Universal Human Rights and Extraterritorial Obligations

Universal Human Rights and Extraterritorial Obligations

Universal Human Rights and Extraterritorial Obligations

Universal Human Rights and Extraterritorial Obligations

Synopsis

Universal Human Rights and Extraterritorial Obligations examines both the international and domestic foundations of human rights law.

Excerpt

Sigrun Skogly and Mark Gibney

The fundamental principles governing international law are changing dramatically. International law, which traditionally has regulated the conduct between and among countries, has had as its core the respect for state sovereignty. However, the latter part of the twentieth century witnessed fundamental changes to the way in which the international community operates that are based upon a deep interdependence among states and their openness to international actors. This is often labeled the process of globalization. This process has had a significant impact on states’ sovereignty and on the way in which international law regulates the interaction among states. This phenomenon includes the way in which international trade law (spearheaded by the World Trade Organization) dictates how member states’ trade policies may operate; the way in which international financial law (led by the International Monetary Fund) determines financial policies of member states; and the way in which international environmental law regulates actions with transboundary effects. Thus, international law is no longer restricted to areas of interstate concern but it has also come to regulate states’ domestic actions as well. Opponents to this view may hold that states are still sovereign in that they are not forced to take part in these international legal regimes. However, this view fails to take account of the political and economic realities of international relations where the voluntary nature of this regulation for most states (particularly weaker or poorer states) is a legal fiction.

In this new reality, which is prevalent in the practice of international law but still lacking in theoretical recognition, there is one area that is curiously lagging behind: human rights. This is not meant to suggest that international human rights law does not have a strong domestic foundation. in fact, the reason why international human rights law is so “revolutionary” is that it focuses almost exclusively on the “vertical” relationship between the state and the subjects of that state, rather than the . . .

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