New Issue: Volume 21, Issue 1

Volume 20, Issue 2

Volume 20, Issue 1

Volume 19, Issue 2

April 8 Symposium: Human Rights and Diplomacy Symposium

Read: Volume 19, Issue 1, Symposium: Human Rights and Access to Justice in Ethiopia

SLAPP Suits: An Encroachment on Human Rights of a Global Proportion and What Can Be Done About It

By: Prather, Laura | December 3, 2023

Freedom of expression is the underpinning of all other freedoms. Yet, increasingly, journalists, citizens, advocacy groups, whistleblowers, academics, and media organizations are being targeted and subjected to judicial harassment for informing the public about matters of public concern, denouncing authoritarian regimes, and exposing wrongdoing. These meritless lawsuits do not seek to right a wrong, but rather to silence and intimidate critics. They are known as “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” (“SLAPP” suits) and are on the rise globally. Because SLAPP suits are designed to inhibit ongoing investigations, stifle informed public debate, and prevent legitimate public interest reporting, they present a threat to democracy and strike at the core of human rights.

The antidote to SLAPP suits is the passage of Anti-SLAPP legislation. While the United States has a vast body of state legislative experiences passing Anti-SLAPP laws over the last thirty years, the passage of a federal Anti-SLAPP law has remained elusive. More recently, the European Union and the United Kingdom recognized the dangers SLAPP suits present to democracy, and both have catapulted into action to address them. Much can be learned from the swift international action of raising awareness, educating lawmakers and judges, pursuing accountability for lawyers, and maintaining best practices in the implementation of Anti-SLAPP laws.

Still, because this phenomenon is a global one, we should consider mining the lessons learned from the U.S. experience and scaling the EU and UK models to impede “forum shopping” by perpetrators who are willing to punish their exposers. The need to establish infrastructures for the development of supranational policies and consider best practices for addressing the rise of SLAPP suits is not just about protecting journalists from abusive behavior, but also about preserving the ability of the public to obtain accurate information, considering diverse interests and perspectives, and engage in vital discourse about their governments and communities.

Promises and Pitfalls in UN Regulation of Judicial Independence

By: Kiela, Martha | September 30, 2023

This article investigates the current mechanisms and power of the UN to ensure judicial independence in the UN Member States. First, it surveys the UN bodies which play a role in creating international regulations for judicial independence and monitoring Member States’ compliance with them. Second, it analyzes the responses of these bodies to challenges to judicial independence by conducting case studies of Venezuela and Poland, and how these actions compare to those of other international organizations and tribunals. The central questions it seeks to answer are which mechanisms of review and enforcement have so far been the most effective in reaching the goal of judicial independence, where they fall short, and how they can improve.

The case studies show that the UN General Assembly (GA) and Human Rights Council (HRC) generally use the mechanisms available to them effectively and fully. UN action has been crucial to bringing continued attention to human rights violations occurring internationally—even if the UN’s enforcement mechanisms are weak because its resolutions generally lack legally binding authority. The greatest obstacle to achieving international goals of judicial independence, however, is not a lack of UN action, but rather a lack of Member State compliance and collaboration. Without the full cooperation of each of its Member States and engagement of individual citizens, the UN’s attempts to solve this issue will continue to fall short.

The Rejection of the Anti-Corruption Principle and its Effect on Human Rights at Home

By: Sorensen, Juliet S. | September 30, 2023

21st century scholarship analyzing the Framers’ treatment of corruption asserts that their incorporation of anti-corruption means in the Constitution should be interpreted as a framework to inform contemporary judicial review and jurisprudence. Led by Zephyr Teachout’s article “The Anti-Corruption Principle,” this school of thought asserts that the anti-corruption principle should be on par with separation of powers and freedom of expression, a guiding lodestar in interpreting the Constitution.

This article submits that the anti-corruption principle of constitutional interpretation is, in fact, a rights-based approach to corruption, equating freedom from corruption with the other rights and liberties enshrined in the Constitution. In that sense, the anti-corruption principle is not only in harmony with, but protects and enhances, the Constitution’s other provisions. Indeed, the anti-corruption principle itself can be regarded as a right. The conceptualization of freedom from corruption as a human right—distinct from the characterization of corruption as an impediment to the enjoyment of other human rights—has gained traction in recent years, in parallel with scholarship about the anti-corruption principle, as new constitutions and public international bodies invoke this rights-based approach.

Nonetheless, in recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the anti-corruption principle, at least as a constitutional tenet. Instead, the Court has relegated case after case of self-dealing, trading in influence, and patronage to the realm of politics, not law. It has narrowed its working definition of corruption in violation of the public trust to quid pro quo bribery and kickbacks. It has simultaneously limited which official acts can be treated under the law as criminal quid pro quo and, earlier this year, narrowed whom the law considers a public official for the purposes of anti-corruption law.

This article analyzes the Supreme Court’s increasingly narrow treatment of public corruption over the last twenty years and its effects not only on the law itself, but also on democracy and human rights in the U.S. The article concludes with a solutions-based analysis of a local anti-corruption intervention that furthers both the anti-corruption principle and a rights-based approach to corruption.