Latest Issue: Volume 18, Issue 1

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.

Elusive Justice: Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of Afghanistan’s Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women

By: Hakimi, Mehdi J. | January 3, 2020

The Taliban’s fall in 2001 elevated hopes for improving the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan. Those aspirations were bolstered with the promulgation of the country’s landmark Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) in 2009. The tenth anniversary of Afghanistan’s EVAW Law, however, offers little cause for celebration. This essay examines Afghanistan’s legal framework on combating gender-based violence against women, and the mounting challenges on the ground. The ongoing rampant violence against women, pervasive use of mediation in criminal cases, and violations perpetrated by State agents have made Afghan women’s quest for justice increasingly more elusive. These breaches of the State’s due diligence obligations under international law constitute human rights violations. As women remain effectively sidelined in the peace negotiations with a resurgent Taliban, the Afghan government and the international community cannot solely talk the talk, but must also walk the walk of confronting violence against women.

Paradox of Hierarchy and Conflicts of Values: International Law, Human Rights, and Global Governance

By: Lee, Jootaek | January 3, 2020

In an international society, hierarchies are set up differently among different countries and societies based on different values, which are naturally conflicting and colliding with each other and result in unstable conditions. Is hierarchy really necessary in an international society? Does more hierarchical order in international society mean more peace? Do we need a supranational organization like the European Union whose laws can pierce state sovereignty and bind citizens of each member state? Does the United Nations need to be reformed to create an effective hierarchy, which will give international society more peace, security, and protection of human rights? This article may not answer all of these questions, but will attempt to clarify hierarchical issues in international law, particularly in the human rights field.