Latest Issue: Volume 18, Issue 2

International Lawyers as Disrupters of Corruption: Business and Human Rights in Africa’s Most Populous Country—Nigeria

By: Krishnan, Jayanth K. | June 8, 2020

Be it bribery, embezzlement, or the abuse of public trust, corruption poses a major challenge to global security and democratic governance, along with undermining the rule of law, especially within the Global South. Key to this phenomenon is understanding how lawyers are enabling but also disrupting this epidemic. Unfortunately, the literature on this subject is lacking. This study, therefore, offers a nuanced story of globalization and the complicated role that lawyers play in corruption, by relying on the case study of Nigeria—a crucial Global South market that has the largest population on the African continent. While Nigeria has been able to remain a democracy since 1999 (albeit fragilely), private sector and government officials, including the current Nigerian president, concede that corruption is the country’s biggest problem. At the same time, as this study demonstrates, in Nigeria today there is a small but growing group of globally experienced lawyers who are aggressively resisting the entrenched corruption that besieges this environment. By virtue of the opportunities provided by globalization, this cohort is not bound to the parochial interests that have long harmed Nigeria. Yet, these lawyers also work within a larger profession that is conservative, complicated, and at times itself corrupt. Thus, to what extent do these factors affect the ability of these globally focused lawyers to enact change? The answer to this question is critical because it helps to unlock an enduring puzzle as to which agents are best situated to lead a country out of its mired, corrupt history and onto the global stage as a respected power. For other nations, particularly in the Global South, that are also seeking to strengthen their rule of law regimes, the lessons from this study will be instructive in determining whether lawyers who value—and are part of—global networks are capable of curbing corruption within their own domestic contexts.

Empowering Persons with Disabilities: Socio-Economic Rights as a Pathway to Personal Autonomy and Independence

By: Seatzu, Francesco | June 8, 2020

Recent years have witnessed a growing awareness of the importance of the status of persons with disabilities as right-holders, and increasing linkages being made between human rights and persons with disabilities’ vulnerabilities in the development context. Stimulated by mounting concerns about the impact of the financial crisis of 2007–2008 on persons with disabilities, these changes have unsurprisingly catalyzed attention on those rights of persons with disabilities that are most closely connected to ensuring persons with disabilities’ development needs—namely their social and economic rights. Focusing on the content of, and duties imposed by, persons with disabilities’ socio-economic rights, this article starts by describing the notions of “disability” and “disabled persons.” It then discusses the emergence of persons with disabilities as socioeconomic rights holders, focusing on the question of whether persons with disabilities are or should be considered a “special case” vis-à-vis such rights when compared with other vulnerable groups. The article concludes with a discussion of the role domestic courts can and should play in the enforcement of the socio-economic rights contained in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities.

A “Dignified Life” and the Resurgence of Social Rights

By: Antkowiak, Thomas M. | January 3, 2020

The international human rights movement and its institutions have faced searing criticism that they have abandoned social, economic, and cultural rights (“social rights”). While favorable treaties and constitutions have proliferated over the last decades, grave poverty, inequality, and disease still run rampant across the globe. Many have attributed the latest rise of demagogues and terrorist groups to this widespread social disenfranchisement.

The supranational human rights courts have historically avoided social rights enforcement due to limited subject-matter jurisdiction. Yet more recently the Inter-American Court of Human Rights introduced a conceptual breakthrough to assess social rights, which was affirmed by the U.N. Human Rights Committee at the end of 2018. These advances reveal a building, although controversial, movement among supranational tribunals to hold States accountable for ensuring a “dignified life” and various social rights.

In Parts I and II, this article will examine these international legal developments, which primarily involve the integration of social rights into the right to life. In Part III, the article will then assess this expansive right-to-life approach, considering its consensual, suprapositive, and institutional aspects. When these three aspects are balanced, a court’s interpretation contributes to making its treaty system “justifiable, politically acceptable, and effective.”

The Inter-American Court has recognized that the fundamental right to life will never be meaningful and effective without nutrition, water, health care, housing, education, and ancestral lands. By establishing that these elements are indivisible from life, the Court also justified its expansion of remedies to safeguard many individuals and communities at risk. While States originally did not draft this “right to a dignified life,” they have permitted it to develop in the Inter-American System, as it aligns with their emphasis—at least in principle—on human dignity and respectable living conditions. The article concludes that the right to a dignified life, despite certain drawbacks examined, is a sensible approach to protect several intertwined rights, because it reasonably balances consensual, suprapositive, and institutional factors. If the Inter-American Court remains committed to its development, the evolving right to a dignified life will become increasingly protective, as well as progressively influential for both supranational tribunals and national legal institutions.