Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Christian J. Tams, Antonios Tzanakopoulos and Andreas Zimmermann
Chapter 21: Treaties and individuals: Of beneficiaries, duty-bearers, users, and participants
The place of the individual in the international legal order is a controversial and complex issue. The debates around the position international law adopts, or should adopt, regarding the individual have taken many shapes and forms over the years. It is true that most steps that have been taken towards the inclusion of the individual in the international legal order can be traced in treaty law. It is equally true that there has not been a consistent stance of international law towards the identification of a place for the individual. The individual may be seen – and is primarily seen – as a beneficiary of international law since he or she is accorded protection (either directly or indirectly) through a number of instruments. They may also been seen – more recently – as users of international law. Broadly speaking the former term denotes an individual being granted a ‘mere benefit’ by international law, in particular by means of an international treaty, while the latter signifies the creation of a ‘substantive (legally enforceable) right’. Whether in the future the individual will also be treated as a participant, that is, as an actor rather than a recipient of benefits or substantive rights, remains to be seen. Before going into the substance of these terms, and of the role of the individual in the law of treaties, a few preliminary steps are required in order to delineate the topic.
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