill 2009, Decaux 2010, and Nowak 2005). (See also The United Nations System of Human Rights Protection). Civil and political rights are firmly established in international human rights law and are often thought of as constituting its core (Henkin 1981).

  • Conte, Alex, and Richard Burchill. Defining Civil and Political Rights: The Jurisprudence of the United Nations Human Rights Committee. 2d ed. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2009.

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    The HRC’s understanding of the substantive rights and freedoms set out in the ICCPR is considered in detail, including limitations and derogations; democratic and civil rights; security of the person; the judicial process; and privacy, honor, and reputation. Also considers self-determination, minority rights, equality and nondiscrimination, and rights of the family and children.

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  • Decaux, Emmanuel. Le Pacte international relatif aux droits civils et politiques: Commentaire article par article. Etudes Politiques Economica. Paris: Economica, 2010.

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    The most comprehensive and updated text currently available on the topic of the meaning and scope of rights and freedoms specified in the ICCPR. Following a general introduction to the instrument in question, each substantive provision of the covenant is analyzed in detail.

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  • Henkin, Louis, ed. The International Bill of Rights: The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. New York: Columbia University Press, 1981.

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    In spite of the passage of time since it was published, this volume occupies a special place. The contributions by outstanding scholars in the field of international law and human rights are especially revealing of a sophisticated international legal perspective and analysis of civil and political rights as part of international law.

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  • Nowak, Manfred. UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: CCPR Commentary. 2d ed. Kehl am Rhein, Germany: Engel, 2005.

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    A comprehensive ICCPR commentary. One of the most cited works in this area. This second edition offers a completely revised version of the one published in 1993. Primarily for students and scholars with prior knowledge of the UN and human rights.

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Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) was adopted on 16 December 1966. It represents the first multilateral treaty to create legal obligations for states to protect economic, social, and cultural (ESC) rights. In concrete terms, the covenant recognizes the right to work, including just and favorable conditions of work and trade union rights. In addition, it upholds the right to social security and to maternity leave, as well as a right to an adequate standard of living, including food, clothing, and housing; in the same context, it also affirms the right to freedom from hunger and the right to health. And, in the cultural field, it pronounces the right to education, the right to take part in cultural life, and the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its application. For many years, the question of how to ensure the effective promotion, protection, and fulfillment of ESC rights around the world remained relatively unexplored. Instead, dominating the terrain were mainly theoretical debates concerning the nature of the obligations under the ICESCR (Chapman and Russel 2002). However, in recent years there has been a rapidly growing interest in the situation of ESC rights and how to improve it. Of special significance is the emerging literature exploring the actual judicial enforcement of these rights (Gauri and Brinks 2008 and Langford 2008). More generally, there are updated textbooks specifically designed to introduce students and scholars to the area of ESC rights (Ssenyonjo 2009) and collections of seminal papers (Ssenyonjo 2011), as well as reference works meant to facilitate studies and research (Leckie and Gallagher 2006) and the work of activists (King 2003).

  • Chapman, Audrey, and Sage Russel, eds. Core Obligations: Building a Framework for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Antwerp, Belgium: Intersentia, 2002.

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    Anthology that sets out a framework for thinking about ESC rights, which rests on the concept of core obligations. Shows that ESC rights are full-fledged human rights and not simply laudable policy goals; they are also not necessarily costly to implement, they can be monitored, violations can be identified, and states can be held to account.

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  • Gauri, Varun, and Daniel M. Brinks, eds. Courting Social Justice: Judicial Enforcement of Social and Economic Rights in the Developing World. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511511240Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides an empirical study of social and economic rights litigation in Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and South Africa. Develops new methodologies for analyzing the sources of and variation in social and economic rights litigation and measures the aggregate impact of litigation in each country and its relevance for legal theory.

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  • King, Jeff. An Activist’s Manual on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. New York: Center for Economic and Social Rights, 2003.

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    Offers an accessible and comprehensive manual for activists and students for reporting to the UN Committee on ESC rights, and an educational tool in training workshops, especially for practical topics. Also a resource for students, particularly in remote locations with less access to the Internet and major English libraries.

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  • Langford, Malcolm, ed. Social Rights Jurisprudence: Emerging Trends in International and Comparative Law. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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    A comprehensive and critical account of social rights jurisprudence, taking account of almost two thousand judgments and decisions from twenty-nine national and international jurisdictions. Challenges the philosophical debates concerning the justiciability of these rights.

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  • Leckie, Scott, and Anne Gallagher, eds. Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: A Legal Resource Guide. Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

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    An indispensable reference work containing key treaties, declarations, general comments, interpretive texts, and charters. Also encompasses legal, policy, and explanatory standards to enable the reader to know not only the law but also the actual meaning of ESC rights. Accessible both to lawyers and non-lawyers.

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  • Ssenyonjo, Manisuli. Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in International Law. Oxford: Hart, 2009.

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    Offers in-depth analysis of ESC rights to work, health, and education, in light of the practice of the UN Committee on ESC rights and other relevant international, regional, and domestic sources. Also in focus are obligations of states and nonstate actors, women’s ESC rights, and the domestic protection of ESC rights.

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  • Ssenyonjo, Manisuli, ed. Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The International Library of Essays on Rights. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2011.

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    A collection of seminal papers assessing legal, conceptual, and practical questions concerning the international protection of ESC rights, including obligations of states and nonstate actors; the nature and scope of rights to education, health, work, water, etc., and their justiciability within the UN, European, African, and Inter-American systems.

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Equality and Nondiscrimination

Equality and nondiscrimination are cornerstone principles that govern and sustain the international human rights regime. A firm commitment of the international community to achieve equal enjoyment of human rights and especially to eliminate discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, and gender has been the upshot of several international legislative initiatives on human rights. All the UN human rights organs set up to monitor state performance in the area of human rights are competent to consider individual or interstate complaints concerning violations of state obligations to safeguard respect for the two principles (Vandenhole 2005). With time, other bases for discrimination have also been brought to the surface, and a new international legal instrument was recently adopted to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability (Stein 2007). At the same time, no multilateral treaty has been adopted to redress discrimination for reasons related to sexual orientation and gender identity (O’Flaherty and Fisher 2008). Another relatively neglected basis for discrimination in social and economic life is cultural difference, especially evident in the case of migrants (Almqvist 2005). Furthermore, the reality of racism prevails in spite of international human rights legislation devoted specifically to eliminate this ground of discrimination (Fredman, et al. 2001). For equality and nondiscrimination of women, children, and minorities, including indigenous peoples, see Vulnerable Groups. See also Terrorism and Counterterrorism.

  • Almqvist, Jessica. Human Rights, Culture and the Rule of Law. Human Rights Law in Perspective 6. Oxford: Hart, 2005.

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    Argues that cultural differences seriously affect the equal enjoyment of human rights unless specific attention is paid to this reality. Special interest is given to the circumstance of lacking suitable cultural equipment, such as is often the case for migrants and other newcomers.

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  • Fredman, Sandra, Philip Alston, and Gráinne de Búrca, eds. Discrimination and Human Rights: The Case of Racism. Collected Courses of the Academy of European Law 11. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    A volume featuring seven compelling essays written by distinguished scholars examining the role of human rights in combating racism, including the right to equality, nondiscrimination, enforcement, and remedies. Also considers the topics of multiculturalism, ethnicity, and group rights, as well as EU measures.

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  • O’Flaherty, Michael, and John Fisher. “Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and International Human Rights Law: Contextualizing the Yogyakarta Principles.” Human Rights Law Review 8.2 (2008): 207–248.

    DOI: 10.1093/hrlr/ngn009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The first critical commentary to be published on the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, adopted in 2007 by a group of human rights experts.

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  • Stein, Michael Ashley. “Disability Human Rights.” California Law Review 95.1 (2007): 75–121.

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    Examines the theoretical implications of adding disability to the existing canon of human rights, both for disabled persons and for other unprotected people. It sets forth a “disability human rights paradigm” and assesses its potential and limits.

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  • Vandenhole, Wouter. Non-Discrimination and Equality in the View of the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies. Antwerp, Belgium: Intersentia, 2005.

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    Explores how UN human rights treaty bodies understand the principles of equality and nondiscrimination: whether they recognize the same grounds for discrimination and how they treat gender-based discrimination. The jurisprudence of each committee is thoroughly examined, and insightful comparisons are made.

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Vulnerable Groups

The equal-rights movement brought into focus the fact that some groups or sections of society are more vulnerable than others and, thus, in need of special attention and care. A focus on these groups has generated the affirmation in international human rights law, not only of the rights of equality and nondiscrimination for individuals belonging to these groups but also of specific rights in the light of their particular conditions and circumstances. This section focuses on the development of international human rights law to tackle the vulnerability of women and children, as well as minorities and indigenous peoples. (See also Equality and Nondiscrimination.)

Women

The adoption in 1979 of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its entry into force in 1981 mark the establishment of an international legal framework specifically designed to tackle the situation of women around the world. Human rights research has stressed the importance of incorporating women’s rights into the more general framework of international human rights law (Bunch 1990). Attention has also been paid to advancing the international legal arguments available for holding states accountable for violations of women’s human rights (Cook 1994). With time, the agenda on women’s human rights has become increasingly complex and now hosts a diversity of different themes, including reproductive rights, religion, and economic rights (Lockwood 2006). Violence against women ranks high on the agenda, and scholarly efforts are made to address this serious problem (Ross 2009 and Edwards 2010). Of special relevance in this context is female circumcision—because it is often presented as a “tough case” due to its private and quasi-consensual character (Abusharaf 2007).

  • Abusharaf, Rogaia Mustafa, ed. Female Circumcision: Multicultural Perspectives. Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.

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    An edited volume that gathers African activists, including women’s voices, to examine female circumcision within its various cultural and historical contexts, the debates on circumcision regarding African refugee and immigrant populations in the United States, and the human rights efforts to eradicate the practice.

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  • Bunch, Charlotte. “Women’s Rights as Human Rights: Towards a Revision of Human Rights.” Human Rights Quarterly 12.4 (1990): 486–498.

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    Focuses on the significance of integrating women’s rights within the existing international human rights framework and discusses the difficulties faced in this endeavor and ways of overcoming them. A seminal article written by a leading scholar in the field.

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  • Cook, Rebecca J. “State Responsibility for Violations of Women’s Human Rights.” Harvard Human Rights Journal 7 (Spring 1994): 125–176.

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    A widely acclaimed scholar identifies and analyzes the repertoire of international legal arguments available for holding states responsible for violations of women’s human rights. Examines the scope of such responsibility and its legal basis in customary and treaty law, as well as the question of remedies.

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  • Edwards, Alice. Violence against Women under International Human Rights Law. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511779671Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A critical examination grounded in feminist theory of the UN’s legal approaches to violence against women. Analyzes the merits of strategies that accommodate women’s concerns of violence within the already established human rights norms of equality, the right to life, and the prohibition of torture.

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  • Lockwood, Bert B., ed. Women’s Human Rights: A Human Rights Quarterly Reader. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.

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    An interdisciplinary collection of nineteen compelling articles devoted to women’s human rights issues. Organized around five themes: the history and evolution of women’s human rights, religion, violence, economic rights, and reproductive rights. Also discusses specific cases.

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  • Ross, Susan Deller. Women’s Human Rights: The International and Comparative Law Casebook. Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.

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    A unique casebook on women’s human rights. A specific focus on the deprivation and violence suffered by women. An in-depth examination of applicable human rights treaties and their implementation through local courts and legislatures. Provides lawyers with legal tools for change.

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Children

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted in 1989 and entered into force within a year, is the first multilateral treaty to address the vulnerability of children and to stake out ways of safeguarding their human rights through services and other measures. In spite of the near-universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, its lack of implementation influences contemporary research in this area (Hodgkin and Newell 2007) and the especially difficult situation facing children in the developing world (Denov, et al. 2011). The focus of its two Optional Protocols endorsed in 2000 concerned children in armed conflict, and the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography have also become major topics on the human rights research agenda (Dillon 2010). Another pressing theme is child labor (Weston 2005). The gravity of human rights abuses in this area has generated scholarly interest in the role of international criminal justice in investigating and prosecuting violations of children’s rights (Arts and Popovski 2006).

  • Arts, Karin, and Vesselin Popovski, eds. International Criminal Accountability and the Rights of Children. From Peace to Justice Series. The Hague: Hague Academic Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-90-6704-425-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Renowned practitioners and scholars explore the utility of existing mechanisms of international criminal accountability when countering violations of children’s rights during and after armed conflicts. Also analyzed are current practices in the context of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the two ad hoc criminal tribunals, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

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  • Denov, Myriam, Richard Maclure, and Kathryn Campbell, eds. Children’s Rights and International Development: Lessons and Challenges from the Field. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

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    This volume of “essays from the field” recollects experiences and perspectives of marginalized children in ten developing countries and provides critical analyses of current child rights policies and strategies of intervention. Considers children suffering from violent conflict, exploitative labor, incarceration, and institutional care.

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  • Dillon, Sara. International Children’s Rights. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2010.

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    A casebook covering the UN Convention, child labor, children in the global sex industry, children without parental care, children and punishment, children and armed conflict, and children’s rights as interpreted and applied in regional human rights systems. Supplemented by a CD with UN documents. Recommended as a course book.

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  • Hodgkin, Rachel, and Peter Newell. Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 3d ed. New York: UNICEF, 2007.

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    A handbook providing a detailed reference for the implementation of law, policy, and practice to promote and protect the rights of children. Brings together under each article an analysis of the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Book accompanied by a CD.

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  • Weston, Burns H., ed. Child Labor and Human Rights: Making Children Matter. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2005.

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    Brings together a group of scholars who offer a comprehensive overview of the phenomenon of child labor, from a human rights perspective. Also examines the connections between human rights and abusive child labor, the virtues and shortcomings of a rights-based approach, and strategies for change.

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Minorities and Indigenous Peoples

The treatment of national or ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities is a critical concern. An acute awareness of their vulnerability, especially since the horrors of the Holocaust, has generated multiple international human rights standards protecting such minorities from genocide, reaffirming their equal enjoyment of all human rights, including freedoms of religion, association, and expression as well as the right to nondiscrimination on the basis of religion, language, or national origin. Furthermore, Article 27 of the ICCPR of 1966 affirms the right of persons belonging to ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities “not to be denied, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.” The UN Declaration of 1992 reaffirms these rights and elaborates on their meaning and scope. The end of the Cold War bore witness to an upsurge of demands by national or ethnic minorities seeking political autonomy and self-determination rights (Thornberry 1993). A renewed focus on the rights of these minorities generated studies specifically devoted to linguistic rights (de Varenne 1996) and the relationship between minority protection, on the one hand, and self-determination, autonomy, and sovereignty on the other (Hannum 1996). Finally, as a result of decades of lobbying before the UN and the final adoption of the UN Declaration of 2008, the rights of indigenous peoples are gaining ground. Their rights are treated as a related but separate issue in the area of minority rights (Anaya 2009 and Xanthaki 2010). Recently, there has been a significant growth in standard setting with respect to the protection of minorities in international and European law. Current studies in the field take stock of this development. Of significance are judicial interpretations emerging from international courts and treaty bodies (Weller 2007), and it is asked whether the time is right to speak of an “integrated and coherent system of minority protection” (Henrard and Dunbar 2009). At the same time, several outstanding concerns remain unresolved. The concept of “minority” still does not have any generally accepted legal definition. In addition, there is a continued debate about the collective or individual character of minority rights as well as their link to peoples’ and self-determination rights (Lerner 2003). (Also see OBO bibliographies on Self-Determination by James Summers and on Secession by Theodor Christakis.)

  • Anaya, S. James. International Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples. Elective Series. Austin, TX: Wolters Kluwer/Aspen, 2009.

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    A unique collection of primary and secondary materials as well as commentary intended for use in courses focusing on indigenous peoples within the international human rights system. Includes declarations, treaties, and decisions. Highlights major issues concerning indigenous peoples.

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  • de Varenne, Fernand. Language, Minorities and Human Rights. International Studies in Human Rights 45. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1996.

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    The most complete book on the topic of linguistic rights. Presents a theoretical model for language’s particular position and relevance in human rights. Considers language rights of indigenous peoples and noncitizens as well as more-traditional topics, such as nationalism and language, freedom of expression, and nondiscrimination.

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  • Hannum, Hurst. Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights. 2d ed. Procedural Aspects of International Law Series. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.

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    Demands for autonomy and minority rights have provoked multiple conflicts, often violent, around the world. This book identifies and elaborates on the international legal framework in which ethnic, religious, and regional conflicts can be addressed. Includes nine case studies, among them Hong Kong, India, Nicaragua, Spain, and Sri Lanka.

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  • Henrard, Kristin, and Robert Dunbar, eds. Synergies in Minority Protection: European and International Law Perspectives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511575372Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the degree to which some integration and coherence is emerging as a result of the work of treaty-monitoring bodies and other international institutions. Each chapter focuses on a specific international instrument or organization. Offers insights on emerging trends in non-European regional international law, such as Africa.

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  • Lerner, Natan. Group Rights and Discrimination in International Law. 2d ed. International Studies in Human Rights 77. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 2003.

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    Studies racism, religious intolerance, genocide, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and anti-Semitism from a human rights law perspective. Deals with measures designed to protect specific groups, including indigenous populations and migrant workers, as well as discrimination in education and labor.

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  • Thornberry, Patrick. International Law and the Rights of Minorities. Clarendon Paperbacks. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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    An enduring, authoritative text. Takes stock of the law governing the treatment of ethnic and religious minorities following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the developments in eastern Europe. Examines the genocide prohibition, Article 27 of the ICCPR, the principle of nondiscrimination, and the rights of indigenous peoples.

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  • Weller, Marc, ed. Universal Minority Rights: A Commentary on the Jurisprudence of International Courts and Treaty Bodies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    A commentary that brings together all regional and international jurisprudence from courts and treaty bodies concerned with minority rights. Provides an exhaustive, comparative analysis of principles and substantive rules. Includes assessments of religious rights, educational rights, cultural rights, political participation, and socioeconomic opportunities.

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  • Xanthaki, Alexandra. Indigenous Rights and United Nations Standards: Self-Determination, Culture and Land. Cambridge Studies in International and Comparative Law Series 52. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    Provides an eloquent introduction to indigenous rights. Explores the extent to which indigenous claims, as recorded in the UN forums, can be accommodated by international law. Offers a comprehensive account of indigenous rights and their contribution to international law. Includes a substantial bibliography.

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Development

The Declaration on the Right to Development, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1986, proclaims development to be an inalienable human right. It is usually thought of as forming part of so-called third-generation rights, or solidarity rights. Ongoing processes of globalization have given rise to new studies seeking to adjust the meaning and significance of a right to development to changing conditions. Special interest is given to the attribution of responsibility for human rights in development, taking into account the power of corporations and the international community. Scholarly interest is also given to the conflict between the rights to development and international investment law (Aguirre 2008). Scholars also engage in more in-depth studies that recognize the multiple dimensions of this right, not only the economic dimensions but also legal and political ones (Andreassen and Marks 2006). The claim about the existence of a human right to development remains controversial. The proclamation of a human right to development was premised on a growing need to acknowledge the inherent links between development and human rights. The idea was that development strategies and human rights implementation can reinforce each other. From this standpoint, the move away from growth-oriented models of development to others centered on basic needs and human capabilities is seen as a positive evolution, although the latter still falls short of counting as a rights-based approach to development. The most recent initiative on the global development agenda is the Millennium Development Goals, endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2000. According to Alston 2005, this initiative shows that development communities continue to be reluctant to embrace the international human rights agenda in their work. Contemporary studies are produced to demonstrate the range of specific and critical issues that crop up at the interface of human rights and development (Alston and Robinson 2005). There is a specific interest in exploring the interconnectedness between human rights and community development (Ife 2009). Another theme of growing significance is foreign debts of developing countries and the role of international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (Darrow 2006). See also Poverty and Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

  • Aguirre, Daniel. The Human Right to Development in a Globalized World. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    Offers a comprehensive assessment of the human right to development and its realistic application in an era of globalization. Proposes a triadic system of responsibility for human rights in development, addressed to corporations, states, and the international community. Illuminates the conflicts between the right to development and international investment law.

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  • Alston, Philip. “Ships Passing in the Night: The Current State of the Human Rights and Development Debate Seen through the Lens of the Millennium Development Goals.” Human Rights Quarterly 27.3 (2005): 755–829.

    DOI: 10.1353/hrq.2005.0030Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the reasons why the human rights and the development agendas remain unconnected. The empirical evidence examined includes analyses prepared by human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the MGD National Plans adopted by many developing countries, as well as UN human rights treaty bodies and UN Special Rapporteurs.

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  • Alston, Philip, and Mary Robinson, eds. Human Rights and Development: Towards Mutual Reinforcement. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    The contributors to this volume address crucial aspects of the interface of human rights and development, including the economics of social rights, land rights and women’s empowerment, child labor and access to education, reform of legal and judicial systems, the role of the private sector, and development planning.

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  • Andreassen, Bård A., and Stephen P. Marks, eds. Development as a Human Right: Legal, Political, and Economic Dimensions. 2d ed. Antwerp, Belgium: Intersentia, 2006.

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    An excellent multidisciplinary volume centering on the relationship between the process of economic development and international human rights standards. Explores the conceptual underpinnings of development as a human right, the national dimensions of this right, and the role of international institutions. Includes forewords by Navanathem Pillay and Louise Arbour.

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  • Darrow, Mac. Between Light and Shadow: The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and International Human Rights Law. Oxford: Hart, 2006.

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    Advances a rigorous and in-depth application of international legal rules governing the proper interpretation of the World Banks and the International Monetary Fund’s mandates, with the aim of advancing a comprehensive study on the policy consequences and practical possibilities for integrating human rights into the work of these institutions.

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  • Ife, Jim. Human Rights from Below: Achieving Rights through Community Development. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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    Offers a long-overdue assessment of the way in which human rights and community development are interconnected. Shows that human rights can be better realized when community development principles are applied.

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The United Nations System of Human Rights Protection

The UN human rights system is composed of charter-based and treaty-based bodies. The former refers to the Human Rights Council, established in 2005 and replacing the Human Rights Commission, the Special Procedures, and the recently established Universal Periodic Review mechanism (Boyle 2009 and Ramcharan 2009). Treaty-based bodies are the nine committees of independent experts established to monitor state compliance with key human rights multilateral treaties and one Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, which monitors places of detention in states that are parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. The Human Rights Committee is seen as especially prominent in the light of its rich and compelling jurisprudence (Tyagi 2011). Five of the committees—the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Committee against Torture, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities—may, under certain conditions, consider individual complaints or communications from individuals. With the future entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, also the committee established to monitor compliance with this covenant, will have competence to receive such complaints or communications (Albuquerque 2010). As a result of efforts devoted to the mainstreaming of human rights into all UN programs and activities and the arrival of ad hoc criminal tribunals seen as contributing to the enforcement of human rights, recent overviews and collections devoted to the topic of UN and human rights adopt a much broader view of UN bodies and organs of direct relevance to human rights (Alfredsson, et al. 2009 and Mertus 2009). While the range of UN organs with a human rights mandate and the process of mainstreaming human rights are generally viewed as remarkable achievements, the extensive bureaucratization of human rights also invites critical assessment and reflection (Oberleitner 2007).

  • Albuquerque, Catarina de. “Chronicle of an Announced Birth: The Coming into Life of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: The Missing Piece of the International Bill of Human Rights.” Human Rights Quarterly 32.1 (2010): 144–178.

    DOI: 10.1353/hrq.0.0137Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Recollects the discussions on an Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights leading up to its adoption in 2009. Shows how these discussions evolved, especially within the UN open-ended working group on an optional protocol.

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  • Alfredsson, Gudmundur, Jonas Grimheden, Bertrand G. Ramcharan, and Alfred Zayas, eds. International Human Rights Monitoring Mechanisms: Essays in Honour of Jakob Th. Möller. 2d ed. The Raoul Wallenberg Institute Human Rights Library Series 35. Leiden, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004162365.i-728Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Revised and updated collection serving as a thematic textbook on the UN institutions and procedures devoted to the national implementation of human rights and to the international monitoring of state performance. Provides a comprehensive overview of the monitoring instances available: complaints, fact finding, investigative procedures, good offices, dialogue functions, education, etc.

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  • Boyle, Kevin, ed. New Institutions for Human Rights Protection. Collected Courses of the Academy of European Law 18.2. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570546.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Taking into account the recent major reforms of the UN human rights system, this volume offers a set of comprehensive analyses of the UN Human Rights Council, Special Procedures, and Universal Periodic Review.

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  • Mertus, Julie A. The United Nations and Human Rights: A Guide for a New Era. 2d ed. Global Institutions Series. London: Routledge, 2009.

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    A comprehensive but succinct guide to the UN human rights system. Provides a complete guide to the development, structure, and procedures within the UN human rights system, including recent reforms and changes. Also explores the recent initiatives to incorporate human rights into all UN programs and activities. Essential reading.

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  • Oberleitner, Gerd. Global Human Rights Institutions: Between Remedy and Ritual. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2007.

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    A welcome exploration of the establishment and proliferation of global human rights institutions, with a focus on the negative implications of the bureaucratization of human rights. Examines UN institutions with a human rights mandate, the process of mainstreaming human rights, international human rights courts, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

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  • Ramcharan, Bertrand G. The Protection Roles of UN Human Rights Special Procedures. Nijhoff Law Specials 74. Leiden, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004171473.i-214Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of the pioneers in the establishment and operation of UN special procedures recollects the story of its establishment, operations, successes, and difficulties. Assesses their protection roles and reflects on the need for further improvement.

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  • Tyagi, Yogesh. The UN Human Rights Committee: Practice and Procedure. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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    Sensitive to the viewpoint of developing countries and the interplay of law and politics, this comprehensive study of the committee’s procedure and practice assesses its conceptual, institutional, and functional frameworks and analyzes a large number of cases. Based on an in-depth analysis of the relevant UN documents, observations, and interviews.

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Regional Human Rights Regimes and Perspectives

There are three robust regional systems of human rights protection in the Americas, Europe, and Africa. These systems have their own regional human rights courts, whose functioning and case-law collections are of great interest to human rights scholars as well as international legal scholarship more generally (see OBO bibliography on International Courts by Cesare Romano). Two of them also have important quasi-judicial bodies: the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which contribute to the advancement of progressive interpretations of regional human rights conventions. The three systems in question also protect economic, social, and cultural rights—although the mechanisms vary. In addition, recent developments reveal the emergence of an Arab system of human rights protection that must be taken into account. A consideration of the “Asian values” debate and contemporary perspectives are essential to present a composite picture of the topic on regional human rights regimes and perspectives. However, also in Asia some current regional institutional developments in the field of human rights can be discerned. Shelton 2010 offers a unique account of the three existing regional systems and institutional developments in other regions.

  • Shelton, Dinah. Regional Protection of Human Rights. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    A seminal work that provides an exhaustive account of regional organizations for the protection of human rights, including the European, Inter-American, and African systems for the protection of human rights, as well as the prospects for regional systems in the Middle East and Asia. Includes an additional document supplement.

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The Americas

The Inter-American system of human rights consists of a variety of mechanisms. From the standpoint of international human rights law, the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights are generally seen as particularly relevant. The court has developed a valuable case law on a vast range of topics (Burgorgue-Larsen and Torres 2011). Its jurisprudence invites comparison and dialogue with other regional human rights courts, such as the European Court of Human Rights (Revenga Sánchez, et al. 2008). Also, the commission has made significant contributions to the advancement of human rights in the Americas, not least when confronting the military governments that reigned in the region in the 1970s (Goldman 2009). There is also a commitment to enhance the judicial and quasi-judicial protection of economic, social, and cultural rights (Gómez 2007).

  • Burgorgue-Larsen, Laurence, and Amaya Úbeda de Torres. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights: Case Law and Commentary. Brussels: Bruylant, 2008. Translated by Rosalind Greenstein. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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    The first systematic analysis of the case law of the Inter-American Court to be published in English. Provides a comprehensive collation and commentary of the jurisprudence of the court, also drawing comparisons with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. Original publication was titled Les grandes décisions de la Cour inter-américaine des droits de l’homme.

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  • Goldman, Robert K. “History and Action: The Inter-American Human Rights System and the Role of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.” Human Rights Quarterly 31.4 (2009): 856–887.

    DOI: 10.1353/hrq.0.0108Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the historical origins and key achievements of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Attention given to the site visits and country reports to expose human rights violations of military governments during the 1970s, and increased use of the system since the restoration of democracy in the 1990s.

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  • Gómez, Verónica. “Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Inter-American System.” In Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Action. Edited by Mashood A. Baderin and Robert McCorquodale, 167–195. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199217908.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the development of the protection of economic, social, and cultural rights in the Inter-American System. Explores the recognition of these rights by OAS member states and evaluates the strategies employed so far to give them judicial and quasi-judicial protection.

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  • Revenga Sánchez, Miguel, Andrée Viana Garcés, Laurence Burgorgue-Larsen, et al., eds. Tendencias jurisprudenciales de la Corte Interamericana y el Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos: Derecho a la vida, libertad personal, libertas de expresión, participación política. Derecho comparado 12. Valencia, Spain: Tirant Lo Blanch, 2008.

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    This volume responds to the call for enhanced dialogue between scholars from the North and the South to discuss similarities and differences between evolving regional understandings of human rights, as reflected in the case law of the European and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

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Europe

The European Court of Human Rights was the first regional human rights court to be established. To date, it has delivered more than 10,000 judgments, thus producing a vast and complex body of case law on all the rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights (White and Ovey 2010). However, Strasbourg case law at least occasionally invites critical reflection (Grover 2010). It is also faced with an enormous backlog of cases, and there is an ongoing discussion of how to deal with the threat that this backlog poses to the effectiveness of the European human rights system (Wolfrum and Deutsch 2009). The court has had a major impact on the law and practice of virtually every state, although the degree of implementation varies (Keller and Stone-Sweet 2008). Furthermore, the European Social Charter was fundamentally reformed in 1996 with the adoption of the Revised European Charter, creating a system of collective complaints (de Schutter 2010). Finally, the adoption of the European Charter on Fundamental Rights is generally seen as a critical development of human rights protection in the context of the European Union (Mock, et al. 2010).

  • de Schutter, Olivier. The European Social Charter: A Social Constitution for Europe. Collection du Centre des Droits de l’homme de l’Université Catholique de Louvain 7. Brussels: Bruylant, 2010.

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    Exploring the transformation of the charter since 1961 and the role of the European Committee of Social Rights in this respect, the volume thereafter focuses on the challenges ahead. Special interest is given to the relationship among the charter, EU law, and the European Court of Human Rights.

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  • Grover, Sonja C. The European Court of Human Rights as a Pathway to Impunity for International Crimes. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-10799-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents contentious case rulings by the European Court of Human Rights, providing extensive case notes and questions. Elucidates how the court, by declining jurisdiction, contributed to a lack of state accountability and to impunity for individual perpetrators of international crimes.

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  • Keller, Helen, and Alec Stone-Sweet, eds. A Europe of Rights: The Impact of the ECHR on National Legal Systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    A team of prominent scholars evaluate in a systematic manner the impact of the ECHR on eighteen states across Europe, citing cases and scholarly materials. Concludes that while the court’s jurisprudence has provoked significant innovation in every state, its impact varies widely. Seeks to explain this variation.

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  • Mock, William B. T., Gianmario Demuro, Raffaele Bifulco, Marta Cartabia, and Alfonso Celotto, eds. Human Rights in Europe: Commentary on the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2010.

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    Provides an essential guide to the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Analyzes each of its provisions in the light of European and international human rights law, including the constitutional law of EU member states. All its contributors are professors at leading Italian universities.

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  • White, Robin C. A., and Clare Ovey. The European Convention on Human Rights. 5th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    A highly accessible yet incisive account of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Strasbourg case law to date. Analyzes institutions and procedures as well as each convention right, in turn. Ideal for undergraduate and graduate courses on European human rights law.

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  • Wolfrum, Rüdiger, and Ulrike Deutsch, eds. The European Court of Human Rights Overwhelmed by Applications: Problems and Possible Solutions. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer, 2009.

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    Compiling the contributions of distinguished academics and practitioners active in the field of European human rights law, this collection contributes to the ongoing discussion on the reform of the control mechanism of the court, deemed as necessary to prevent a failure of the European system of human rights protection.

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Africa

The first judges of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights were elected in 2006, and shortly thereafter the court started to operate. It has its seat is in Arusha, Tanzania. Together with the African Commission on Human and People’s Court, the African Court constitutes the institutional backbone of the African regional system of human rights protection and participated in a critical manner in developing African human rights law (Oteng Kufuor 2010). Annual reports and compendiums are produced to collect the growing jurisprudence stemming from these two institutions, as well as decisions from other relevant organs both at regional and national levels (Heyns and Killander 2010). Of special significance to the African human rights system is its recognition of the justiciability of economic, social, and cultural rights (Baderin 2007). Another issue of special relevance is the pending merger of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights with the African Court of Justice (Elias 2009).

  • Baderin, Mashood A. “The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Implementation of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in Africa.” In Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Action. Edited by Mashood A. Baderin and Robert McCorquodale, 139–166. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199217908.003.0007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the implementation of economic, social, and cultural rights in the African human rights system, through a critical evaluation of the activities of the African Commission. Argues that the jurisprudence of the commission establishes the justiciability of these rights, although there is room for improvement.

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  • Elias, Olufemi. “Introductory Note to the Protocol on the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.” International Legal Materials 48.2 (2009): 334–336.

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    Provides a brief overview of the contents of the protocol forestalling the merger of the African Court of Justice with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and thus the creation of a pan-African Court with general competence.

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  • Heyns, Christof, and Magnus Killander. Compendium of Key Human Rights Documents of the African Union. 4th ed. Pretoria, South Africa: Pretoria University Law Press, 2010.

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    Contains documents on human rights adopted under the auspices of the AU and its predecessor, the OAU, including documents adopted by the African Commission and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as well as the African Peer Review Mechanism of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

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  • Oteng Kufuor, Kofi. The African Human Rights System: Origin and Evolution. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

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    Challenges the received scholarship on the origins of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Applies economic and social theory to understanding the African Commission’s dynamic treaty interpretation and the commission’s strategic manipulation of the Rules of Procedure to strengthen the African human rights system.

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Asia

The Asian understanding of human rights received considerable attention in the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993, when some Asian states opposed the notion of universal human rights and instead promoted ideas akin to cultural relativism (see Universality and Cultural Relativism). In recent years, this so-called Asian values debate is being reassessed (Kingsbury and Avonius 2008). In current scholarship it is characterized in terms of the more constructive accounts on human rights that are found in Asian law and practice, including the extent to which they are actually implemented in national jurisdictions (Peerenboom, et al. 2006). Also telling of the emergence of a more positive stance on human rights in the region is the recent creation of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (Tan 2011).

  • Kingsbury, Damian, and Leena Avonius, eds. Human Rights in Asia: A Reassessment of the Asian Values Debate. New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2008.

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    Offers an important critical reassessment of the “Asian values” debate and reappraises the human rights situation in Asia since then. The contributions, written both by Asian and non-Asian scholars, contextualize this debate and examine the extent to which the issues raised in it still trouble Asian societies.

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  • Peerenboom, Randall, Carole J. Petersen, and Albert H. Y. Chen, eds. Human Rights in Asia: A Comparative Legal Study of Twelve Asian Jurisdictions, France, and the USA. Routledge Law in Asia Series. London: Routledge, 2006.

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    This volume assesses how human rights are viewed and implemented in Asia. Consideration is given to the problem arising from the Western origins of this notion. French and US approaches are contrasted with major countries in East Asia.

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  • Tan, Hsien-Li. The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights: Institutionalising Human Rights in Southeast Asia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511790386Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Assesses the progress in Southeast Asia on human rights since the “Asian values” debate, culminating in the formal regional institutionalization of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. Also discusses how the preference of ASEAN states for economic, social, and development rights could help them shape the debate.

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The Arab World

The Arab Charter on Human Rights, adopted by the League of Arab States, entered into force in 2008. It creates a treaty body, the Arab Human Rights Committee, to monitor its implementation. In spite of its significance, there is still relatively little knowledge about this development (Rishmawi 2010). Furthermore, the absence of individual and public civil liberties is seen as a principal cause for the Arab revolutions in 2010 and 2011 (Afifi 2011). See also Universality and Cultural Relativism.

  • Afifi, Abdelrahman. Monde Arabe et Droits de L’Homme: Vers l’émergence d’un système regional de protection des droits de l’homme? Sarrebruck, Germany: Editions universitaires européennes, 2011.

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    Assesses the human rights situation in the Arab world. Considers the Arab Charter on Human Rights: while seen as progress, its mechanisms are deficient. Views the absence of individual and public liberties as a principal cause for the revolutions in 2010 and 2011.

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  • Rishmawi, Mervat. “The Arab Charter on Human Rights and the League of Arab States: An Update.” Human Rights Law Review 10.1 (2010): 169–178.

    DOI: 10.1093/hrlr/ngp043Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The purpose of this short note is to provide an update of the charter and the Arab Human Rights Committee. Also comments on some important recent developments in the area of human rights, resulting from an effort to modernize the League of Arab States.

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Domestic Enforcement

As a result of the adoption and entry into force of a wide variety of human rights treaties, the claim about the existence of international human rights obligations for states is no longer controversial. Instead, attention is given to the question as to whether states in fact respect their treaty obligations in the area of human rights and, if not, why? (Hathaway 2002, Goodman and Jinks 2003, and Simmons 2009). A related issue is how to improve respect for international human rights law. Until fairly recently, most of the literature on this matter focused on the role of international procedures. However, there is now a budding line of research centering on the significance of domestic actions and institutions (Mertus 2009) and, in particular, bills of rights (Alston 1999) and national human rights institutions (Murray 2007). Foregrounded in this discussion is the significance of domestic courts to enforce international human rights (Conforti and Francioni 1997). The current focus on domestic courts extends to a consideration of their extraterritorial jurisdiction competences to litigate human rights violations committed abroad (Stephens, et al. 2008), as well as their ability to investigate, prosecute, and sanction such violations. In particular, the Pinochet case set off a line of research exploring the potential of universal jurisdiction as a legal weapon to fight impunity through domestic court action (Macedo 2006).

  • Alston, Philip, ed. Promoting Human Rights through Bills of Rights: Comparative Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    A group of distinguished scholars analyze the consequences of international human rights treaty obligations at the national level. Considers the transformation of international norms into national law and how to prepare adequate national arrangements for giving effect to such norms.

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  • Conforti, Benedetto, and Francesco Francioni, eds. Enforcing International Human Rights in Domestic Courts. International Studies in Human Rights 49. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1997.

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    An all-encompassing volume with distinguished scholars exploring the ways in which domestic courts are tackling international human rights issues. Identifies the most-common obstacles to the effective adjudication and enforcement of human rights in domestic law and also ponders how to reduce or remove these obstacles.

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  • Goodman, Ryan, and Derek Jinks. “Measuring the Effects of Human Rights Treaties.” European Journal of International Law 14.1 (2003): 171–183.

    DOI: 10.1093/ejil/14.1.171Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers a critique of Professor Oona Hathaway’s conclusion that ratification is associated with worse human rights practices (when other important variables are held constant). While supporting the empirical study of compliance, the authors identify several deficiencies in her empirical findings, theoretical model, and policy prescriptions.

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  • Hathaway, Oona. “Do Human Rights Treaties Make a Difference?” Yale Law Journal 111.8 (2002): 1935–2042.

    DOI: 10.2307/797642Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Tests state compliance with ratified human rights treaties, relying upon a database encompassing the experiences of 166 nations over a nearly 40-year period in five areas of human rights law: genocide, torture, fair and public trials, civil liberties, and political representation of women.

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  • Macedo, Stephen, ed. Universal Jurisdiction: National Courts and the Prosecution of Serious Crimes under International Law. Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

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    Brings together leading scholars to discuss the origins, evolution, and implications of universal jurisdiction as a legal weapon against impunity, exploring its proper place in the emerging regime of international legal accountability. Includes a foreword by Mrs. Mary Robinson and reproduces the Princeton Principles on Universal Jurisdiction.

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  • Mertus, Julie A. Human Rights Matters: Local Politics and National Human Rights Institutions. Stanford Studies in Human Rights. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009.

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    Advances an argument reflecting the dominant wisdom among human rights advocates: that the promotion and protection of human rights relies on domestic institutions, although as Mertus also makes clear, the efficacy of such institutions depends on domestic, political, and economic factors. Includes a series of case studies.

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  • Murray, Rachel. The Role of National Human Rights Institutions at the International and Regional Levels: The Experience of Africa. Human Rights Law in Perspective 11. Oxford: Hart, 2007.

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    A unique account of the national human rights institutions established in Africa, including ombudsmen and commissions. Explores the terms of their establishment, functions, powers, and composition. Makes clear that while these institutions are important, they cannot replace the development of civil society.

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  • Simmons, Beth A. Mobilizing for Human Rights: International Law in Domestic Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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    Focuses on the actual respect given to human rights treaties by ratifying states. Demonstrates through a combination of statistical analyses and case studies that the ratification of treaties usually leads to better rights practices.

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  • Stephens, Beth, Judith Chomsky, Jennifer Green, Paul Hoffman, and Michael Ratner. International Human Rights Litigation in U.S. Courts. 2d rev. ed. Leiden, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9781571053534.i-620Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Leading human rights litigators and theorists offer an in-depth analysis of human rights litigation in US courts under the Alien Tort Statute, the Torture Victim Protection Act, and more-uncommon jurisdictional bases. Also discusses issues related to suing corporations and lawsuits against US and foreign governments.

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Extraterritorial Application of Human Rights

Because of contemporary challenges of globalization, foreign occupations, and armed interventions and military conflicts, questions related to the extraterritorial application of human rights obligations for states are attracting academic interest (Coomans and Kamminga 2004). The extraterritorial applicability of human rights treaties in times of armed conflict and military occupation has a special urgency in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict (Dennis 2005). Seen as especially problematic is the approach taken by the European Court of Human Rights, according to which the actions of the armed forces of states authorized by the UN Security Council are attributable to the United Nations and not to the states themselves (Milanović and Papić 2009). Also, global trade and foreign investment raise new questions concerning the responsibility of states for human rights abuses of national corporations when operating abroad (McCorquodale and Simons 2007).

  • Coomans, Fons, and Menno T. Kamminga, eds. Extraterritorial Application of Human Rights Treaties. Antwerp, Belgium: Intersentia, 2004.

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    Collects fourteen superb contributions by distinguished scholars responding to the question of whether human rights treaties are applicable to states outside their respective territorial borders. Special attention is given to the UN Covenants on Human Rights as well the European and American Convention on Human Rights.

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  • Dennis, Michael J. “Application of Human Rights Treaties Extraterritorially in Times of Armed Conflict and Military Occupation.” American Journal of International Law 99.1 (2005): 119–141.

    DOI: 10.2307/3246094Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reflects on the question whether human rights obligations are applicable in periods of armed conflict and military occupation, in the light of the ICJ Advisory Opinion “Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” delivered in 2004.

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  • McCorquodale, Robert, and Penelope Simons. “Responsibility Beyond Borders: State Responsibility for Extraterritorial Violations by Corporations of International Human Rights Law.” Modern Law Review 70.4 (2007): 598–625.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2230.2007.00654.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Investigates if the extraterritorial activities of transnational corporations in defiance of international human rights law can generate home-state responsibility. Shows that home states have obligations in certain situations to regulate the activities of corporate nationals abroad and can incur responsibility where they fail to do so.

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  • Milanović, Marko, and Tatjana Papić. “As Bad as It Gets: The European Court of Human Rights’ Behrami and Saramati Decision and General International Law.” International & Comparative Law Quarterly 58.2 (2009): 267–296.

    DOI: 10.1017/S002058930900102XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A forceful criticism of the admissibility decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in the cases of Behrami and Saramati, arguing that they are at odds with the established rules of responsibility in international law.

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Nonstate Actors

The term “nonstate actors” refers to a wide variety of players ranging from transnational corporations and mercenaries to religious and labor groups, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), terrorist organizations, armed resistance groups, and international organizations (Alston 2005 and Clapham 2006). Recent years are characterized by scholarly explorations of the possibility of applying international human rights law when addressing the problem of human rights abuses committed by nonstate actors, including multinational corporations (Ruggie 2007 and Decaux 2010), private contractors (Francioni and Ronzitti 2011), and international organizations (Wouters, et al. 2010). (See also In Conflict and Postconflict Situations.)

  • Alston, Philip. “The ‘Not-a-Cat’ Syndrome: Can the International Human Rights Regime Accommodate Non-State Actors?” In Non-State Actors and Human Rights. Edited by Philip Alston, 3–36. Collected Courses of the Academy of European Law 13.3. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Originally published in 2000, this piece remains key to understanding the origins and evolution of the human rights discourse on nonstate actors. Sets forth an illuminating critique of what is wrong with the UN framework for addressing nonstate actors and includes suggestions on ways to improve it.

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  • Clapham, Andrew. Human Rights Obligations of Non-State Actors. Collected Courses of the Academy of European Law 15.1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199288465.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Advances a highly sophisticated human rights approach to obligations that goes beyond the traditional focus on states and extends to nonstate actors, including multinational corporations, international organizations, armed opposition groups, and terrorists. Ends with a discussion of their legal accountability.

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  • Decaux, Emmanuel. La responsabilité des entreprises multinationales en matière de droits de l’homme. Droit et Justice 89. Brussels: Bruylant, 2010.

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    This timely collection stresses the responsibility of states and proposes the adoption of an international convention to fight against human rights abuses by multinational corporations. Also considered is the relevance of international criminal law, as well as the position of labor unions.

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  • Francioni, Francesco, and Natalino Ronzitti, eds. War by Contract: Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, and Private Contractors. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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    Provides a comprehensive analysis of the application of international human rights and humanitarian law to the activities of private military and security companies. Also covered are victims’ access to remedies, the criminal prosecution of private contractors, and the use of private contractors in the fight against piracy.

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  • Ruggie, John Gerard. “Business and Human Rights: The Evolving International Agenda.” American Journal of International Law 101.4 (2007): 819–840.

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    The UN Special Rapporteur on Business and Human Rights reflects on the UN human rights approach to multinational corporations. Crucial reading to understand the background to the New Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council on 21 March 2011.

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  • Wouters, Jan, Eva Brems, Stefaan Smis, and Pierre Schmitt, eds. Accountability for Human Rights Violations by International Organisations. International Law Series 7. Antwerp, Belgium: Intersentia, 2010.

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    A careful selection of prominent experts explore the responsibilities of international organizations and available accountability mechanisms. It focuses on three different areas: peace and humanitarian operations, international civil administration, and economic governance and staff. The first book of its kind.

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In Conflict and Postconflict Situations

The nature of conflict has changed since the time of the Cold War. One of the most striking observations is the reduction of international armed conflicts and the rise of internal and transnational ones with a prolonged character and allegedly new types of war. A closely related development is the use of one-sided violence and massacres against civilian populations, as well as a notable participation by nonstate actors in this violence, including terrorist groups, paramilitary groups, and security companies (see also Nonstate Actors). This development has prompted human rights scholars to reassess the applicable international law in these new types of conflicts. The applicability of international law is also reconsidered, concerning how to hold the perpetrators of the violations in question accountable, and the rights of the victims.

Humanitarian Law

An urgent need to clarify and advance our understanding of the principles of rules of international law applicable in contemporary conflicts has generated new and challenging avenues of human rights research. Instead of viewing international humanitarian law and human rights law as separate and self-autonomous regimes, the main focus now is on how these two bodies of law are related, and how they interact and complement each other (Meron 2000). According to Ben-Naftali 2011 such complementarity is especially accentuated in the fight against terror and belligerent occupation. Furthermore, when dealing with questions of accountability and compensation to war victims in postconflict situations, the two bodies of law tend to merge. The need to make sense of this complex relationship has led to the production of casebooks covering both sets of laws (Forrest Martin, et al. 2006). A parallel line of research at the moment reflects a growing interest in advancing our understanding of the relationship between human rights and conflict resolution. In current scholarship, the interdisciplinary character of the topic is revealed (Lekha Sriram, et al. 2010), as is the fact that human rights protection is relevant to every stage of the conflict cycle initiated by violence precipitating human rights violations and ending with the negotiation of peace agreements and peace-building efforts (Mertus and Helsing 2006).

  • Ben-Naftali, Orna, ed. International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. Collected Courses of the Academy of European Law 19. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780191001604.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Renowned scholars study the interaction between humanitarian and human rights law in the fight against terror and allegedly new types of war and in the context of belligerent occupation. Also considers two areas of potential fusion of the two regimes: postbellum accountability and compensation to war crimes victims.

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  • Forrest Martin, Francisco, Stephen J. Schnably, Richard Wilson, Jonathan Simon, and Mark Tushnet. International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law: Treaties, Cases and Analysis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    A comprehensive introduction to the international legal instruments and case law governing the substantive and procedural dimension of the two bodies of law, including economic, social, and cultural rights. Also discusses relevant enforcement mechanisms and the incorporation of international law into US law.

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  • Lekha Sriram, Chandra, Olga Martín-Ortega, and Johanna Herman. War, Conflict and Human Rights: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge, 2010.

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    An interdisciplinary textbook combining aspects of law, politics, and conflict analysis to examine the tensions and complementarities between human rights protection and conflict resolution. Also examines international accountability mechanisms to punish violations of human rights and humanitarian law.

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  • Meron, Theodor. “The Humanization of Humanitarian Law.” American Journal of International Law 94.2 (2000): 239–278.

    DOI: 10.2307/2555292Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses how human rights concerns have stimulated reinterpretations of the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity. Also addresses the relationship between human rights and humanitarian law, their increasing convergence and prevailing gaps, and limits to both these bodies of laws.

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  • Mertus, Julie, and Jeffrey Helsing, eds. Human Rights and Conflict: Exploring the Links between Rights, Law, and Peacebuilding. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2006.

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    This excellent collection offers a composite picture of the relationship between human rights and conflict. Reflecting the different stages in the conflict cycle, it covers human rights abuses precipitating violence, third-party interventions, and humanitarian relief, as well as peace agreements and peace building.

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International Criminal Justice

A second salient issue generated by contemporary conflicts, and of great significance to human rights scholars, is the emphasis on the need to hold perpetrators of serious violations to account. The duty of states to conduct criminal investigations, organize trials, and impose criminal sanctions, as well as the complementary role of the International Criminal Court (ICC), has risen to the forefront of human rights research. Compelling research in the area of international criminal justice extending to postconflict justice becomes directly relevant to understand the prospects and difficulties faced in the process of bringing perpetrators of serious human rights violations to justice (Bassiouni 2010). Scholars continue to debate in which sense criminal justice is relevant for human rights: some emphasize its role as an essential element of human rights protection (Seibert-Fohr 2009), while others focus mainly on its potential and limits to enforce human rights (Ratner, et al. 2009). In any case, there seems to be a growing agreement that criminal justice has a crucial role to play when tackling serious human rights violations. Both international criminal tribunals and above all the ICC (as well as national courts) are commonly considered (see also Domestic Enforcement.

  • Bassiouni, M. Cherif, ed. The Pursuit of International Criminal Justice: A World Study on Conflicts, Victimization, and Post-Conflict Justice. 2 vols. Mortsel, Belgium: Intersentia, 2010.

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    Includes an empirical survey of world conflicts between 1945 and 2008, the degree of victimization they produced, and the subsequent postconflict justice mechanisms applied. The aim is to show the scope of the difficulties faced by international criminal justice and how the ICC may address them.

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  • Ratner, Steven R., Jason S. Abrams, and James L. Bischoff. Accountability for Human Rights Atrocities in International Law: Beyond the Nuremberg Legacy. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    A comprehensive study of the promise and limits of international criminal law as a means of enforcing human rights and humanitarian law. The new edition increases the range of international criminal tribunals covered and explores individual accountability for terrorist acts, counterterrorism measures, and crimes of aggression.

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  • Seibert-Fohr, Anja. Prosecuting Serious Human Rights Violations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199569328.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the duty to prosecute serious human rights violations as an essential aspect of human rights protection. Explores the growing human rights case law related to investigations, prosecutions, and punishment and ponders the potential and limited role of human rights in the emerging concept of international criminal justice.

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Remedies and Reparations

The rights of the victims of serious human rights violations are a critical concern in conflict and postconflict situations. While formally counting as soft law, the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparations for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law (Basic Principles), adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2005, provides the basic framework for defining and implementing the rights of victims of such violations (Redress 2006). As a result of the focus on serious human rights violations, the human rights research agenda has come to intersect and overlap to a significant extent with the field of international criminal law, as well as transitional justice and postconflict justice. By now, the topic of the rights of victims of serious human rights violations tends to cover a wide range of victims in differing political contexts and scenarios (Flauss 2009). The adoption of the Basic Principles clearly bolstered the further enhancement of an already developing human rights research agenda specifically designed to address the question of remedies in international human rights law (Shelton 2006). Besides, a right to remedy the right to reparations has received considerable interest. A question brought to the surface in this context is how to set up and implement reparations programs in especially challenging environments (de Greiff 2008). Another issue that has become an essential aspect of reparation and that now ranks high on the human rights agenda is truthseeking and the establishment of truth commissions (Hayner 2011).

  • de Greiff, Pablo, ed. The Handbook on Reparations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    An edited volume providing an impressively encompassing account of past experiences with massive reparations programs. Also breaks new theoretical ground by tackling issues such as the relationship between material compensation and other symbolic measures of reparation, as well as how to provide reparations to victims of sexual violence.

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  • Flauss, Jean François, ed. La protection internationale des droits de l’homme et les droits des victimes. Brussels: Bruylant, 2009.

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    A collection of outstanding scholars analyzing the rights of victims of human rights violations, including the right to a remedy, dealing with the past, transitional justice, and the rights of victims of terrorism. Some contributions are written in English.

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  • Hayner, Priscilla. Unspeakable Truths: Transitional Justice and the Challenge of Truth Commissions. 2d ed. New York: Routledge 2011.

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    A definitive exploration of the global expression in official truth seeking after widespread atrocities. The new edition provides an updated account covering twenty new commissions formed in the last ten years. Based on hundreds of interviews and an extensive review of existing literature.

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  • Redress. Implementing Victims’ Rights: A Handbook on the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation. London: Redress, 2006.

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    London-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) provides an accessible and informative handbook of the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparations for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2005.

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  • Shelton, Dinah. Remedies in International Human Rights Law. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199207534.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A most comprehensive treatment of the topic of remedies available for victims of human rights violations both at the national and international levels. Besides a conceptual framework, this monograph offers an encompassing analysis of relevant jurisprudence of regional human rights tribunals. The paperback edition incorporates a new chapter on historical injustices.

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The Responsibility to Protect

At the 2005 UN World Summit, world leaders endorsed the responsibility to protect (R2P), holding that states have a responsibility to protect their citizens from genocide and mass atrocities. They also expressed their commitment to act in cases where governments are failing to uphold their citizens’ human rights. While formally not part of international law, R2P is a principle that now frames much of the internationalist debates about conflict prevention, humanitarian aid, and peacekeeping. In particular, it rationalizes and legitimizes humanitarian interventions and the establishment of UN transitional administrations. R2P implies a radical shift of attitude toward humanitarian tragedies, which until 2001 had been characterized by a clear pattern of passivity by the outside world (Power 2007). However, as this principle is gaining ground it is important to recall that appeals to protection has been a recurrent theme in history (Orford 2011). At the same time, the current appeal to protection differs from previous versions because of its openly close connection with international human rights. Whether against or in favor of humanitarian interventions, transitional administrations, foreign occupations, and state building, this assumed connection has important implications for human rights research. In particular, it urges us to ask how these developments affect our settled understanding of the relationship between sovereignty and human rights (Fabri 2008) and how leading literature in the field may be relevant to human rights research (Chesterman 2005).

  • Chesterman, Simon. You, the People: The United Nations, Transitional Administrations, and State-Building. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Sets forth an account of the international community’s efforts to accomplish transitional justice, the administration of justice, and the development of rule-of-law capacity in occupied states. Provides important analyses and propositions of immediate relevance for human rights scholars and practitioners.

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  • Fabri, Hélène Ruiz. “Human Rights and State Sovereignty: Have the Boundaries Been Significantly Withdrawn?” In Human Rights, Intervention and the Use of Force. Edited by Philip Alston and Euan Macdonald, 33–86. Collected Courses of the Academy of European Law 10. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    Focusing on the interplay between sovereignty and human rights, this essay compares traditional approaches with recent developments, with the objective of finding out if the substantive frontiers of sovereignty have been significantly redrawn as a result.

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  • Orford, Anne. International Authority and the Responsibility to Protect. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511973574Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Placing R2P in a broader historical and jurisprudential context, Professor Orford explains that the appeal to protection to ground authority has emerged at times of civil war or revolution. An essential reading for anybody seeking to make sense of the expansive forms of international rule authorized by R2P.

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  • Power, Samantha. “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide. 2d ed. New York: Perennial HarperCollins, 2007.

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    First published in 2002. Addresses the tendency of the outside world to remain passive in relation to ongoing genocides. Sets forth a forceful critique against this pattern and especially against US policymakers for not intervening in these cases. One of the most widely cited books in defense of humanitarian interventions.

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Contemporary Challenges

Recent years bear witness to a growing scholarly interest in the difficulties that are currently facing the international human rights regime and how to overcome them. Notably, in spite of its existence since the late 1940s, relatively few people are able to enjoy the wide array of rights and freedoms that have been recognized in international human rights law. The reality of widespread deprivation and poverty is especially disturbing and throws into serious doubt the real significance of this body of law as a means of improving the life conditions of many people. While some scholars seek to approach this serious dilemma in a spirit of hope and belief in the possibility of progress within the current framework (Power and Allison 2006), others take a more critical stance and call for more-radical changes (Baxi 2009). Still others believe that the deterioration of human rights protection resulting from the “War on Terror” has prompted not only the question of whether the regime can actually survive (Gearty 2006) but also more-critical reflections on the idea that everything changed after 9/11 (Goodhart and Mihr 2011). A shift in focus to other types of contemporary challenges, and how to respond to them (climate change, pandemics, mass migration, global poverty, and the financial and economic crisis, for example), is perceived as especially urgent (Ramcharan 2010).

  • Baxi, Upendra. Human Rights in a Posthuman World: Critical Essays. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    Analyzes the state of human rights in a world overwhelmed by security concerns, at the expense of seeking to tackle the reality of poverty and deprivation. Sets out an original critique of Amartya Sen’s influential thinking on the right to development and points out alternative directions.

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  • Gearty, Conor. Can Human Rights Survive? Hamlyn Lectures Series 57. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    Ponders whether human rights can survive, considering the many challenges faced, including not only relativism and uncertainty but also the War on Terror, the revival of political religion, and the steady erosion of the world’s natural resources. Originally presented at the 2005 Hamlyn Lecture.

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  • Goodhart, Michael, and Anja Mihr. Human Rights in the 21st Century: Continuity and Change since 9/11. Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

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    In this collection, leading human rights scholars critically reflect on the idea that “everything changed” after 9/11, considering compliance and violations, normative and political discourses, legal and institutional developments, and changes in the nonstate sector.

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  • Power, Samantha, and Graham Allison, eds. Realizing Human Rights: Moving from Inspiration to Impact. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

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    Bringing together leading activists, policymakers, and critics to reflect upon fifty years of attempts to improve respect for human rights, this volume assesses how policies and actions affect the realization of human rights, pointing to new direction and challenges ahead.

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  • Ramcharan, Bertrand G. Preventive Human Rights Strategies. Global Institutions Series 39. London: Routledge, 2010.

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    Argues that the prevention of human rights violations must become the dominant protection strategy. Explores the future of preventive strategies in light of contemporary issues, including climate change, pandemics, mass migration, global poverty, conflict, terrorism (including WMD terrorism), and the financial and economic crisis.

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Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Since 9/11, the issue of terrorism and counterterrorism ranks high on the international human rights agenda and has generated a considerable literature devoted to the question of how to mediate between human rights and security concerns (Ashby Wilson 2005). One of the most disturbing developments involves the torture cases in the Abu Ghraib and other prisons and has provoked scholars to conduct extensive empirical research revealing who authorized these cases (Sands 2008). The deeply problematic usage of preventive detention as a counterterrorism measure from the standpoint of human rights law has provoked scholars to engage in comprehensive assessments of how to balance competing interests at stake when resorting to this measure (Macken 2011). Other counterterrorism measures currently used in the global fight against terrorism are individual sanctions, including asset freeze and blacklisting. While promoted by the UN Security Council and its Counter-Terrorism Committee, these measures are difficult to reconcile with respect to human rights, considering their negative impact on fair trial and due process (Scheinin 2010). A somewhat different line of research focuses on how contemporary counterterrorism measures in four areas—executive detention, fair trial, enforcement of immigration laws, and use of police powers—seriously undermine the prohibition against discrimination endorsed in international human rights law (Moeckli 2008).

  • Ashby Wilson, Richard, ed. Human Rights in the War on Terror. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    A timely collection of essays devoted to provocative questions posed to the human rights regime as a result of the War on Terror. Brings together leading scholars, policymakers, and activists to debate whether human rights are now a luxury that we can no longer afford.

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  • Macken, Claire. Counter-Terrorism and the Detention of Suspected Terrorists: Preventive Detention and International Human Rights Law. London: Routledge, 2011.

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    A balanced analysis of the consistency between the preventative detention of suspected terrorists in national counterterrorism policy and the prohibitions on arbitrary arrest and detention in international human rights law. Draws on examples from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia, as well as jurisprudence from the European Court of Human Rights.

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  • Moeckli, Daniel. Human Rights and Non-Discrimination in the ‘War on Terror.’ Oxford Monographs in International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199239801.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the antiterrorism laws and practices of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Reveals that the most far-reaching restrictions of liberty have been imposed on minorities: foreign nationals and certain “racial,” ethnic, and religious groups. Asks whether there are objective and reasonable grounds for this unequal treatment.

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  • Sands, Philippe. Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

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    An outstanding investigation into how the Rumsfeld Memo of 2 December 2002 set the stage for violations of the international legal prohibition of torture. Explains how the policy of abuse originated with Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush and was promoted by their most senior lawyers.

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  • Scheinin, Martin. Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, 6 August 2010. UN Doc. A/65/258.

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    A comprehensive assessment on the question of compliance with human rights by the United Nations when countering terrorism. Examines the role and contributions of the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the Security Council, the Counter-Terrorism Committee, and field presences. Considers especially the 1,267 targeted sanctions regimes.

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Poverty

World poverty is a contemporary challenge that still has not been sufficiently addressed in international human rights law and practice. One reason for this is that poverty generally has been approached as an economic problem and not as a human rights violation (Khan 2009). However, as Salomon 2007 observes, particular characteristics of contemporary world poverty resulting from considerable interdependence give rise to new questions about the scope, evolution, and application of the international human rights law, and in particular on the significance of the right to development to tackle this challenge. Scholarly interest is also given to the positive effects of new strategies on economic and social rights being advanced in Africa (White and Perelman 2010). The attribution of responsibility is a central theme, which has been taken up by global-justice theorists who place the responsibility for poverty on affluent societies (Pogge 2007). See Development and Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

  • Khan, Irene. The Unheard Truth: Poverty and Human Rights. New York: W. W. Norton, 2009.

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    A powerful argument by the Secretary General of Amnesty International that poverty is not just an economic problem but is also a human rights violation. Argues that empowering the poor with basic rights of security is the only way to eradicate poverty and ensure freedom and dignity for everyone.

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  • Pogge, Thomas, ed. Freedom from Poverty as a Human Right: Who Owes What to the Very Poor? New York: Oxford University Press–UNESCO, 2007.

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    Collects fifteen cutting-edge essays by leading philosophers defending the claim that freedom from poverty is a human right, with corresponding binding obligations on the more affluent to practice effective poverty avoidance. An offshoot of the UNESCO project on severe global poverty.

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  • Salomon, Margot E. Global Responsibility for Human Rights: World Poverty and the Development of International Law. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199284429.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Considers the evolving nature of human rights and international cooperation in international law as a basis for addressing the role and responsibility of the international community in dealing with poverty. Offers a detailed examination of the historically controversial right to development, its current significance, and its application.

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  • White, Lucie, and Jeremy Perelman, eds. Stones of Hope: How African Activists Reclaim Human Rights to Challenge Global Poverty. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010.

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    Engages with the work of remarkable African advocates challenging radical poverty through the advancement of new strategies on social and economic rights.

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Environmental Degradation and Climate Change

Many basic human rights are at risk as a result of environmental degradation and climate change, including the rights to health, food, water, and shelter. As Picolotti 2010 notes, in spite of the close relationship between environmental degradation and human rights, human rights violations and environmental degradations have tended to be approached both by human rights advocates and environmentalists as unrelated issues. However, recent human rights scholarship shows that changes are underway. According to Kravchenko and Bonine 2008, environmental rights are increasingly recognized as enforceable both substantively and procedurally, and environmental law can no longer be viewed merely as a matter for policy choices in legislation. There are now comprehensive scholarly accounts of how environmental protection and human rights are related to each other and recognized in law (Anton and Shelton 2011), as well as edited collections that bring both human rights advocates and environmentalists together to analyze existing linkages between human rights and environmental protection (Picolotti 2010). These contributions have been coupled by a search for philosophical foundations in support of the need to accommodate environmental concerns into human rights frameworks and theories about social justice (Hiskes 2008). The impact of climate change on human rights protection is singled out as a question of special attention and concern (Humphreys 2010).

  • Anton, Donald K., and Dinah L. Shelton. Environmental Protection and Human Rights. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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    A comprehensive introduction to the relationship between environmental protection and human rights being formalized into law. Offers cogent guidance to the growing international human rights jurisprudence related to the environment, including the environmental dimensions of the rights to life, health, and public participation and access to information.

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  • Hiskes, Richard P. The Human Right to a Green Future: Environmental Rights and Intergenerational Justice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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    Presents an argument for environmental human rights, including the rights to clean air, water, and soil, as the basis of intergenerational environmental justice. Advances several theoretically interesting conceptualizations, such as emergent human rights, reflexive reciprocity as the foundation of justice, and a communitarian foundation for environmental human rights.

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  • Humphreys, Stephen. Human Rights and Climate Change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    An inquiry into the human rights dimensions of climate change, looking beyond potential impacts to examine a range of yet-unexplored concerns raised by climate change policies: accountability for extraterritorial harms; constructing reliable enforcement mechanisms; assessing redistributional outcomes; and allocating burdens, benefits, rights, and duties among perpetrators and victims, both public and private.

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  • Kravchenko, Svitlana, and John E. Bonine. Human Rights and the Environment. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2008.

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    This casebook shows how international and national court cases in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas have begun to interpret treaties, national constitutions, and human rights legislation to protect the environment through the recognition of rights. For the first time, these important developments are brought together in a book suitable as a primary text for classes and seminars.

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  • Picolotti, Romina, ed. Linking Human Rights and the Environment. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2010.

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    An edited collection that brings together contributions from human rights and environmental experts who have devoted much of their work to establish linkages between human rights and environmental protection. Offers practical ways in which environmental protection can be approached through human rights instruments, mechanisms, and remedies. A valuable sourcebook.

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LAST MODIFIED: 03/23/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199796953-0056

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